Question: May someone who watches a wedding on Zoom or livestream count as the “panim chadashos” for an in-person sheva brachos later in the week?
Short Answer: Certainly where one is not sent a meal by the chasan and kallah, but he watches the wedding on Zoom or via livestream, he may still serve as panim chadashos at a sheva b’rachos later in the week. This was the recent ruling of Rav Hershel Schachter shlita. This author is unclear whether the same ruling of Rav Schachter applies where the person is sent food to his house by the chasan and kallah.
I. Panim Chadashos
The Gemara (K’subos 7b) says that you recite the “birchos chasanim” (the seven brachos recited after bentching) for seven days after a wedding (what we colloquially call the “Sheva Brachos”), as long as there are “panim chadashos” (lit. “new faces”) at the sheva brachos.
There is a fundamental disagreement between Tosafos and the Rambam as to the reason for requiring panim chadashos. Tosafos (ibid) states that these panim chadashos must be people who add happiness to the chasan and kallah. Presumably, Tosafos understands that the reason for panim chadashos is to increase the happiness of the new couple. Indeed, this is why, according to Tosafos, there is no need for panim chadashos on Shabbos, because the very essence of Shabbos, including the food, enhances the happiness of the couple, regardless of any new faces.
The Rambam (Hilchos Brachos 2:10), on the other hand, does not mention anything about the panim chadashos increasing the happiness of the couple. Instead, the Rambam writes that we recite the birchos chasanim during sheva brachos week if there are individuals who did not hear the birchos chasanim at the wedding. We recite the birchos chasanim at the sheva brachos so that they, too, can have the opportunity to hear the birchos chasanim.
The Aruch HaShulchan (Even HaEzer 62:24) explains the Rambam that the purpose of the birchos chasanim is to bless the young couple. By reciting “Amein” to the birchos chasanim, anyone can partake in this special blessing. Thus, we recite the birchos chasanim at the sheva brachos to give new faces the opportunity to bless (or at least answer “Amein” to the blessing for) the chasan and kallah.
II. Ramifications Between the Opinions
Rav Nissan Shlomo Kaplan (sefer Birkas Chasanim, siman 15) suggests numerous ramifications in halachah between Tosafos and the Rambam:
First, whether the panim chadashos must be people who make the couple happy. According to Tosafos, this is certainly a requirement, as opposed to the Rambam, who says that anyone who did not attend the wedding constitutes panim chadashos.
- Second, whether you need panim chadashos on Shabbos. According to Tosafos (as mentioned above), no panim chadashos are necessary on Shabbos, while according to the Rambam, you must have panim chadashos even on Shabbos. The sefer Birkas Chasanim mentions that the Brisker Rav was makpid to have panim chadashos on Shabbos.
- Third, the Steipler suggests the ramification whether a child (or woman) may serve as panim chadashos. According to Tosafos, as long as the child or woman makes the couple happy, they may serve as panim chadashos. However, according to the Rambam, a child or woman would be insufficient, as they are not obligated in blessing the chasan and kallah. Notably, the Nit’ei Gavriel (Nisuin 87:4:9) disagrees, as the Ritva understands the reason of happiness and nevertheless rules that a child cannot serve as panim chadashos.
- Fourth, whether the panim chadashos need to stay for the entire sheva brachos, or whether it is sufficient for them to make a showing at the beginning of the sheva brachos. According to Tosafos, the panim chadashos simply need to make an appearance (although it is certainly preferable for them to stay the entire time). Indeed, this was the ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein. However, according to the Rambam, it is imperative that the panim chadashos remain for the recitation of the actual birchos chasanim at the end of the meal.
- Fifth, whether panim chadashos must be two, as opposed to one, individual. The son of the Rambam writes that his father was careful to have two people serve as panim chadashos. Perhaps according to Tosafos, only one person is necessary to bring happiness to the couple.
- Sixth, whether individuals who serve as panim chadashos on one day of sheva brachos may serve as panim chadashos a few days later. According to Tosafos, possibly yes, as they add happiness because they didn’t attend the previous day’s sheva brachos. According to the Rambam, however, they would not be able to serve as panim chadashos a second time, as they already blessed the chasan and kallah.
III. Only Attending the Chupah
What about where a person only attends the chupah and the sheva brachos under the chupah, but does not stay for the wedding meal? May this person still serve as the panim chadashos at a sheva brachos during the week?
The Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 62:7) cites two opinions. The first opinion, that of the Rambam (see Beis Shmuel 8), states that they may no longer serve as panim chadashos. The second opinion, that of the Rosh (see Chelkas M’chokeik 10), states that they may still serve as panim chadashos. While the Maharshal paskens like the Rambam (see Beis Shmuel ibid), the Shulchan Aruch himself concludes that the minhag is to follow the Rosh and allow them to serve as panim chadashos.
The Birkas Chasanim (ibid) explains that this is also a ramification of the earlier machlokes between the Rambam and Tosafos. According to the Rambam, of course one who already heard the birchos chasanim under the chupah cannot serve as panim chadashos, as he already blessed the couple. According to Tosafos, though, since they did not participate in the meal, their presence at the later sheva brachos during the week brings the couple happiness, and thus they may serve as panim chadashos as the Rosh rules.
IV. The Zoom Wedding
Putting it all together, what happens when the person watches the wedding, including the birchos chasanim under the chupah, but does not partake in the wedding meal? May he serve as panim chadashos at a later sheva brachos during the week? Presumably, according to Tosafos, since he did not partake in the wedding meal, he may serve as panim chadashos later in the week. According to Rambam, it is a tougher call. On one hand, the person heard the birchos chasanim under the chupah, but on the other hand, he was not “yotzei” with such a blessing, as it was over Zoom or a livestream. Thus, according to this author, the person would still be able to serve as panim chadashos.
Another tricky question is whether a person may serve as panim chadashos where he watched the chupah on Zoom and received a meal in his home from the chasan and kallah to eat “together” (at the same time) as the actual wedding meal. The sefer Y’dei Kohen (Sheva Brachos 7:3) says that the key factor is whether the person ate from the wedding meal (regardless of whether he actually witnessed the birchos chasanim). Accordingly, it is possible that such a person (according to Tosafos at the very least) would no longer be able to serve as panim chadashos.
V. Ruling of Rav Hershel Schachter shlita
A local rabbi recently asked Rav Hershel Schachter whether a person who “attends a wedding over Zoom, but then attends the sheva brachos in person,” may serve as panim chadashos.
Rav Schachter responded that the person would still be considered a panim chadashos.
This author assumes that the person was not sent a meal by the chasan and kallah in this case.
Next Week’s Topic: Many shuls will be having additional minyanim for the Yamim Nora’im this year to enable social distancing. May the chazan of an earlier minyan daven at the amud a second time at a later minyan?