וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק הָאֹהֱלָה שָׂרָה אִמּוֹ וַיִּקַּח אֶת רִבְקָה וַתְּהִי לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה וַיֶּאֱהָבֶהָ
And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her.” (Gen. 24:67)
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 ha‘petach, doorframe, or some such mechanism?
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 chuppahis meant to symbolize the spreading of a tallit or veil over the kallah or, alternatively, the bringing of the kallah into the house of the chatan. Even though the symbolism of a house will be satisfied later when the couple enters the yichud room, it is important to do the chuppah during the ceremony, where it will be in direct juxtaposition to the recitation of the Sheva Berakhot.
Some poskim argue that even for the Ashkenazim, the chuppah represents a spreading of a tallit or veil and that there is no need for poles, while others are so insistent on the house model that they set forth many criteria and halakhic requirements for the poles and canopy (requiring 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 requirehalakhic tzurot ha’petach or the like.
Rav Moshe Feinstein (Orah Hayyim 4:70.7) embraces the house model, but states that the key for this is the roof and the poles themselves are not, in the final analysis, necessary, since even when they are present, they are not affixed to the ground, and hence do not really function as walls. He does say that, in keeping with the common practice and – I would add- the greater symbolism, one should use poles when possible.
Following Rav Moshe, I would certainly want lekhatchilah that there be poles, especially since the house model is the more dominant one in the Rishonim. If it is felt to be necessary or important to do it without poles, that would be acceptable as well.