Dear Mensch: A friend recently shared the tragic story of Sam, whose brother died unexpectedly two days before Sam’s wedding day. The wedding was held as planned, with his parents and the wife of his deceased brother present, though obviously with much sorrow mixed among the celebration. This family is Jewish but not super observant. My question: If they were observant, would it have been OK to hold the wedding? — Martin
Dear Martin: If a funeral procession and a wedding procession should meet at a crossroad, which party has right of way? According to an old Jewish homily, it is the mourners who yield to the celebrants in the wedding — because life comes first.
In digging a little deeper into halachah and making inquiry of a local rabbi (thank you, Rabbi Joel Landau of S.F. Orthodox congregation Adath Israel), Mensch could find nothing to contradict that basic premise.
Make no mistake, there are lengthy and detailed prescriptions for mourning in Jewish law and tradition — and they are worth researching. Those in mourning are generally discouraged, and in some cases forbidden, from engaging in revelry, with the most restrictive rules reserved for those mourning a parent (recall the fifth commandment).
However, as in most Jewish law and practice, rules and degrees of obedience to them are open to interpretation and subject to circumstance. At Chabad.org, we are informed that even the most observant Jew in mourning for a parent may attend a wedding if his or her absence might cause the wedding to be delayed.
So your friend’s family decided what was right for them and also did the right thing Jewishly.