Question: May the Sheva Brachos be recited through a microphone?
Short Answer: Many poskim rule that Sheva Brachos should not be recited through a microphone. However, there is a minority of poskim who allow it, and many people appear to follow this view.
I. The Need for Ten
The Gemara in K’subos (7b) states that the birchos chasanim (i.e., the Sheva Brachos) need a quorum of ten men. This rule is codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 62:4).
[As an aside, see sefer Birkas Chasanim (siman 5) who suggests that the reason why ten men are necessary is a dispute between the Mishnah B’rurah and the Brisker Rav. According to the Mishnah B’rurah, ten men are needed to publicize Hashem’s name and greatness, while according to the Brisker Rav, ten men are needed because it is a davar she’bik’dushah].
II. No Microphone
The sefer Keitzad M’zamnin (cited in Birkas Chasanim, siman 6) posits whether a microphone suffices for the Sheva B’rachos because ten men do not hear the voice of the reciter but rather an electric sound. If ten men do not hear the b’rachos, it is a b’rachah l’vatalah and the chasan and kallah will live together without proper Sheva B’rachos, which is highly improper.
The sefer Keitzad M’zamnin asked numerous poskim this question and received the following answers, cited as well in the sefer Birkas Chasanim (ibid):
A] Rav Moshe Sternbuch – b’rachah l’vatalah, even if ten men hear the actual voice of the reciter, because it is mixed with the electric sound of the microphone.
B] Rav Yehoshua Neuwirth (author of Sh’miras Shabbos K’Hilchasah) – cites Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach that it is a b’rachah l’vatalah.
C] Rav Sarya Deblitzky – b’rachah l’vatalah, and thus rules that one may not even make his b’rachah (one out of the seven) without a microphone, because a freestanding b’rachah out of the seven is meaningless (other than the b’rachah of Asher Bara).
D] Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fisher, Rav C. P. Scheinberg, and Rav Betzalel Rakow – b’rachah l’vatalah.
Additionally, Rav Anthony Manning, found on https://www.ou.org/torah/files/r-manning-electricity-3.pdf, cites Rav Hershel Schachter as being strict on this issue and not allowing a microphone.
III. Yes Microphone
However, the sefer Keitzad M’zamnin (ibid) notes that the Sheivet HaLevi responded that it is a nice ideal to not use a microphone for the Sheva B’rachos, but it is certainly permissible to use one. Indeed, he notes that, just as by k’rias haTorah the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 139) paskens that if the person getting the aliyah whispers the b’rachah and nobody hears, he does not repeat the b’rachah, so too over here, the b’rachah is not l’vatalah even if nobody hears it.
IV. Standing Close By
Y’dei Kohen (12:21) cites Rav Elyashiv that as long as ten men hear the actual voice of the reciter, then it is not a b’rachah l’vatalah even if they also hear the electric sound of the microphone.
The Meir Oz (Orach Chayim 55:1) brings a proof to this opinion from the Mishnah B’rurah (Orach Chayim 124:41) that a chazan only needs to have ten people hear him recite Modim during the repetition, even if the tzibbur does not hear him and those ten men also hear the tzibur reciting Modim D’Rabanan at the same time.
V. Rav Moshe Feinstein
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l Orach Chayim 2:108) has a famous t’shuvah where he suggested that perhaps the Megillah can be read via a microphone. While Rav Moshe ultimately rules that this is a chidush and should not be done, some Acharonim apply this leniency to Sheva B’rachos. See Y’dei Kohen (ibid); Shaarei Nisuin (shaar 2).
New Series Next Week: Kibud Av VaEim (Honoring Parents). TOPIC: Should one recite a b’rachah on the mitzvah of kibud av va’eim? If no, why not?