Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • Theft and Damage
To dedicate this lesson
At the Shabbat Table

A Yiddishe Cup

The groom who just couldn't break the glass until the Rav came up with a briliant idea...


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Sivan 29 5780
Yosef and Sara stood next to each other, hardly daring to believe that the moment had finally come. And yet, the chupa above their heads, and their parents and rabbi standing there together with them, testified to what had just taken place. Yosef and Sara were now husband and wife! All that remained now was for Yosef to step on the napkin-wrapped parcel, lying in front of his foot, and break the glass inside, as a reminder that our happiness will only be complete when the Beit Hamikdash will be rebuilt.
Yosef raised his foot, brought it down over the glass, and… nothing! Rather than a resounding crash, Yosef’s footfall was met with silence. All he had managed to do was slide the glass over on the floor. He nudged the glass back into place, and picked up his foot again, determined to break the glass this time. As his foot hit the floor, Yosef began to feel a little silly. A third and then fourth attempt brought no results, either.
The hall began to fill with attempts at unobtrusive whispers, as guests shared with each other tips on how best to break a glass, anecdotes about similar events, and speculations as to the significance of a chatan being unable to break a glass on the first four tries. The mesader kidushin’s gaze shifted to Yosef’s face, and then back at the glass on the floor. Something had to be done, quickly.
The mesader kidushin turned to Rabbi Menachem, who was serving as one of the marriage witnesses. As discretely as possible, the mesader kidushin whispered urgently "please find something else for him to break!" Rabbi Menachem hurried out of the room, and looked around the hall. The drinking glasses were no help. They were made of thick glass. That was probably why Yosef was having so much trouble, in the first place! Rabbi Menachem looked around again, and then it came to him. He pulled a ladder over, deftly climbed toward the ceiling, and unscrewed one of the light bulbs. He grabbed a napkin off the table, wrapped the bulb, hurried back into the chupa room, and adroitly placed the package at Yosef’s feet. Yosef brought his foot down once more, and, much to his relief, and everyone else’s, the glass broke. The guests called out "mazal tov," as the last few agonizing minutes melted into a sea of hugs and good wishes.
Was Rabbi Menachem allowed to take the lightbulb, without prior permission from the owner of the hall? Also, was it permitted for the chatan to break a lightbulb, in place of the ancient tradition of breaking a cup?
Answer of Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, shlita:
Regarding the first question, Rabbi Menachem acted properly. There was no concern of theft, however, he is obligated to pay the hall for the cost of the bulb.
The reasoning is as follows:
According to the Sha"ch, a person is permitted to borrow an object from his friend, if the borrower is completely certain that the owner will be fine with it, when he hears that the object was borrowed. Tosafot disagree, and maintain that this is forbidden, because, at the time that the object is borrowed, the owner has not yet agreed. (See Choshen Mishpat 358, Sha"ch, se’if katan 1)
In our case, even Tosafot would agree that Rabbi Menachem was allowed to take the lightbulb. This is because the hall owner will benefit from this action, because the hall owner desires that people receive good service and have a positive experience when using his hall.
Regarding the second question, it is true that the custom is to break a cup, as Rav Ashi did at the wedding of his son (Brachot 31a). Nonetheless, in this situation, when there was no usable cup, it was certainly proper to use a lightbulb instead.
In summary:
Rabbi Menachem acted properly, however, he is obligated to reimburse the hall for the lightbulb.
Note: In the original story, Rabbi Menachem received permission from the hall owner to take a lightbulb, and didn’t simply take one on his own. "Rabbi Menachem" in the story was actually Rabbi Menachem Borstein, shlita, and the mesader kidushin who sent him was none other than Rabbi Avraham Shapira, zt"l. Incidentally, until this day, the chatan has no idea that the glass that he broke was actually a lightbulb.

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