We are taught in the Mishna (Moed Katan 1:7) that weddings may not be held on Chol HaMoed. However, as the Gemara (Moed Katan 8b) then asks, this seems strange since שמחה היא לו – weddings are a source of joy. As such, surely Chol HaMoed is the ideal time to get married!
The answer to this question, offered by Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel (as well as Rabbi Elazar in the name of Rabbi Oshiya, though – as the Gemara then tells us – some attribute this teaching to Rabbi Elazar in the name of Rabbi Chanina), is that it is precisely because Chol HaMoed is a time of שמחה (joy), and because weddings are a source of שמחה (joy), which is why weddings may not be held on Chol HaMoed. This is because there is a principle of אין מערבין שמחה בשמחה – ‘we do not confuse (literally, ‘mix’) one joyous event with another joyous event’.
Seemingly a different reason for this prohibition is then presented by Rabbah bar Rav Huna, which we are then told is based on a teaching of Rav, who states that when a wedding is held on Chol HaMoed, insufficient joy is focused on Chol HaMoed because the groom focuses all of his joy towards his new wife.
A further reason is given by Ulla relates to the effort necessary to prepare for a wedding which would thereby undermine the respect that should be shown towards Chol HaMoed.
While Rav Yitzchak Nafcha explains that the reason for this prohibition is because, were weddings to be permitted on Chol HaMoed, then everyone would wish to marry on Chol HaMoed which would thereby lead to delayed marriages and a reduced birthrate.
Significantly, these four opinions are generally understood as disagreeing with one another. However, in one part of his Mishne Torah, Rambam quotes one reason, why in another, he quotes another.
In Hilchot Ishut 10:14 the Rambam writes: ‘Even on Chol HaMoed weddings are not held…because we do not confuse one joyous even with another joyous event (אין מערבין שמחה בשמחה)’. While in his Hilchot Yom Tov 7:16 he writes: ‘we may neither marry, nor perform the act of yibbum (levirage marriage) during [Chol Ha]Moed, so that we do not forget the joy of the festival due to directing our joy on the marriage.’ As should be clear, the former reason is that of Shmuel, while the latter reason is that of Rav. But if Shmuel and Rav disagree, how could the Rambam quote both opinions?
This question is raised and addressed by Rav Asher Weiss (in his Minchat Asher: Klalei HaMitzvot p. 65) who explains that a close look at the Rif on Moed Katan, as well as Tosfot’s remarks on Ketubot 47a, leads to the conclusion that the opinions of Shmuel and Rav are complementary rather than contradictory. Shmuel rules that we should not mix one שמחה with another because the celebration of one often leads to a diminishment in the celebration of another, while Rav – though perhaps only limiting this concern to Chol HaMoed – affirms that this is the case when marriages occur on Chol HaMoed.
In terms of the application of this principle, and beyond the simple rule that weddings are not be held on Chol HaMoed, we learn that sometimes trying to do multiple things at once detracts from the optimum amount of attention that each deserve. And though this applies to all areas of the human experience, it is telling that the example given here is marriage because, unfortunately, too many married people, especially today, are so distracted by other things in their life that they give insufficient attention to their marriage. As such, we learn from today’s daf that sufficient time, energy, attention and attentiveness must be given to the values – and especially to the people – that most matter in our lives.