A Visitor asked:
What is the actual mitzvoh of hachnosas kalloh? I’ve heard many issues discussed on this topic, such as, “If they don’t have money, they shouldn’t have such a wedding” or “Let the guy go out and get a job.” What is considered hachnosas kalloh?
Rabbi Baruch Rubanowitz answered:
Both the Beis Yosef and the Ramo agree that the responsibility for providing all the needs of a couple getting married belongs to the community and not the individual. ((במחבר יו”ד סימן ר”נ ס”א כתב אין לו אשה ובא לישא משיאין לו ושוכרים לו בית ומציעים לו מטה וכלי תשמישו ואח”כ משיאין לו אשה עכ”ל וברמ”א שם ונראה דכ”ז בגבאי צדקה או רבים ביחד אבל אין היחיד מחוייב ליתן לעני די מחסורו אלא מודיע צערו לרבים ואם אין רבים אצלו יתן לו היחיד אם ידו משגת עכ”ל. ועט”ז שם דכ”ד הב”י, וע”ע בש”ך שם. )) Nevertheless, should one give money towards the needs of a couple who cannot provide for it with their own means, it is considered tzedokoh and can be deducted from maaser kesofim.
It is incumbent upon every girl’s father to make certain that his daughter gets married. It is a financial obligation that goes along with fatherhood. ((א”ה סימן ע”א ס”א. )) Should the father not be able to afford the costs, he should collect tzedokoh; those who give him money are performing the mitzvoh of tzedokoh. ((עיין ש”ך יו”ד סימן רנ”ה סק”א. )) If her parents will not be contributing to the expenses of her upcoming marriage, the entire community should come forward and help her out financially. ((ומה שהסתפק במהר”ם אלשקר סימן ע”ב באשה שאין לאביה מספיק להשיאה דאולי אין זה נקרא דרך של מצוה (הובא בש”ך סימן רמ”ט ס”ק י”א), כתב בספר צדקה ומשפט (פ”ג סק”ג) דאין הספק אם יש מצוה לתת לה צרכי נישואיה, דודאי אם אביה אינו מקיים חיובו, דיש מצוה על אחרים להשיאה, אמנם אפשר דאי”ז חיוב על הצבור כיתומה ממש ואין מוכרים צרכי ציבור ודבר של הקדש. ))
Giving to a young couple is considered giving to tzedokoh, but the community (and certainly an individual) does not have to make a poor person rich; it need only provide for their basic needs. The Shulchan Aruch illustrates this with regard to a young man trying to obtain the means to provide for a wife by saying that the community shall help him rent an apartment. Renting is a temporary solution. One is not required to buy an apartment for a young couple. If one gives money towards the purchase of an apartment it is not entirely clear that it can be viewed as givingtzedokoh. Nowadays, however, due to cultural and practical considerations, some young people may not be able to find a suitable shidduch unless they offer a sizeable amount of money to be used towards the purchase of an apartment. Hence, money given towards the purchase is effectively being used to enable the person to marry someone suitable. The money given is therefore considered tzedokoh.
So if you want to be sure that the money you give towards hachnosas kalloh qualifies as tzedokoh, it is important to verify that it will be used to meet the couple’s needs. For example, if you wish to give money for the hall and seudoh of the chasunah, you should confirm how many guests are expected and what will be served. Every chosonand kalloh have different standards depending on their social standing. A kalloh from a modest family in which a small, simple wedding is anticipated should not ask for money to finance a large, fancy wedding. Money given for an extravagant wedding, it would seem, should not be considered tzedokoh. ((אולם אפשר דהוי בכלל מותר צדקה לגבי הנותנים, וצ”ע. ))
Similarly, with regard to giving money towards the purchase of an apartment, one who wishes to give tzedokoh must make sure that the couple is buying what they need. If they can rent, then only money towards rent is definitely tzedokoh. If theshidduch would be broken unless an apartment is purchased, and there is reason to believe that at least one of the two would not find a suitable shidduch without such a large amount of money, then the minimum amount of money towards an apartment can be considered tzedokoh. Should a one-bedroom apartment suffice for the people negotiating on behalf of the couple, any amount above that would not be viewed as tzedokoh.
Another issue that often arises is the location of the apartment. It would seem that insistence on living in a religious neighborhood in Eretz Yisroel is to be taken for granted for a religious couple. It does not have to be near their parents or friends, but it should be a socially and religiously acceptable environment even if that usually costs more than nonreligious neighborhoods. ((וע”ע במנח”י ח”ח סימן ע”ב אות ה’ ושו”ת שבט הלוי ח”ד סימן ק”ל שדן בנושאים אלו.))