"A Man has Joy in the Answer of his Mouth; and a Word in Due
Season, how good is it!" (Mishlei 15:23). Perhaps now
when there are no weddings is a good time to reflect on the
speeches we make at such simchas.
Chazal say that whoever reads one posuk at the
appropriate time brings Torah to the world, and they cite
the above posuk from Mishlei in support of
this: "a word in due season, how good it is!" Rabbeinu Yonah
in the fifth perek of Brochos connects the
first and second parts of the posuk:
"When a person likes certain statements, he enjoys
mentioning them, and because he finds them agreeable, he
does not wait for a suitable occasion to use them, sometimes
even citing them at inappropriate occasions, so that the
effect of their special quality is lost. This is a mistake.
We should rather find an appropriate opportunity to quote a
statement, because when a thought is expressed in the
correct context, it is a good thing, since people can then
understand and appreciate its appeal. Similarly, although it
is beneficial for anyone to read out any posuk at any
time, it is better when each posuk is read out at the
right time, this being useful for those who are listening,
because since it is an appropriate opportunity, the reader
is thereby benefiting the world."
It occurred to me that these words of Rabbeinu Yonah, which
were pointed out to me, apply with especial force to
speakers during sheva brochos, and I felt that I
should put some of my thoughts, which I have been having for
a while on this topic, to paper.
Rav Ashi says, "The reward of attending a wedding lies in
the words" (Brochos<D> 6b). Rashi explains that the
main wages of attending a wedding are to make the
chosson and kallah happy by making a speech.
Rav Tovolsky in Olom Chesed Yiboneh cites the
following: "Therefore, whoever wants to be a chossid
and behave in the manner of earlier generations, let him act
kindly towards chassonim for the sake of heaven. Let
him honor and praise them and he will be fully rewarded by
Hakodosh Boruch Hu. Let him use every possible method
to bring joy to the chosson, and to praise the
kallah in front of him. If he delights them for the
sake of heaven without expecting anything in return, the
mitzvah of being mesamei'ach chosson vekalloh is
preferable to other kindnesses" (Shlo p.144, Mate
Moshe 109, 2).
This forms the background for our tradition of saying
divrei Torah on every Sheva Brochos night.
Speakers from both the chosson's and the
kallah's side are asked to address words of
blessings, praise and mussar to the chosson
and kallah and their families.
We have to ensure that our speeches will please all the
participants: the chosson and kallah, the
mechutonim and the guests. To do this properly can be
quite a challenge. We do not intend in this article to
criticize chas vesholom the contents of
droshos made during sheva brochos. Our purpose
is only to offer several suggestions to help keep the focus
on bringing joy to the chosson and kallah.
It is a general principle applying to all mitzvos that we
have to appreciate the central purpose of the mitzvah. Let
us take as an example the mitzvah of visiting the sick, as
explained by Rav Nochum Partzovich zt'l, the Mirrer
It is related that Rav Nochum once saw a bochur
looking after a sick person in an inappropriate manner, and
he told him, "so-and-so looks after this sick person much
better, because he has the sick person in mind, whereas you
have the mitzvah in mind" -- "Di mitzvah fun bikur cholim
mus men derfillen ohn dem `lesheim yichud'" -- the
mitzvah of visiting the sick requires an inner feeling of
what to do, without an introductory lesheim
A certain young man added his own commentary to this
incident using the terminology of lomdus: "Der
bochur darf gedenken as der choleh is nit kein cheftza fun a
mitzvah" -- the bochur has to remember that the
sick person is not the "object" of a mitzvah. The emphasis
when visiting the sick is on the sick person, and not on
performing the mitzvah.
Once, when we were together at a Sheva Brochos, I
said to my grandson: "Why, in your speech, did you make so
many chiddushim and cite so many sources, and only
then bless the chosson and kallah? It seems
that, as far as you are concerned, the dvar Torah is
the main thing, and not the praise and brochos for
the young couple. What is the point of such a drosho
at a sheva brochos?"
My grandson answered me as follows: "Zeidi, maybe you don't
understand what it's all about. We do have to say divrei
Torah, even profound ones, during sheva brochos.
After all, the two families don't know each other so well
yet. All the speakers have to say profound divrei
Torah to make an impression on the mechutonim and
the families on both sides, to let everybody know that the
chosson and kallah come from families of
My response to this was simple: "Today we are sitting at a
sheva brochos, several days after the wedding. Both
sides know that the other family has bnei Torah in
it. Already before the vort each family checked out
the other's background. What need, then, is there for such
long, "pilpulistic" speeches in order to make an
How do we ensure that we do not get sidetracked form the
main purpose of the sheva brochos speech of being
mesamei'ach chosson vekalloh? We shall give a few
practical examples of short and pertinent speeches which
fulfill this aim. Let us begin with a drosho in which
the main stress is on praising a certain quality of the
I once heard someone at a sheva brochos making a
speech about the kallah, his sister. He started off
like this, "My sister and I grew up together in the same
house. We played together, fought with each other, shouted
at each other, told each other off, and so on. Still, I was
always amazed about one central feature of her personality:
her speech and behavior were always full of happiness. Her
consistent smile would always serve to improve everybody's
These were his introductory comments. He then went on to
elaborate on this topic, by citing sources from Chazal about
the importance of being in a state of happiness. For
example, he quoted the Pele Yoetz (in the entry on
simcha) who says: "A person is rewarded for being
happy in this world, the greatest reward being the
attainment of perfect wisdom, for the Ari z'l
revealed that his attainment of high levels of wisdom and
ruach hakodesh was all due to his having been imbued
with happiness when learning Torah or performing any
He proceeded to bring more material on the topic of
simcha, and concluded by blessing the chosson
and kallah that their lives should be filled with
happiness and good things. We may be sure that not only the
chosson and kallah, but everybody else too,
enjoyed this speech.
Here is another example: "We have already heard several
family members praising the kallah for her middas
hachesed. Listening to them, I started to wonder exactly
what they meant. Does she perform one specific act of
chesed or many different ones? Does she do acts of
chesed immediately after being asked to, or does she
volunteer to do them even before being asked. I was curious
to know exactly what they meant when describing the
kallah as a great ba'alas chesed.
"After looking into the matter, I began to understand that
there are several levels of people who do acts of kindness,
and our kallah excels in each level.
"1. Some people never miss the chance of doing
chesed. Our kallah always uses every
opportunity, to do both major and minor acts of kindness.
For her, helping someone else is a type of kindness. We
learn this point from the following story:
"Rav Yitzchok Eizek Sher zt"l, the Slobodke rosh
yeshiva, once noticed a student carrying something hidden in
his hands up the stairs to the dormitory of the yeshiva. The
Rosh Yeshiva realized that he was taking a breakfast tray to
his friend who was sick in bed. The Rosh Yeshiva told the
talmid, `It looks like you are taking some food to a
sick bochur. Why are you hiding the tray? Why are you
embarrassed of what you are doing? There is no problem in
carrying such a thing in public, `Du trogst doch a lulav
und esrog in hant' (you must realize that you are
carrying a lulav and esrog in your hand). All
these are of equal importance when doing a mitzvah.
"2. Most people will do acts of chesed if they are
asked to. Our kallah identifies the need for
chesed even before she is told about it. She is
following in the footsteps of Mordechai Hayehudi who "sought
the good of his people" (Esther 10:3), on which the
Ibn Ezra comments, `It would be enough for him to do good
for his people when being asked to, but he goes out of his
way to seek to do good.'
"3. Generally speaking, people feel a sense of satisfaction
after doing acts of kindness, but with our kallah,
the emphasis is on the performance of a mitzvah, and not on
selfish considerations of this nature."
Then he went on to analyze the difference between someone
who is ose chesed as opposed to gomel chesed.
The first type still feels a sense of self, a sense that he
is doing the other person a favor, and that he is at the
receiving end of his kindness. The second type of person is
superior to the first, because he is gomel (paying
back). He considers the beneficiary of his kindness to be
entitled to it, and takes no credit and received no benefit
for his actions, nullifying himself totally before him.
After this drush, it was superfluous to add anything.
The speech was a source of joy to the chosson and
kallah and all those present alike.
Sometimes it is possible to start off with a short idea
which provides the chosson and kallah with an
important message. The idea may be a well-known Chazal.
For example, "grapes of a vine with grapes of a vine is a
pleasant and acceptable thing" (Pesochim 49b). HaRav
Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l asks why Chazal mention
the vine as opposed to other fruit such as dates and
pomegranates. He answers that the vine is the only tree
whose fruit goes up a level in brochos from borei
pri ho'eitz to pri hagofen, because of its
importance. The juice of other fruit and vegetables goes
down a level to shehakol.
I asked some family members which message of relevance to
the chosson and kallah could be derived from
this interesting idea. Everybody suggested the concept that
the young couple was obliged to improve their standard of
limud Torah and avodas Hashem.
I told them that both the chosson and the
kallah are already on a high level of Torah and
yiras Shomayim, and that there must be another lesson
we can learn from this important idea.
After thinking about it, I told them that was certainly not
the only explanation. Until a person gets married, he obeys
his parents sometimes totally, and sometimes not
sufficiently. Sometimes a child tells his mother, "Thank you
for all this food, it's delicious," and sometimes he says
nothing. After marriage, however, the husband and wife have
to raise themselves to a new level in the mitzvos applying
to interpersonal relationships. Each of them has to listen
totally to their spouse, and the husband has to thank his
wife for her delicious meals and so on. This idea, which we
derive from invei hagefen be'invey hagefen is a
central aspect of the husband-wife relationship.
Let us bring one more example of a question regarding the
mitzvah of simchas chosson vekalloh. The answer to
the question sheds light on the essence of the mitzvah
Without a doubt, the day of the wedding and the seven days
of sheva brochos are like yomim tovim for the
newly married couple, and so these days are characterized by
joy at the highest level. Their union is a blessing from
heaven and every moment is filled with joy and happiness.
Rav Elya Lopian zt"l asked why Chazal taught that it
was such an important obligation to be mesamei'ach
chosson vekalloh, when they are anyway full of
happiness? In what way can anyone add to their natural state
He answered that there might be a touch of worry
intermingled with their happiness. They might be wondering
how it is possible that Hakodosh Boruch Hu in His
wisdom puts two people together from families so far removed
from each other? How does it all work? The chosson
and kallah know that they have to build a bayis
ne'eman beYisroel, but they have no experience of any
similar undertaking, and they may have all sorts of doubts
about this and related matters. That is why, despite their
great joy, the family, friends and guests are obliged to be
The chosson and kallah are really on the same
level as the Jewish people who, in their generosity, took it
upon themselves to build the Mishkan and its
keilim in the wilderness. They had just left Egypt as
slaves, and without any instruction or experience as
artists, they managed with Hashem's providence, to build the
mishkan and all its keilim (see Ramban,
Sometimes there is no time for a complete drosho, but
only for a short brocho. There was a certain
Yerushalmi Yid who, not wanting to burden those
participating in the Sheva Brochos, would give a
short, succinct "speech" as follows:
"Ir solt sein gut -- You should be good"
"Ir solr nor toen gut -- You should only do good"
"Un eich sol sein gut -- And you should only
(Readers wishing to add their thoughts on the topic of this
article may contact the author at Rechov Bait Vegan 35,