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QUESTION

Chicago, IL

Can a chuppah hang from the ceiling? Is it sufficient for it to be a canopy over the couple or must it have poles to create four invisible walls through Tzurot HaPetach or some such mechanism?

ANSWER

Sephardim do not use poles, and just hold a tallit over the chatan and kallah. Ashkenazim do have poles. This seems to be rooted in the debate whether a chuppah is a פריסת סעיף על הכלה or if it is a בית חתן. Even though בית will be satisfied later by the yichud room, there is a need to do the chuppah/nisuin now to make the Sheva Berakhot. Some argue that even for the Ashkenazim it is based on פריסת סעיף and there is no need for poles, while others are very insistent on the בית model, and even make many requirements for the poles and canopy (and require a halakhic Tzurot HaPetach, etc.). My personal take is to see this as definitely reflecting the בית model (which is the dominant one in the Rishonim), but on a symbolic level, not one that would require halakhic Tzurot HaPetach or the like.

So, I would certainly want lekhatchilah that there be poles. If necessary, one could do it without poles assuming either that a roof suffices to signify a house or that it works on the Sephardi Minhag of פריסת סעיף. There are definitely poskim who say that any of these models would work. I think it’s a judgement call what level of tzorekh would warrant this. I also wonder if you can do both in your case.