Shiur #20: Laws of the Wedding (10) Customs and Laws of the Wedding
In the previous shiur, we discussed the ancient practice, preserved by some German and Sephardic communities, to use a tallit as a chuppa. More specifically, the chatan covers his wife with his tallit during the wedding ceremony. Some (Tashbetz 461; see also Maharil, Hilkhot Nisu’in, p. 466) trace this practice to the Biblical description of the betrothal of Rivka to Yitzchak (Bereishit 24:64-65). Others point to the laws of the marital designation (yi’ud) of a Jewish maidservant (ama ivriya). Numerous Rishonim (see, for example Orchot Chaim, vol. 2, pp. 64-65) explain that spreading his garment over the kalla constitutes the chuppa. Yet others (Rokeach 353) trace this practice to Ruth, who says to says to Boaz, “I am Ruth, your handmaid, and you shall spread your skirt over your handmaid, for you are a near kinsman” (Ruth 3:9; see Rashi ad loc.). This practice was observed throughout Ashkenaz, and it appears in recent Sephardic halakhic literature as well (see Ben Ish Chai, Shana Aleph, Shoftim; see also Sefer Ha-Mifkad, vol. 1, 2b, and Birkei Yosef, OC 8:5). The common custom of holding the wedding ceremony under a canopy consisting of four poles and a tallit or other cloth is first mentioned by the Rema (EH 55) and contemporary Polish Acharonim (see Taz, EH 62:7; Mas’at Binyamin 90; Bach EH 62:1).
We also noted a somewhat recent custom of reciting the Shehechiyanu blessing over a new tallit during the chuppa (Sefer Ha-Mifkad, vol. 1, 2b). We discussed why the Shehechayanu blessing is not said on the wedding itself (see Maharik 128; Shakh YD 25:5). Interestingly, R. Yaakov Emden (cited in Pitchei Teshuva, EH 63:6) rules that the chatan should say Shehechiyanu during the wedding ceremony. Most Acharonim, however, disagree.
This week, we will discuss the reading of the ketuba during the wedding ceremony. We will also discuss the sheva berakhot.
Reading the Ketuba
As we discussed previously, there are different customs regarding the proper time to perform the kinyan and for the eidim to sign the ketuba. In some communities, it is customary to read the ketuba under the chuppa, and before the word “kenanina,” the chatan performs the kinyan and the eidim sign the ketuba (see Maharam Mintz 109, for example). This custom is common among Sephardim, in Eretz Yisrael, and, more specifically, in Jerusalem. The most common custom is to perform the kinyan and for the eidim to sign the ketuba shortly before the chuppa.
The Rema (EH 62:9) records that it is customary to read the ketuba between the kiddushin and sheva berakhot in order to create a “break” in between these two parts of the ceremony. Some (see Tosafot, Pesachim 102b, s.v. she-ein) explain that the ketuba is read in order to create a sufficient interruption between the kiddushin and the sheva berakhot in order to justify saying the Borei Peri HaGafen blessing over the second cup of wine, the cup of the sheva berakhot.
In some communities, the mesader kiddushin reads the ketuba, but in other communities, one of the guests is called upon and honored with the reading of the ketuba. It is not necessary to read the entire ketuba, and some omit the personal status of the chatan and kalla and the chatan’s voluntary financial commitment (tosefet ketuba). The latter practice may be especially appropriate if the chatan or kalla are converts.
There is a tradition dating from the Geonic era for the chatan to give the kalla the ketuba in front of the community (see Halakhot Gedolot 36). In fact, R. Saadia Gaon (Siddur Rav Saadia Gaon, p. 97) writes that the chatan says, “Take this ketuba in your hand, through which you enter my domain according to the laws of Moses and Israel.” This formulation may support the view of those who suggest that giving the ketuba to the kalla serves as an alternate for of kiddushin, kiddushei shtar (Orchot Chaim, Hilkhot Ketubot). Others claim that there is no reason for the chatan to give the ketuba to the kalla, and it is sufficient for the mesader kiddushin to ensure that the kalla receives the ketuba (see Levushei Mordekhai 49). It is important that the kalla retains procession of the ketuba, as the couple is not permitted to live together without a ketuba.
Introduction to Birkat Chatanim – Sheva Berakhot
The Talmud (Ketubot 7b) teaches that the sheva berakhot are recited at the wedding and for the seven days following the wedding:
The Sages taught: One recites the benediction of the grooms in a quorum of ten men all seven days of the wedding celebration.
These blessings are recited over a cup of wine, and only in the presence of ten men (a minyan). What is the nature of these berakhot?
The Beit Yosef (EH 62) suggests that according to the Rambam (Hilkhot Ishut 10:6), the Birkot Chatanim function as a birkat ha-mitzva, like any blessing recited before performing a mitzva. For this reason, the Rambam requires that the blessings must be recited before the nisu’in. This view raises many difficulties, such as whether the nisu’in is a mitzva and how seven blessings of praise can be viewed as a birkat ha-mitzva.
Interestingly, the Ran (Pesachim 4a, s.v. u-le’inyan) explains that “the berakhot are blessings of song and praise.” He adds that although birkot ha-shevach (blessings recited to praise a natural or religious phenomenon) are generally said upon experiencing the given phenomenon, the birkat chatanim are said before the nisu’in:
These blessings are said before the nisu’in… because the chuppa is a form of yichud (i.e. seclusion of the husband and wife), and the chuppa can only be performed if it possible for the couple to engage in sexual relations (reuyah le-bi’ah). Since a kalla is not permitted to her husband, like a menstruating woman, before the blessings are recited, the blessings must be recited before the nisu’in.
In other words, according to the Ran, the blessings offer praise for the union between this chatan and kalla, and their recitation permits the chatan and kalla to be secluded. In fact, he cites the Rambam cited above who rules that if one did not say the blessings, the birkat chatanim can be recited several days after the wedding, as a proof that the blessings must be birkot ha-shevach.
Next week, we will discuss the details of the sheva berakhot recited under the chuppa.