Status of Sheva Berakhot as a Regel for the Chatan

  • Rav Moshe Taragin

 

TALMUDIC METHODOLOGY

 

Shiur #02: Status of Sheva Berakhot as a Regel for the Chatan

 

By Rav Moshe Taragin

 

 

The mishna in Negaaim parallels the status of a groom during the week of sheva berakhot to the status of every Jew during a holiday.  The mishna writes, “A chatan who sees a nega [a discoloration associated with tzara'at] is exempt from impurity just as one is exempt during the chag."  Is this association made only regarding that particular instance, or does the week of sheva berakhot possess a status as a chag for the chatan in general?  Is the tuma inspection suspended during sheva berakhot because the week is considered a chag for the chatan? Or is the suspension based on different factors, and the association made by the mishna only a comparison? 

 

The gemara in Mo’ed Katan (7b) develops this exemption by searching for derashot to account for this rule.  At first, the gemara cites a derasha of the term "U-ve-yom heiro’ot” [on the day that you inspect the nega] a pasuk which introduces the section describing the procedure of metzora.  The derasha asserts, "There are days you should inspect [and possibly quarantine] while there are days in which the inspection process is suspended.  Days of a chag or the seven days of a chatan qualify as days during which inspection is suspended." This derasha may very well reflect the status of the days of sheva berakhot as a quasi-chag.  The gemara, however, considers an alternate derasha. The Torah describes a kohen delaying proclaiming a house as tamei to allow the articles of the house to be removed and thereby spared tuma.  If tuma proclamation may be delayed for this purpose, it can certainly be delayed to facilitate a mitzva, such as chag or sheva berakhot.  This derasha does not address the STATUS of the DAYS but rather the MITZVA that proclamation of tzara'at could ruin.  The derasha results in a deferral of the tuma to enable the performance of the mitzva. 

 

These two derashot provide very different readings of the nature of the tzara’at exemption for a chatan and could lead to some very interesting consequences.  The Shulchan Arukh in siman 64 rules that a chatan may not work during the week of his sheva berakhot.  In his comments, the Rema also writes that a chatan may not work.  Most commentators question why the Rema included a halakha which the Shulchan Arukh explicitly asserted.  The Chelkat Mechokek claims that they each are referring to different aspects of the issur melakha.  The Shulchan Arukh described an obligation to desist from work to assure proper commitment to the obligation to rejoice with the kallah.  The Rabbis instituted a "financial obligation from chatan to kallah to invest time and money in the wedding celebration.  This obligation is collectible, and working during this period would impede the chatan from fulfilling his obligation.  If the kallah were to waive her rights, the chatan would be exempt from this obligation.

 

In contrast, the Rema addressed a personal state of regel that the chatan must halakhically preserve.  Working during this week of sheva brakhot is forbidden INDEPENDENT of his obligation to the kallah simply because the week is defined as his chag.  Even if the kallah were to waive her rights, the chatan would be required to behave in a regel-like manner and desist from work.  By repeating the issur melakha already noted by the Shulchan Arukh, the Rema was asserting an extra dimension to the prohibition against working. 

 

Designating the sheva berakhot as a personal regel for the chatan may impose prohibitions beyond actual work.  The Pitchei Teshuva (64:1) cites positions which prohibit the chatan from taking a haircut during the seven day period, similar to the prohibition of haircutting during an actual regel.  (Some poskim trace this position to the Ra'avad in his comments to the Rambam in Hilkhot Avel 11:7.)  Clearly, extending the prohibition to haircutting would almost certainly confirm the stats of sheva berakhot as a form of personal regel. 

 

An interesting gemara in Ketuvot (4a) may also suggest that the week of sheva berakhot is considered a regel.  The gemara addresses a tragic situation in which a relative of the bride or groom dies immediately prior to the wedding.  Delaying the wedding until after the burial and mourning period would waste the food already prepared and entail irrecoverable financial loss.  The gemara instructs a delay of aveilut until after the sheva berakhot period has concluded.  Although this schedule certainly resolves the financial pressure, its halakhic appropriateness is somewhat questionable.  After all, most believe that the first day of aveilut is Biblically ordained, and it should seemingly not be delayed by sheva berakhot, which most believe is a Rabbinic command.  The Ramban confronts this question and responds that the Rabbis do indeed possess the ability to suspend mitzvot de-oraita.  Faced with the prospect of stiff financial loss and inability to prepare future equivalent wedding celebrations, Chazal instructed a suspension of de-oraita aveilut in favor of rabbinic sheva berakhot. 

 

A different solution may emerge from Rashi's comments.  The gemara had instructed that the chupa and initial bi'ah (sexual relations) be performed prior to the burial.  As aveilut only begins after burial, the chupa and initial bi'ah have effectively preceded the onset of aveilut.  Rashi comments, "Since the wedding has already occurred, IT IS CONSIDERED HIS REGEL and aveilut cannot apply."  Perhaps Rashi himself views the sheva berakhot as a personal regel.  Once that regel has emerged – after the chupa and bi'ah - aveilut cannot develop.  Chazal did not actively suspend aveilut by asserting prior celebration of sheva berakhot.  Instead, they engineered the prior occurrence of a regel, which halakhically impedes the aveilut from emerging.  This scenario is only sound if the sheva berakhot period mark a personal regel for the chatan.  Under conditions of regel, aveilut may be impeded from developing.  Rashi therefore seems to have adopted this theory of a personal regel. 

 

As mentioned earlier, most opinions maintain that the seven day celebration of sheva berakhot is a Rabbinic institution and has no Biblical origins.  The Rosh in Ketuvot cites a position in the name of Ravbenu Meir Halevi that the first day of sheva berakhot is indeed de-oraita based on the pasuk in Shir Ha-shirim chapter 3 describing "the day of his wedding and his heart's joy."  Although Shir Ha-shirim is written as a metaphor describing the relationship between Hashem and His people, the reference to the day of the wedding is sufficient to grant this day its Biblical status.  Without question, assigning a Biblical root to the sheva berakhot – even the first day alone - would significantly increase the chances that it is considered a personal regel.  Even though the regel lasts seven days and stems from a Rabbinic legislation, BASING the regel on a Biblical precedent or basis is entirely reasonable. 

 

A final source that asserts the regel status of sheva berakhot can be found in Pirkei De-Rabbi Eliezer in chapter 16.  It states that a chatan is similar to a king – each is the subject of praise, dresses in elegant attire, conducts festive meals, does not walk in public alone, and possess a radiant glow.  This comparison certainly ascribes A PERSONAL STATUS a personal status to the chatan which may border on an experience similar to a REGEL although the term regel does not appear explicitly in this text, the midrash certainly implies a halakhic status to a chatan beyond merely the obligation to generate joy for his kallah.