Rav Yehudah Hachassid and His Shidduchin

Question #1: A Shidduch Crisis

“My husband’s name is Chayim Shlomo, and an excellent shidduch possibility was just suggested for my daughter. However, the bachur’s name, which was originally Shlomo, was changed to Chayim Shlomo when he was ill as a child. May we proceed with this shidduch?”

Question #2: Must we turn down this shidduch?

“My wife’s name is Rivkah, and we were just suggested an excellent shidduch for my son.  However, the girl’s name is Esther Rivkah. Must we turn down the shidduch?”

Answer:

Both of these questions relate to rules that are not based on Talmudic sources, but on the writings of Rav Yehudah Hachassid, who prohibited or advised against many potential marriages that are otherwise perfectly acceptable, according to halachah. But before we discuss the writings of Rav Yehudah Hachassid, let us discover who he was, and why his opinion carries so much weight.

Who was Rav Yehudah Hachassid?

Well, to complicate matters a bit, there were two people in Jewish history who were called Rav Yehudah Hachassid. These two individuals lived hundreds of years apart, and, to the best of my knowledge, had no known connection to one another, other than that they were both esteemed Ashkenazic leaders in their respective generations. The Rav Yehudah Hachassid of the seventeenth century, famed as the builder of a shul in the Old City of Jerusalem, now called the Churva shul, spearheaded the first “modern” effort to establish an Ashkenazi community in the holy city. Although this failed attempt had political and practical ramifications that lasted until the middle of the twentieth century, I have never heard him blamed for the blocking of a potential shidduch.

On the other hand, the much earlier Rav Yehudah Hachassid,whose writings and rulings will be discussed in this article, was a great posek and mekubal, whose halachic decisions and advice have been followed extensively by both Ashkenazim and Sefardim.

Rav Yehudah Hachassid, who was born in approximately 4910 (1150), is quoted several times in the Tosafos printed in our Gemara (for example, Tosafos, Bava Metzia 5b, s.v. Dechashid and Kesuvos 18b, s.v. Uvekulei). Rav Yehudah’s students included a number of famous rishonim who are themselves Baalei Tosafos, such as the Or Zarua, the Rokeach, the Semag, and the Sefer Haterumah.

Rav Yehudah Hachassid was the head of a select group of mekubalim called the Chassidei Ashkenaz. He authored numerous works on kabbalah and was the author of the poem Anim Zemiros, sung in many shullen at the end of Shabbos davening. Two works of his are intended for use by the common laymen, the Sefer Chassidim and the Tzava’as [the ethical will of] Rav Yehudah Hachassid, and these mention the subject of today’s article.

The tzava’ah of Rav Yehudah Hachassid

In his ethical will, Rav Yehudah Hachassid lists 56 practices that he prohibits and/or advises against. Most of these have no source in the Gemara. Why did Rav Yehudah Hachassid prohibit these actions? Although he did not explain his reasons, later authorities assume that these are practices that Rav Yehudah Hachassid considered to be dangerous, based on kabbalah. It is quoted, in the name of Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi (the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, author of Shulchan Aruch Harav and Tanya), that to elucidate one of Rav Yehudah Hachassid’s statements in his tzava’ah would require a work the size of the Shelah, a classic of halachah, kabbalah and musar, that is hundreds of pages long.

I am not going to list everything in Rav Yehudah Hachassid’s tzava’ah, but, instead, will simply cite some of the practices that he prohibits.

–          A man should not marry a woman who has the same name as his mother, nor should he marry a woman whose father has the same name that he has.

Rav Yehudah Hachassid closes by saying that if people violated these instructions, one of the parties with the name in common should change his/her name – perhaps this will provide some hope. He does not specify what the harm is or what the hope is for.

–          Two mechutanim should not have the same name.

–          Two mechutanim should not make two shidduchim, a son with a daughter and a daughter with a son.

–          One should not marry one’s niece, either his brother’s daughter or his sister’s daughter.

–          A father and son should not marry two sisters.

–          Two brothers should not marry two sisters, nor should they marry a mother and her daughter.

–          A stepbrother and a stepsister should not marry.

–          Two married brothers should not live in the same city.

Before we get everyone disturbed, I will share with you that many of these relationships prohibited (or advised against) by Rav Yehudah Hachassid are not recognized as binding by later authorities. For example, the Chofetz Chayim’s first rebbitzen was his stepsister: he married the daughter of his stepfather, who was married to the Chofetz Chayim’s widowed mother. Similarly, I know of numerous instances in which two brothers married two sisters, without anyone being concerned about it. And the Tzemach Tzedek of Lubavitch mentions that one need not be concerned about pursuing a shidduch in which the fathers of the chosson and the kallah have the same given name (Shu’t Tzemach Tzedek, Even Ha’ezer #143).

Selective service

In most places, the only shidduchin-related rule of Rav Yehudah Hachassid that has been accepted is that a man not marry a woman who has the same given name as his mother, nor should a woman marry a man who has the same name as her father. Why is this rule more accepted than any of the others?

Early poskim note that the custom of being concerned about this was far more widespread than concern about the other prohibitions of Rav Yehudah Hachassid. They propose several reasons to explain why this is true.

One answer is because the Arizal was also concerned about a man marrying a woman whose name is the same as his mother. Yet, there is no evidence of the Arior other authorities being concerned regarding the other rules of Rav Yehudah Hachassid (see Shu’t Mizmor Ledavid of Rav David Pardo, #116, quoted by Sedei Chemed, Volume 7, page 17; Shu’t Divrei Chayim, Even Ha’ezer #8).

Another possible reason is that the Chida writes that he, indeed, saw problems result in the marriages of people who ignored this specific prohibition of Rav Yehudah Hachassid.

Rav Chayim Sanzer adds that one should be concerned about this particular practice only because klal Yisroel has accepted as custom to pass up these marriages. To quote him: If the children of Israel are not prophets, they are descended from prophets, and there is an innate understanding that these shidduchin should not be made.

The responsum of the Noda Biyehudah

No discussion of the instructions of Rav Yehudah Hachassid is complete without mentioning a responsum of the Noda Biyehudah, the rav of Prague and posek hador of the eighteenth century. The Noda Biyehudah (Shu’t Even Ha’ezer II #79) discusses the following case: A shidduch was suggested for the sister-in-law of a certain Reb Dovid, a close talmid of the Noda Biyehudah, in which the proposed chosson had once had his name changed, because of illness, to the name of the girl’s father. The Noda Biyehudah replied to Reb Dovid that generally he does not discuss questions that are not based on sources in Talmud and authorities. Nevertheless, he writes that he will break his usual rules and answer the inquiry.

First, the Noda Biyehudah points out a very important halachic principle: No talmid chacham may dispute any halachic conclusion of the Gemara, whether he chooses to be lenient or stringent, and anyone who does so is not to be considered a talmid chacham. Upon this basis, the Noda Biyehudah notes that we should question the entire tzava’ah of Rav Yehudah Hachassid, since the work forbids numerous practices that run counter to rulings of the Gemara. To quote the Noda Biyehudah, “We find things in Rav Yehudah Hachassid’s tzava’ah that are almost forbidden for us to hear.” The examples the Noda Biyehudah chooses include:

One should not marry one’s sister’s daughter. However, the Gemara (Yevamos 62b) rules that it is a mitzvah to do so.

Rav Yehudah Hachassid prohibited a father and son from marrying two sisters, yet we see that the great amora Rav Papa arranged the marriage of his son to his wife’s younger sister (Kesubos 52b).

Another example is that Rav Yehudah Hachassid writes that two brothers should not marry two sisters, yet the Gemara (Berachos 44a) writes approvingly of these marriages. Furthermore, the amora, Rav Chisda, arranged for his two daughters to marry two brothers, Rami bar Chamma and Ukva bar Chamma (ibid.).

Explaining Rav Yehudah Hachassid’s concern

The Noda Biyehudah continues: “However, out of esteem for Rav Yehudah Hachassid, we must explain that in his great holiness, he realized that the shidduchin he was discouraging would all be bad for his descendants. Therefore, Rav Yehudah Hachassid’s comments do not conflict with the Gemara, since he was writing a special ruling for individuals that should not be applied to anyone else.” Therefore, Reb Dovid does not need to be concerned about his sister-in-law proceeding with this shidduch.

The Noda Biyehudah presents an additional reason why Reb Dovid does not need to be concerned: Rav Yehudah Hachassid’s concerns apply only to birth names or names given to sons at their bris, but do not apply to any name changes that take place afterwards. The Noda Biyehudah rallies proofs that adding or changing a name because of illness can only help a person and cannot hurt. In addition, the Noda Biyehudah reasons that if someone was an appropriate shidduch because of his birth name, changing or adding to his name cannot now make this shidduch prohibited.

Marry a talmid chacham

Aside from the other reasons why the Noda Biyehudah feels that this shidduch can proceed, he adds another rule: It is more important for someone to marry off his daughter to a talmid chacham, which the Gemara says is the most important thing to look for in a shidduch, than to worry oneself about names, a concern that has no source in the Gemara.

At this point, let us examine one of our opening questions:

“My husband’s name is Chayim Shlomo, and an excellent shidduch possibility was just suggested for my daughter. However, the bachur’s name, which was originally Shlomo, was changed to Chayim Shlomo when he was ill as a child. May we proceed with this shidduch?”

According to the Noda Biyehudah, one may proceed with the shidduch, even if the younger Chayim Shlomh does not qualify as a talmid chacham and even if they are descended from Rav Yehudah Hachassid, since the name Chayim was not part of his birth name.

Stricter approaches

On the other hand, there are other authorities who are, in fact, concerned about violating the instructions of Rav Yehudah Hachassid and do not mention any of the above heterim (quoted in Sdei Chemed Volume 7, pages 17- 20; Kaf Hachayim, Yoreh Deah 116:125). These authorities supply a variety of reasons why the arguments of the Noda Biyehudah do not apply. As far as the Noda Biyehudah’s statement that Rav Yehudah Hachassid could not have banned that which is expressly permitted, or even recommended in the Gemara as a mitzvah, some respond that, although at the time of the Gemara there was no need to be concerned about the kabbalistic problems that these concerns may involve, our physical world has changed (nishtaneh hateva), and there is therefore, currently, a concern of ayin hora (quoted by Sdei Chemed pg. 19).

In conclusion

I leave it to the individual to discuss with his or her posek whether or not to pursue a particular shidduch because of an identical name or any other concern raised by Rav Yehudah Hachassid. Of course, we all realize that the most important factor in finding a shidduch is to daven that Hashem will provide the appropriate match in the right time.

We will return to a discussion about Rav Yehudah Hachassid and his special rulings in two weeks.




How Many Should Be Saying Kaddish?

Question: Is it better that each mourner recite only one kaddish, or that all the mourners recite all the kaddeishim?

Answer: Most people are under the impression that whether the “mourner’s kaddish” (kaddish yasom) is recited by only one person or whether many recite it simultaneously is a dispute between the practices of Germany and those of Eastern Europe. However, we will soon see that this simplification is inaccurate. There were many communities in Eastern Europe where kaddish was said by only one person at a time, and this was the universal Ashkenazic practice until about 250 years ago.

The custom that many people recite the mourner’s kaddish simultaneously was accepted and standard Sefardic practice (meaning the Jews of North Africa and the Middle East), going back at least to the early 18th century (see Siddur Yaavetz, comments after Aleinu), although when this custom was instituted is uncertain. But before we explore the issue of whether more than one person may say kaddish simultaneously, let us first examine the origins of reciting the mourner’s kaddish altogether.

Origins of kaddish

Although the Gemara refers to kaddish in numerous places (Brachos 3a, 57a; Shabbos 119b; Sukkah 39a; Sotah 49a), it never mentions what we call kaddish yasom,the kaddish recited by mourners, nor does it recommend or even suggest, anywhere, that a mourner lead the services. The Gemara, also, makes no mention of when kaddish is recited, with the exception of a very cryptic reference to kaddish recited after studying aggadah (see Sotah 49a). A different early source, Masechta Sofrim, mentions recital of kaddish before borchu (10:7) and after musaf (19:12). The fact that the Gemara says nothing about a mourner reciting kaddish or leading services is especially unusual, since the most common source for these practices is an event that predates the Gemara. The Or Zarua, a rishon, records the following story:

Rabbi Akiva once saw a man covered head to toe with soot, carrying on his head the load that one would expect ten men to carry, and running like a horse. Rabbi Akiva stopped the man, and asked him: “Why are you working so hard? If you are a slave and your master works you this hard, I’ll redeem you. If you are so poor that you need to work this hard to support your family, I’ll find you better employment.”

The man replied, “Please do not detain me, lest those appointed over me get angry at me.”

Rabbi Akiva asked him: “Who are you, and what is your story?”

The man answered: “I died, and every day they send me like this to chop and carry these amounts of wood. When I am finished, they burn me with the wood that I have gathered.”

Rabbi Akiva asked him what his profession was when he was alive, to which he answered that he had been a tax collector (which, in their day, meant someone who purchased from the government the contract to collect taxes) who favored the rich by overtaxing the poor, which the Or Zarua calls “killing the poor.”

Rabbi Akiva: “Have you heard from your overseers whether there is any way to release you from your judgment?”

The man responded: “Please do not detain me, lest my overseers become angry with me. I have heard that there is no solution for me, except for one thing that I cannot do. I was told that if I have a son who would lead the tzibur in the recital of borchu or would recite kaddish so that the tzibur would answer yehei shemei rabba mevorach…, they would release me immediately from this suffering. However, I did not leave any sons, but a pregnant wife, and I have no idea if she gave birth to a male child, and if she did, whether anyone is concerned about teaching him, since I have not a friend left in the world.”

At that moment, Rabbi Akiva accepted upon himself to find whether a son existed and, if indeed he did, to teach him Torah until he could fulfill what was required to save his father. Rabbi Akiva asked the man for his name, his wife’s name, and the name of the town where he had lived. “My name is Akiva, my wife’s name is Shoshniva and I come from Ludkia.”

Rabbi Akiva traveled to Ludkia and asked people if they knew of a former resident, Akiva, the husband of Shoshniva, to which he received the following answer: “Let the bones of that scoundrel be ground to pulp.” When Rabbi Akiva asked about Shoshniva, he was answered: “May any memory of her be erased from the world.” He then inquired about their child, and was answered: “He is uncircumcised — for we were not interested in involving ourselves even to provide him with a bris milah!” Rabbi Akiva immediately began his search for the son, whom he located — it turned out that he was already a young adult. Rabbi Akiva performed a bris milah on him and attempted to teach him Torah, but was unable to do so. For forty days, Rabbi Akiva fasted, praying that the child be able to study Torah, at which time a heavenly voice announced: “Rabbi Akiva, now go and teach him Torah!”

Rabbi Akiva taught him Torah, shema, shemoneh esrei, birchas hamazon, and then brought him to shul in order for him to lead the tzibur by reciting kaddish and borchu, to which the tzibur responded, Yehei shemei rabba mevorach le’olam ule’olmei olemaya and “Baruch Hashem hamevorach le’olam va’ed.

At that moment, Akiva, the husband of Shoshniva, was released from his punishment. This Akiva immediately came to Rabbi Akiva in a dream and told him: “May it be Hashem’s will that you eventually reach your eternal rest in Gan Eden — for you have saved me from Gehennom.” (This story is also found, with some variation, in the second chapter of Masechta Kallah Rabasi.)

Other versions

When a different rishon, the Rivash, was asked about this story, he reported that it is not found in the Gemara, but perhaps its origin is in Midrash Rabbah or Midrash Tanchuma. He then quotes a story from the Orchos Chayim similar to that quoted by the Or Zarua. In conclusion, the Orchos Chayim emphasizes that, for the twelve months of mourning, a mourner should recite the last kaddish of the davening, maftir on Shabbos and Yom Tov, and lead the services for ma’ariv every motza’ei Shabbos (Shu’t Harivash #115).

A similar story is recorded in an earlier midrashic source, the Tanna Devei Eliyahu, where the protagonist is not Rabbi Akiva but his rebbe’s rebbe, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai (see Rambam, Peirush Hamishnayos, end of the fifth chapter of Sotah). In this version, the man was punished until his son turned five and was educated to the point that he could answer borchu in shul (Eliyahu Zuta,Chapter 17). No mention is made of the son reciting kaddish. However, the halachic sources all quote the version of the Or Zarua, in which the protagonist of the story is Rabbi Akiva.

Merits for the deceased

This story serves as the basis for the practice that a mourner leads the services and recite kaddish. Relatively little of this topic is discussed until the time of the Maharil, who was asked the following question:

“Should someone who is uncertain whether his father or mother is still alive recite kaddish?”

To this question, frequent in earlier times when cell phones were not so commonplace, the Maharil replied that he is not required to recite kaddish and he should assume that his parent is still alive (see Mishnah, Gittin 3:3). Once the parent reaches the age of eighty, one should view it as uncertain whether the parent is still alive. Upon this basis, I am aware of a gadol be’Yisrael who had escaped Hitler’s Europe before the war, who began to recite kaddish for his parents once the Nazis invaded the part of Russia where his parents were living.

The Maharil continues that if there are two people in shul, one reciting kaddish for a deceased parent and one who is uncertain whether his parents are still alive, the second person should not recite kaddish. This is because of the halachic principle of ein safek motzi midei vadai, someone who has a questionable claim does not preempt someone who has a definite claim or right — the person whose parents might still be alive should not recite kaddish, rather than someone whose parents are known to be deceased. This ruling of the Maharil assumes that kaddish is recited by only one person at a time.

The Maharil explains that, for this reason, he himself did not say kaddish when he was uncertain whether his parents were still alive. He then explains that someone who is not sure whether his parents are still alive and is capable to lead the services properly should lead the services in honor of his parents (Teshuvos Maharil #36).

Conclusions based on the Maharil

We see from the Maharil’s discussion that:

–          Only one person recites kaddish at a time.

–          Someone with living parents should not recite mourner’s kaddish because he is pre-empting mourners from reciting kaddish.

–          When no mourner will be leading the services, someone uncertain if he is a mourner should do so, provided he can do the job properly.

Obligatory versus voluntary kaddish

The Maharil (Shu’t Maharil Hachadoshos #28) was also asked how may a minor recite kaddish if it is a required part of davening, as only one obligated to fulfill a mitzvah may fulfill a mitzvah on behalf of others. The Maharil answered that the kaddeishim that are recited by the shaliach tzibur as part of davening cannot be recited by minors. These kaddeishim are obligatory and must be recited by an adult, who fulfills the mitzvah on behalf of the community. However, non-obligatory kaddeishim, such as kaddish derabbanan and the kaddeishim recited at the end of davening, may be recited by minors. As a curious aside, the Mesechta Sofrim (10:7) explains that these kaddeishim were established primarily as make-up for people who arrived late and missed the kaddeishim that are required.

It is curious that, already in the time of the Maharil, people assumed that the mourner’s kaddeishim are more important than those of the chazzan. The Maharil points out that this is incorrect, since the kaddeishim recited by the chazzan are required, and it is greater to perform a mitzvah that is required than something non-obligatory (gadol ha’metzuveh ve’oseh mimi she’eino metzuveh ve’oseh). There is greater merit to recite the kaddeishim of the chazzan that are part of davening.

Since minors cannot be chazzan, the Maharil rules that they should be called up for maftir, which a minor may receive, since they thereby recite borchu in front of the tzibur.

Mourner’s kaddish on weekdays

It appears from the Maharil’s responsum that, prior to his era, kaddish yasom was recited only on Shabbos and Yom Tov. In his day, a new custom had just begun in some communities to recite mourner’s kaddish on weekdays. The new custom enabled minors to recite kaddish daily and accommodated adults whom the tzibur did not want leading services.

Which kaddeishim should be said?

The Maharil writes that although the following kaddeishim are not required but customary, they should still be recited: after a shiur is completed, after bameh madlikin on Friday evening, and after pesukim are recited, such as when we recite kaddish after aleinu and the shir shel yom. He rules that someone whose parents are still alive may recite these kaddeishim. However, if his parents do not want him to recite these kaddeishim, he should not.

One at a time

At this point, let us address our opening question: Is it better that each mourner recite only one kaddish, or that all the mourners recite all the kaddeishim?

It appears that, initially, whoever wanted to recite what we call today the mourner’s kaddeishim would do so. Knowing the story of Rabbi Akiva, it became an element of competition, with different people trying to chap the mitzvah. This situation sometimes engendered machlokes and chillul Hashem. To resolve this problem, two approaches developed for dealing with the issue. Sefardim followed the approach that all who wanted to say kaddish recited it in unison. This practice is praised by Rav Yaakov Emden in his commentary on the siddur (at the end of Aleinu). Among Ashkenazim, the approach used was to establish rules of prioritization, whereby one person at a time recited kaddish.

These prioritization rules are discussed and amplified by many later Ashkenazi authorities, implying that the early Ashkenazi world had only one person reciting kaddish at a time. We do not know exactly when the custom began to change, but by the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century, several major Ashkenazi authorities, among them the Chayei Odom (30:7) and the Chasam Sofer (Shu’t Orach Chayim #159; Yoreh Deah #345), discuss a practice whereby kaddish was recited by more than one person simultaneously. About this time, we find another custom in some communities, in which the mourner’s kaddish was said by only one person, but where everyone who chose could join in the recital of a kaddish derabbanan that was recited at the end of the daily morning prayer (see Shu’t Binyan Tziyon #1:122), presumably after the rav taught a shiur in halachah.

Merged community

With this background, we can understand the following mid-nineteenth century responsum. An Ashkenazi community had two shullen and several shteiblach. The main shul was in serious disrepair, so an agreement was made to close all the smaller shullen in order to pool resources and invest in one large, beautiful new shul and have no other minyanim. Part of the plan was that the new shul would permit all mourners to recite all the kaddeishim in unison. Subsequently, some individuals claimed that the community should follow the practice of the Rema and the Magen Avraham of prioritizing the recital of kaddish and having one person say it at a time. The community leaders retorted that this would create machlokes, since there would be only one shul and many people would like to say more kaddeishim than they can under the proposed system. Apparently, the dispute even involved some fisticuffs. The community sent the shaylah to Rav Ber Oppenheim, the rav and av beis din of Eibenschutz. He felt that the community practice of having all the mourners recite kaddish together should be maintained, but first wrote an extensive letter clarifying his position, which he sent to Rav Yaakov Ettlinger, the premier halachic authority of central Europe at the time. I will refer to Rav Ettlinger by the name he is usually called in yeshiva circles, the Aruch Laneir, the name of his most famous work, the multi-volumed Aruch Laneir commentary on much of Shas. The Aruch Laneir’s reply was subsequently published in his work of responsa called Shu’t Binyan Tziyon.

The Aruch Laneir contended that one should not change the established minhag of Germany and Poland, in practice for more than three hundred years, in which only one person recites kaddish at a time. He further notes that, although the Yaavetz had praised the practice that several people recite kaddish in unison, the Yaavetz himself had lived in Altoona, Germany, where the accepted practice was that only one person said kaddish at a time. (The Aruch Laneir notes that he himself was the current rav of Altoona and had been so already for several decades.)

Furthermore, the Aruch Laneir contends that one cannot compare Ashkenazic to Sefardic observance for a practical reason. The Sefardim are accustomed to praying in unison, and therefore, when they say kaddish, everyone exhibits great care to synchronize its recital. When Ashkenazim attempt to recite kaddish in unison, no one hears the kaddeishim. The Aruch Laneir notes that when the kaddish derabbanan is recited by all mourners, the result is a cacophony. He writes that he wishes he could abolish this custom, since, as a result, no one hears or responds appropriately to kaddish.

In conclusion, the Aruch Laneir is adamant that where the custom is that one person at a time recite kaddish, one may not change the practice. On the other hand, we have seen that other authorities cite a custom whereby all the mourners recite kaddish in unison.

Conclusion: How does kaddish work?

The Gemara (Yoma 86a) records that any sin that a person commits in this world, no matter how grievous, will be atoned if the person does teshuvah. This does not mean that the teshuvah accomplishes atonement without any suffering. Some sins are so serious that a person must undergo suffering in this world, in addition to performing teshuvah, before he is forgiven.

The greatest sin a person can be guilty of is chillul Hashem. Only teshuvah, suffering, and the individual’s eventual demise will be sufficient to atone for this transgression. Thus, a person’s death may result from his having caused a chillul Hashem.

The Maharal of Prague had a brother, Rav Chayim, who authored a work entitled Sefer Hachayim, in which he writes that most people die because they made a chillul Hashem at some point in their life. The reason a mourner recites kaddish is to use the parent’s death as a reason to create kiddush Hashem – by reciting kaddish – thus, atoning for the original chillul Hashem (Sefer Hachayim, end of chapter 8). May we all merit creating kiddush Hashem in our lives.




Is a Position Inherited?

Question #1: The inherited shofar

“Our shul’s longstanding shofar blower passed on. Are we required to appoint his son, when we would prefer to appoint a different master blaster?”

Question #2: I’d like a change!

“Is there a halachic reason why, in some communities, people hold their appointments on shul and school boards forever, whereas, in other communities, these positions are constantly rotated?”

Question #3: Long live the Rabbi!

“When a rav passes on, does his son have a claim to the position?”

Answer:

In several places, Chazal derive that a son qualified for a communal appointment held by his father inherits the position (Horiyos 11b; Kesubos 103b; Sifrei, Devorim 17:20). To quote the Rambam’s halachic ruling on the topic: When the king, the kohen gadol, or a different appointee dies, we appoint, in his stead, his son or someone else who would inherit from him. Whoever would be first to inherit from him comes first for the position of the deceased, provided he is a valid substitute… the same is true for any appointment in the Jewish people — one who receives it does so for himself and his descendants (Hilchos Klei Hamikdash 4:20).

The Rambam mentions this law a second time,in which he explains in more detail what is meant by saying that the son is a “valid substitute”: whoever has a prior right germane to receive inheritance has a prior right for inheriting the monarchy… not only the kingship, but any other position of authority and any other appointment in Israel is an inheritance for his son and his son’s son, forever, provided that the son fills the place of his father in wisdom and fear of G-d. If he meets the standard in fear of G-d, but not in wisdom, we appoint him and then teach him. However, anyone lacking in fear of G-d, even if he is very wise, is not appointed to any position in Israel (Hilchos Melachim 1:7).

Retiring chazzan

One of the earliest surviving responsa related to this question was penned hundreds of years ago, when the Rashba was asked about the following case (Shu”t HaRashba 1:300). A chazzan/baal keriyah had been serving a community faithfully for 38 years, a position that he inherited from his father, who had inherited the position from his father. The current chazzan’s vision is now somewhat impaired, making it difficult for him to be the baal keriyah, and he has been having his son function as baal keriyah and also as community secretary and scribe, which apparently were other responsibilities included in the position. Some members of the community are dissatisfied with the new arrangements — they feel that the son does not have as nice a voice as his father. They are requesting that either the chazzan fulfill all the requirements of his position, or that he retire and allow the community to hire a new chazzan, who can perform to their specifications. When the community hired this chazzan over a generation before, he was able to perform all his tasks admirably. They are still satisfied with his skills as a chazzan, and they would not request that he step down, as long as he can fulfill his job. However, they feel that they did not hire his replacement, and they are dissatisfied with the son’s voice, which is not as melodious as that of his father.

For his part, the chazzan notes that he has a life contract with the community, which states that no one can take his place at any of his tasks without his permission. Furthermore, he claims that most of the 150 members of the community are willing to have his son help him in the areas that are now difficult for him, whereas only about ten members voice disapproval of the new arrangement. Each of the two sides in the dispute presented its position to the Rashba to rule on the case via correspondence. We are highly grateful that they chose this specific method of dealing with their litigation, because it provides a written record of the case and the Rashba’s detailed decision. Based on what we have seen so far, how would you rule?

The ruling

The Rashba sided with the chazzan for three different reasons:

First, when you hire someone for a position as chazzan, it is self understood that he will occasionally need someone to substitute for him, either because he is ill or needs to be out of town. The Rashba rules that it is within the authority of the chazzan to choose who should serve as his substitute, assuming that he chooses someone who can do an adequate job. (A later authority, the Keneses Hagedolah, notes that there is another requirement – the substitute is G-d-fearing enough to fill the position [quoted by the Mishnah Berurah 53:84].)

Second reason of Rashba

A second reason why the Rashba rules in favor of the chazzan is that the contract states that the community cannot have someone else take his place without his agreement. This implies that the chazzan has the authority, at his option, to choose someone to assist him in carrying out his responsibilities.

The Rashba does not make any distinction between having someone substitute for the chazzan on an occasional basis and having someone assume some of his responsibilities permanently. In both instances, he considers it the right of the chazzan to assign part of this job to someone else, provided the assignee can perform the job adequately. It is not necessary that the substitute or replacement perform the job at the same level as the chazzan himself.

The son’s right

The third reason the Rashba cites is that, should the chazzan no longer be able to fulfill his responsibilities, his son has the right to the position as long as he can perform the job adequately. It is not necessary that the son have a voice as melodious as that of his father, as long as he is G-d fearing enough to fulfill the position. It is, therefore, certainly true that the son has the right to assist the current chazzan ahead of anyone else. Some later authorities rule that the son does not have a right to the position if his voice sounds strange (Magen Avraham 53:32).

To simplify: The Rashba’s first two reasons explain why the chazzan has a right to choose his own replacement, and the third reason explains why the son has the right to assume the chazzan’s responsibilities, ahead of any other candidate.

Choosing someone else

What would the Rashba hold if the different reasons are in conflict – meaning that the son would like to be his father’s replacement, but the father does not want him? The Rashba implies that, should the chazzan want to appoint someone other than his son to help him with his responsibilities, he may do so.

How do we rule?

The Rema (Orach Chayim 53:25) quotes this Rashba, but implies that he limits the right of the chazzan to appointing his son, and does not accept that the chazzan has the right to appoint someone else. The Mishnah Berurah explains as follows: There are indeed two different concepts that explain why the Rashba ruled according to the chazzan. One is that the chazzan has a right to appoint a substitute to assist him on an occasional basis, or to take over for him while he is away or ill. However, it may be that this right is his only when the substitute is temporarily fulfilling one of the chazzan’s responsibilities. It may not follow that the chazzan can appoint someone to replace him permanently in one of his roles. In this instance, that job would pass to the chazzan’s son. In the opinion of the Rema, when a permanent appointment is being made, the son has the right to the position, whereas the Rashba, himself, held that the chazzan has the right to appoint even someone other than his son on a permanent basis to assist him in his responsibilities. We will soon see a possible source for the Rema’s opinion.

Inherited his voice?

Why does the son of a chazzan have the right to inherit his father’s position? After all, when the chazzan died, he made his son into an orphan, not into a chazzan!

However, as we saw above, this halachah is in fact the case for any position in klal Yisroel: A son has the right to his father’s position, as long as he meets the basic requirements for the position.

Can the son sell the position?

To what extent does the son have the right to the position? Can he offer the position to someone else, and if so, can he do so even for payment?

An early authority, the Mordechai (Bava Kama 8:108), quoting a responsum from his rebbe, the Maharam Rottenberg, discusses this exact question. He rules that although a position of authority among the Jewish people is bequeathed to a son, the son does not have any right to give the position to someone else. He compares this to the rights of a kohen or a levi, which also are bequeathed to sons, but cannot be sold or transferred.

This is explained nicely by the Chasam Sofer (Shu”t Orach Chayim #12), who notes that a position, even of king of the Jewish people, is not inherited in the same way that one inherits property. According to the Torah, when a man dies, his sons automatically become the owners of his property. They do not require an authorization of a beis din, a court order, or a formal transfer of title – the property automatically becomes theirs. This is not the case regarding the inheriting of a position. The son does not automatically become king or kohen gadol – he must be appointed to the position. (Those interested in knowing how the kohen gadol is appointed should check the following sources: Tosafos, Zevachim 18a s.v. Hagah; Tosafos, Yoma 12b s.v. Kohein; Tosafos, Megillah 9b s.v. Velo; Aruch Hashulchan Ha’asid,Chapter 23.)

Source for the Rema

This Mordechai might be the source for the above-quoted Rema, who ruled that the chazzan may transfer some of his responsibilities to his son, but cannot appoint someone else instead of his son. The Rema accepted that it is understood that a position of chazzan will require that he occasionally needs someone to substitute, and that the choice of substitute may be left to the chazzan. But the chazzan does not own the position to the extent that he can transfer it to someone else permanently, either completely or partially.

Other reasons

Let us return to the original responsum of the Rashba, in which he ruled that the chazzan has the right to appoint his own substitute. The Rashba contends that, even without a contract, the community cannot replace the chazzan. In a different responsum (Shu”t Harashba 5:283), heprovides several reasons why a chazzan or anyone else in a community position has a right to keep his post. One reason is that halachah recognizes that, once someone has been fulfilling a communal role, he acquires a chazakah, the right of status quo, to keep the position, as long as there is no reason to disqualify him.

The Rashba presents a second reason why an appointee has the right to keep his position: because of darchei shalom. It reduces machlokes when people have an assumption that replacements are not made arbitrarily. Anyone who has lived in a community where this is not common practice can certainly attest to the strife created when a public servant’s contract is not renewed. (However, see Shu”t Maharalnach, quoted by Magen Avraham 53:32.)

A third reason why the person has the right to keep his position is because, if he is replaced, people may think that this was because of malfeasance. Maintaining him in the position protects his personal reputation.

Exceptions

Even the Rashba felt that there can be exceptions to his ruling – in other words, there are some instances in which one may be able to terminate a person’s tenure from a community position without that person having committed a malfeasance. The Rashba notes that there are places in which the recognized custom is that all positions are regularly rotated. In these communities, all appointments, whether salaried or voluntary, are temporary. He explains that since this is an accepted practice in these congregations, the reasons mentioned above why one may not remove someone from a position do not apply. Since everyone knows that his appointment is only temporary, no machlokes should result when a replacement is made. Similarly, no one will assume that an appointee was replaced because of malfeasance.

The later authorities note that this is true only when it is already an established custom in these places that appointments are always temporary and replacements are made at a specified time. However, when it is usual practice that people remain in their positions, one may not remove someone from his position, unless there was malfeasance (Shu”t Chemdas Shelomoh #7and Shu”t Chasam Sofer, Orach Chayim #206, both quoted by Mishnah Berurah 53:86). The Chasam Sofer allows another exception — when it was stipulated at the time of the original appointment that a new negotiation and appointment is necessary to renew the person’s appointment after his term is complete.

I’d like a change!

At this point, we can discuss one of our original questions:

“Is there a halachic reason why, in some communities, people hold their appointments on shul and school boards forever, whereas in other communities, these positions are constantly rotated?”

We now see that there is halachic basis both for the practice that in some communities that people remain in the position of shul or school president for long periods of time, whereas in other communities these positions are rotated on a regular basis.

A major exception?

Although we have noted that a son has a right to inherit his father’s position, several authorities contend that there is a major exception to this rule: a Torah position is not automatically inherited. One of the major advocates of this approach, the Chasam Sofer (Shu”t Chasam Sofer, Orach Chayim #12 and glosses to Orach Chayim end of 53), asked the following question: The Gemara (Yoma 72b) states that the position of kohen meshuach milchamah, the kohen anointed to provide encouragement and announce the halachos to the soldiers of the Jewish army, is not a hereditary position. Why is this position different from all the other appointments that we say are hereditary? The Chasam Sofer answers that there is a difference between positions of authority and religious positions. Positions of authority, such as king, do belong to the son, if he is qualified. However, there is no inheritance of religious positions, unless that is the accepted custom. (A similar view is stated by the Shu”t Maharashdam, Yoreh Deah #85.) The one exception to this rule is the position of kohen gadol, which the Torah says does go to the son, notwithstanding the fact that it is a religious position. Thus, the Rashba’s case in which the son inherits his father’s position as chazzan (a religious position) is only because that was the accepted custom.

The Chasam Sofer rallies support for his approach based on the fact that the positions of nasi and head of the Sanhedrin did not usually pass from father to son, but instead passed to the most qualified scholar. Only the nesi’im from Hillel and onward passed the position from father to son. The Chasam Sofer explains that from the time of Hillel until the Sanhedrin disbanded, the nasi of the Sanhedrin was also viewed as the “king” of the Jewish people, thus making it a position of authority and not merely religious. During this era, the position was bequeathed to the oldest son of the previous nasi, if he was G-d-fearing and enough of a scholar to fulfill his duties. However, prior to this era, the position was viewed only as a religious role and, therefore, it was assigned to the greatest scholar in the Jewish people.

Based on his analysis, the Chasam Sofer concludes that the son of a deceased rav does not automatically have the right to the position. If most of the tzibur does not want him, they have a right to pick any other qualified G-d-fearing Torah scholar who is qualified enough to rule on the community’s needs. They are not required to choose the most qualified talmid chacham for the position. For example, they may choose a person who is a stronger leader over a bigger talmid chacham who does not have the same leadership abilities.

The Chasam Sofer closes his responsum with the following proof to his position: The Midrash, quoted by Rashi, states that when Moshe Rabbeinu asked Hashem to appoint a leader to head the Bnei Yisroel, he wanted his sons to be his replacement. Obviously, his sons had all the qualities that Moshe felt were necessary for the position – otherwise, why would he have thought that they should qualify? Yet, Hashem chose Yehoshua for other reasons. Thus, we see that the position of Torah leader over the Jewish people is not an inherited one.

Conclusion

When the Mishnah Berurah (53:83) discusses this matter, he cites the opinions we have mentioned without ruling on the matter. Thus, an individual congregation will need to ask a shaylah whether a son has the right to father’s position, where there is no established minhag and the community would like to appoint someone else.




Sheva Berachos

Question #1: Is it yours?

The wedding ceremony begins with two berachos recited by the mesadar kiddushin. Should he tell the chosson to have in mind to fulfill these berachos?

Question #2: Wine on top or bottom?

Which is the first of the sheva berachos?

Question #3: Is this deliberate inconsistency?

Some of the sheva berachos begin with the words Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam and others don’t. Some of them end with Boruch Attah Hashem and a closing, whereas others don’t. Is there any rhyme or reason to this seeming chaos?

Introduction:

The time in between the Three Weeks and the Yamim Noraim is a popular time to schedule weddings. We find a source for the recitation of sheva berachos in a discussion in Mesechta Kallah. In parshas Chayei Sarah, the Torah discusses the trip that Eliezer takes to find a wife for Yitzchok. Shortly before Rivkah leaves to marry Yitzchok, the Torah mentions that her family blesses her (Bereishis 24:60). In reference to this posuk, we find the following passage at the beginning of Mesechta Kallah: “Where is a source in the Torah for the blessings [which we call the ‘sheva berachos’] given to the bride: And they blessed Rivkah.” The Mesechta Kallah retorts, “Did Rivkah’s family use a cup [of wine when they blessed her]?” Since they did not, this verse is not a source for sheva berachos, but only an allusion to the mitzvah. In conclusion, the Mesechta Kallah and the Gemara (Kesubos 7b) derive the mitzvah of sheva berachos from other pesukim.

Erusin and nesuin

There are two stages to a Jewish wedding, and each has its appropriate berachos. The first stage, kiddushin or erusin (not to be confused with the Modern Hebrew word erusin, which means “engagement”), is when the chosson places the wedding ring on the kallah’s finger. The second step, nesuin, focuses on the chupah, the kesubah, the sheva berachos and the yichud that takes place immediately after the chupah. In Talmudic times, these two stages were conducted separately – often as much as a year apart. Today, they are conducted as one long ceremony. Each of the two stages has its own berachos, which I will discuss shortly.

Birkos erusin

Prior to the chosson explaining to the witnesses why he is placing a ring on the kallah’s finger, two berachos are recited, borei peri hagafen and the beracha called birkas erusin. They are said by the mesader kiddushin — the rosh yeshivah, rav or other talmid chacham — who is “performing the ceremony,” as people say in English, or, more accurately, the one who is responsible to make sure that everything is done according to correct halachic practice.

According to the Rambam’s opinion, the birkas erusin is a birkas hamitzvah, a beracha recited before fulfilling a mitzvah, and that, therefore, it should be recited by the chosson (Shu”t Harambam, quoted by Shu”t Noda Beyehudah Tinyana, Even Ha’ezer, #1).

A second approach is that, although the birkas erusin is a birkas hamitzvah, the mesader kiddushin recites the beracha, rather than the chosson, to avoid embarrassing a chosson who does not know the beracha by heart (Even Ha’ezer, Taz 34:1; Beis Shmuel, 34:2). Remember that, in earlier days, there were no printed works, and berachos were recited from memory. Thus, many chassanim would not know, by heart, the somewhat complicated and uncommon beracha that is recited before the erusin. Therefore, the mesader kiddushin is motzi the chosson with the beracha, and the chosson, also, should have in mind to be included in the birkas erusin (Shu”t Noda Beyehudah ad loc.).

A third approach disagrees, concluding that the birkas erusin is not a birkas hamitzvah and that, therefore, there is no need for the mesader kiddushin to be motzi the chosson when reciting this beracha (Shu”t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim #44, quoting many earlier sources).

Who drinks the wine?

When the mesader kiddushin recites the beracha on the cup of wine, he gives the cup (usually via the parents) to the chosson and kallah, who sip from the cup. Since we may not drink or eat without first reciting a beracha (Berachos 35a), the chosson and kallah should be included in the beracha hagafen of the mesader kiddushin.

Thus, we can examine our opening question: The wedding ceremony begins with two berachos recited by the mesader kiddushin. Should he tell the chosson to have in mind to fulfill these berachos?

The answer is that he should tell both the chosson and the kallah to have in mind to fulfill their requirement to recite hagafen. Whether he should also tell the chosson to have in mind to fulfill birkas erusin is disputed.

Text of birkas erusin

The Gemara (Kesubos 7b) records a dispute regarding the text of birkas erusin. The first opinion cites the following text: Baruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam asher kideshanu bemitzvosav vetzivanu al ha’arayos, ve’asar lanu es ha’arusos, ve’hitir lanu es hanesuos lanu al yedei chupah vekiddushin. The second opinion, that of Rav Acha the son of Rava, contends that we add to the above text a conclusion, baruch Attah Hashem mekadeish amo Yisrael al yedei chupah vekiddushin. The first opinion rules that this beracha does not require a concluding part, just as berachos prior to performing mitzvos and prior to eating are berachos structured simply, without any conclusion. Rav Acha the son of Rava disagrees, contending that birkas erusin should be treated like the beracha of Kiddush, which has a concluding beracha, Baruch Attah Hashem mekadeish hashabbos.

Why does Rav Acha the son of Rava compare birkas erusin to the beracha of Kiddush? This topic is a subject of dispute. Rashi explains that mentioning the sancitity of the Jewish people, mekadeish amo Yisrael al yedei chupah vekiddushin, is similar in concept to mentioning the sanctity of Shabbos, and therefore this beracha has the added mention of Hashem’s Name at the end. Tosafos explains that both these berachos, Kiddush and birkas erusin, contain multiple themes and, therefore, require a closing beracha also.

Birkas nisuin

Birkas nisuin is another way of referring to what we usually call the “sheva berachos.” These berachos are recited as part of the wedding ceremony, or, more accurately, as part of the nisuin, second part of that program. The sheva berachos are also recited at banquets held in honor of the newly married couple.

Six or seven

Although we are accustomed to referring to this series of berachos as “sheva berachos,” people are surprised to discover that this term is of relatively late origin. This is because the Gemara cites a dispute as to how many berachos are recited.

When we look at the wording of the berachos, we see that two of them, Asher yatzar es ha’adam, and Yotzeir ha’adam, begin with almost identical statements. The Gemara cites a dispute whether we should, indeed, recite both of these berachos, or just the longer one, Asher yatzar es ha’adam. The dispute concerns whether the way man and woman were originally created should require one beracha or two. According to the opinion that this requires only one beracha, there is no beracha Yotzeir ha’adam and, therefore, there are less than seven berachos.

Out of order

Since we recite both berachos, Asher yatzar es ha’adam, and Yotzeir ha’adam, we have six berachos, plus the beracha on wine, for a total of seven (that is why we call it sheva berachos). Under the chupah, the first of the seven berachos recited is the beracha on the wine. However, when sheva berachos is recited after a meal celebrated in honor of the new couple, the hagafen is recited after the other berachos. Why is the order changed?

The Beis Shmuel (62:2) explains that hagafen should really be recited first, as it is during the wedding ceremony, because it is recited more frequently, and the rule is tadir ushe’eino tadir, tadir kodem, that which is recited more frequently comes first (Mishnah Zevachim 89a). However, when reciting hagafen after the celebratory meal, someone might think we recite a beracha over wine only because of the bensching, and not because of the nuptials. In order to clarify that the wine is brought, also, because of the wedding celebration, we postpone its beracha until the end of the sheva berachos.

Where’s the wine?

When sheva berachos are recited at the end of a meal, the prevalent custom is to bring three kosos, and fill two of them to the top with wine. One of the filled kosos is held by the person leading the bensching while the second is left on the table until bensching is completed, and then held by each of the honorees who recite the berachos. When those six berachos have been recited, the person who led the bensching recites the berachaof hagafen, pours a bit from his kos into the empty cup, and drinks the majority of the wine in his kos. The wine from the sheva berachos kos and the small amount of wine that was poured into the third kos are then mixed together, and the wine in the two kosos is presented to the chosson and the kallah to drink (Aruch Hashulchan, Even Ha’ezer 62:18). Some poskim recommend that the honoree leading the bensching hold the kos to be used for the sheva berachos while reciting the prayer dvei hoseir,which is inserted before bensching at a sheva berachos meal,and, then, put that kos down and pick up the first kos for bensching (Taz, Even Ha’ezer 62:7). I have never seen anyone follow this practice (see Derisha, Even Ha’ezer 62:4 who disagrees with the Taz’s practice). According to a third opinion, the second kos should not be filled until after bensching is completed (Magen Avraham 147:11 and Be’er Heiteiv, Even Ha’ezer 62:11).

According to all three approaches we have mentioned, bensching is recited over one kos, and sheva berachos over a different cup. Why do we use two different kosos? Why not use the same goblet for both bensching and sheva berachos?

The poskim dispute this issue: The Gemara (Pesachim 102b) teaches that if someone bensches and recites Kiddush at the same time, he should not recite both blessings over the same cup. Rather, he should recite Kiddush holding one cup of wine and bensch while holding a different one. The Gemara asks why we take two different cups, and answers that we do not “bundle mitzvos together.” Using the same kos for both mitzvos implies that we view these mitzvos as a burden, rather than respecting each mitzvah with its own goblet of wine.

However, when Yom Tov falls on a Sunday, we recite Kiddush of Yom Tov and Havdalah of Shabbos over the same goblet. This is not considered bundling mitzvos together, since Kiddush and Havdalah are considered one topic (Pesachim 102b).

Are birkas nisuin and bensching considered one topic, or two? This is a dispute discussed in Tosafos (Pesachim 102b s.v. she’ein), in which the first opinion views bensching and sheva berachos over the same cup as bundling mitzvos together, and therefore separate kosos need to be used for bensching and sheva berachos. Rabbeinu Meshulam, however, maintains that this is not considered bundling mitzvossince, without bensching, we do not recite sheva berachos. According to Rabbeinu Meshulam, we fill one goblet with wine and hand it to the person leading the bensching. When he finishes bensching, he hands the kos to the honoree who recites the first of the sheva berachos, who hands it to the next honoree to recite the next beracha, and so on. Eventually, the kos returns to the person who led the bensching, who holds the kos while reciting borei peri hagafen.

The Shulchan Aruch (Even Ha’ezer 62:9) quotes both opinions and observes that custom is to use only one cup for both bensching and sheva berachos, following Rabbeinu Meshulam, which apparently was the prevalent practice among Sefardim at the time of the Shulchan Aruch. The Rema notes that the custom among Ashkenazim is to use two different goblets. The Chida (Shu”t Yosef Ometz #47) notes that, although at the time of the Shulchan Aruch,the custom among Sefardim was to recite the sheva berachos on the same goblet as the bensching, in the Chida’s day, a separate goblet was used for sheva berachos. Other Sefardic authors of the last several hundred years (see Otzar Haposkim 62:9:53) record two customs, some following Rabbeinu Meshulam (following Shulchan Aruch) and others using separate cups for the two mitzvos (following Chida).

Inconsistent berachos

At this point, let us look at our third opening question. “Some of the sheva berachos begin with the words Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam, and others don’t. Some of them end with Boruch Attah Hashem and a closing, whereas others don’t. Is there a rhyme or reason to this seeming chaos?

The structures of the six birkas nisuin appear to be inconsistent. The first two, Sheha’kol bara lichvodo, “that everything was created in His Honor,” and Yotzeir ha’adam, “the Creator of man,” are structured the same way as our berachos before eating food and most of our berachos before performing mitzvos: we recite the words Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam and then the short closing of the beracha (sheha’kol bara lichvodo or yotzeir ha’adam). However, the third and the sixth berachos both begin with the words Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam and also have closings: Boruch Attah Hashem yotzeir ha’adam and Boruch Attah Hashem mesamayach chosson im hakallah, respectively. To make matters more confusing, the fourth and fifth berachos that begin with the words sos tasis and samayach tesamach do not begin with Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam, but conclude with Boruch Attah Hashem, similar to the structure of the berachos of the shemoneh esrei. So we are faced with an obvious question: Why does this series of berachos contain such a potpourri of beracha structures?

Among the rishonim, we find several answers to this question. Tosafos (Kesubos 8a s.v. shehakol) explains that, indeed, most of the berachos should have only an ending and no beginning beracha, as we have in the shemoneh esrei. However, since two of the berachos, Sheha’kol bara lichvodo and Yotzeir ha’adam are so small, not providing them with a full beracha would make them almost unnoticeable. Similarly, the beracha Asher yatzar, whose theme is so similar to the beracha before it, Yotzeir ha’adam, would appear to be a continuation of that beracha, if it did not begin with the words Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam. Furthermore, Rabbeinu Chananel explains that, since the recital of the beracha Yotzeir ha’adam, itself, was the subject of a dispute, to emphasize that it is a beracha by itself, it includes the full statement Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam.

Tosafos explains further that the beracha Asher bara, the last of the berachos, is sometimes the only beracha that is recited. For example, when there are no new participants, called panim chadashos, this beracha is recited, notwithstanding that the others of the sheva berachos are not. For this reason, it is treated as a full, independent beracha, with both a full beginning and an ending.

Rashi presents a more detailed approach. He notes that although all these berachos are recited together, as if they are one unit, most of them are really different berachos on different aspects of the simcha. For example, Sheha’kol bara lichvodo, “that everything was created in His Honor,” is really a beracha on the beauty of having so many people joining together to celebrate a mitzvah, and should have been recited as soon as one saw all the assembled people. However, since the other berachos are recited over wine, the independent beracha of Sheka’kol bara lichvodo is included with the other berachos, so that everyone should focus on it. This is similar to the berachos of Havdalah — which include a beracha on the fragrance and a beracha on the candle — each of which is, really, a separate beracha that we combine together on the cup of wine in order to focus on all the berachos at one time.

Wrong order

If someone recited the berachos out of order, he should not repeat a beracha, but should recite the skipped beracha and then proceed to recite the remaining berachos that have, as yet, not been said. Similarly, if the honoree began saying the wrong beracha, and already recited Hashem’s Name, he should complete the beracha he has begun, the omitted beracha should then be said, followed by the remaining berachos.

If someone began reciting either the beracha of Sos tasis or Samayach tesamach, which do not begin with Hashem’s Name, out of order, and has not yet recited Hashem’s Name which appears at the end of the beracha, he should stop and recite the correct beracha, in the usual order (Amudei Apiryon, page 76).

Conclusion

Above, I quoted Rashi’s explanation that the beracha, Shehakol bara lich’vodo, is really for the gathering of the people and not directly associated to the wedding that is taking place. The Hafla’ah (Kesubos 8a) offers a different approach, which makes the beracha directly relevant to the nuptials. Hashem created His entire world for His Honor, and the last of his Creation was man. Man is, of course, imperfect until he is married, which is the celebration of the wedding. Thus, sheva berachos celebrates the completion of Hashem’s Creation!




Performing a Proper Hesped

Question #1: I have heard eulogies where the speaker seemed more interested in demonstrating his ability as a speaker than in commemorating the departed. Is this the proper way to eulogize?

Question #2: Someone told me that sometimes one obeys the request of a person not to be eulogized, and sometimes one may ignore it. How can this be?

Question #3: Is it true that one may not schedule a hesped within thirty days of a Yom Tov?

Our Parsha

“And Sarah died in Kiryas Arba, which is Hebron, in the Land of Canaan. And Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry over her.” This is the earliest of many verses the Gemara cites when discussing the mitzvah of eulogizing. People often avoid writing halachic articles about hespedim in favor of more exciting or popular topics, leaving many unaware that there is much halachah on the subject. Are there rules to follow when organizing or delivering hespedim? Indeed, there are many, as we will soon see.

The Mitzvah

Most authorities do not count performing a eulogy as one of the 613 mitzvos of the Torah. Indeed, most consider it only a rabbinic mitzvah. Nonetheless, the hesped accomplishes the Torah mitzvah of ve’ahavta le’rei’acha komocha, loving one’s fellow as oneself, since a properly delivered hesped is a very great chesed. To quote the Rambam: “It is a positive mitzvah of the Sages to check on the ill, to console mourners… to be involved in all aspects of the burial… to eulogize… Even though all of these mitzvos are rabbinic, they are all included in the mitzvah that one should love one’s fellow as oneself. Anything that you want someone to do for you, you should do to someone else who also keeps Torah and observes mitzvos” (Hilchos Aveil 14:1).

As the following passages demonstrate, our Sages strongly emphasized the importance of performing this mitzvah properly:

“When a Torah scholar passes away, the entire nation is obligated in his eulogy, as it states, ‘and Shmuel died, and all of Israel eulogized him’” (Mesechta Kallah Rabbasi Chapter 6).

“Whoever is idle in carrying out the hesped of a Torah scholar does not live long” (Yalkut Shimoni, Yehoshua 35).

“Whoever is idle in carrying out the hesped of a Torah scholar deserves to be buried alive” (Shabbos 105b)!

“A voice from above declared, ‘Whoever was not idle in participating in Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi’s eulogy is assured of life in the World to Come” (Koheles Rabbah 7).

“If someone cries upon the passing of an adam kasher (a halachically observant person) Hashem counts his tears and then stores them (Shabbos 105b).”

From this we see that the responsibility of hesped applies both to the person saying the eulogy and to those in attendance, and that this obligation sometimes applies to each individual. Furthermore, we see that the reward for fulfilling this mitzvah properly is very significant, both physically and spiritually, and that the eulogy and the crying associated with mourning are both highly important.

A “Kosher” Person

Above, I cited the statement: “If someone cries upon the passing of an adam kasher, Hashem counts his tears and then stores them.” I translated adam kasher as a halachically observant person.

Who qualifies as an adam kasher?

The rishonim discuss this question. Although the Rosh (Moed Katan 3:59) notes that his rebbe¸ the Maharam of Rottenberg, was uncertain what the term means, he himself concluded that it refers to someone who observes mitzvos properly, even if the person is not a talmid chacham and one sees nothing particularly meticulous about his religiosity. The Shulchan Aruch follows this definition.

Others explain that this is not enough to qualify as an adam kasher. Rather, the title applies to someone who, in addition to observing mitzvos properly, also pursues opportunities to perform chesed (Shach, Yoreh Deah 340:11, quoting Rabbeinu Yonah, Ramban and Bach). According to either approach, one should cry at the funeral of an adam kasher.

What is a proper hesped?

“It is a great mitzvah to eulogize the deceased appropriately. The mitzvah is to raise one’s voice, saying about him things that break the heart, in order to increase crying and to commemorate his praise. However, it is prohibited to exaggerate his praise excessively. One mentions his good qualities and adds a little… If the person had no positive qualities, say nothing about him (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 444:1).” (I will soon discuss why one may exaggerate “a little bit,” even though, it would seem,a small lie is also a falsehood.) The eulogy should be appropriate to the purpose and extent of the tragedy. For example, one should eulogize more intensely for a young deceased than for an older one, and more for someone who left no surviving descendants than for someone who had children (Meiri, Moed Katan 27b). Also, the crying of any hesped should not be to excess (Meiri, ad loc.).

In summation, we see that the purpose of a hesped is to cause people to cry over the loss of a Jew who observed mitzvos properly. On the other hand, eulogizing inappropriately is sinful.

At this point, we can answer the first question: “I have heard eulogies where the speaker seemed more interested in demonstrating his ability as a speaker than in commemorating the departed. Is this the proper way to eulogize?

Despite its frequency, such behavior is obviously wrong. I discovered that this sin of eulogizing in non-accordance with halachah, such as speaking for one’s own self- aggrandizement or exaggerating excessively, is so serious that in some places there was a custom to never eulogize and to forgo the mitzvah altogether, despite its importance (see Gesher Hachayim 1:13:4).

Why Do We Eulogize?

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 46b) raises a halachic question: Do we eulogize out of respect for the deceased, or in order to honor the surviving family members? In other words, is the chesed of this mitzvah due to the posthumous dignity granted to the departed, or is it due to its inspiring people to realize the extent to which the surviving family members have been bereaved? The Gemara devotes a lengthy discussion in proving which option is correct.

Doany variations in observance result from this question?

The Gemara notes two such differences:

No Hespedim for Me!!

I. What happens if a person requests that no one eulogize him?

If the purpose of a eulogy is to honor the deceased, the deceased has a right to forgo the honor and request that no eulogies be recited. Since the hespedim are in his/her honor, he/she has the right to forgo the honor and we respect this request. However, if the purpose of a eulogy is to honor the surviving relatives, a request of the deceased does not forgo the honor of the survivors, and we will eulogize him/her anyway, if the family so desires.

Paying for a Speaker

II. A second halachic difference resulting from the above question (whether the mitzvah is to respect the deceased or to honor the surviving family members) is whether one may obligate the heirs to pay for the eulogy.

In many circles and/or eras, it is or was a common practice to hire a rabbi or other professional speaker to provide the eulogy. May one hire such a speaker and obligate the heirs to pay his fee? If the mitzvah is to honor the deceased and hiring a professional speaker is standard procedure, then one can obligate the heirs to hire a speaker, just as they are required to pay for the funeral. If eulogizing is for the sake of the bereaved, one cannot obligate them to pay for professional eulogizers if they prefer to forgo the honor.

The Gemara rallies proof from this week’s parsha that the mitzvah is in honor of the deceased. As the pasuk clearly mentions, Avraham Avinu was not present when his wife Sarah died. The Gemara asks why did they wait until Avraham arrived to eulogize her. If the reason for the hesped is indeed to honor the living, Sarah should not have been left unburied until Avraham arrived. On the other hand, if the mitzvah is to honor the deceased, then Sarah was left unburied so that Avraham could honor her with his hesped.

Although the Gemara rejects this proof, it ultimately concludes that the purpose of a hesped is to honor the deceased. Therefore, if the deceased requested no eulogies, we honor his/her request, and heirs are obligated to pay for eulogies, where appropriate.

Pre-Torah

You might ask, how can we derive halachos from events that predate the Torah? Didn’t the mitzvos change when the Torah was given?

The answer is that since this mitzvah fulfills the concept of ve’ahavata le’rei’acha kamocha, love your fellow as yourself, we can derive from its mode of performance whether its purpose is to honor the deceased or, alternatively, the surviving family members.

Exaggerate a little

The hesped should be appropriate to the deceased; one may exaggerate very slightly (Rosh, Moed Katan 3:63). You might ask, how can any exaggerating be permitted? Isn’t the smallest exaggeration an untruth? What difference is there between a small lie and a big one?

The answer is that there is usually a bit more to praise about the person than we necessarily know, so that, on the contrary, adding a bit makes the tribute closer to the truth (based on Taz, Yoreh Deah 344:1).

Ignoring a Request

I mentioned above that the Gemara concludes that if the deceased requested no eulogies, we honor his/her request. However, this ruling is not always followed. When the Penei Yehoshua, one of the greatest Torah scholars of the mid-eighteenth century, passed away, the Noda Biyehudah eulogized him, even though the Penei Yehoshua had expressly instructed that no eulogies be recited. How could the Noda Biyehudah ignore the Penei Yehoshua’s express request?

The answer, as explained by the Noda Biyehudah’s disciple, is that for a gadol hador to be buried without proper eulogy is not simply a lack of the deceased’s honor, which he has a right to forgo, but also a disgrace to the Torah. Even though a talmid chacham may (in general) forgo the honor due him as a Torah scholar (talmid chacham shemachal al kevodo, kevodo machul [Kiddushin 32b]), this applies only to forgoing honor. He cannot allow himself to be disgraced, since this disgraces not only him but also the Torah itself (Shu”t Teshuvah Mei’ahavah, Volume I #174; see also Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 444:1).

We now understand why there are times when one obeys the request of a person to omit his hesped, and times when one may ignore it. Usually, we obey his/her request because of the general principle retzono shel adam zehu kevodo, the fulfillment of someone’s desire is his honor. However, if a gadol hador requests omission of eulogies, and major authorities consider this a breach of respect for the Torah itself, they may overrule the gadol’s request out of kavod for the Torah. (Of course, this implies that the departed gadol felt that the absence of hesped would not be a disgrace to the Torah, and that his halachic opinion is being overruled.)

We now address the third question raised above: Is it true that one may not schedule a hesped within thirty days of a Yom Tov?

Hesped before Yom Tov

The Mishnah (Moed Katan 8a) forbids scheduling a hesped within thirty days before Yom Tov for someone who died over thirty days before Yom Tov (as explained by Rosh ad loc. and Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 447:1). What is wrong with scheduling this hesped, particularly since performing a proper hesped is such a big mitzvah?

The Gemara cites two reasons for this ruling, both explaining that some form of Yom Tov desecration may result from such a eulogy. Rav (according to our version of the text) explained the reason with an anecdote:

“A man once saved money in order to fulfill the mitzvah of aliyah la’regel, traveling to the Beis Hamikdash for Yom Tov. A professional eulogizer then showed up at his door and convinced the wife that her recently departed relative deserved another eulogy. She took the money her husband had saved for aliyah la’regel and gave it to the eulogizer. (This indicates that ambulance chasing is a time-hallowed profession.) At that time, Chazal decreed that one should not make a post-funeral hesped during the thirty day period before Yom Tov.”

The Gemara then quotes Shemuel, who cited a different reason for the ban: Usually, thirty days after someone’s death, he or she is sufficiently forgotten for people to not discuss the death during Yom Tov, which would diminish the festival joy. However, performing a eulogy during these thirty days refreshes people’s memories, and as a result, they discuss the passing during Yom Tov and disturb the Yom Tov joy (Moeid Katan 8b).

The Gemara notes that there is a practical difference between the two approaches. According to the first approach, our concern only applies if someone hires a professional speaker, and there is no stricture against conducting voluntary eulogies. However, according to Shemuel, one may not conduct even an unpaid eulogy, since this may revive the loss for the close family and result in a desecration of Yom Tov.

Contemporary Problem or Not?

Some raise the following question: Why doesn’t the Gemara point out yet another difference that results from the dispute? According to the first approach, the prohibition would only exist when the Beis HaMikdash stood and there was a mitzvah of aliyah la’regel. Today, however, when we unfortunately cannot fulfill this mitzvah, one should be permitted to hire a professional speaker to eulogize within a month of Yom Tov even after the funeral (Ritz Gayus, quoted by Ramban and Rosh). Obviously, according to Shemuel’s approach the same concern exists today that existed when the Beis Hamikdash still stood. Yet the Gemara does not mention such a halachic difference between the two opinions.

The Ramban explains that, indeed, even the first opinion agrees that the prohibition exists also today. Since the story mentioned in the Gemara happened during the time of the Beis Hamikdash, the Gemara cites a case of someone saving up for aliyah la’regel. However, the same idea applies to any funds that are to be used for Yom Tov. Thus, even though we have no Beis Hamikdash, the reason for the prohibition still applies, since celebrating Yom Tov in general is an expense people save for in advance. Thus, the concern still exists that in order to pay for the eulogy one might dip into one’s Yom Tov savings.

Does this law apply even within thirty days of Rosh Hashanah, or only before the festivals of Sukkos, Pesach, and Shavuos?

Since the Gemara mentions that the person spent the money set aside for aliyah la’regel, a mitzvah that applies only to Sukkos, Pesach, and Shavuos, this implies that our concern is only about the special Yom Tov expenses associated with the three regalim festivities, and not Rosh Hashanah (Yeshuos Yaakov, Orach Chayim 547:1).

Eulogizing Children

Does one recite eulogies for children?

Theoretically, one could argue that since the purpose of a hesped is to honor the deceased, perhaps children do not require this type of honor. Nevertheless, the Gemara states that one does perform a eulogy for children of a certain age.

For which age does one perform a hesped?

 “Rabbi Meir, quoting Rabbi Yishmael, said that the children of poor people should be eulogized when they are only three years old, whereas the children of wealthy people are eulogized only if they are five. Rabbi Yehudah quoted Rabbi Yishmael differently: the children of poor people at five, and the children of wealthy people at six. The halachah is according to the last opinion quoted (Moed Katan 24b).

Both opinions agree that the age is earlier for the child of a poor family than for the child of a wealthy family. What is the reason for this difference?

Rashi explains that a poor person, who has nothing in the world but his children, suffers the loss of his children more intensely and the need for a hesped is greater. One might challenge that explanation, since the hesped is for the honor of the departed, and therefore what difference does it make if the family suffers more? The hesped is not for their benefit, but to honor the departed. I have not found this question discussed, although one later authority notes that the custom (at least in his time and place) was not to eulogize children at all (Beis Hillel to Yoreh Deah 444:4).

Conclusion

The Torah begins and ends by describing acts of chesed that Hashem performed, the last one entailing His burying of Moshe Rabbeinu. Our purpose in life is to imitate Hashem in all activities, until our personality develops to the point that we instinctively behave like Hashem. Fulfilling the mitzvah of hesped correctly, whether as a speaker or as a listener, develops our personality appropriately,and thus fulfills another highly important role in our Jewish lives.




A Layman’s Guide to Marriage ‎

Question #1:

“A friend’s son in Yeshiva in Israel got engaged to a local girl, and my friends were told that there will be a tena’im. I thought only chassidishe families do this.”

Question #2:

“I was told that I should not include quotations from pesukim on my daughter’s wedding invitation. Yet, I see that ‘everyone’ does! Could you please explain the halacha?”

Question #3:

“I wish someone could walk me through all the halachic steps that we need in planning our daughter’s wedding. I am afraid I’ll forget to take care of something.”

From the engagement to the wedding

Mazel tov!! Mazel tov!! Your daughter just became engaged to an amazing yeshivah bachur from a wonderful family. You are in seventh heaven!

Virtually everyone plans some type of formal celebration when his or her child becomes engaged. Some call it a “lechayim,” others a “vort,” still others a “tena’im,” and in Eretz Yisroel today it is usually called an “erusin.” Since these differences are not inherently halachic, I am going to note only one point about this part of the simcha: does one sign a tena’im shortly after announcing the engagement? In chassidishe circles, and, in Eretz Yisrael, even among “Israeli Litvishe” families, it is accepted that one finalizes the engagement by signing tena’im, which is an agreement between the two sets of parents as to what each will provide to their child before the wedding and to conduct the wedding before a certain agreed-upon date. The climax of the engagement celebration is when this document is signed, parts of it are read aloud, and the two mothers break a plate together. The halachic authorities discuss why we break a plate at a tena’im and a glass at the chupah (see Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav 560: 4; Keser Rosh, #114).

In “American,” non-chassidishe circles, these arrangements are more informal, and the two parties usually do not sign any formal tena’im. Some sign a type of a tena’im at the wedding, prior to the chupah.

Invitations

There are, actually, some halachos germane to invitations. One may not quote any pesukim in invitations and, according to most authorities, the lettering of an invitation should not use kesav ashuris, the Hebrew writing used for Sifrei Torah, Tefillin and Mezuzos (Shu”t Rav Pe’alim, Yoreh Deah 4:32). This is because kesav ashuris has sanctity and should not be used for mundane matters (Shu”t Radbaz 1:45; Rema, Yoreh Deah 284:2; Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 283:3). We should note that the Kesav Sofer writes that his father, the Chasam Sofer, permitted using kesav ashuris in wedding invitations and did so himself, contending that, since making a wedding is a mitzvah, the invitation to the seudas mitzvah is not considered a mundane use. Nevertheless, the Kesav Sofer concludes that it is better not to use kesav ashuris for invitations (Shu”t Kesav Sofer, Even Ha’ezer #22 at end).

Shomrim

Why do the choson and kallah require shomrim? From what time do the choson and kallah require shomrim?

The Gemara says that three people require a shomer: an ill person, a choson and a kallah Berachos 54b). Although many people have the custom of providing shomrim from the ufruf Shabbos, technically the choson and kallah require shomrim only from the wedding through the week of sheva berachos. The prevalent practice is that this includes only when they leave their house. This means that during sheva berachos week, the choson may attend minyan only if someone escorts him from his house, although some hold that a choson can go to shul without a shomer (told to me in the name of Rav Moshe Feinstein).

It is common practice to provide them with shomrim on the day of the wedding also.

Things to bring to the wedding

The following can function as a useful checklist of items that should be brought to the wedding:

(1) Kesubah

From personal experience, I suggest bringing not only the kesubah one intends to use, but also several blank extra forms.

(2) Kittel

If the choson will be wearing a kittel under the chupah, remember to bring it.

(3) Candles and matches

Four candles for the shushbinin, who are the two couples that will escort the choson and kallah, and matches with which to light the candles. The matches are also useful in the creation of ashes that will be placed on the choson’s forehead before he walks to the chupah.

(4) Wine

Many deliberately bring a bottle of white wine, a position that I advocate, to avoid concerns of red wine staining a white wedding dress. (I am aware of some poskim who prefer that one use red wine at a chupah. However, I prefer white wine, since it spares the worry of a stained gown.)

(5) Berachos

Cards, or something similar, with all the berachos for the various honorees.

(6) Ring

The wedding ring. This should be a ring without a precious stone (Even Ha’ezer 31:2). Some rabbonim prefer that it have no design at all. It is important that the ring be the property of the choson. In other words, the choson must either purchase it with his own money, or whoever purchased it must give it to the choson as a gift and the choson must pick it up to acquire it. So, if the bride wants to use her late great-grandmother’s wedding ring, they should make sure that the current, rightful owner of that ring gives it to the choson, with no strings attached, prior to the wedding.

(7) Glass

A well-wrapped glass that will be broken. (Note that the Rema [Even Ha’ezer 65:3] states that the choson should break the glass that was used to hold the wine of the wedding beracha. Although I have seen this actually practiced, it is definitely not the common, contemporary custom.)

(8) Key

Make sure that someone has the key to the yichud room!

Wow!! We have actually gotten all the way to the wedding! What happens next?

The choson tish

If the tena’im were not performed earlier, some people make a tena’im now. If the tena’im will take place at the wedding, then one should also have a plate that one intends to break.

The kesubah is filled out and signed at the choson tish. (In Eretz Yisrael, many follow the practice of not signing the kesubah until the choson and kallah are under the chupah.)

At this point, we will introduce the mesader kiddushin, the talmid chacham who is honored with making certain that the halachic aspects of the wedding are performed correctly.

Kabalas kinyan

Following the instructions of the mesader kiddushin, the choson lifts up a pen, handkerchief, or other itemas a means of kinyan in the presence of two witnesses. By doing this, he assumes the financial responsibilities of a husband and future father.

Should we use the same witnesses?

There are two prevalent practices regarding the witnesses, usually dependent on the preference of the mesader kiddushin. The more common American practice is that each part of the ceremony — the signing of the kesubah, the kiddushin itself, and the yichud — are witnessed by different sets of witnesses, in order to honor more people. In Eretz Yisrael, the common practice is to have one set of witnesses for all the stages. The Tashbeitz (2:7) explains that once one honored someone with performing a mitzvah, we encourage that he perform the rest of the mitzvah (hamaschil bemitzvah omrim lo gemor). Other reasons for this custom are provided by the Eizer Mikodesh (end of Even Ha’ezer 42) and Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach.

Signing of kesubah

After the choson makes the kabbalas kinyan, the witnesses carefully read through the kesubah and then sign it (Rema, Even Ha’ezer 66:1 and Choshen Mishpat 45:2). If they are attesting to something by signing, they must know what it is.

Choson signing kesubah

Many have the practice that the choson also signs the kesubah, beneath the witnesses’ signatures. This practice dates back to the times of the rishonim and demonstrates that the choson approves what the witnesses are signing (Rashba, Bava Basra 175; Eizer Mikodesh 66:1 s.v. hayah ta’us).

Bedeken

The choson, escorted by the two fathers and accompanied by the celebrants, now goes to badek the kallah, by pulling the veil over her head. At this point, the kallah’s father and perhaps others bless her. The celebrants then proceed to the chupah.

The Chupah

The chupah itself should, ideally, be open on all four sides (Eizer MiKodesh). This is reminiscent of the tent of Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imeinu, whose tent was accessible from all four directions of the globe, so as not to inconvenience any potential guests. We are conveying blessing upon the bride and groom that the house they build together be as filled with chesed as the house of Avraham and Sarah was.

Immediately prior to walking to the chupah, the mesader kiddushin places some ashes above the choson’s forehead. The ashes are placed where the choson wears his tefillin, and are immediately removed, and serve to remind the choson that even at this moment of tremendous joy, he should remember that our Beis Hamikdash lies in ruins. This, literally, fulfills the verse in Yeshayah (61:3), To place on the mourners of Zion and to give them splendor instead of ashes, where the Navi promises that in the future we will replace the ashes that currently remind us of the churban (Even Ha’ezer 65:3).

Chupah under the Stars

The prevalent Ashkenazic practice is that the chupah is conducted outdoors or under an open skylight, in order to provide a beracha for the marrying couple that their descendants be as numerous as the stars (Rema, Even Ha’ezer 61:1). However, if a couple prefers to hold their chupah under a roof, the mesader kiddushin should still perform the wedding ceremony for them, since there is no violation to perform the chupah this way (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Even Ha’ezer 1:93).

Jewelry at the Chupah

There is a common custom that the kallah removes all her jewelry before she goes to the chupah. Some explain that this custom is based on the Mishnah that after the churban of the Beis Hamikdash, Chazal decreed that the choson and kallah should no longer wear the crowns that they were accustomed to wearing before that time (Sotah 49a). Although removing jewelry may be associated with this idea, most authorities contend that this is only a custom borrowed from this idea, but is not required. If it were required, then wearing jewelry would be prohibited from the night before the wedding, until the end of sheva berachos (see Mishnah Berurah 560:17).

Accepted practice is to prohibit only silver, gold or jewelry of precious stones that are worn on the kallah’s head, and only at the chupah (Mishnah Berurah 560:17, quoting Pri Megadim). However, some authorities prohibit a kallah from wearing any silver or gold jewelry the entire sheva berachos week (Yam shel Shelomoh, Gittin 1:19).

Wearing a Kittel

The common practice among Eastern European Jews is that the choson wears a kittel at the chupah. The reason for wearing the kittel is tied closely to the wedding day as his personal day of atonement, and is to encourage the choson to do teshuvah on this day.

When does he put on the kittel? There are two common practices: some have the choson wear the kittel folded up under his suit jacket, whereas others have the kittel placed on top of his suit as soon as he stands under the chupah, and remove the kittel either immediately after the chupah or in the cheder yichud.

The accepted practice is that the shushbin places the kittel on the choson. His “dressing” the choson reinforces the idea that the wedding day is a day of teshuvah and atonement – it should remind the choson, when he puts on the kittel for the first time, of the day when he will be wearing his kittel for the last time (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 147:4).

Who walks them down?

The choson and kallah are escorted by two couples, called the shushbinin, who are usually their parents. There was an old custom that the shushbinin should both be couples who are married in their first marriage (cited by Eizer Mikodesh 68:2, who says that he is uncertain of the origin of this custom). Some have a custom that a woman who is visibly pregnant should not serve as a shushbin (Shearim Hametzuyanim Bahalacha 147:12). Since these practices are custom and not halacha, when following them may create a dispute, shalom is more important.

There are two common practices as to who, specifically, escorts the choson and who escorts the kallah. Some have the custom that the choson is escorted by the two male shushbinin, and the kallah by the two female shushbinin, whereas others have each escorted by a couple. To decide what to do, I quote a well-known practice of Rav Yaakov Kamenetski, who at three of his children’s marriages had the shushbinin walk as couples and at the other three had the fathers escorting the choson and the mothers escorting the kallah. His rule: I did whatever the mechutan preferred.

Kallah on the Right

Based on a verse in Tehillim (45:10) that teaches that the place of honor for a princess is to be stationed on the right, the kallah stands to the right and the choson to the left.

Standing at the Chupah

In America, the guests usually sit throughout the chupah ceremony, whereas, in Eretz Yisrael, the standard practice is that everyone stands throughout the chupah. The latter practice, or, more specifically, that everyone stands while the sheva berachos are recited, is quoted in the name of the Zohar (see Shu”t Ha’elef Lecha Shelomoh, Even Ha’ezer #115).

Erusin and Nesuin

There are two stages to a Jewish wedding. The first stage is called kiddushin or erusin (not to be confused with the Modern Hebrew word erusin, which means “engagement”), and is focused on the choson giving the wedding ring to the kallah. The second step is called nesuin. In Talmudic times, these two stages were conducted separately – often as much as a year apart. After kiddushin, the couple is married, but do not yet live together.

Today, the two stages are conducted as one long ceremony.

Is the Kallah’s face covered?

The Rema (31:2) cites an old Ashkenazic custom that the kallah’s face is covered at her chupah. The Rema does not say how thick the veil is, although we find a dispute among later authorities about this. Some authorities object strongly to the kallah wearing a veil that is so thick that the witnesses cannot identify her (Mabit, quoted by Pischei Teshuvah 31:5). Others rule that it is not problematic for the veil to be this thick, and, therefore, in many places the custom is that the kallah wears a very thick veil.

The mesader kiddushin recites the beracha of borei pri hagafen on behalf of the choson and the kallah. They should have in mind to be included in his beracha and not to interrupt before they drink the wine (see Afikei Yam 2:2). According to some opinions Shu”t Noda Beyehuda, Even Ha’ezer #1), the choson should also have in mind to be included in the birchas erusin¸ but most contend that he is not required to recite this beracha (see Shu”t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim #44, who quotes this from the Tevuos Shor, Rabbi Akiva Eiger, and several other authorities). The choson and kallah then sip from the cup. The most common practice is that the mesader kiddushin gives the choson to drink, and then hands the cup to the kallah’s mother, who gives her to drink. The choson and kallah need to drink only a small sip of the wine (Be’er Heiteiv, Even Ha’ezer 34:6; Amudei Apiryon page 71).

Yichud Eidim

On behalf of the choson, the mesader kiddushin appoints the two witnesses, and then asks the witnesses, within earshot of the kallah, whether the ring is worth a perutah, which is worth only a few cents. The reason for this strange conversation is so that the kallah agrees to be married, even if the ring is worth so little (Rema, Even Ha’ezer 31:2).

According to many authorities, the witnesses must see the choson place the ring on the kallah’s finger (Shu”t Harashba 1:780; Rema, Even Ha’ezer 42:4). Although most authorities rule that this is not essential, the accepted practice is to be certain that the witnesses see the actual placing of the ring on the kallah’s finger (Pischei Teshuva, Even Ha’ezer 42:12).

Reading the kesubah

At this point, the kesubah is read to interrupt between the erusin and the nesuin, and then the sheva berachos are recited. Although some authorities question how one can divide the sheva berachos, the accepted practice is to divide them among six, and in some places seven, honorees (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Even Ha’ezer #94; cf. Har Tzvi).

Out of order

One should be careful to make sure that each person being honored knows which beracha he is supposed to recite. If the berachos are recited out of order, one should not repeat a beracha, but recite the skipped beracha and then proceed to recite the remaining berachos. Similarly, if the honoree began reciting the wrong beracha, including Hashem’s Name, he should complete the beracha he has begun, after which the remaining berachos are recited. If someone began reciting either the beracha of Sos tasis or Samayach tesamach, which do not begin with Hashem’s Name, out of order, he should stop and the correct beracha should be recited (Amudei Apiryon page 76).

Putting his foot down

After the sheva berachos are completed, the choson smashes a glass (Rema, Even Ha’ezer 65:3). (According to an alternative practice, the choson smashes the glass earlier in the ceremony, immediately after the kiddushin are completed.) Many have the custom that prior to breaking the glass, the choson or the audience sings the pasuk,im eshkacheich Yerushalayim… .” This custom has sources in rishonim (Sefer Hachassidim #392).

The choson and kallah are then escorted with music and dancing to the yichud room. Two witnesses, called the eidei yichud, make sure that there is no one else in the yichud room, and then remain posted outside for the amount of time that the mesader kiddushin instructs them.

Conclusion

Having studied the basic customs of our weddings, let us examine an observation of the Noda Biyehudah germane to the priorities people use for checking out shidduchin: “I am astonished that most people have no concern about marrying their daughter to a halachic ignoramus, notwithstanding the words of Chazal about the importance of marrying her to a Talmudic scholar… yet they are concerned about having her marry someone whose name is the same as her father’s, which has no Talmudic basis or source” (Shu”t Noda Biyehudah, Even Ha’ezer 2:79). Thus, we see what factors are significant in a marriage: The choson should be a Torah scholar, and his bride, a ye’rei’ah Shamayim.




The Seudah of a Bris

Question #1: Fleishig bris

“Must a bris meal be fleishig? I am between jobs, and even a bagel and tuna salad bris is really, at the moment, beyond my means.”

Question #2: How many people?

How many attendees does a bris seudah require?

Question #3: Day later?

Can you make the meal for a bris a day later?

Answer:

It is a well-established practice that when someone celebrates a bris milah, they make a seudah in honor of the occasion. The common, but not universal, custom in Eretz Yisroel is that the meal served in honor of a bris is fleishig, whereas, in the United States, the meal served is often milchig. This article will explore the origins of the practice of having a seudah in honor of the bris, discuss the parameters of chiyuv involved, and, at the same time, discover some interesting customs, cases and piskei halacha that we find in the halachic literature. As always, this column is to provide general background, but not meant to provide halachic ruling, which is the role of each individual’s rav or posek.

The first question is whether the bris meal is required min haTorah, miderabbanan or whether it is simply a common practice. This author found different midrashim on the subject with slightly variant implications regarding this issue.

“Someone who brought his son to a bris milah is required to make a celebration and a party for the occasion” (Pirkei Derabbi Eliezer, Chapter 29; Midrash Tehillim to Chapter 112). The basis for this celebration is that Avraham made a large party beyom higameil es Yitzchak,“on the day of the higameil of Yitzchok,” assuming that the word higameil refers to the day of his bris. Tosafos (Shabbos 130a s.v. Sas) quotes a midrash that this is derived by taking the four letters of the word הגמל and dividing them into הג, which is the gematriya of eight, and מל, meaning that Avraham made his big celebration on the eighth day after Yitzchak’s birth, the day of his milah.

Another midrash adds that the reward for a father making a “big mishteh” (party) on the day of his son’s bris is that he will have a child who will be a gibbor aretz, which could be translated as a “hero of the earth.” The examples in the midrash are “like Yitzchak, whose prayer allowed a barren woman to give birth” or “like Yaakov, who defeated an angel” (Midrash Tehillim to Chapter 112).

On the other hand, a different midrash describes the celebration of the bris as something highly praiseworthy, referring to it as something that people do out of joy – something performed notwithstanding that there is requirement to do so (Midrash Tanchuma, parshas Tetzaveh #1). This midrash implies that, unlike the Pirkei derabbi Eliezer quoted above, making a bris seudah is a commendable act, but not required. This last midrash then emphasizes, “not only do they make a massive celebration, but people even borrow money and collateralize themselves in order to make this celebration.” A possible way to explain what seems to be a dispute between midrashim is that the Torah never required making a huge celebration in honor of bris milah, but Chazal later made it into a chiyuv.

Other Biblical sources

Another posuk frequently quoted as a source for a celebration on the day of the bris is in Tehillim (119:162), sas anochi al imrasecha kemotzei shalal rav, “I rejoice about your utterances as he who finds a huge treasure.” The word imrasecha is interpreted to mean the mitzvah of bris milah, thus rendering the posuk: I rejoice when I have the opportunity of bris milah.

In this context, the Maharshal states that the seudah, itself, is a simchas mitzvah, on the same level as a wedding or sheva brachos, and it is therefore a big mitzvah to participate in it (Yam shel Shlomoh, Bava Kama 7:37).

Upon the eighth

Another midrash mentions a different posuk in Tehillim as the source for celebrating a bris: the opening words of the 12th Chapter, La’me’natzei’ach al hasheminis, usually translated as, “For the musician, upon the eight-stringed instrument.” This midrash explains that the posuk refers not to an instrument of eight strings, but to the celebration of bris milah on the eighth day after birth (Yalkut Shim’oni, Beshalach #250 and Va’eschanan #844; Midrash Tehillim 6:1, and others).

A difference that might potentially result between these various midrashic sources is whether we should make a festive meal when the bris needed to be delayed, for example, when the baby was not fully healthy on the eighth day. Another possibility is when the baby is born on Friday evening after sunset and before nightfall, in which case the bris cannot be made the next Friday, because it might be the seventh day, nor on Shabbos, since it might be the ninth day from the birth, and only a bris on the eighth day supersedes Shabbos. In these instances, is there still a mitzvah to have a bris seudah? If the source for this celebration is the posuk sas anochi al imrasecha, there should be no difference whether the bris falls on the eighth day or is postponed. On the other hand, if the source is from the words of the 12th chapter of Tehillim that refer to the eighth, or from the words הגמל meaning the eighth day, it is possible that the mitzvah of celebrating the bris with a festive mealis only when the bris falls on the eighth day.

Indeed, we find some halachic authorities who make such a distinction, but in a different context. Concerning a bris that takes place during the Nine Days, where eating fleishig is permitted, at least in certain situations (see Maharil, laws of Tisha Be’Av; Rema, Orach Chayim 551:10; Elya Rabbah 249:2; cf. Taz, Orach Chayim 551:12), there are authorities who contend that permission to eat meat during the nine days is limited to a bris on the eighth day after birth, but not when the bris is delayed (see Shaarei Teshuvah 551:33, quoting Shu”t Or Olam #9), notwithstanding that this is when it is the correct time to perform the bris.

Shulchan Aruch

Thus far, we have noted several midrashim as sources for the practice of a festive celebration in honor of a bris milah, and we noted a discrepancy whether this meal is required or only customary. The wording of the Shulchan Aruch is “nohagim,” which implies that the seudah is required because of Jewish practice (Yoreh Deah 265:12).

We should note that a minority opinion contends that a seudas bris is required min haTorah (Or Ne’elam, based on Rashi, Niddah 31b, quoted by Shaarei Teshuvah, 551:33).

Invite your enemies!

One early source emphasizes that the person making a bris should make peace with his enemies and invite them to the seudah (Orchos Chayim). The poor should also be invited, so that they can participate in a meal that is beyond their means. The custom of bringing home treats from the bris is also mentioned in early sources (Yalkut Mei’am Lo’eiz, parshas Lech Lecha).

Bris on the eighth

We all realize that a bris should take place on the eighth day after birth, unless it cannot, such as when the baby is not fully healthy.

Rescheduling bris to a legal holiday

While researching this article, I found an interesting responsum from the Divrei Malkiel, one of the leading Litvishe poskim of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The question was sent to him from the rav of Bucharest, Rumania, deploring the progressive attitudes towards shemiras mitzvos that existed among many wealthier members of his community. One issue was that they would postpone a bris milah from the eighth day to a secular legal holiday, to make it easier for people to attend. The Divrei Malkiel found this practice extremely abhorrent – the seudas bris is to celebrate that a mitzvah involving mesiras nefesh was observed to its fullest. By postponing the bris to accommodate the seudah, the baalei simcha are inverting the importance — making, quite literally, the tafeil into the ikar and the ikar into the tafeil. The Divrei Malkiel suggests that, under these circumstances, there would be no mitzvah accomplished with the seudas bris. Since the entire bris was delayed against halacha, it now becomes the celebration of an aveirah – the non-fulfillment of a bris on the eighth day, rather than the celebration of a mitzvah!

The Divrei Malkiel notes that this not only confuses the ikar (performing the bris at the first opportunity, and the mitzvah of performing it on the eighth day) with the tafeil (the seudah celebration), but that, if indeed the bris was delayed because of convenience, there is no mitzvah of having a celebratory meal. His rationale is simple: The purpose of the celebratory meal is to demonstrate our scrupulous observance of this mitzvah that involves sacrifice. But, in this instance, it is a declaration that the father did not want to perform the mitzvah properly. Therefore, any celebration becomes a farce and is not a simchas mitzvah(Shu”t Divrei Malkiel 4:86)!

The exact question asked of the Divrei Malkiel was asked many hundreds of years ago of the Tashbeitz, who ruled the same way. The case in this instance was that the eighth day after the birth fell on Sunday, the tenth of Av – in other words, Tisha Be’Av nidche, the day that the ninth of Av isobserved in practice. The family wanted to push off the bris to Monday in order to have it on a day when there would be a seudah. Similar to the Divrei Malkiel, the Tashbeitz writes that pushing off the bris to accommodate amore convenient seudah confuses the ikar with the tafeil and is sinful, for it violates performing the bris on the eighth day. He concludes, similarly to the Divrei Malkiel, that in this situation there is no mitzvah to have a seudah (Shu”t Tashbeitz 3:8).

Milchig or fleishig?

At this point, we are ready to discuss the first of our opening questions: “Must a bris be fleishig? I am between jobs, and even a bagel and tuna salad bris is really, at the moment, beyond my means.”

The early authorities discuss whether it is preferred to have a fleishig meal at a bris. The Shelah Hakadosh quotes a dispute that he had with his rebbe, the Maharash, who contended that a bris should be a fleishig meal, whereas the Shlah himself, at least prior to his rebbe voicing a disputing opinion, held that a milchig meal is fine (Mesechta Shabbos, Ner Mitzvah #7, quoted by Elya Zuta 249:2). The opinion of the Maharash is viewed as the primary halachic opinion by the Machatzis Hashekel (Orach Chayim 249:6). On the other hand, the Chasam Sofer notes that the accepted practice in his day was to serve a dairy meal (Shu”t Chasam Sofer Orach Chayim #69), and this practice is similarly quoted approvingly by others (Shaarei Teshuvah 551:33, quoting Shu”t Or Olam #9).

In this context, the Chochmas Odom states that having a bris seudah is a custom to demonstrate the simcha that Jews feel when we observe bris milah. To quote him, “Someone who could make a seudah, and pinches pennies to serve only coffee, schnapps and sweets, is not doing the right thing (149:24). In other words, if someone cannot afford an expensive meal, it is perfectly acceptable that he serve a snack, rather than a full meal. But someone who can afford to serve a nice meal should make a proper celebration.

At the same time, we must be careful that the expenses associated with a bris not become so lavish that it embarrasses someone who is unable to make such a nice bris. In many communities, over the ages, when this became a problem, takanos were established, limiting how many people could be invited to a bris seudah and what was served.

Minyan?

At this point, let us examine the second of our opening questions: “How many attendees does a bris seudah require?”

The Rema (Yoreh Deah 265:12) writes that the minhag is to have a minyan at a seudas bris. This is the earliest authority I know of who discusses this, and he does not cite either a source or a reason. Later authorities endeavor to understand what the source is for this Rema. Several options are mentioned, including the statement of the Gemara (Kesubos 8a) that the brocha of shehasimcha bi’me’ono, “that joy is in His abode”would be recited at a bris – just as we do at a wedding or sheva brachos – except for tzara leyanuka, the discomfort caused to the baby by the bris. This brocha, shehasimcha bi’me’ono, is never recited without a minyan. (However, this source does not demonstrate a requirement to have a minyan; rather, that even if a minyan is present, not to recite shehasimcha bi’me’ono.)

It is possible that the reason the bris seudah should have a minyan is to spread the happy tidings that the mitzvah was performed, pirsumei mitzvah, and pirsum usually requires at least a minyan. (These and other approaches are discussed in Sefer Habris by the late Rav Moshe Bunim Pirutinsky, 265:166, page 329.)

Bris seudah before Musaf?

In a responsum, the Chasam Sofer discusses the following situation. The rav of a certain town had succeeded in changing the davening time for the local shul on Shabbos, so that they would now daven Shacharis before zman kerias Shema. In order to accommodate this change, the people insisted that there should be a break before they davened Musaf, during which they would eat a milchig meal as their morning seudah of Shabbos. After Musaf, they had the fleishig meal of the day, with which they fulfilled the mitzvah of seudah shelishis. When they would celebrate a bris on Shabbos, they would perform the bris immediately after Shacharis, and then celebrate the bris seudah before Musaf. The rav was concerned, because it is prohibited to have a seudas gedolah before davening Musaf.

In his reply, the Chasam Sofer commends the rav for getting the community to daven Shacharis before the time of reciting kerias Shma. He then discusses whether it is permitted to eat the Shabbos seudah before davening Musaf, and whether it will be halachically worse if the morning seudah is also a bris seudah. Based on a psak of the Bach (Orach Chayim 286), the Chasam Sofer concludes that there is halachic basis to permit them to have a milchig seudah for the bris, since they do not want to have the added expense of a fleishig bris seudah, which is what would be involved if they held the seudah after Musaf. He then notes that a seudas bris is usually considered a seudah gedolah, which is prohibited to eat before Musaf. However, since the seudas bris would be milchig, and not a lot of wine drunk, although it would be preferred to have the seudas bris after Musaf, the rav is not required to correct them for having a milchig, non-intoxicating seudah before Musaf (Shu”t Chasam Sofer, Orach Chayim #69).

Bris on Friday

Although it is generally prohibited to make a large meal on Friday, in order not to infringe on the appetite one brings with him to his Shabbos meal, exception is made for a seudas mitzvah that should not be delayed. There are two instances of this: A pidyon haben and a bris milah (Rema, Orach Chayim 249:2). In these instances, the Bach rules that the seudah should be made before the “tenth” hour, which is usually understood to mean in the afternoon, halfway between midday and sunset.

The Levush contends that if you cannot have both seudos, Shabbos and bris, the bris seudah should be done even at the expense of the Shabbos seudah, because both are seudos mitzvah, and you should perform whichever one comes first, without concern that as a result the second will not take place (Orach Chayim249:2). The Bach appears to disagree with this Levush.

Postponing the Seudah until after Shabbos

Common practice for a Shabbos bris is to make the celebratory meal on Shabbos.

Apparently, however, this approach was not always universal. The Magen Avraham (131:11) quotes from the Hagahos Minhagim that there were places in which the custom was that the seudah for a Shabbos bris was postponed until after Shabbos. I did not find any commentaries who explain the source for this custom, but I suspect that the basis is that a seudas bris on Shabbos would not be apparent that the meal was in celebration of the bris; therefore, they made a special meal on motza’ei Shabbos in honor of the bris. This can be compared to the accepted practice today that when Purim falls on Shabbos (which happens in our calendar only in Yerushalayim and other walled cities) the seudah is postponed to Sunday, in order to assure that the special Purim meal be noticeable. Since this year Purim falls on Shabbos in Yerushalayim, I hope to discuss this topic with our readership prior to Purim.

Day later

At this point, let us discuss the last of our opening questions: Can you make the meal for a bris a day later?

Although some halachic authorities assume that the bris seudah should be celebrated on the day that the bris occurred (Yaavetz in Migdal Oz, quoted by Sefer Habris 255:170 [pg 329]; Yalkut Mei’am Lo’eiz, quoting Shlah), severalauthorities rule that when the seudah could not or did not take place on the day of the bris, that it can take place afterward (Tashbeitz 3:8; Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 265:16 quoting Chamudei Daniel). The Tashbeitz proves this from the fact that, as mentioned above, the Purim seudah is postponed from Shabbos to Sunday, as well as a custom that he records of postponing the seudah of a bris celebrated on Friday to Shabbos (Shu”t Tashbeitz 3:8).

Conclusion

The Midrash tells us that Avraham Avinu’s bris took place on Yom Kippur, on the site where the mizbei’ach of the Beis Hamikdash was later built. Thus, the atonement both of Yom Kippur and of korbanos is combined in the observance of bris milah. In the words of the Midrash, “Every year, HaKodosh Boruch Hu sees the blood of the bris of Avrohom Avinu and He atones for all our sins.” Thus, bris milah guarantees the future redemption of the Jewish people and the atonement from all sins (Pirkei Derabbi Eliezer, Chapter 29; see also Rabbeinu Bachya commentary to Bereishis 17:13). This is certainly a major reason not to shortchange its celebration!




A Special Bar Mitzvah Brocha

We
will shortly see a midrash that describes the childhood of Yaakov and
Eisav, and how they went their separate ways after they turned bar mitzvah.
Certainly, the most appropriate week to discuss:

Question
#1: When?

When
does a father recite the brochashe’petorani”?

Question
#2: What?

What
does this brocha mean?

Question
#3: Why?

Why
do we not recite this brocha at a bas mitzvah?

Question
#4: Whether?

Does
an adoptive father recite this brocha at his son’s bar mitzvah?

Introduction

After
a bochur habar mitzvah receives his aliyah to the Torah, his
father recites the following passage: Boruch she’petorani mei’onsho shel zeh.
We will be discussing many questions about this passage, including:

What
does it mean?

Is
it a brocha or a prayer?

Why
does it have such an impersonal text? The brocha does not even say that
the bar mitzvah is his child!

Background:
With Sheim and Malchus

In
the Sefer Maharil, an early and highly respected source for accepted Ashkenazi
halachic practice, we find the following:

“When
the Maharil’s son turned bar mitzvah and read from the Torah, the Maharil
recited a brocha, Boruch Atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’olam asher petorani
mei’onsho shel zeh.
Furthermore, we find this brocha in the works of
the Mordechai with Sheim and malchus” (Sefer Maharil, Hilchos
Kerias HaTorah
). Thus, the Maharil rules that there is a regular brocha,
including the words Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’olam (which is referred to
as sheim umalchus), that is recited by a father when his son reaches the
age of bar mitzvah and demonstrates this by reading from the Torah. It should
be noted that although the Maharil attributes this ruling to an early rishon,
the Mordechai, this ruling is not found in any extant editions of the Mordechai,
although, as we will soon see, we do find it quoted in other authorities of the
same era and school.

Some
mention a custom that the father should place his hand on his son’s head when
he recites the brocha, although I have never seen this in practice
(mentioned in the Meshivas Nefesh [Vayikra 9] of R. Yochanan
Luria, a prominent posek in fifteenth-century western Germany).

The
ruling of the Maharil to recite the brocha of Boruch
she’petorani
with sheim umalchus is quoted by the Rema in his
Darchei Moshe commentary on the Tur (Orach Chayim 225:1),
where he adds the following, “However, I did not find this brocha in the
Gemara, and I find it difficult to recite a brocha that is not
mentioned in the Gemara and in the halachic authorities, although
Bereishis Rabbah mentions it at the beginning of parshas Tolados.

Rosh

Presumably,
what bothered the Rema is the following statement of the Rosh (Kiddushin
1:41), “We do not find that we recite any brocha that is not mentioned
in the Mishnah, Tosefta, or Gemara.” Thus, the Rema
was concerned that the brocha of Boruch she’petorani was never
established by Chazal, and reciting it with sheim umalchus
constitutes a brocha levatalah, a brocha recited in vain.

Bereishis
Rabbah

The
Bereishis Rabbah that the Rema quotes says as follows: “‘And the
lads [Yaakov and Eisav] grew up (Bereishis 25:27).’ Rabbi Levi
explained, ‘this can be compared to a hadas and a thorn bush that grew
next to one another. Once they grew and blossomed, the hadas provided
its beautiful fragrance and the thorn bush produced its thorns. Similarly, for
thirteen years, both lads went to yeshivah and came home from yeshivah.
After they turned thirteen, one went to batei midrash and the other went
to houses of idolatry.’ Rabbi Elazar explained, ‘A person is obligated to work
with his son until he turns thirteen years old. After that time, he should
declare, “Boruch she’petorani mei’onsho shel zeh”’” (Bereishis Rabbah
ad loc.
).

Commentaries
on Shulchan Aruch

In
his glosses to the Shulchan Aruch, the Rema alludes to what he
wrote in his Darkei Moshe commentary on the Tur and reaches the
same conclusion: “Some say that when one’s son turns bar mitzvah, he should
recite Boruch Atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’olam she’petorani mei’onsho
shel zeh
, but it is better to recite it without sheim umalchus” (Orach
Chayim
225:2). We should note that I found no reference to this brocha
in any Sefardic authorities, until the very late poskim. All the
discussion about reciting it, and whether it should be a full brocha
with sheim umalchus, I found only among the Ashkenazic
authorities.

The
Rema’s conclusion that Boruch she’petorani should be
recited without sheim umalchus is followed by most, but not all,
subsequent halachic authorities, including the Derisha, Levush,
Tosafos Yom Tov
(in his Divrei Chamudos commentary on the Rosh,
Brochos
9:30), Shelah, Magen Avraham, Mishnah Berurah, and the Kaf
Hachayim
. The Kaf Hachayim, a very late authority who quotes many Ashkenazic
sources, is the first Sefardic authority that I saw who makes any
reference at all to the brocha of Boruch she’petorani.

(In
the standard, older editions of the Derisha, his comments on this topic
were omitted by the publisher, since the Derisha there merely quoted the
comments of the Darchei Moshe written by his rebbe, the Rema.
However, the Shelah had this quotation in his edition of the Derisha,
and it is published in the newer editions of the Tur.)

With
sheim umalchus

Thus
far, I have quoted predominantly the majority who rule that Boruch
she’petorani
should be recited without sheim umalchus – in other
words, not as a real brocha. However, there are several major
authorities who rule that one must recite this brocha with sheim
umalchus
. In their opinion, since a brocha must include sheim
umalchus
, reciting this brocha without sheim umalchus does
not fulfill the requirement. The Gra, in his comments to the Rema
on Shulchan Aruch, simply states that the decision of the Maharil
to recite the brocha with sheim umalchus is correct. This
approach is subsequently quoted as the primary opinion by both the Chayei
Odom
(Klal 65:3) and the Aruch Hashulchan. The Chayei Odom
rules very directly, “One whose son turns bar mitzvah, when he reads the Torah
for the first time, he [the father] should recite the following brocha, Boruch
Atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’olam asher petorani mei’onsho shel zeh
.” He
then reviews the discussion of the Rema, adding the following points:

Although
the Bereishis Rabbah does not state explicitly that one should recite
the brocha with sheim umalchus, the Gemara uses the same
abbreviated wording when it means that one should recite a regular brocha
with sheim umalchus.

The
Chayei Odom then refers to a discussion in which the Maharshal
ruled that we are not to introduce brochos that are not mentioned in the
Gemara, and notes that this includes only brochos that are not
mentioned in midrashim, either. However, a brocha that is
mentioned in a midrash is halachically valid. The Chayei Odom
completes his discussion by noting that his own halachic conclusion (in Klal
8:1) was that reciting a brocha in vain is only a rabbinic prohibition.
Therefore, he concludes that once the Maharil and the Gra both
rule that Boruch she’petorani should be considered a regular brocha,
and we have a source for it in a midrash, then hamevoreich lo hifsid
– one who recites it as a regular brocha does not lose. He notes that
this is despite the fact that the prevalent custom follows the Rema.
Even if Chazal never introduced such a brocha, reciting it would
constitute only a rabbinic violation, and one may rely on the many opinions who
rule that this brocha does exist (safek derabbanan lehakeil).

It
is interesting to note that the Aruch Hashulchan, who usually follows
accepted custom even when it appears to run against halachic literature,
also rules to recite Boruch she’petorani with sheim umalchus. In
other words, he agrees with the position of the Maharil, Gra and Chayei
Odom
, even though the general custom is not to follow that approach.

As
mentioned above, the Maharil notes that he found this practice recorded
in the Mordechai. We do not have this in our editions of the Mordechai,
but obviously it was in the Maharil’s edition. Furthermore, we do have
this practice mentioned in other sources from the same era and area. For
example, the Tashbeitz Koton, who lived in the same place and time as
the Mordechai (13th century Germany), writes the following:
“In Bereishis Rabbah it says that a person should work with his son
until he turns thirteen. Afterward, he is required to recite Boruch Atah
Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’olam she’petorani mei’onsho shel zeh
(Tashbeitz
Koton
#390).”

Early
disputants

On
the other hand, there are other rishonim who believe that Boruch
she’petorani
should not be treated as a regular brocha. For example,
Rabbeinu Yehonoson, a talmid of the Raavad, cites the text
of the brocha as Boruch Hamakom she’petorani mei’onsho shel zeh,
which, clearly, avoids reciting Hashem’s Name as one does in a brocha
(notes to Rif, Shabbos 55b). We should note that this is not from an Ashkenazic
source, but from Provence. Although today Provence is often referred to as an
area that followed Sefardic custom, that is not truly accurate.
Provence, the area of southern France that borders on the Mediterranean Sea,
was at the time of the rishonim an area that had its own minhagim,
neither Sefardic nor Ashkenazic. It had absorbed from the
traditions and authorities of both areas, yet had developed independently. For
example, they began recital of ve’sein tal umatar on the 7th
of Marcheshvan, which follows neither Sefardic nor Ashkenazic
practice in chutz la’aretz.

What
does the brocha mean?

Until
this point, I have carefully avoided translating and explaining the words of Boruch
she’petorani
. An early posek, the Levush, upon recording the halachic
discussion germane to the brocha of Boruch she’petorani, states the
following: “The text of this brocha is not clear, since one who
continues in the evil ways of his ancestors can be punished for their misdeeds
for several generations, as the Torah states, pokeid avon avos al banim al
shileishim ve’al ribei’im –
that Hashem will remember the sins of
someone who performed evil to four generations, if the descendants continue the
nefarious practices of their antecedents.”

Apparently,
the Levush understood the brocha to mean that the son is now
exempt from the sins of his father. This means that until bar mitzvah, what
happens to the son is because of the father’s misdeeds, and that, therefore,
the father will be punished for harm that he caused to the son. This is based
on the Gemara (Shabbos 149b) that a person is responsible for
punishment that he caused to someone else. It is also borne out by a statement
in a midrash, concerning the deaths of Machlon and Kilyon, Naomi’s sons,
“Rav Chiya bar Abba said: ‘Until a child turns thirteen, the son is punished
for the sins of his father; afterward, he is punished for his own sins.’”

Challenges
to the Levush

The
Tosafos Yom Tov, in his commentary to the Rosh (Divrei
Chamudos
9:30), reviews much of the above material and then challenges the Levush’s
approach to explaining the brocha. He writes, “This approach [of the Levush]
is forced and difficult to reconcile with the words of the brocha. The
intention of the brocha is that, until now, the father was responsible
to educate his child in mitzvos and to have him grow in Torah. If the
father did not fulfill his responsibility, he will be punished for this. Now
that the son has become bar mitzvah, the responsibilities fall on the son
himself, and the father will no longer be punished.” This approach is also
recorded by the Magen Avraham.

When
should the brocha be recited?

The
Maharil mentions reciting the brocha when the son receives his
first aliyah. The authorities explain this to mean that he performs a
mitzvah activity that a child cannot perform (Divrei Chamudos; Magen
Avraham
). Thus, they rule that if the son led the services (davened
in front of the amud), the father should already recite the brocha
at that time, since a child cannot fulfill this mitzvah. One may also argue
that a father should not recite it when his son has been called up to maftir
and read only the maftir and the haftarah, since these activities
can be performed by a minor –  a topic that we will need to address a
different time. However, if the son read a different part of the parsha,
and certainly, if he read the entire parsha, the father can recite Boruch
she’petorani
then.

Under
which category of brochos does this fit?

We
know that we have birchos hanehenin – brochos of benefit,
including the brochos we recite before and after eating and the brochos
before we smell certain fragrances. We also have brochos of praise,
which include brochos upon seeing or otherwise experiencing wondrous
creations of Hashem, such as the brochos recited when one sees
the sea, sees something unusual, hears thunder, or witnesses lightning. And we
have brochos of prayer, such as davening, tefilas haderech, and
some of the brochos of sheva brochos. Under which heading does
the brocha of Boruch she’petorani fit?

From
the way the halachic authorities discuss it, it appears that it should
be categorized under the heading of brochos of praise.

Why
no malchus?

When
the Rema ruled that one should not recite the name of Hashem when
reciting Boruch she’petorani because he was concerned that it might be a
brocha levatalah, why didn’t he suggest the following text:
Boruch Atah Melech Ha’olam she’petorani mei’onsho shel zeh
? Since one is
not reciting the words Hashem and Elokeinu, there is no question
about reciting a brocha levatalah, yet one is reciting a text
closer to the brocha advocated by the Maharil,and this
text includes the concept of malchus.

Indeed,
this question can be asked on the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim
218:9, in a different context. There, the Shulchan Aruch discusses
someone reciting a brocha on a personal miracle that he has experienced,
and it states as follows: “Some say that one should not recite this brocha
unless it was a miracle that was beyond what usually happens in the world; but
on a miracle that is within natural experience, such as, he was endangered by
thieves at night and saved, or something similar, he is not required to recite
a brocha. There are other authorities – who disagree with this [and
require a brocha in this instance also]. Therefore, it is proper to
recite this brocha without sheim umalchus.” The question to be
asked on this ruling of the Shulchan Aruch is that there would be no
question of brocha levatalah should one recite the brocha
with the words Melech Ha’olam, so why does he omit them?

Rav
Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld answers that one does not recite Melech Ha’olam in
these situations so that people will not think that someone fulfills a brocha
by reciting Melech Ha’olam without reciting Hashem’s Name and
Elokeinu (Shu”t Salmas Chayim, Orach Chayim #197).

Why
an impersonal brocha?

Why
did Chazal institute such an impersonal wording for this brocha,
which makes no reference to the fact that the child is his son? I found this
question in the sefer Alei Tamar, authored by Rav Yissochor
Tamar, an eastern European rav who moved to Eretz Yisroel in
1933, where he became a rav in Tel Aviv. He suggests the following: The
father is reciting a brocha that he is thankful that he is no longer
responsible for his son’s sins (if we explain the brocha according to
the Tosafos Yom Tov and the Magen Avraham). This implies that he
thinks that his son will sin, certainly not something he wants to advertise in
his role as father.

Daughters?

Why
don’t we recite Boruch she’petorani when a daughter turns bas mitzvah?
This question is raised by some of the later poskim, and I found two
quite variant answers. The Pri Megodim explains that since min
haTorah
a father has the ability to marry off his daughter, in which case he
would no longer be responsible for her education and not be punished for her aveiros,
Chazal did not institute a brocha (Eishel Avraham 225:5).
Explained in other terms, a father recites this brocha when he is no
longer responsible for his son’s sins, because he has no other way of avoiding
this responsibility, whereas he has a technical way to avoid responsibility for
his daughter’s sins.

The
Kaf Hachayim (225:15) provides a different answer to this question,
which looks at the topic from almost the opposite angle. Since a daughter
usually remains living in the home of her birth family until she marries, a
father remains responsible for her, even after she becomes an adult. Therefore,
reciting this brocha at her bas mitzvah would be premature.

One
could perhaps suggest a third answer: Although a son who reads the Torah,
receives an aliyah to the Torah, or leads the services has publicly
demonstrated that he is now an adult, what equivalent action does a daughter
perform at which we would expect her father to recite Boruch she’petorani?

Adoptive
father

And
now, for our last question: Does an adoptive father recite this brocha
at his son’s bar mitzvah?

Rav
Yitzchok Silberstein, in his sefer Chashukei Chemed,rules that
an adoptive father is not responsible for his son’s aveiros, and,
therefore, does not recite the brocha of Boruch she’petorani.

Conclusion

The
father gets up to announce that he realizes the scope of his responsibility.
Delving into the details of this brocha make us realize that raising a
child to be G-d fearing is a serious task, incumbent on all those who are
blessed with children. There are many factors that interplay in the raising of
a child, especially in our age, but this brocha reminds us of our
responsibility to do our best to imbue our children with a knowledge and love
of Hashem and His Torah and mitzvos.




Fasting on the Wedding Day

Now that Shavuos is past, we
enter the heaviest wedding season of the Jewish calendar. I decided to discuss
this usually not-well-understood topic.

Question #1: Our wedding is going
to be after nightfall. Do we fast until the wedding, or may we break the fast
when it gets dark?

Question #2: Yocheved asks: I
usually do not fast well, and I am concerned how I will feel at my wedding if I
fast that day. What do I do?

Question #3: Sheryl’s
dilemma: “What will I explain to my non-observant parents when they
exclaim at my pre-chupah reception – ‘What! You can’t eat anything at
your own wedding?’”

Sheryl comes from a very
assimilated background. Let her explain:

“In my extended family, my
parents were considered the religious ones, since they were the only ones who
married Jewish. Furthermore, my Dad was the only one who fasted on Yom
Kippur
, albeit with a little cheating on the side. So, when my family
members heard that I had become Orthodox, they were shocked at many of my new
practices, despite my efforts to keep things as low-key as possible. None of
them had a clue what it means to really keep kosher or Shabbos. Now that
I’m getting married, many of them are curious to attend my wedding, and I would
like to make the experience a Kiddush Hashem for them. Therefore, I
intend to explain our mitzvos and customs to them in the best possible
light.”

Sheryl’s goals are indeed
noble. How will she explain the reason we fast on one’s wedding day to someone
who knows little about Yiddishkeit? The prospect seems almost ominous.

Why do we fast?

Although early authorities
cite at least six different reasons for this custom, most halachic authorities
discuss only two of them (e.g., Levush, Even Ha’ezer 60:1; Magen
Avraham
and Elyah Rabbah, introduction to 573; Beis Shmuel
61:6; Chachmas Adam 129:2; Aruch Hashulchan, Even Ha’ezer 61:21):

Reason #1: To avoid
inebriation

Some explain that the
practice is to ensure that the chosson and kallah are fully sober
when they participate in the wedding ceremony. By not eating and drinking, they
will certainly drink nothing intoxicating prior to the ceremony. Some
commentaries provide an interesting twist to this explanation. They explain
that the concern is that if one of the marrying parties drinks anything
intoxicating on the wedding day, they may subsequently claim that they were
inebriated and that, therefore, the marriage is invalid (Levush, Even
Ha’ezer
60:1)! As someone once said, love is not only blind, but also
sometimes intoxicating.

Reason
#2: To achieve atonement

Since
a chosson is forgiven for all his sins, he should fast as atonement (Yevamos
63b; Yerushalmi, Bikkurim 3:3).

One
allusion to this atonement is found in the Torah. In the very last verse of parshas
Tolados,
the Torah records that one of the additional wives Eisav married
was Machalas, the daughter of Yishmael. The Yerushalmi points out that
although her name was actually Basmas and not Machalas, the Torah calls her
Machalas, to indicate that even someone as sinful as Eisav is forgiven on his
wedding day (Shu”t Divrei Yatziv #259).

Who fasts?

I am sure you are already
asking why I said that the chosson fasts on hiswedding day, and
omitted the kallah. This leads us directly to our next question:

Are there any halachic
differences between the two reasons given for the fast? Indeed, there are
several. One issue that might be affected is whether only the chosson
fasts or also the kallah. The authorities dispute whether the wedding day
atones for both parties or only for the chosson. Indeed, Talmudic
sources mention only the chosson in this connection, and some later
authorities contend that the wedding is indeed an atonement day only for the chosson
and not for the kallah. Following this approach, some authorities
conclude that only the bridegroom fasts and not the bride (Ben Ish Chai, 1:
Shoftim: 13). Others contend that despite the fact that the Gemara
mentions only atonement for the chosson’s sins, since the kallah
is a direct cause of his atonement, she also receives forgiveness on this day (Aishel
Avraham Butchach
573).

However, if the reason for
the fast is to guarantee the sobriety of the parties, the kallah, too,
should fast, even if the day is not a day of atonement. Of course, it won’t be
easy for Sheryl to explain all this to her family at the reception prior to her
wedding. I will soon mention other reasons that she can provide them.

On
the other hand, many authorities rule that the wedding day atones for both kallah
and chosson, the same as Yom Kippur (Magen Avraham, introduction
to 573; Elyah Rabbah 573:2; Beis Shmuel, 61:6). Following this
approach, the kallah should fast also, even if we are not concerned
about her becoming inebriated at her wedding (Rama, Even Ha’ezer 61:1).
This, too, is why both chosson and kallah say viduy after
mincha
on the day of their wedding (Pischei Teshuvah, Even Ha’ezer 61:9).
In addition, the couple should pray for a happy marriage that is blessed with
children who bring great credit to themselves and to Hashem (Aruch
Hashulchan, Even Ha’ezer
61:21).

Sheryl
can certainly tell her family this reason for the sanctity of the day, and say
that this is why she will be fasting. This will also provide her with the
occasion to explain that a Torah marriage involves holiness, sanctity, and
opportunity for spiritual growth, all ideas that will impress her family.

How long must one fast?

There are other halachic differences
that result from the two reasons quoted above.If one fasts to ensure
that the couple remains sober, then they should not break their fast until the
wedding ceremony, even if it does not take place until after dark. Accordingly,
if the ceremony takes place on a winter night, they should logically continue
their fast, even if this means that it extends into a second halachic
day (Shu”t Mahari Bruno #93; Aruch Hashulchan 61:21). On the
other hand, if the fast is for atonement, then, once they have completed the
day, they can break the fast. A third opinion holds that when the ceremony is
at night, their fast does not begin until sunset that day – since prior
to sunset is still the day before their wedding (Aishel Avraham
Butchach
573). To the best of my knowledge, this last approach is not
followed.

How do we rule?

The Chachmas Adam (129:2)
concludes that since the fast is only a custom, one need not be stricter than
the requirements of halacha for established fast days. Therefore, one
may end the fast at dark and does not have to wait until the ceremony. However,
one should be careful not to drink anything intoxicating until sipping the wine
at the chupah (Pischei Teshuvah, Even Ha’ezer 61:9). The Aruch
Hashulchan
disagrees, but I believe accepted practice follows the Chachmas
Adam
.

What about the opposite
situation — when the ceremony takes place before nightfall? According to the
rationale that the fast is atonement, some contend that one should fast the
entire day, even if the ceremony took place in the afternoon (Bach, Orach
Chayim
562 at end; Beis Shmuel 61:6). This means that after the
wedding ceremony is complete, the chosson and kallah continue to
fast until nightfall, even through the chupah and the yichud room!
However, accepted practice is for the couple to end their fast at the ceremony,
even when it takes place before nightfall.

Do Sefardim fast?

Most sources citing the
custom of fasting on one’s wedding day are Ashkenazic. Whether or not
Sefardim
fast on this day is dependent on local custom. The popular Hebrew halachic
anthology, Hanisu’in Kehilchasam, mentions many Sefardic
communities that followed the custom of fasting on the wedding day, at least
for the chosson, including the communities of Algeria, Baghdad, the
Crimea, Salonika and parts of Turkey (pg. 198, note 56). On the other hand, the
prevalent custom in Constantinople (Istanbul), Egypt, and Eretz Yisroel
was not to fast on the day of the wedding (see Birkei Yosef, Orach Chayim 470:2;
Shu”t Yabia Omer 3: Even Ha’ezer: 9). It is interesting to note that
some explain that the custom in Egypt was not to fast because the weddings were
always conducted in the morning. They explain that when the wedding is held
late in the day, we are concerned that the chosson and kallah may
drink something intoxicating, but when the wedding is in the morning, there is
no such concern (Birkei Yosef, Orach Chayim 470:2). One could thereby
argue that when the Sefardim marry in the evening, they should follow Ashkenazic
practice and fast.

Nevertheless, the common
practice among Sefardim in Eretz Yisrael today is not to fast.
Rav Ovadyah Yosef rules that Sefardim who moved to Eretz Yisrael
should not fast on the day of the wedding, even if they come from communities
where the custom was to fast. Although he respects this custom of the Ashkenazim
to fast, he contends that since this is a day of celebration, those who do not
have the practice are not permitted to fast.

Like receiving the Torah

What are the other reasons
mentioned for the fast?

One early source states that
the reason for the fast is that the wedding ceremony commemorates the giving of
the Torah at Har Sinai. Indeed, many of our wedding customs, such as the
carrying of candles or torches by those accompanying the chosson and kallah,
commemorate our receiving the Torah. Continuing this analogy, one early source
mentions that just as the Jews fasted prior to receiving the Torah, so too a chosson
fasts the day of his wedding (Tashbeitz [Koton]#465).
What I find interesting about this reason is that I am unaware of any Medrash
that mentions the Jews fasting on the day they received the Torah. Obviously,
the Tashbeitz was aware of such a Medrash.Perhaps this is
why the later halachic authorities do not discuss this opinion or any halachic
ramifications that result from it.

This is a beautiful reason to
observe the fast, although I suspect that Sheryl’s family might not appreciate
it.

To avoid rift

Here is another, very
meaningful reason mentioned for the fast, although it is largely ignored by the
later authorities: The Gemara (Shabbos 130a) states, “No kesubah
is signed without an argument.” Unfortunately, it is common that differing
opinions about wedding arrangements or setting up the newly- married couple
cause friction between the families making the wedding. Since this problem is
common, the couple should strive their utmost to avoid any conflict at all, and
they should also pray and fast that the wedding pass with no disputes (Shu”t
Mahari Bruno
#93). Somehow, Sheryl did not think that her parents would
appreciate this reason for her fast, and I tend to agree with her.

The king gets judged daily

Others explain that the
origin for the custom is because the chosson is compared to a king, and
we are taught by the Talmud Yerushalmi that a king is judged daily (Sanhedrin
2:3). Thus, the chosson fasts because he is being judged on his
wedding day (Shu”t Mahari Bruno #93). Although we may not fully
understand what this means, it is certainly a reason to do teshuvah and
fast.

To appreciate the mitzvah

The above-mentioned anthology
Hanisu’in Kehilchasam mentions yet another reason, which he attributes
to the Rokei’ach. Great tzadikim were in such eager anticipation
of performing rare mitzvos that they could not eat on the day they had an
opportunity to perform one. Similarly, the chosson and kallah
look forward to performing their mitzvah with such excitement that they cannot
even eat!

Do they say Aneinu?

Do the chosson and kallah
say Aneinu in their prayers, even if they will end their fast before the
day ends?

The Rama (562:2) rules
that the chosson recites Aneinu in his prayers, even if he is not
going to complete the fast, such as when the wedding ceremony takes place
during the daytime. In this latter situation, where he will not be completing
the fast, many recommend that he omit the three words in Aneinu, BeYom
Tzom Taaneiseinu
, on this day of our fast, since for him it is not a
full day of fasting (Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach).

Accepting the fast

Usually, someone intending to
have a voluntary fast must state at the end of mincha on the day before
that he intends to fast the next day. Do the chosson and kallah accept
the fast during mincha on the day before?

The halachic
authorities recommend that the chosson and kallah make this
declaration during mincha the day before the wedding, and recommend
specifying that one intends to fast only until the time of the ceremony.
Nevertheless, even if one did not declare the day to be a fast, and even if one
did not mention the stipulation, one may assume that they should fast and they
are required to fast only until the ceremony (Mishnah Berurah 562: 12).
If the ceremony is before nightfall, the chosson and kallah
should daven mincha before the wedding ceremony so that they can recite Aneinu,
since once they break their fast, this prayer is inappropriate (Mishnah
Berurah
562:12). By the way, if they forgot to say Aneinu, they do
not repeat Shemoneh Esrei.

Are there days when they
do not fast?

Indeed, a chosson and kallah
must refrain from fasting on the many days when fasting is prohibited. This
includes weddings taking place on Chanukah or Rosh Chodesh. The Magen
Avraham
(573:1) adds that they should not fast even on minor holidays, such
as Isru Chag, Tu Bishvat and the Fifteenth of Av.

But maybe they will get
intoxicated?

I understand that they are
not allowed to fast—but if the reason for the fast is that they should not
become inebriated, how will this be prevented? To avoid this danger, they must
be careful not to drink any intoxicating beverages before the ceremony (Pri
Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav
573:1). Observing this precaution is a
fulfillment of the custom to fast.

What about Lag BeOmer?

Technically speaking, there
is no halachic problem with fasting on Lag BeOmer or during the
month of Nisan, even though the custom is not to. Since halacha permits
fasting on these days, the custom is for a chosson and kallah to
fast. This applies also during the month of Tishrei or the first part of Sivan,
even on days when we do not say Tachanun (Magen Avraham 573:1,
2). The Elyah Rabbah (573:3) records a practice that chasanim and
kallahs not fast on days when we do not say Tachanun (quoting Nachalas
Shivah
). The Elyah Rabbah rallies many proofs from earlier
authorities that this is not the halacha, but concludes that one who
chooses to be lenient and not fast on these days will not lose by his lenient
practice (hameikil lo hifsid).

What about a second
marriage?

Does someone marrying for a
second time fast on his wedding day?

According to the rationale that
the fast is out of concern that someone might become intoxicated, there is no
difference between a first or second marriage, and one is required to fast.
Similarly, according to the reason that this is a day of atonement, they should
also fast, since the day of a second marriage also atones. This is obvious from
the Biblical source that teaches us that this day atones. When Eisav married
Basmas/Machalas he was already married to two other women, yet the Torah
teaches that the day atoned for him. Thus, we see that even a subsequent
marriage atones, and someone marrying for second or third time should fast on
the day.

What if they are not
feeling well?

At this point we can address
the second question raised above: Yocheved asks, “I usually do not fast well,
and I am concerned how I will feel at my wedding if I fast that day. What do I
do?”

We should be aware that on
the least stringent of the required fasts, Taanis Esther, even someone
suffering from a relatively minor ailment is not required to fast. The custom
to fast the day of the wedding is certainly less of an obligation than fasting
on Taanis Esther and, therefore, if either the chosson or the kallah
suffers from a minor ailment or could get weak or dizzy from the fast, they
should not fast (Aruch Hashulchan, Even Ha’ezer 61:21). Of course,
specific questions should be addressed to one’s rav.

Conclusion

The Ashkenazic
practice of fasting on the day of one’s wedding is within the category of
custom, minhag, and therefore, as we have seen, includes many
leniencies. Indeed, when these reasons apply, there is no reason to fast
unnecessarily. Thus, if one is a Sefardi, not feeling well, or marrying
on a day when Tachanun is not recited, one has a solid basis not to
fast. However, when none of these reasons applies, one must follow the accepted
minhag. The Gemara teaches that customs accepted by the Jewish
people come under the category of al titosh toras imecha, do not
forsake the laws of your mother
, and that one is obligated to observe them.

May the fasts of our chasanim
and kallahs contribute towards the increase of much shalom and
kapparah and the creation of many happy marriages in Klal Yisroel.




The Halachos of Pidyon Haben

This week’s parsha includes the mitzvah of pidyon haben, redeeming the bechor, the firstborn, if it is a boy. The mitzvah is performed optimally when the baby turns a month old, by giving a kohein five sela’im of silver, equal to about 96 grams of silver (Chazon Ish).

The dollar value of the five sela’im varies, depending on the market price of silver. Some people have the custom of giving the kohein six coins, in case one of the coins is defective and does not contain enough silver. The truth is that one has to research how much silver content there is in the coins. Old US silver dollars did have enough silver, but most coins today have little metallic value. We will talk more about this shortly.

WHO IS REQUIRED TO REDEEM THE BECHOR?

The obligation rests on the father of a boy who is the firstborn of his mother and was born through natural delivery. If the father is a kohein or a levi, or if the mother is the daughter of a kohein or a levi, there is no mitzvah of pidyon haben. Usually, the question of whether one’s mother is a bas kohein or levi does not affect a person’s halachic status; however, since pidyon haben is dependent on the boy being the firstborn of his mother, her yichus is taken into consideration (Bechoros 47a).

There is an interesting phenomenon that relates to the difference between the daughter of a kohein and the daughter of a levi. If a boy is born of a non-Jewish father and a bas kohein, there is a requirement for this child, upon becoming an adult, to perform a pidyon haben. Why is this true? Because his mother was together with a non-Jew, she loses her sanctity as a bas kohein – for example, she will never again be able to eat terumah. Therefore, her son is included in the mitzvah of pidyon haben. However, neither parent is obligated to perform the mitzvah for the child; the father, because he is not Jewish, and the mother, because there is no requirement for Mom to perform pidyon haben. Therefore, upon becoming an adult, this child should perform the mitzvah himself.

The halacha is different regarding a boy who is born of a non-Jewish father and a bas levi. Although Mom was involved in a prohibited relationship, this did not affect her yichus, since she loses no halachic rights as a result. Therefore, in this situation the child is exempt from the mitzvah of pidyon haben.

Incidentally, there are poskim who rule that the grandson of a non-Jewish father and a bas levi is also excluded from pidyon haben. This means that the son of a non-Jewish father and a bas levi does not have a mitzvah to redeem his son. Since this man is Jewish from birth but does not have a Jewish father, his yichus follows his mother, who is the daughter of a levi. Since the bas levi’s son’s only Jewish yichus is as a descendant of Levi, these authorities contend that he has no obligation to perform pidyon haben. (See Shu’t Maharam Shick, Yoreh De’ah #299 who disagrees with this ruling.) My impression is that the accepted practice in this situation is to perform an act of pidyon haben without a brocha; after which the kohein returns the money.

WHAT HAPPENS IF A KOHEIN MARRIED A DIVORCEE?

If a kohein married a divorcee or any other woman prohibited to a kohein, the children of this union are challalim, which means that they have become defiled and therefore lose their status as kohanim. The daughters may not marry kohanim, and the firstborn son born to a kohein from this woman needs to be redeemed, just like any yisroel. Furthermore, his son’s son will also require pidyon haben, like any other yisroel.

WHAT IS THE HALACHA OF A BECHOR BORN THROUGH CAESARIAN SECTION?

Switching sub-topics, only a naturally-born child has the status of a bechor for pidyon haben purposes. There is no mitzvah of pidyon haben if the boy was delivered through caesarian section. His younger brother is also not considered firstborn, even if he is born through natural delivery. Similarly, a boy born after a miscarriage is not a bechor for purposes of the mitzvah of pidyon haben (Bechoros 46a). This last halacha depends on how far advanced the terminated pregnancy was, a topic that we will leave for a different time.

WHAT HAPPENS IF NO ONE REDEEMS THE BECHOR?

If the father cannot or does not redeem the bechor, other people can redeem him, but are not required to do so. However, if no one redeemed the bechor as a child, he is required to redeem himself when he reaches adulthood (Kiddushin 29a).

Many men who are not from an observant background did not have a pidyon haben. At a pidyon haben that I once performed (I am a kohein), the grandfather of the newly redeemed baby came over to me, saying, “You know, I am also firstborn and a baal teshuvah. I can’t imagine anyone made a pidyon haben for me.” And so, two pidyonim were performed on the same day, one for the grandson and one for the grandfather!

WHAT IS THE PROCEDURE?

As opposed to other mitzvos, such as bris milah and a wedding, where the mitzvah is performed first and then the festive meal is eaten, pidyon haben is performed during the meal, in order to call attention to the mitzvah. (In some Yerushalmi circles, they actually perform the pidyon first, and then begin the seudah.)

The usual procedure is as follows: After the assembled have made hamotzi and taken their seats, the father brings the bechor to the kohein, who is seated at a place of honor. The custom is to bring the bechor on a large, silver platter. Many have the custom of placing sugar cubes, cloves of garlic, and jewelry on the platter. The father declares to the kohein that the baby is firstborn and must be redeemed.

The kohein then responds with the famous and enigmatic question: “Mai ba’is tefei?” Which do you prefer? Would you rather have your child or the five sela’im of pidyon?

The father responds that he would prefer his son, and that he is prepared to perform the redemption. He then recites the bracha on the mitzvah and the bracha of shehechiyanu, and places the coins into the kohein’s right hand. The kohein waves the coins over the head of the bechor while blessing him. Then, the kohein recites the birchas kohanim and other words of blessing over the head of the bechor. The procedure is completed by the kohein reciting a bracha on a cup of wine and drinking it.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN THE KOHEIN SAYS “MAI BA’IS TEFEI?” — DOES THE FATHER REALLY HAVE A CHOICE?

The wording of the kohein’s question, “Which do you prefer?” — implying that the father has a choice — i­­s extremely strange. Halachically, there is no choice or option. The father has a mitzvah to fulfill, which he is required to observe. So, why does the kohein suggest to the father that he has a choice?

The text of our pidyon haben ceremony goes back 1,000 years, and, since that time, probably tens of thousands of interpretations have been suggested for this question. Think of your own answer to this question, and you’ll have something to share with others the next time you attend a pidyon haben!

WHY DO SOME PEOPLE PLACE GARLIC CLOVES AND SUGAR CUBES ON THE PLATTER THAT HOLDS THE BABY?

There are many customs that have developed around the mitzvah of pidyon haben. Some people place pieces of garlic, sugar cubes, or candies alongside the bechor when he is brought in for the pidyon. The sugar cubes show that the mitzvos are sweet, and garlic is a symbol of and segulah for fertility. Some say that when participants take home the sugar and the garlic and use them for cooking their own meals at home, they increase the numbers of people who “participated” in the pidyon haben meal, all of whom will be blessed by this.

WHEN IS THE PIDYON PERFORMED? WHY IS THE MINHAG TO PERFORM PIDYON HABEN IN THE AFTERNOON?

The Torah says that the mitzvah is to redeem the bechor when he turns a month old.

How does one determine that a child is a month old? Although we are accustomed to thinking of a Jewish month as being either 29 or 30 days long, these are actually calendar calculations that deal only with complete days. Technically, a month is the amount of time it takes the moon to revolve around the earth, which varies slightly from month to month, but is always a bit more than 29½ days.

HOW LONG IS A MONTH?

There is a dispute in halacha as to how one determines that a bechor is a month old. One opinion follows the day-count method and rules that the pidyon haben should take place on the 31st day after the boy was born, counting his day of birth as day one (Magen Avraham 339:8).

Others rule that a month for pidyon haben is determined by the astronomical method, meaning the same amount of time that transpires from one new moon to the next. Since the time that transpires from one new moon to the next is estimated at 29 days, 12 hours and 793/1080 of an hour (usually called 793 chalakim), the time for pidyon haben begins when the bechor is exactly 29 days, 12 hours and 793 chalakim old (Shach, Yoreh De’ah 305:12). Common practice is to perform a pidyon haben after both opinions have been fulfilled.

By the morning of the 31st day, the bechor is usually 29 days, 12 hours and 793 chalakim old. However, if the bechor was born shortly before sunset on a long summer day, daybreak on the morning of the 31st day is less than 29 days, 12 hours and 793 chalakim since his birth. In this situation, one should wait to perform the pidyon until he is 29 days, 12 hours and 793 chalakim after birth (Pischei Tshuvah 305:17). For this reason, it is a common custom to schedule a pidyon haben on the afternoon of the 31st day, which is always an appropriate time according to both opinions.

When the earliest time to perform the pidyon is on an erev Shabbos or erev Yom Tov, the pidyon should be scheduled in the morning (Mishnah Berurah 249:13). In the rare case that it is not yet 29 days, 12 hours and 793 chalakim after birth, one should calculate when the 29 days, 12 hours and 793 chalakim after birth falls out and schedule the pidyon then.

When the 31st falls on Shabbos or Yom Tov, the pidyon should be scheduled for Motza’ei Shabbos or Motza’ei Yom Tov (Shu’t Noda Biyehuda Tenina, Yoreh De’ah #187).

WHAT DOES ONE DO IF THE THIRTY-FIRST DAY FALLS ON A FAST DAY?

There are two practices mentioned by the poskim. One approach is to perform the pidyon during the fast day, so as not to delay the opportunity to observe the mitzvah, and conduct the festive meal at night after the fast is over. The other approach is to delay the pidyon until the night after the fast, and then perform the pidyon during the meal (Shach, Yoreh De’ah 305:12).

CAN ONE PERFORM THE MITZVAH OF PIDYON HABEN BY GIVING THE KOHEIN A BOND?

One does not fulfill the mitzvah of pidyon haben if one gives the kohein a bond (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 305: 3,4). The yisroel must give the kohein something that has inherent value, such as merchandise. A check is an order of payment instructing the bank to release funds, but itself has no inherent value. Therefore, a check is not equal to cash and is not valid for pidyon haben.

It should be noted that according to many prominent poskim, paper money should not be used for pidyon haben because they also do not have inherent value (see Shu”t Chasam Sofer; Aruch Hashulchan, Yoreh De’ah 305:18; Shu”t Oneg Yom Tov, Yoreh De’ah #102). Since our coins today are not valued by their metal content, it would seem that they should also not be used for pidyon haben.

Usually the pidyon haben is performed with silver coins. These coins are supplied either by the father or by the kohein, in which case he sells them to the father before the pidyon. It is halachically acceptable for the father to pay for the coins by check when he buys them from the kohein.

I was once given by the father small pieces of silver. He had purchased the exact amount of silver necessary, probably from a jeweler, for pidyon haben and that is what he gave me. Although I have had this happen only once, I am told that in certain communities this is a common method.

On another occasion, I was asked, in advance, if I would afterwards sell back to the family the silver dollars that they were giving me. It turned out that the coins used had been used by the great-great-grandfather of the baby when he performed pidyon haben on his son, and these exact coins had been used for every generation in between!

CAN ONE FULFILL THE MITZVAH BY BUYING THE KOHEIN A PRESENT?

Yes, as long as the present is worth at least the value of five sela’im (96 grams of silver). However, the prevalent custom is to give the kohein silver coins, as mentioned above.

MAY THE KOHEIN RETURN THE MONEY TO THE FATHER OF THE BECHOR?

The kohein may return the money. However, this should not be his regular practice, since it might cause a loss of revenue to other kohanim, because yisraelim may stop using them for pidyon haben (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 305:8). There are some poskim who contend that today the money should be returned, since the kohein cannot prove that he is a kohein (Shu”t Yaavetz #155). However, the accepted practice is that the kohein does not return the money (Pischei Tshuvah 305:12, quoting Chasam Sofer).

ONCE THE FATHER ASKED A KOHEIN TO BE THE KOHEIN AT HIS SON’S PIDYON HABEN, MAY HE SUBSEQUENTLY CHANGE HIS MIND AND USE A DIFFERENT KOHEIN?

Once the father has asked one kohein to “officiate” at the pidyon haben, he should not ask another kohein. However, if he gave the redemption money to a different kohein, the pidyon is valid (Rema, Yoreh De’ah 305:4).

MAY THE FATHER OF THE BECHOR DIVIDE THE MONEY FOR PIDYON HABEN BETWEEN TWO OR MORE KOHANIM?

It is preferable not to do this, but if he did so, the pidyon is valid (Pischei Tshuvah 305:10, quoting Chasam Sofer).

A RATIONALE FOR THE MITZVAH

It behooves us to consider the reason for the mitzvah of pidyon haben. Following the smiting of the firstborn in Egypt, all firstborn boys had a certain kedusha, which should have entitled them to a role of service in the Beis Hamikdash.

However, because the bechorim were involved in worshipping the Eigel Hazahav, the Golden Calf, they lost their unique status and could no longer perform any special role in the Beis Hamikdash. Therefore, the bechor must undergo a redemption ceremony to make amends — which is to pay the kohein as a means of “redeeming” his former kedusha.