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Sheva Berachos in a Sukkah

A Chupah In A Sukkah

After a couple is married, they celebrate with family and friends for a week. Each celebratory meal is accompanied with special blessings during the grace after meals, traditionally called Sheva Berachos. 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 Berachos were held indoors.


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 Berachos 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 Berachos wherever the couple are, although he thinks they should be strict and not allow this.

The Shulchan Aruch (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.

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 halachically irrelevant. The Taz believes it refers specifically to a canopy. Therefore, the question remains how halachah 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 Berachos are a function of the celebration and therefore are recited at any celebratory meal for the bride and groom.

This is quite a dramatic step, although the Taz mitigates it somewhat by pointing to the Ran’s view allows Sheva Berachos 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.


Moving A Chupah

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 3:103:20) writes that today Sephardim generally follow the old practice and only recite Sheva Berachos 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 Berachos 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 Berachos.

How does this affect Sheva Berachos in a sukkah? The Rambam (Mishneh TorahHilchos 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 Berachos. The Mishnah Berurah (640:33) concludes that a groom is obligated to eat in a sukkah but without reciting a blessing on the sukkah. However, the Piskei Teshuvos (640:9 n. 29) quotes authorities 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 Berachos in a sukkah, with a blessing on the sukkah.

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