On today’s daf we are presented with a difficult case. What if, just prior to the wedding, one of the parents of the bride or groom passes away? Can the wedding celebration take precedence over the mourning and the funeral, or must the wedding be postponed?
In order to understand this, we need to clarify the differences between an onen, one who has lost a relative and is preoccupied with the funeral, and an avel, who has already begun the mourning process. According to the Rambam, an onen is not obligated in any of the restrictions of an avel, and he is essentially permitted to bathe, to eat meat and drink wine and to engage in relations with his wife. According to this approach, the baraita‘s suggestion is easy to understand – as long as the late parent has not yet been buried there are no restrictions that would keep the couple from getting married.
The Ramban, however, believes that under ordinary circumstances an onen would not be permitted to engage in sexual relations. Nevertheless, as a rabbinic ordinance, it is permitted in this unique case. The Rosh explains that postponing the wedding may cause financial hardship that may limit the celebration of the marriage; the Radbaz points out that we are not eliminating the mourning period, merely postponing it.
When exactly the aninut ends and avelut begins is the subject of a dispute between Rabbi Eliezer, who rules that it is the moment that the mourner leaves his house for the burial, and Rabbi Yehoshua, according to whom it is the moment when the gollel is closed.
The commentaries disagree about how to define a gollel. Rashi explains that it is the cover to a casket. Tosafot suggest that it is a rounded stone that was used to close up a burial cave (several such stones have been found near ancient burial caves in Israel). During the times of the Mishna, common burial practice was to place the body in a temporary grave where it would decompose. At a later date, the bones would be removed and transferred to a family burial cave. The round shape of the gollel stone allowed it to be rolled, closing the cave, yet easily opening when necessary.