Year in and year out, I am asked a time sensitive question – should a couple getting married on Chanukah light a chanukiah at their wedding?
The most recent time I was asked this question, rather than answering, I took advantage of the educational opportunity and asked if one can even get married on Chanukah.
The answer is yes, but why?
The Talmud famously states “ein me’arvin simcha b’simcha” – we do not mix two different smachot, or joyous occasions, as they can detract from or be confused with one another, preventing adequate attention to each (Moed Katan 8b). For this reason, the Beer Hetev and others hold that the custom is not to get married on Purim (Be’er Heitev on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, Hilchot Megillah Purim 696:8).
With so many similarities between these two festivals, why can one get married on Chanukah but not on Purim?
Purim represents the ultimate miracle of physical survival against a physical threat. Haman hated the Jewish people and therefore wanted to exterminate every Jew. The gallows that were set did not discriminate against female or male, young or old, believer or non-believer – the very existence of Jews necessitated their eradication. Jews were never welcome into society regardless of what they could potentially add or remove.
Chanukah, on the other hand, was very different in this sense. Jews were not hated for who they were but for what they did. It was not their existence but their practice that threatened Greek culture. Jews that acted as Jews were different from those that were prepared to assimilate. Indeed, they were loved as people and only hated as Jews – if only they could express their humanity through Greek society and abandon their particularity, they would be welcome to not simply survive but thrive.
When read this way, the miracle of Purim is a celebration of the most basic human need – the ability to live and breathe. The miracle of Chanukah, however, is a celebration of the most basic Jewish need – to live freely and actively as a Jew.
The enemy of Purim hated us so much that they would kill us regardless of what we did – the enemy of Chanukah loved us so much that they wanted us to subscribe to their Hellenistic way of life.
Returning to our question, celebrating the miracle of Purim represents a different type of simcha to getting married – the former represents being alive, the second how we choose to live. Celebrating Chanukah represents the same type of simcha as getting married – we actively choose who we love in order to continue our people.
A Jewish wedding is becoming rarer, not because of hatred, but because of love – universalism is more embracing than particularity and assimilation is more accommodating than distinction. It is for this reason that one may get married on Chanukah, according to all opinions, as essentially the smachot are two expressions of the same source – choosing to love rather than falling in or out of love, celebrating the perpetuation of our destiny and Jewish continuity.
Therefore, while there are questions around the blessings, one can light Chanukah candles at a wedding for the purpose of publicizing the miracle, because indeed, the miracle of a Jewish wedding is the perpetuation of the miracle of Chanukah – “the strong were delivered into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few” (HaNissim prayer). Chanukah is a time to learn from our past as we spark, ignite and shine through the next generation, illuminating the path ahead for a brighter future!