Shabbat Parashat Chukat 5773
Ask the Rabbi: How Can the Mesader Kiddushin Recite the Chatan’s Beracha?by Rav Daniel Mann
Question: I was told that the berachot made by the rabbi (mesader kiddushin) under the chupa are berachot that the chatan should be making, but because some do not know how to do so, the rabbi does so. Is it possible to have someone who is not obligated make the beracha?
Answer: Conceptually and historically there are different approaches to the issues of the function of the berachot under the chupa and to whom they relate. We will focus on birkat eirusin, the second beracha, “…asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al ha’arayot...” There is what to say about the beracha on the wine, considering that usually the rabbi does not even take a sip from it, but that is a separate, albeit related, topic. The seven berachot at the end are apparently not the chatan’s responsibility (see Yabia Omer VII, EH 17).
The Rambam (Ishut 3:23) states that the chatan (or his agent, if he performs the kiddushin) makes the birkat eirusin. However, the practice has been for many hundreds of years that someone else (usually the mesader kiddushin) is the one who makes the berachot.
The Rama (Even Ha’ezer 34:1) cites the minhag that someone other than the chatan recites the beracha. The Derisha (EH 34:1) explains that the Rama is based on the Rosh’s (Ketubot 1:12) approach that kiddushin is not a mitzva per se. It follows, says the Rosh, that the beracha is not of the category of berachot on mitzvot but of berachot of praise to Hashem, in this case, for providing us with halachot and procedures to navigate them. Once the beracha is general and not connected directly to the performance of the mitzva, there is no reason why someone other than the chatan cannot recite it. According to some (see Tuv Ta’am Vada’at III, YD 98; Har Tzvi, YD 1), these two approaches also explain another machloket. The Rambam (ibid.) says that if the beracha was not said before the kiddushin, it cannot be said afterward, while the Ra’avad (ad loc.) says that it can. The Rambam is consistent, since the beracha, as one on the action of a mitzva, must be before the mitzva. In contrast, the Ra’avad can follow the Rosh’s approach that it is a beracha of praise, and, therefore, as long as it is connected to the marriage process, it is appropriate.
The Noda B’Yehuda (II, EH 1) follows the Rambam’s approach, yet understands that the Rambam allows for the minhag that the mesader kiddushin recites the beracha. It is simply based on the rule that one who is generally obligated in a mitzva, but practically not now, can make the beracha on behalf of someone who is presently obligated in it. The conditions are that the listener hears the reciter and each has the intention that the reciter is doing it on the listener’s behalf, either individually or as part of a group (see Rosh Hashana 29a).
So, then, we have one nafka mina (practical ramification) between the two approaches. According to the Rambam/ Noda B’Yehuda, the chatan and the rabbi should intend that the rabbi’s beracha covers the chatan, whereas according to the Rosh/Derisha such intention is not required. Another nafka mina is when the chatan and kalla are deaf, so that they cannot hear the rabbi’s beracha. In that case, the Noda B’Yehuda says that the rabbi cannot make the beracha on their behalf. (The Noda B’Yehuda raises a dilemma whether it would be enough for the kalla to be able to hear, as it is not clear whether a woman, who is not obligated in p’ru u’r’vu (procreation), has a mitzva to get married.) Rabbi Akiva Eiger (to Taz, YD 1:17) and the Tevuot Shor (YD 1:(59)) take the Rosh’s approach and say that the rabbi can make the beracha for a deaf couple.
Not only is it possible for someone other than the chatan to make the beracha, but it has also become customary that the chatan should not make it. The Mordechai (Ketubot 131) says that it would be seen as showing off for the chatan to do it. The Beit Shmuel (34:2) says that in order to avoid embarrassing to those chatanim who do not know how to recite the beracha properly, we do not let any chatanim do so.
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