Leaving The Wedding Before The Sheva Brachos

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)
1. After birchas hamazon is recited at a wedding, the sheva brachos are recited. Harav Yitzchak Weiss zt”l (Minchas Yitzchak 2:43) writes that one may leave a wedding before the sheva brachos. He explains that the obligation to recite sheva brachos only applies to those present at the end of the meal and is not an intrinsic obligation to all that participated in the meal. If one were not allowed to leave before the sheva brachos the Gemara would have said so, the same way that the Gemara states that one is not allowed to leave a meal early before taking part of the zimun.

2. Harav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg zt”l (Tzitz Eliezer 11:84) proves that this was originally advanced by Harav Shlomo Kluger zt”l. Harav Waldenberg zt”l then concurs with the view of Harav Weiss zt”l and rules that one is allowed to leave a wedding early after reciting birchas hamazon with the proper zimun.

Harav Nosson Gestetner zt”l (Lehoros Nason 11:111) likewise rules that one may leave a wedding early before the Sheva Brachos. He explains that while the obligation to recite the Sheva Brachos belongs to the entire wedding group, each individual does not need to be part of it. All one needs to do is make sure that there are ten men left at the end of the wedding to recite the blessings.

3. Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe O.C. 1:56) disagrees with the aforementioned poskim. He feels that everyone who eats at the wedding meal is required to recite (or hear) the sheva brachos. He sources this in the words of the Shulchan Aruch (E.H. 62:11) who rules that if many wedding groups split up and eat in different rooms, each group, even the ones without the chosson, is required to recite sheva brachos. This seems to indicate that the obligation to recite sheva brachos belongs to everyone who ate bread at the meal (see also Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 1:742 and Shaarei Halacha U’Minhag Lubavitch E.H. page 125).

Accordingly, one may not leave before the sheva brachos, even if he recites the birchas hamazon with the proper zimun. The Sefer Even Yisroel (8:82) proceeds to prove this point from the words of the rishonim. The Avudraham states that the obligation to recite the sheva brachos and the obligation to recite birchas hamazon are “one in the same and begins when one begins eating bread.” This leads the Even Yisroel to the same conclusion as Harav Moshe, that one may not leave the wedding before hearing the sheva brachos (see also shu”t Vayivarech David on Nisuin 89-90).

4. Harav Moshe understands that this is a very difficult obligation to fulfill, as many people cannot stay until the very end of the wedding. Harav Moshe offers a simple solution. At the beginning of the meal one should have specific intent that he does not want to be a part of the wedding meal. By having in mind that he does not want to be included in everyone else’s meal, but is rather eating alone, he will not be required to hear the sheva brachos or recite the zimun. Through this stipulation he has removed himself from the larger wedding meal and may leave whenever he wishes.

Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l would also endorse the solution of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a likewise rules that if one must leave a wedding early he should stipulate before he eats that he does not intend to be included in the larger wedding meal (see Sefer Yismach Lev vol. 4 page 209-210).

5. It is reported that Harav Yaakov Kamanetzky zt”l also feels that the obligation belongs to everyone who ate bread at the wedding. Unlike Rav Moshe, however, he maintains that a stipulation would not help. Therefore, if one knows he cannot stay the whole time, he must make sure not to wash on bread or eat enough cake that would require him to recite birchas hamazon (Emes L’Yaakov on Shulchan Aruch E.H. 62).

6. Harav Pesach Feinhandler, in his Sefer Avnei Yashfei (3:20), notes that if one follows the approach of Harav Moshe and stipulates before the meal that he does not wish to be part of the wedding meal, he is not only exempt from the zimun, but may not be included in the zimun. However, it seems that the Rav of Debreczin (Beer Moshe 3:32) did not concur with this ruling.

7. The Sefer Hanisuin K’Hilchosom (page 521) cites the previous argument and adds that, “If the guest is not required to recite birchas hamazon, such as he only ate fruit and drinks, he may leave without hearing sheva brachos according to all authorities.”

[Hashevaynu’s Sunday Night Madness at Dave and Buster’s will take place on December 7th, for all information please go to hashevaynu.org]

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.

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