ל׳ בשבט ה׳תשע״ה (February 19, 2015)

Ketubot 17a-b: Just As She Is

One of the popular songs that is played at weddings is called “Keitzad merakdin lifnei ha-kalah? Kalah na’ah va-hasudah – How does one dance before the bride? A fair and attractive bride.” This, in fact, is Beit Hillel’s response to the question of what should be said (or sung) to a bride at her wedding. Beit Shammai disagrees, arguing that doing so would be lying – forbidden by the Torah (Shemot 23:7) with the statement, “Mi-devar sheker tirhak – stay far away from falsehood,” for not every kallah is na’ah va-hasudah. What should be said is, “kallah kemot she-he­ – as she is.”

With regard to Beit Hillel’s suggestion, Rashi and other commentaries explain that hasudah does not appear here to mean that she is being complimented for her spiritual qualities, rather that, “hut shel hessed masukh aleha – she finds favor in people’s eyes,” i.e. people find her attractive.

Beit Shammai’s suggestion is understood by most of the commentaries as a recommendation that the guests at a wedding choose their words carefully, emphasizing the positive qualities of the bride when singing before her. Tosafot point out that every person has their strengths that can be mentioned, like wealth, family background, etc. Some rishonim, however, interpret Beit Shammai as recommending that the very words kallah kemot she-he­ are what should be sung. That is to say, we are to compliment the bride on being who she is – as God created her. A statement like that rings true for every person.

Beit Hillel’s response to Beit Shammai is that there are times when sensitivity calls for a “white lie.” The Ritva explains that our concern with falsehood is limited in situations where telling such a “white lie” will bring peace between people. He argues that even Beit Shammai agrees to this in most cases. To establish a false public statement as normative at weddings, however, goes beyond a “white lie” and cannot be permitted.

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