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From Parsha to Halakha – Vayetze Why not a double wedding? Mixing smachot

Kislev 5784 | November 2023


When Yaakov discovers Lavan deceived him and gave him Leah as a wife, not Rachel, he confronts his father-in-law. Lavan quickly offers an excuse and a solution, “In our place we do not do such a thing as to marry off the younger before the older. Wait this week and I will give you this one too, in exchange for the work you do for me for seven other years more.”[1]

Seven days appears to be the traditional length of wedding festivities, a custom which continues today with the week of Sheva Brachot.[2] This week is mentioned throughout the Talmud, and is succinctly described by Tur, “One who married a maiden must celebrate with her for seven days. He should not do work or conduct business in the market, rather he should eat and drink and rejoice with her.“[3]

It’s hard to imagine Yaakov rejoicing with Leah after he was deceived. Nevertheless, he didn’t “return” Leah. Whether it was due to concern over her honor, his honor, the family dynamics, or an understanding that this was meant to be – he didn’t divorce her, annul the marriage based on false pretenses, or even insist he shouldn’t have to work for a wife he already “paid” for.[4]

Instead, Yaakov accepts Lavan’s deal and marries Rachel seven days later. He then proceeds to work for another seven years. Why not marry Rachel immediately? Why wait “this week?”

The Talmud Yerushalmi quotes Rabbi Yaakov bar Acha, who brings Lavan’s words as the source for the rule, “ain m’arvin simcha b’simcha,” “we do not mix one joyous occasion with another.”[5] For a moment let us put aside the strangeness of quoting Lavan as the source of a halakhic principle and focus on the idea itself. Why shouldn’t we mix smachot?

“Men may not marry women during a festival”

A few weeks ago, we discussed the paradoxical nature of aveilut (mourning) and simcha (joy), and the impossibility of observing both simultaneously. We explored several halakhic rulings in cases of conflict –circumstances when simcha delays, or even cancels, laws and customs of aveilut, or times when mourning pushes off simcha.

While the incongruity of mourning and rejoicing can easily explain why halakha does not allow one to intrude on the other, the “conflict of interests” between two joyous occasions is less apparent.

The mishna states: “Men may not marry women during a festival… however, one may remarry his ex-wife.”[6]

This law is discussed in both the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian. Both bring multiple reasons, including mixing two joyous occasions. Nevertheless, the progression of each discussion is different, and a comparison yields valuable insight into the subsequent halakhic discussions.

Both the Yerushalmi and Bavli accept the mishna’s ruling that weddings are prohibited during the festival. Both ask: why?

In the Talmud Yerushalmi

The Talmud Yerushalmi first cites a technical issue – if people were allowed to marry on festivals, they would neglect the mitzvah of priya v’rviya (be fruitful and multiply).[7] Ohr l’Yesharim explains that people would delay weddings until the festival – to save the expense by combining festive meals and to prevent taking extra “vacation days” off work. The gemara points out that this would mean only those obligated in priya v’rviya may not get married during a festival.

The Yerushalmi then quotes Rabbi Ila, Rabbi Lazar in the name of Rabbi Chanina who states that the prohibition is due to the rule “ain m’arvin simcha b’simcha,” we do not mix one joyous occasion with another.

The Yerushalmi cites two biblical sources for “ain m’arvin.” The first is Shlomo’s dedication of the Temple, described as a festival of “seven days and seven days, fourteen days,” seven days of celebrations for the Temple’s dedication were followed by the seven-day festival of Sukkot, culminating on the “eighth day.”[8] The gemara concludes that if it were permissible to mix the occasions Shlomo should have delayed the Temple dedication to coincide with Sukkot.

Finally, Rabbi Yaakov bar Acha brings the answer we quoted above, Lavan’s statement “complete this week” of Leah’s wedding festivities before marrying Rachel as well. The gemara does not ask any follow up questions and concludes the discussion here, perhaps indicating that the Yerushalmi maintains this is the ultimate answer.

In the Talmud Bavli

Interestingly, the Talmud Bavli does not mention Lavan’s statement. The discussion on the mishna’s ruling, “Men may not marry women on the festival” begins:

“But it’s a simcha for him? What’s the issue? Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel, and Rabbi Elazar said in the name of Rabbi Oshiya or in the name of Rabbi Chanina – because we do not mix one simcha with [another] simcha. Rabba bar Rav Huna said: Because he puts aside the joy of the festival to occupy himself with the simcha of his wife.”[9]

Rabba bar Rav Huna explained the law with a svara, a logical answer. Abaye adds that this law is identical to a midrash halakha, expounding on a biblical verse: “This is what Rav Daniel bar Katina said in the name of Rav – How do we know that men are not permitted to marry women during the festival? As it says, ‘v’samachta b’chagekha’ (you shall rejoice in your festival), [he expounds] in your festival and not in your wife.”[10]

The Bavli continues with two more reasons that weddings are prohibited on festivals – because the work involved in preparing for a wedding would interfere with the joy of the festival, or, as we saw in the Yerushalmi, because people would neglect priya v’rviya.

The Bavli then questions how any of these could be the reason because all seem at odds with a baraita that permits marriages the day before the festival. Given that the final six days of festivities still coincide with the festival, all the conflicts mentioned remain. The gemara proceeds to reconcile the previous statements with this objection, and in doing so it lumps the first three statements together in one catchall title “because of simcha.”[11] Does this mean they are identical?

General or specific rule?

We noted three opinions that explain that weddings are prohibited on festivals because there is a conflict of interest between different types of simcha. The first claimed there was a general rule: “ain m’arvin simcha b’simcha.” The second, Rabba bar Rav Huna, states that a man would neglect the simcha of the festival to rejoice in his wife. In the third Abaye quotes a midrash halakha in the name of Rav: “’rejoice in your festival,’ not in your wife.”

This final explanation is specific to the issue of weddings during a festival, and Rav does not think there’s a general prohibition against mixing smachot. Where does Rabba bar Rav Huna fall?

At first glance it might seem that Rabba bar Rav Huna agrees with the previous statement of “ain m’arvin” and is merely giving a specific example as it pertains to weddings on festivals. He is not disagreeing, he is elucidating. On the other hand, the phrasing of Abaye’s statement indicates Rav and Rabba bar Rav Huna’s positions are identical – both reject the general principle of “ain m’arvin” and explain that the issue is limited to marriage on festivals.[12]

The gemara returns to the concept of “ain m’arvin,” and inquires as to the source. As opposed to the Yerushalmi, the Bavli only gives one answer – the quote from Melachim describing two successive seven-day celebrations for the Temple dedication and Sukkot.[13]

But, the gemara asks, perhaps the issue there is not combining two smachot that happen to coincide, but rather delaying one simcha to combine it with another. The gemara ultimately answers that the bible is particularly redundant when it described the two celebrations, “seven days and seven days, fourteen days,” to stress the importance of distinguishing between the two smachot. It is the phrasing of the verse more than the historical precedent that proves the principle.

If you recall, the Yerushalmi did not challenge the source from Melachim, but it did bring the source from Bereishit afterward. Perhaps the Bavli’s question provides the reason. Melachim teaches us not to delay one simcha to combine it with another; Bereishit not only refuses to combine two smachot, it instructs us to delay the simcha of one mitzvah so it does not conflict with another.

Tosafot vs. Rambam

Halakhic consensus is that weddings are generally prohibited on festivals, as we saw in the mishna. But the discussion as to the “why” continues throughout halakhic sources. Is there a general rule of “ain m’arvin?” Or is this prohibition specific to weddings on festivals – due to neglect of the festival, as Rav taught, or concern for delaying procreation? If we’re worried about neglecting the simcha of the festival – are other smachot permitted, such as a Brit Mila or Pidyon Ben (redemption of the firstborn son)?

Based on another gemara Tosafot rule according to Rav – the Torah prohibits weddings on festivals but there is no overarching prohibition of “ain m’arvin.” [14] Consequently, one may celebrate other smachot during the festival.

Magen Avraham explains Tosafot allows marriages during the festival if they forego the feast, since it is specifically the food that conflicts with the simcha of the festival – which is celebrated through meat and wine.[15] However, those who rule according to Shmuel’s broader view of “ain m’arvin” even prohibit weddings without a meal, because both have simcha.[16]

Tosafot seemingly rule that there’s no prohibition of “ain m’arvin.” Nevertheless, they explain the logic is similar to another halakhic principle, “ain osin mitzvot chavilot chavilot” – we do not perform mitzvot in bundles. We are supposed to fully concentrate on one simcha or one mitzvah, instead of dividing our attention.[17] Others explain the issue is that bundling mitzvot makes them seem like a hardship. Indeed, Tosafot teach that we should use two cups of wine when reciting Sheva Brachot after Birkat HaMazon – because both blessings are meant to be recited over a cup of wine, combining the cups denigrates each of them.[18]

Rambam, on the other hand, agrees there is a general rule “ain m’arvin simcha b’simcha.” As a prooftext he too brings the words of Lavan, “Wait this week…”[19] Interestingly, in the previous halakha Rambam teaches that a man may wed several women on the same day, but he should only recite “birkat chatanim” (the grooms’ blessing) once. He continues, “Nevertheless, for the simcha he must rejoice the appropriate simcha with each one… we do not mix one simcha with another.”[20]

If a man is permitted to marry multiple women on the same day, and recite one blessing for all, it seems that the problem is unrelated to bundling mitzvot.[21] The issue is bundling the joy and celebrations – as we see with Yaakov.[22]

Bottom line halakha

Shulkhan Arukh brings the halakha prohibiting weddings on festivals. Many commentaries insert that the reason is “ain m’arvin,” but based on Beit Yosef it is unclear that Shulkhan Arukh would concur.[23] Furthermore, Shulkhan Arukh allows for weddings on Purim, even though he explains that it is a day of simcha and public mourning is prohibited.[24] It seems Shulkhan Arukh does not maintain there is a general prohibition of mixing smachot, but rather a specific prohibition of conducting weddings on festivals due to the midrash on the verse, “v’samachta b’chagekha.”[25]

However, there is overwhelming halakhic consensus “ain m’arvin simcha b’simcha.” This leads many subsequent halakhic authorities to reframe Shulchan Arukh’s statements or limit their applicability as they try to reconcile his positions with the accepted principle of “ain m’arvin.” Magen Avraham, Mishna Berura, and several others note that even if it’s permitted to get married on Purim one should either perform the ceremony on the 13th and have the meal on Purim night or perform the ceremony on Purim and have the meal on the night of the 15th.

The scope and strength of “ain m’arvin” is also disputed. Many halakhic authorities find room to be flexible, especially when such flexibility affords the opportunity to do more mitzvot.

For example, Mishna Berura teaches that the main issue of “ain m’arvin” is with one person mixing smachot, not different people. Therefore, he does not allow a person to marry off two of his children on the same day to combine the festivities and save money and effort. Nevertheless, he does permit combining an orphan’s wedding festivities with that of one’s child.[26]


There is halakhic consensus that weddings are not allowed on festivals. The principle of “ain m’arvin simcha b’simcha” is widely accepted, but it is not clear when it applies. Part of that lack of clarity may be related to the lack of clear parameters. What is the source of the principle? What constitutes a simcha? What is the problem?

“Ain m’arvin” comes up occasionally in responsa literature – people want to know if they can combine two smachot: bar mitzvahs, sheva brachot, a hachnasat Sefer Torah on a festival?

A lot of this depends on the source. As we saw, Rambam prefers Lavan’s words over Shlom’s. Why?

In many ways, Lavan’s statement is more overarching. We already noted it means delaying one simcha so it does not interfere with another. Arukh HaShulkhan points out it also applies when both smachot are the same type – two weddings.[27]

Yet it’s still strange that it is Lavan who is saying this. Lavan is duplicitous and he is callous; he just gave his daughter to a man that did not want her. Who is he to teach proper behavior? If we look at the verses closely you can see that Lavan is not speaking for himself, he is reflecting societal norms: “we do not do this in our place… we will also give you that one…”

Even without the rule of “ain m’arvin” Shlomo would not have been allowed to delay the Temple dedication to combine it with Sukkot celebrations – we are not allowed to delay mitzvot because it suits our lives. We are meant to grab mitzvah opportunities. But, as Chazal tell us, “Derekh eretz comes before Torah,” the way of the world, social norms, and basic morality must take precedence.

There isn’t necessarily a Torah or rabbinic law not to mix smachot because it’s more fundamental. Yaakov has made a commitment to Leah and he must fulfill his duties as a husband and give her the joy and attention she deserves. No skimping or cutting corners. Relationships need attention – the relationship between a husband and wife, relationships between friends, and our relationship with God. We must set aside the appropriate amount of time for each to focus on what we are doing, be present and attentive.

May we be blessed to fill our days and our hearts with smachot.

[1] Bereishit 29:26-28

[2] See Ramban on the verse.

[3] Tur OC 64. If the woman was previously married they rejoice for three days.

[4] Similarly, Yitzchak did not remove the blessing he (seemingly) unintentionally gave to Yaakov instead of Esav.

[5] TY Moed Katan 1:7

[6] Moed Katan 1

[7] TY Moed Katan 1:7, Shimon bar Abba quoting Rabbi Yochanan.

[8] Melachim I 8:2 describes this as taking place “in the month of Eitanim, on the Chag [of Sukkot], that is the seventh month.” Verse 66 mentions an eighth day traditionally understood to be Shemini Atzeret. Divrei HaYamim II 7:8-11 is more explicit with the dates. See also TB Moed Katan 9a and Shabbat 30a.

[9] TB Moed Katan 8b

[10] The Yerushalmi brought two biblical sources that serve as precedent for the general rule, “ain m’arvin simcha b’simcha.” The Bavli brings this rule but then delays discussing it, focusing instead on the problem of a man neglecting the joy of the festival to rejoice with his wife.

[11] If the issue is the work involved – most wedding preparations focus on the first day. If it’s priya v’reviya – people wouldn’t delay the wedding until erev Chag, it’s not as worthwhile. And if the issue is simcha, most of the simcha is on the first day.

[12] It appears that the latter is true, as the gemara will subsequently question: What is the source of the rule “ain m’arvin simcha b’simcha?” This is disconnected from Rabba bar Rav Huna and Rav’s answers. ibid 9a

[13] As mentioned above, if combining two celebrations was permissible, Shlomo would have combined the festivities.

[14] Tosafot on Ketubot 47a “d’masar la b’Shabbatot v’yom tov.” Tosafot point out that the drasha of “you shall rejoice in your festival – and not your wife,” is quoted in Chagiga 8b to defend Rav Ashi’s halakhic stance. They explain this is not an asmachta, it is a proper drasha and thus a Torah prohibition.

[15] This is widely disputed. Ritva explains that a wedding without a meal is still a simcha. Kaf HaChaim (OC 547:1) brings several rabbinic claims that Tosafot did not make this statement l’halakha, as even they maintain it is a rabbinic prohibition. Rather, Tosafot explained that the biblical prohibition learned from the drash of “b’chagekha, v’lo b’ishtecha” would allow for such a wedding.

[16] Magen Avraham OC 546:1. For more see Melekhet Shlomo on Mishneh Torah Hilkhot Ishut 10:14.

[17] ibid 8b “l’fi she’ain m’arvin simcha b’simcha.”

[18] TB Pesachim 102b, Tosafot “she’ain”

[19] Mishneh Torah Hilkhot Ishut 10:14

[20] ibid 15. As we mentioned, when it is the woman’s first marriage there are seven days of festivities, if she has been married before there are three.

[21] Since we rule that there is a problem with bundling mitzvot, several commentaries struggle to understand how one is permitted to marry several women on the same day. For example, see Migdal Oz and Tzofnat Pane’akh.

[22] Although Rambam does not attribute this law to “ain m’arvin,” Maggid Mishna points out that it has the same source – we learn from Lavan’s statement that a man must rejoice separately with each wife, giving each woman her due.

[23] OC 547

[24] OC 696, Beit Yosef and Shulkhan Arukh 8

[25] It’s possible Shulchan Aruch accepts that “ain m’arvin” is a guideline, if not an actual prohibition. See Darkei Moshe and Beiur HaGra ibid.

[26] See also Be’er Heitev ibid 1

[27] Even HaEzer 64:1

Rabbanit Debbie Zimmerman

Debbie Zimmerman graduated from the first cohort of Hilkhata – Matan’s Advanced Halakhic Institute and is a Halakhic Responder. She is a multi-disciplinary Jewish educator, with over a decade of experience in adolescent and adult education. After completing a BA in Social Work, Debbie studied Tanakh in the Master’s Program for Bible in Matan and Talmud in Beit Morasha.