Sheva Berakhos In A Sukkah

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by R. Gil Student

I. A Chupah In A Sukkah

After a couple is married, they celebrate with family and friends for a week. [1]Although interestingly, the Arukh Ha-Shulchan (Orach Chaim 640:14) writes that the custom in turn-of-the-twentieth century Belarus was not to have a meal each of the seven days of the week. See also … Continue reading Each celebratory meal is accompanied with special blessings during the grace after meals, traditionally called Sheva Berakhos. However, the form of celebration has changed significantly since Talmudic times, requiring a reevaluation of the practice. The holiday of Sukkos highlights the transformation of post-wedding practices and the halakhic implications.

The Gemara (Sukkah 25b) says that a groom and his attendants are exempt from eating in a sukkah. In Talmudic times, a newly married couple would have a chupah canopy in their home in which they would celebrate for a week with friends (attendants). The Gemara explains that their joy must be at a meal in the chupah. The chupah cannot be placed in a sukkah because either a normal sukkah with only three walls lacks privacy or the possibility of the bride remaining alone with male guests if the groom has to leave to use the facilities. Due to these logistical problems in relocating the chupah to a sukkah, the Sheva Berakhos were held indoors.

II. What Is A Chupah?

Tosafos (ad loc., sv. ein) infer quite reasonably that if a couple leave their chupah for a meal, they do not recite Sheva Berakhos at that meal. If they would, then there would be no exemption from sukkah. However, the Rosh (Sukkah 2:8) quotes another opinion which holds that the Gemara only discusses the case of a couple leaving temporarily for a meal and then returning to their chupah. In such a case, the celebration must take place in the chupah. If a bride and groom leave their chupah permanently, such as they move to another house or even another city, then the celebration follows them. The Ran (ad loc.) goes even further, explaining the Gemara to mean that the main celebration of a bride and groom is in the chupah, but we can still have a lesser celebration elsewhere. He adds that the common practice in Spain of his time was to recite Sheva Berakhos wherever the couple are, although he thinks they should be strict and not allow this.

The Shulchan Arukh (Even Ha-Ezer 62:10) rules like the Rosh, the middle opinion, that if a couple moves to a new place, their new home is considered their new chupah. According to this opinion, you do not need a canopy to have a chupah. The chupah is the couple’s primary residence, where the celebrations should take place. The Taz (ad loc., 7) disagrees with this explanation of the Rosh. He interprets the Rosh as saying that as long as the couple plans on returning to their home, wherever they eat a wedding-type meal is called a chupah. [2]בהולך לשמוח עם כלתו בבית אחר אף שיחזור אח״כ לבית הראשון מ״מ באותה שעה שהוא שמח בבית שני נקרא גם אותה הבית אז … Continue reading

However, the Taz adds an even more important historical concern. He points out that in modern times, we no longer have a canopy beyond the actual wedding ceremony. Is the reference to a chupah literally to the canopy or does it refer to the couple’s home? If it refers to the home, then the lack of a canopy is halakhically irrelevant. The Taz believes it refers specifically to a canopy. Therefore, the question remains how halakhah must address the changed situation. During Talmudic times, the post-wedding celebrations took place in the chupah. Today, there is no chupah and the post-wedding celebrations take place in a variety of locations. The Taz explains that the Sheva Berakhos are a function of the celebration and therefore are recited at any celebratory meal for the bride and groom.

This is quite a radical step, although the Taz mitigates it somewhat by pointing out that the Ran’s view allows Sheva Berakhos in other houses. And even though the Ran concludes that we should be strict for the other opinions, the practice in Spain in his time was like this lenient view. The Taz adds this lenient view to his historical argument. [3]Many other Ashkenazic authorities agree with this ruling. The Taz quotes the Maharal of Prague as ruling similarly. The Beis Shmuel (ad loc., 13) and Yam Shel Shlomo (Kesubos 1:20) also agree.

III. Moving A Chupah

Today, two practices dominate. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 3:103:20) writes that Sephardim generally follow the old practice and only recite Sheva Berakhos in the couple’s home, although some Sephardim are more lenient. Generally, they believe that a chupah refers to the couple’s home, not specifically the canopy. They also reject the Taz’s explanation that wherever the couple celebrate with a meal is called a chupah. Therefore, the original rules remain in place. Ashkenazim follow the Taz and recite the Sheva Berakhos at any celebratory meal for the newlywed couple. As long as the meal has extra food, drink and joy for the couple, Ashkenazim can recite Sheva Berakhos. [4]This is the language of Rav Auerbach, ibid. Rav Gershon Zaks (Mo’adei Ha-Gershuni, ch. 31) says in the name of his father, Rav Mendel Zaks (son-in-law of the Chafetz Chaim), that any place in … Continue reading Additionally, the Magen Avraham (640:11) points out that today we usually build a sukkah with four walls (and invite both men and women to a Sheva Berakhos), so the Gemara’s concerns about relocating a chupah to a sukkah no longer apply.

How does this affect Sheva Berakhos in a sukkah? The Rambam (Mishnah Torah, Hilkhos Sukkah 6:3) rules that a groom is exempt from sukkah, like the Gemara above. However, the Rosh (ibid.) points out that R. Zeira in the Gemara ate in a sukkah and then rejoiced in a chupah, fulfilling both requirements when he was a groom. While this could imply an allowance for stringency, the Rosh believes this is the conclusion of the Gemara, requiring a groom to eat in a sukkah without Sheva Berakhos. The Mishnah Berurah (640:33) concludes that a groom is obligated to eat in a sukkah without reciting a blessing on the sukkah. However, the Piskei Teshuvos (640:9 n. 29) quotes the Arukh Ha-Shulchan (ad loc., 14), Rav Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos Ke-Hilkhasah, ch. 68 n. 115) and others who rule that a groom is obligated in a sukkah and should recite its blessing.

Therefore, despite the explicit ruling in the Gemara, Ashkenazim (and some Sephardim) today celebrate Sheva Berakhos in a sukkah, with Sheva Berakhos and a blessing on the sukkah.

 

Endnotes

Endnotes
1Although interestingly, the Arukh Ha-Shulchan (Orach Chaim 640:14) writes that the custom in turn-of-the-twentieth century Belarus was not to have a meal each of the seven days of the week. See also She’arim Metzuyanim Ba-Halakhah (Kuntres Acharon 149:3) from the Levush.
2בהולך לשמוח עם כלתו בבית אחר אף שיחזור אח״כ לבית הראשון מ״מ באותה שעה שהוא שמח בבית שני נקרא גם אותה הבית אז חופה… לאכול ולשמוח שם כדרך אכילת נשואין ואז יהיה עיקר שמחתו שם משא״כ סוכה דאין שם שמחת נשואין דאינה ראויה לכך.
3Many other Ashkenazic authorities agree with this ruling. The Taz quotes the Maharal of Prague as ruling similarly. The Beis Shmuel (ad loc., 13) and Yam Shel Shlomo (Kesubos 1:20) also agree.
4This is the language of Rav Auerbach, ibid. Rav Gershon Zaks (Mo’adei Ha-Gershuni, ch. 31) says in the name of his father, Rav Mendel Zaks (son-in-law of the Chafetz Chaim), that any place in which there are special preparations for the bride and groom is called a chupah.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student has served two terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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