New Wedding Clothing for a Mourner

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by R. Gidon Rothstein

21 Adar Sheni: Klausenberger Rebbe on New Wedding Clothing for a Mourner

Shu”t Divrei Yatziv, Yoreh De’ah 237 and 239 are both dated 21 Adar Sheni 5730 (1970), the same day, and both advise a man in mourning for a parent how to conduct himself at his son’s wedding. The intervening responsum 238 also addresses mourning, whether one may move into a new residence during the year, but is dated eight years later, in Union City rather than Kiryat Sanz in Israel.

I assume 237 and 239 were addressed to the same mourner, 238 slipped in between somehow. We’ll look at the two for 21 Adar Sheni, to enlighten us as to how R. Yekutiel Yehudah Halberstam understood the proper conduct of a mourner at his or her child’s wedding.

New Clothes

The mourner wanted to know whether he could buy clothes for the wedding. Mo’ed Katan 23a prohibits mourners from wearing ironed clothing. Rebbe (R. Yehudah HaNasi, author of the Mishnah) limits the issue to new clothing, and R. Elazar beRebbe Shim’on further narrowed it to new white clothing.

Abbaye and Rava split on which to follow as accepted halachahTosafot point out (Ra”ch, Rif, and Rosh all agree) we generally follow Rava over Abbaye, which would lead us to follow R. Elazar beRebbe Shim’on, allowing a mourner to wear well-ironed colored clothing, even new, or old, not well-ironed clothing, even white.

Yerushalmi Mo’ed Katan 3;8 has a more stringent version, a mourner for a parent would have to wait to buy new clothing until a major holiday came aroundand a friend commented on the state of the mourner’s wardrobe. Rosh and Rambam omit the stringency because the Bavli did not mention it, but Tur and Shulchan Aruch codified it.

Rema contrasts this custom to haircuts, which a mourner can take whenever his/her hair gets too long or s/he tends to have business with non-Jews, who would not appreciate his unkempt state. R. Akiva Eiger cites Or Zarua. who explained the difference between the practices. Growing one’s hair until people notice and tell him/her to take a haircut ends the issue; the mourner need not again wait. For clothing, the custom is to be stringent all twelve months (unless one must interact with non-Jews), to wait to buy new clothing until people comment, each time.

Make It Used

Beit Yosef 389 quotes a Kol Bo (who in turn cited Maharam of Rothenburg), who held clothing worn by someone else for two or three days no longer counted as new for these purposes. Rema mentioned only a brief donning, for an hour or two.

There’s some debate about how to construe post-Talmudic laundry processes—many allow wearing ordinarily laundered clothing, deeming laundry as producing less fully pressed clothing than in Israel in the time of the Gemara. R. Halberstam thinks the question is a factual one, a function of each era’s laundering; in our times, laundry detergents renew clothing fully enough he thinks we’d have to treat all clothing as Rema says, to have someone else wear it briefly [he doesn’t discuss the complications of finding other people to wear our clothing, so neither will I].

New clothing is yet more of a problem, would require the full two to three days of someone else wearing the garment.

He draws support for his stringent view from a ruling of Pitchei Teshuvah as to what a new mother does if she is in mourning (in his case, she was observing sheloshim, the thirty days after a relative’s passing) when the time comes to go to shul, either to hear her husband recite the thanksgiving blessing she came through the experience well [in more Modern circles, women recite the blessing themselves], or for a son’s pidyon haben (a case Shevut Ya’akov discusses). In all these situations, halachic authorities allow her to wear Shabbat but not Yom Tov clothing, which means that new clothing would be proscribed as well.

What Constitutes Used Clothing

R. Halberstam thought the idea of someone else wearing a garment for two to three days was era-dependent as well. Some clothing might become sufficiently wrinkled to avoid being thought of as new in less than two days, and some might need more than three days. When Kol Bo said two to three days, R. Halberstam thinks it indicates a sliding scale, is a matter of making the garment look used enough to no longer be considered new, and a symbolic wearing by someone else would not suffice.

A child’s wedding certainly is enough of a cause to take advantage of this idea. Maharil treated the day a father circumcises his son as a personal holiday, a child’s wedding should be more so. He thinks the gathered relatives for the wedding constitutes implicit ge’arah, others telling him he needs better clothing, enough perhaps to allow even truly new clothing, were it not for this way to avoid the issue. If he can use the clothing for Shabbat as well (R. Halberstam’s examples are a streimel and bekeshe), the purchase also has an element of honoring Shabbat, more reason to be lenient.

He is especially sure of the idea because Aruch HaShulchan noted that for at least a century, rabbis (Hasidim and Mitnagdim, R. Halberstam adds) have no longer been comfortable with mourners wearing weekday clothing on Shabbat (the original custom during sheloshim).Given the need for separate Shabbat clothing, the impact of new clothing may have changed as well; but again, since he can give them to someone else to wear for two to three days, R. Halberstam recommends that.

Unless some other time pressure makes it impossible, in which case he does concede that there’s enough room to allow the mourner to wear the new clothing as is.

Eating at the Wedding

Responsum 239 takes up whether he can participate in the wedding meal. Tur Yoreh De’ah 391 quotes Ra’avad, who allows the sponsor of an orphan’s wedding to attend. The joy of the event depends on his presence, and the day is akin to a personal holiday. R. Halberstam extends the idea to a parent, who has a direct and specific obligation to marry off his/her child.

Maharashdam extended the idea to all relatives of the bride or groom who would be directly involved with the chuppah. The day is certainly a holiday for the bride and groom, and we do not want to cause them any distress on their special day.

We needed Ra’avad to ratify the idea for an orphan because the sponsor is not a blood relative; the underlying point was not debated, we do not let the twelve-month mourning of those close to this bride or groom diminish their joy. For a father, then, it’s clearly allowed, without making use of the usual way around the issue, the mourner performing some sort of service at the wedding (a more distant relative might serve as photographer, or waiter, or some such, because there’s room to say that s/he isn’t participating in the meal, s/he is serving at the meal). He can attend, no strings attached, to ensure the joy of the bride and groom.

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