Rav Moshe Feinstein’s Strict Approach
Those who received an invitation from Rav Moshe Feinstein to his children’s weddings may have noticed that he did not mention any Pesukim such as Kol Sasson V’kol Simchah, on the invitation, as he records in Teshuvot Igrot Moshe (Yoreh Deah 2:135). The basis of this ruling is the Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 18b) which records the following passage from Megillat Taanit (the list of celebrations and fasts of the Bayit Sheini, Second Temple period): “On the third of Tishrei [there is reason to celebrate] since the rabbis succeeded in convincing everyone to refrain from mentioning Hashem’s name in secular documents. The Greek government had decreed that Jews were forbidden to mention Hashem’s name and when the Chashmonaim defeated them they decreed to mention Hashem’s name even in secular documents. This is how they dated documents: ‘In such and such year to Yochanan Kohen Gadol to Keil Elyon. When the rabbis heard of this practice they said that the next day when one pays his obligation, the document [where Hashem’s name appears] will be thrown into the garbage”.
Rashi (ad. loc. s.v. B’telata L’tishrei) comments that the rabbis declared the day a holiday because they thought it a miracle that the people heeded their ruling, despite the fact that it overturned accepted practice, which was intended to honor Hashem.
Rav Moshe similarly is concerned that wedding invitations will eventually be discarded and that the Pesukim that appear on them will be degraded. He comments that this is not merely a personal stringency but “it is also proper for everyone to practice”. Rav Hershel Schachter is fond of quoting this ruling of Rav Moshe and fully subscribes to his view. Similarly, I recall receiving an invitation to a wedding of one of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein’s sons and it did not contain any Pesukim. We should note that the Rambam (Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah 6:8) clarifies that not only are we forbidden to disgrace Pesukim that contain Hashem’s name, but all Pesukim, and even “their commentaries and explanations”.
Suggestions to Defend the Common Practice to be Lenient
Despite these rulings, many observant Jews do include Pesukim on wedding invitations. One could suggest that perhaps we rely on the fact that these Pesukim do not have the status of Kitvei Kodesh (holy books) since they were merely printed and not handwritten. However, this is not a compelling defense as Teshuvot Maharsham (3:357) writes that even though, technically speaking, printed books might not considered to be endowed with Kedushah, it nonetheless is degrading to Kitvei Kodesh to place printed Pesukim in the garbage.
I suggested to Rav Hershel Schachter that perhaps one may defend this practice based on the ruling of Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor (Teshuvot Ein Yitzchak Orach Chaim 5:11) and the Netziv (Teshuvot Meishiv Davar 2:80) permitting the disposal of printing galleys since they were not printed with the intention of endowing them with Kedushah (holiness) as they were not meant to be permanent, but only as a one-use document. Rav Schachter told me that he did not find this argument compelling but did not explain his reasoning. He might question Rav Yitzchak Elchanan’s leniency, as does Rav Eliezer Waldenberg in his Teshuvot Tzitz Eliezer (3:1). Alternatively, galleys are clearly not intended to be preserved for the long term. Indeed, the Netziv writes “they were created with the intention of destroying them”. Wedding invitations, however, are not necessarily meant to be discarded as some will retain the invitation as a memento.
Rav Dov Brisman’s Defense of the General Practice to be Lenient
Rav Dov Brisman’s (a prominent Rav and Dayan in Philadelphia) presents a compelling defense of this practice in Teshuvot Shalmei Chovah (Y.D. 63). Rav Brisman notes other areas where we seem not to treat Pesukim in the manner preferred by Chazal. He focuses on the common practice to recite fragments of Pesukim such as “VaYehi Erev VaBoker Yom HaShishi” at the start of Friday night Kiddush and “Al Kein Beirach Et Yom HaShabbat VaYekadsheihu” at the start of Shabbat morning Kiddush. While many adopt a strict practice not to recite Pesukim fragments such as Mishna Berurah (289:2) and Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (Nefesh HaRav p.159), nonetheless common practice is to be lenient as noted by the Mishnah Berurah.
Teshuvot Maharam Schick (Orach Chaim 1:10) defends the common practice by arguing that the intention in these circumstances is to not to quote Pesukim but rather: “To simply inform and publicize that Hashem blessed the Holy Shabbat from the other six days of the week and that its holiness is permanent and unbreakable. It is like a pronouncement to motivate the one reciting Kiddush and those who are listening to observe the holiness of Shabbat which is very holy.”
The basis for the Maharam Schick’s approach is the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling (Y.D. 284:2) regarding the obligation to line the paper on which Pesukim are written (Sirtut). The Shulchan Aruch, following Tosafot (Gittin 6b s.v. Amar Rav Yitzchak citing Rabbeinu Tam and Rabeinu Eliyahu) does not require Sirtut if the Pesukim are quoted simply for the purpose of Tzachut (elegant writing). In such a case one is not quoting Pesukim per se but rather as a means to express a point using words that appear in the Torah.
Rav Shlomo Kluger (Haelef Lecha Shlomo Orach Chaim 43) similarly defends the practice to cite Pasukim fragments in our Tefillah and Piyyutim (liturgical poetry such as Selichot and Kinnot). He limits the requirement to cite a complete Pasuk to those situations where “it appears that one intends to present a Pasuk of the Tanach. In such a case one is forbidden to deviate from its arrangement”. He proves this assertion from the fact that Chazal routinely quote Pasuk fragments throughout the Gemara when supporting their claims.
Rav Brisman’s Analysis of the Maharam Schick’s Ruling
Rav Brisman notes that we have a precedent for both writing and pronouncing Pasuk fragments. He queries, though, as to the nature of this permission. One possibility is that these Pasuk fragments are still defined as a Pasuk and retains its holiness, only that it is permitted to write and pronounce these Pasuk fragments in certain circumstances. Alternatively, it is sometimes permitted to write and pronounce Pasuk fragments because in those circumstances the Pasuk fragments are not defined as Pesukim at all. The difference between the two possibilities is that if the second approach is correct then one could apply the ruling to allow discarding such Pasuk fragments, since they do not have the status of a Pasuk.
Rav Brisman supports the second approach by citing the Rashba (Gittin 6b s.v. Amar Rav Yitzchak) who explains Rabbeinu Tam’s aforementioned ruling as follows “This is not considered to be writing a Pasuk, rather it is ordinary writing using the language of the Mikra (Bible)”. Rav Brisman also notes that Rabbeinu Eliyahu (cited in Tosafot Sotah 17b s.v. Katva) appears to ascribe to the second approach as well: “There is no concern for our writing Pesukim in our letters without Sirtut since our intention is not to write a Pasuk but rather ordinary speech to send regards in the Hebrew language or to write in an elegant manner.”
Rav Brisman’s Defense of the Common Practice
Accordingly, Pasuk fragments are permitted in certain circumstances since they do not have the Halachic status of a Pasuk. Based on this Rav Brisman writes: “In light of the above, there is room to defend the common practice to cite Pesukim on wedding invitations. The reason is that only a portion of the Pesukim is written and it is considered to be ordinary writing using the language of the Mikra…The Pasuk fragment is cited in the invitation only to announce the event in an elegant manner similar to reciting Al Kein Beirach Et Yom Hashabbbat Yeyekadsheihu during Shabbat morning Kiddush.”
Rav Brisman wrote this responsum as a very young man in 1979 and sought approval from a distinguished older rabbi, Rav Meir Blumenfeld, a noted Halachic authority who served as a Rav in Newark, New Jersey during the mid-twentieth century (Rav Elazar Meyer Teitz told me that Rav Blumenfeld was an outstanding Torah scholar). Rav Blumenfeld endorsed Rav Brisman’s approach, as appears in the second volume of his work, Zichron Meir.
The Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 345:18), in an entirely different context (defending the use of city-wide Eruvin), writes, “There is a Mitzvah and obligation to defend the practices of the Jewish People”. Rav Brisman has succeeded in doing so in regards to the common practice to cite Pesukim in wedding invitations. Indeed, even Rav Moshe Feinstein did not outright forbid this practice as he merely wrote that it is “proper” to refrain from citing Pesukim. Indeed, I have counseled many couples not to cause a fight over this with parents or in-laws as one may certainly rely on Rav Brisman’s lenient approach in order to preserve Shalom Bayit (familial harmony).
Nonetheless, whenever possible one should avoid citing Pesukim on a wedding invitation in accordance with the views of Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Hershel Schachter (as my wife and I did on the invitation to our wedding). In addition, when one receives an invitation it is preferable not discard them but rather include them with the holy items that he will bury in a respectful manner (Sheimot). Adopting the stricter standards regarding this matter will hopefully deepen one’s respect and reverence for our holy Sefarim.