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Shabbat Parashat Bo | 5769
May a chatan lead bentching and/or recite sheva berachot at his own sheva berachot?
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Question: May a chatan lead bentching and/or recite sheva berachot at his own sheva berachot? What if he is more of a talmid chacham than anyone else there?
Answer: We will start with a little bit of background. There are two sets of berachot that are recited under the chupa: the birkat eirusin, which corresponds to the betrothal (by giving the ring) and the birkot nisuin or birkot chatanim (what we call sheva berachot, which are actually six special berachot in addition to the beracha on the wine). Classical sources seem to indicate that, fundamentally, the chatan would recite at least the birkat eirusin before his mitzva of getting married (see Beit Yosef and commentaries on Even Ha’ezer 34). However, due to the following various concerns, the strong minhag has developed that other people recite both sets of berachot (although some concerns may apply more to one than to the other).
The Rambam is attributed (see beginning of Ma’ase Rokeach) to say that the berachot were made for the benefit of the chatan but to be recited by others about him. The Mordechai (Ketubot 131) says that it is haughty (yohara) for the chatan to claim the berachot for himself. Orchot Chayim (Kiddushin 21) says we are concerned that if chatanim will be in the practice of reciting the berachot, those who do not know how to do so will be embarrassed. The consensus is (see S’dei Chemed VII, p. 434; Hanisuim K’hilchatam 10:21) that if only the chatan is able to recite the berachot reasonably, he would make the berachot, as he fundamentally is able to do.
One of the differences between the reasons may be the following. Some of the berachot are general praises of Hashem and not specifically referring to the chatan. In theory, according to the Rambam’s reason, the chatan should be able to recite those. It seems that, classically, one person used to recite all of the berachot and in an “all or nothing” situation, we would have the chatan do nothing. Nowadays, when we split up the berachot, one could claim that the chatan could do the first few sheva berachot. Be this is at it may, the minhag is certainly that the chatan does not do any of the sheva berachot, which is correct according to the latter reasons and in general is just as well (the chatan has enough limelight). This is true under the chupa and during the week of sheva berachot celebrations.
The matter is less clear in regard to leading the bentching/zimun. Should we extend the practices of sheva berachot to it? On one hand, the leading of bentching is fundamentally the same at sheva berachot as at other times. On the other hand, the sheva berachot are recited specifically at the end of the bentching and the one who leads waits until the sheva berachot are finished to make the beracha and drink the wine and is even allowed to recite one of the sheva berachot in the meantime (Sova Semachot 6:21). “D’vai haser” and “shehasimcha bim’ono” are also added. Logically, the matter of berachot being made on the chatan’s behalf does not apply. It is unclear if we need to be concerned that chatanim would feel pressure to lead bentching and be embarrassed if they cannot do so properly. In theory, yohara would not apply to a chatan who leeds the zimun, which is a normal task. Therefore, one can easily make the case that a chatan can lead bentching. In fact, Hanisuim K’hilchatam (14:109) even cites a minhag to specifically have the chatan do so at the sheva berachhot at seuda shlishit [related to issues of drinking- see ATR, Noach 5769].
All of this being said, since the very consistent practice is that chatanim do not bentch at their own sheva berachot (even if it might originally have come out of ignorance), it would be objectionable for one to do so without a specific reason. Not only is it a matter of changing minhagim, in general, but, under the circumstances, there would indeed be a problem of yohara, especially if it is connected to the claim that the chatan is the only talmid chacham present. Again, if no one else feels comfortable leading the bentching, that would be different.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of Shirley, Sara Rivka bat Yaakov Tzvi HaCohen z”L
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
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and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.