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Wednesday
Feb152017

SHEVA BRACHOS EXPENSES

Selected Halachos from the “One Minute Halacha” project

By HaRav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, Shlita, Mara D’asra and member of the Badatz of Crown Heights

DO WE NEED TO HOST A SHEVA BRACHOS EVERY DAY?

Sheva brachos (lit., seven benedictions) are recited under the chuppa (marriage canopy) for the new couple, bestowing upon them blessings for a happy and fruitful life, as well as prayers for the Final Redemption. It is a time-honored custom that the week following the wedding is one of joyous celebration, when feasts honoring the chassan (groom) and kalla (bride) conclude with a repetition of the sheva brachos that were recited under the chuppa. However, contrary to common belief and practice, there is no requirement for these meals to be held for seven consecutive days (or nights). Historically, these celebrations were mostly circumstantial, when the halachic requirements for hosting them presented themselves: The new chassan and kalla were in the presence of a minyan (prayer quorum [of a minimum ten men]), along with a panim chadashos (lit., a new face, i.e. at least one of the minyan had not attended the wedding) and a meal was hosted in honor of the newly wedded couple.

The common custom in prewar Europe was to celebrate Sheva Brachos feasts on the night of the wedding as part of the seudas mitzvah (meal celebrating a mitzvah occasion) and on the Shabbos following the wedding (often, these two coincided; it was a common—and economical—practice to plan weddings for Friday afternoons, and the seudas mitzvah was the Friday night Shabbos meal). Sometimes additional Sheva Brachos were hosted on the second and last day of the post-wedding week. Poskim of that time explain that we are somewhat guarded in the number of celebrations, since during galus (exile) “Arvah kol simcha,” (every [occasion of] joy is darkened), as Yeshayah HaNavi (the prophet) states—and it would be inappropriate to celebrate so excessively.

There are halachic authorities, however, who say that that it is praiseworthy to add in Sheva Brachos feasts, some who even advocate celebrating twice each day when money and effort are no object. Couples who marry in current times—and their families—should be aware that the community norm of at least seven Sheva Brachos meals are not mandated by halacha, and hosting, planning and paying for daily or nightly seudos should not cause undue stress or financial pressure.

BE THE BEST YOU CAN BE

Based on the pasuk (verse) in Mishlei, “Al timna tov m’baalav bih’yos l’el yadcha la’asos” (Do not withhold good from its rightful owner when you have the ability to do so), the Gemara instructs us: “Mih’yos tov, al tikarei ra” (If you can be good, don’t be called not good”). This reading of “al tikarei” (don’t be called)—a bid to act beyond reproach—is an emphasis of the Shaloh (16th century halachic authority and kabbalist; with the usual pronunciation of the word “tikra,” the phrase would simply mean “don’t call it ‘not good’”—which is passive and undemanding).

This principle encourages us to always choose the high road; if we have the option of doing something in a way that satisfies all halachic opinions without much difficulty, why would we choose to do it in a lesser manner?

Several examples of the application of this pasuk* are found in the Gemara: The preferred way to recite T’fillas HaDerech (prayer for travelers) is in a standing position, although it is halachically acceptable to recite it while sitting. The Gemara tells us, “mih’yos tov”—to recite it standing whenever possible.

Another example is the advice given to the owner of a field: If there are no fruits or vegetables in your field that can be ruined, allow people to take shortcuts through your field, so that, “Mih’yos tov, al tikarei ra!” By allowing trekkers through your field, you are offering your best behavior and forestalling negative talk about you.

Choosing this path is also advocated in various places by poskim: “Osek b’mitzvah, patur min hamitzvah” (One who is [currently] involved in a mitzvah is exempt from performing [another] mitzvah). But if we can accomplish both mitzvos simultaneously without additional tirchah (bother), why not do both? Additionally, in cases involving a machlokes (halachic disagreement) over the acceptable performance of a mitzvah, halacha states that if we have the ability to do it in the best possible way, we should choose to do so.

For example, seawater should not be used for netilas yadayim (ritual hand-washing) because of its high saline content. If in a situation where it is the only proper liquid available, we should dip our hands in the ocean instead of washing in the usual manner with a kli (vessel). If the seawater is far below at a distance only accessible by drawing it out, some poskim offer a solution: There is the possibility of lowering a kli that has a hole in it to draw up the seawater, thus maintaining contact between the kli and the ocean waters (through the water flowing from the hole that is touching the sea), so that it is similar to dipping. Nonetheless, halacha tells us that since some poskim disagree with this method, “mih’yos tov”; whenever practically possible, dip hands directly into the ocean to satisfy all opinions.

Although not specifically found in a discussion of this particular “pasuk”, the Gemara relates another example of striving for a higher level of purity: if a person is considered tahor (ritually pure) me’ikar HaDin (strictly according to Torah law) but has a mikva at his disposal—why not go and toivel (immerse) if it involves no hardship?

* The Gemara refers to it as a pasuk using the terminology “haKasuv omer” (the verse states), although no such pasuk exists. The Gemara then explains its choice of terminology—this is a principle deduced from the above-mentioned pasuk in Mishlei.

A KING FOR TODAY

It is a mitzvas aseh (a positive commandment—one of the 613) to elect a Jewish king. The king’s appointment was originally dependent on the settlement of Jews in Eretz Yisroel—and it is a mitzvah that will be reinstated with the upcoming Geula (Redemption from exile) with the coronation of Melech HaMoshiach, a scion of beis Dovid (the [Royal] House of King David), speedily in our days.

However, there are aspects of the mitzvah that are applicable nowadays too. It states in the liturgy of Kiddush Levana (the prayer for blessing the New Moon), “Dovid melech Yisroel chai v’kayam!” (David, the king of Israel lives and endures). The Rambam explains that Dovid HaMelech was promised the kingship forever, as stated in the Navi (the Prophets). From that time onward, it includes all of Jewish history: both when Jews have sovereignty over Eretz Yisroel and a Jewish king rules overtly with all the physical trappings of a monarchy, and even during the times when this position is only present in a hidden manner.

The Reish Galusa (lit., Head in Exile or Exilarch) in Babylonian times was of Beis Dovid, and universally accepted as a stand-in for the melech by the expatriate Jews; this designation would equally apply to all Jewish leaders throughout galus who share this special ancestry.

Our t’fillos (prayers) every day focus on pleas for the final Redemption when this hidden power will again be restored “as in days of old” not only in a latent way, but manifest for the whole world to see. In Birchas HaMazon (Grace after Meals), we mention this too—beginning with the plea, “Rachem” (have mercy), as our true comfort will be the reinstitution of the kingship of beis Dovid.

“One Minute Halacha” is a succinct daily presentation on practical Halacha in video, audio, and text formats, and can be accessed by phone at 718.989.9599, by email, halacha2go@gmail.com, or by WhatsApp 347.456.5665.


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