Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bris in a Sukkah

Mazel to my neighbor, whose recently born son will be welcome in my home even on Shabbos, thanks to our new eruv.

The bris will God-willing be held on the second day of Sukkos. Interestingly, this case emphasizes a surprising point. A bride and groom's sheva berakhos need not be in a sukkah if there is not enough room for all of the invited guests, which there probably will not be. However, the Rema (Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayim 640:6) writes that the meal for a bris must be held in a sukkah. What is the difference between a sheva berakhos and a bris' meal?

In the responsum of the Maharik (quoted in the Beis Yosef and Magen Avraham) that is the source for the Rema, the Maharik writes that a sheva berakhos is a great mitzvah while a meal at a bris is "just" a custom. The Vilna Gaon, in his glosses to the Rema, adds that a meal at a bris is not a biblical mitzvah. This is in contrast to rejoicing with a bride and groom, which is a fulfillment of the biblical command to "Love your fellow as yourself" (cf. Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Avel 14:1). Since when we are a bride or groom we want people to rejoice with us, we must rejoice with others. However, it is hard to say that when we are circumsized we want others to rejoice with us. Probably not. Therefore, the biblical mitzvah does not apply to the meal at a bris.

And, indeed, the Shulhan Arukh (Yoreh De'ah 265:12) writes, "It is customary to make a meal on the day of the circumcision."

Therefore, if the sukkah is too small, invite fewer guests.

Ironically, and this is something I don't fully understand, the Gemara (Pesahim 113b) says that someone who does not eat at the meal of a bris is considered cut off from Heaven (menudeh la-Shamayim). So which is it, a big deal or not?

A number of years ago, I attended the bris of a friend's son on a sort-of legal holiday. It was either Dec. 24th or 26th on a Monday or Friday, when most companies had vacation but mine didn't. So the bris was a little late and I wanted to leave without eating. I asked my rabbi at the time, a huge talmid hakham, and he asked why I wanted to leave. When I said so I won't be late to work, he said that it isn't a good enough reason not to eat something. I hear -- menudeh la-Shamayim -- but don't we pasken in the case of Sukkos that it isn't really a big deal? Yesh le-halek.

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