MORE OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN SHEVA BERACHOT PART II

Picking up where we left off two weeks ago, two final notes on the order and text of the blessings. Ritva claims that the blessing of "she-hakol bara lichvodo" speaks about the people assembled there and thus begins with the formulation of "baruch ata Hashem." He also notes that the blessing of "asher yatzar" begins with that formulation so as to separate it from the blessing of "yotzer ha-adam" which precedes it and sounds similar. Finally on this issue we should note the view of Rambam (in one of his epistles) cited by the Be'eir Heitev, that while there is a logic to the order of the blessings, the order does not matter to the most extreme degree ("eino me'akev"), and thus if a person forgets to say one, it can be made up at a later point in the sequence.

We move now to some of the laws of sheva berachot. The first issue concerns the making of these blessings under the chupah. As we have noted over the past few weeks, both the birchat erusin and the sheva berachot (or birchat chatanim) require that a "borei pri ha-gafen" be said over a cup of wine prior to the blessing itself. Can one cup and one "borei pri ha-gafen" be used? The Hagahot Ashri says no, since each one is a separate entity. As such, he cites the view of Mordechai that rules that an afterblessing is needed both after erusin and after nisu'in, since there is a break in between the two, both in terms of time and in terms of one's intentions. Meiri argues and says that just as we say kiddush and havdala on one cup when a festival begins on Saturday night, so too can we make both blessings ("shtei kedushot") on one cup. Tur follows the view of Hagahot Ashri, and we do indeed make the blessing twice.

The gemara in Ketubot 7b relates that Rabi Yehuda rules that sheva berachot are recited for all seven days so long as "panim chadashot," literally "new faces," have come to celebrate. If there are no panim chadashot, the law is that only the last of the sheva berachot ("asher bara") is recited. The first question to deal with is who is considered to be panim chadashot? Tosafot rule that this refers specifically to people whose presence adds to the joy of the bride and the groom, thus disqualifying mortal enemies. Hagahot Ashri offers a broader and more literal approach, saying that anyone who did not hear the sheva berachot recited under the chupah qualifies as panim chadashot during the rest of the seven days insofar as we can say all seven blessings if he is there (Ritva notes that woman do not count as panim chadashot, since they cannot be included for the minyan). Meiri is even more expansive, saying that panim chadashot are people who do not usually eat with the bride and groom during the course of the year, even if they have already been at one of the meals. In other words, friends or relatives who live far away and come in just for the wedding would count as panim chadashot as long as they stay around. Rambam rules that panim chadashot must be people who were not at the chupah itself, although the Kesef Mishna notes that those people are considered to be panim chadashot at the wedding feast, since they have yet to hear the sheva berachot recited over a meal. Tur follows the ruling of Tosafot, as does the Shulchan Aruch, who also adds on that they are still called panim chadashot if they were at the chupah so long as they did not eat then.

There is a second category of panim chadashot. Tosafot note that Shabbat and holidays are also referred to as panim chadashot, based on a Midrash where Hashem refers to Shabbat as such (the logical extension to holidays is made by the various commentators). Tur rules like this, but notes that the third meal on Shabbat is not considered panim chadashot, and thus sheva berachot would not be said unless there were actual panim chadashot present. However, Rav Yitzchak Eizik Tirana and the Bach both claim that the third meal does have this status, either due to the fact that now a lot of people come and it enjoys the same prominence as the rest of Shabbat, or because of the practice of having a derasha (exposition of a Torah topic) at that time, which may itself be considered panim chadashot. Also, Ritva notes that the wedding day itself counts as panim chadashot, and thus one may have several meals on that day and say sheva berachot at each one (a ruling that is relatively useless given the length of modern-day weddings).

What do panim chadashot have to do? Is it enough for them merely to be present, or do they have to find a way to halachically connect themselves to the festive meal? Ran quotes Ramban's ruling that they need only be present, and do not have to eat in order to qualify as panim chadashot. Tosafot and others offer an even more lenient view, ruling that the power of panim chadashot extends over an entire day. Thus, if panim chadashot show up at a meal at night, then sheva berachot may be said for all of the next day (which is the same date as the night before), even if those people are not there. Seemingly, we take an accounting of the joy each day (remember, Tosafot hold that panim chadashot are those who increase the joy of the new couple), and once the level of happiness has been raised, it is considered raised until the next day. Ramo combines the views of Ramban and Tosafot and says that if panim chadashot show up at night, even if they do not eat, they still allow the couple to say sheva berachot for all of the next day. Rashba takes a more radical view, saying that we say the sheva berachot whenever new people show their faces, even if there is no meal going on! By contrast, Ritva and the Chachmei Narvona (cited by the Hagahot Maimoniyot) rule that if the panim chadashot leave (on any day other than the first), sheva berachot may no longer be said. Finally, the Be'eir Heitev rules that according to most poskim we need panim chadashot at each meal and those from the night do not help for the next day.

Two final issues. First, there is relatively universal assent to the law that ten free men are needed for sheva berachot, and the groom does count in the minyan. Second, there is the issue of how many cups of wine are used during the course of the week to say sheva berachot. We have already seen the dispute whether or not birchat erusin and birchat nisu'in can be said over one cup, with two issues at hand: whether or not they are connected to each other and whether or not we can say two different blessings over one cup. Here, we once again have these issues, as there is one cup that will be used for the sheva berachot and one for the regular practice of saying birchat ha-mazon (grace after meals) over a cup of wine. Ritva holds fast to the view that we cannot bundle mitzvot onto one cup, and thus requires that we use two cups in this case. The Hagahot Maimoniyot cites a Rabbeinu Meshullam who did not require two cups, but then notes that Rabbeinu Tam did insist that two cups be used. Tur cites Tosafot and rules that we do not say both on one cup since we do not bundle mitzvot, although he notes that the practice in Spain was to do so (which is interesting in light of Ritva's opposition to this practice). The Shulchan Aruch rules like the Tur, although he notes that the practice had become to use only one cup.

 

Finally, the Meiri notes that during the week of sheva berachot, the groom should not go to work, but rather should rejoice with his wife. There are many versions of how this practice is kept, including those who say that a groom during sheva berachot may not go to minyan if his wife does not accompany him. Everyone should consult his or her local halachic authority for instructions on how to proceed in this regard. Regardless of the details, the point of the law is that for the first week of their lives together, the bride and groom should be focused solely on each other and on the new life that lies ahead of them.


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