Moed Katan 9

Keeping our joys separate.

Today’s daf focuses on the importance of joy — and especially on giving each joyful occasion the attention it deserves. 

Yesterday, we began to consider why weddings should not be performed on hol hamoed, the intermediate days of a festival. The guiding principle is that one shouldn’t mix one joy with another. Various reasons were offered for this, but on today’s daf we learn that each of those practical concerns can be summarily dismissed. Instead, the key reason we don’t mix joyous occasions is to emulate King Solomon at the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem:

One may not mix joy with joy, from where do we derive it? As it is written: “So Solomon held the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great congregation, from the entrance of Hamath to the Brook of Egypt, before the Lord our God, seven days and seven days, fourteen days” (I Kings 8:65). And if it is so one may mix joy with joy, he should have waited until the festival of Sukkot and made a feast of seven days for this and for that.

According to the verse in I Kings, Solomon made a feast to mark the dedication of the Temple, and then a second feast a week later for the festival of Sukkot — seven days and seven days, for a total of 14 days of feasting. Solomon’s choice to make the two celebrations distinct demonstrates to the rabbis that one should not mix one joy with another. The medieval Tosafot commentary explains the reason for this in a comment on yesterday’s daf: “In order that one’s heart should be open to one mitzvah and one will not turn away from it.” In other words, it is important to give each joyful mitzvah the focus it deserves.

The Jerusalem Talmud (Moed Katan 1:7) offers another precedent for not mixing joyous occasions, especially when it comes to weddings: According to Genesis 29:27, the patriarch Jacob celebrated his marriage to Leah for seven days before marrying Rachel. According to this version, the custom of not mixing the joy of one celebration with another predates even King Solomon. 

Rabbi Jay Kelman notes that we do quite the opposite when it comes to sad commemorations, which we readily lump together. As we saw back on Taanit 26, the rabbis attach many tragic historical occasions to the fasts of the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av. Later persecutions and mournful events would continue to be added to Tisha B’Av through the ages, even though they didn’t necessarily occur on that day. But when it comes to happy times, we spread the occasions out in order to savor each one and give it our full attention. 

In later Jewish legal tradition, the principle of not mixing joys has focused on weddings more than other life cycle occasions. Not only are Jewish weddings not generally celebrated on a festival, but two wedding celebrations should ideally not be combined together. One exception to this is inviting a poor couple to celebrate their wedding with a wealthy one so that they too can enjoy a dignified celebration (Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 62:2). In such a case, combining the celebrations would add to the joy.

Nuptials and the Temple were poetically linked in Taanit (26b), which compared both the giving of the Torah and the dedication of Solomon’s Temple to a kind of cosmic wedding celebration. But there’s a more direct reason that a wedding is like the Temple’s dedication. As we learned in Megillah (29a), weddings mark the establishment of a new home with the potential to be a mikdash me’at,” a “small temple” in its own right. Like the dedication of Solomon’s sanctuary of old, every such dedication deserves to be celebrated with our full attention and with our hearts open to joy. 

Read all of Moed Katan 9 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on January 21st, 2022. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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