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Leaving A Wedding Feast Early

There you are at a wedding. What a BIG mitzvah!! Anyone who gladdens the chassan is as if he built one of the destroyed parts of Yerushalayim. You wait for the Shmorg to end so that the Chuppah will begin. Then finally everybody sits down with their playbill including all of the important information – who is walking down the aisle and two tefillos - one for the coming of Moshiach and [la'havdil many, many havdalos] another one that the Chicago Cubs should finally win a World Series after over a hundred year drought.

All cellphones are turned off [except for one that goes off three times]. Everybody walks SLOOOOOOOWLY down the aisle and FINALLY the Kallah make her grand entrance. Truly a "Kallah naeh vichasudah." Then the brachos, reading of the kesubah, speech of the mesader kiddushin ["Baruch is the name of the Chassan and Bracha is the name of the Kallah. You probably don't know that because you call them Brian and Lisa. I know that because I had to prepare this speech. Both of their names mean "blessing". This will certainly be a "blessed" union. Especially if Brian listens to his in-laws and goes law school so he can graduate and start billing people for 250 dollars an hour. This will bring much blessing to the house."] and more brachos. The glass is broken [on the fourth try..], hugs and kisses are given and off to the yichud room.

The halacha says that they must be in the room for approximately 9 minutes. People are machmir and stay for about 50 minutes and since it is lonely in there, for much of the time they invite the photographer to join them and together with their families take pictures. And more pictures. They already spent 3 hours before the wedding taking pictures - but that doesn't count. At that time the couple was still single. Now they are a married couple. MAZEL TOV!!

But now it is getting late – and you have to get up tomorrow morning for work. You have already eaten 3 courses [not including the 4 helpings at the Shmorg] and are full. Finally, the excitement builds. The Chassan and Kallah are about to make their grand entrance!

Ahhhhh, fake-out breakout. Nothing doing. They still have to photograph Uncle Marty and Aunt Roza [who haven't spoken in 15 years]. Beautiful! "Aunt Roza" – says the photographer, "could you get a little closer to your brother Marty?" "No!!" she answers.

FINALLY. The band starts playing a Yiddishe Niggun with a catchy beat [such as "The Final Countdown" from the Swedish hard rock band "Europe"] and everybody runs to the door to welcome them. The lead singer cries out "Please welcome, for the very first time, Mr. and Mrs. Brian – uhhh, I mean Baruch and Bracha Steinkreizshwartzfeldberg."

The dancing begins. Leibidik!!!! A half hour later your wife says to you, "When are we going home?" You want to go home. She wants to go home. You have to get to work tomorrow. She does, too. Try paying Yeshiva tuitions on one salary!! But you have TWO halachic problems.

Number one: You are obligated to hear the sheva brachos at the end of the meal. Number two: You have to make a zimmun. Ten people that started eating together must make a zimmun. Do you have to stay until the end?

This is a common problem and is discussed by the Poskim. There is a way to avoid the two problems. Solution to Problem One: Many poskim say that one is only obligated to hear the sheva brachos if he BENTCHED with everybody else. So if one leaves earlier he is not obligated.

Problem Two: The Rema [293/3] says that if a group sat down and had in mind from the beginning that they would not make a zimmun together they are not obligated to do so. Rav Moshe Feinstein extends this [Igros Moshe O"H 1/56] to our case and says that even if an individual does not intend to make a zimmun from the very beginning he is not obligated to do so. One can make a distinction between our case and the Rema's case. The Rema was talking about a case when ALL of the people intended not to make a zimmun as opposed to our case where only an individual had such intentions. But Rav Moshe doesn't make this distinction. So that is what one should do. When making hamotzi at the beginning of the meal, he should intend to bentch alone.

If he can get three people together – even better! But one should not do it PUBLICLY in such a way that those who are making the Simcha are offended. It should be done discreetly!

One more point – if one isn't going home because he NEEDS to [either for work or to learn etc.] then it is nice to remain until the end. The longer one stays – the greater the mitzvah! Plus, you get a bonus!


[Sources: Tzitz Eliezer 11/84, Igros Moshe O"H 1/ 56, Tshuvos Vihanhagos 1/742 and 3/402 and Piskei Tshuvos 2 Page 737]

you know, I always had a problem with that .. I still did it on more than one occasion,(out of necessity) but I never knew whether there was 'al mah l'smoch'

so it's good to know that there's a proper way to handle this common problem..

in fact, this addresses another problem also, in Israel, it can happen very often that you eat lunch with other Jewish men, many of whom [unfortunately] don't know anything about the mitzwah of benching/washing/berachot, let alone making a zimmun. I always assumed that there was still a chance I was chayav if I benched alone and left the meal before them, even if they had no intention of benching at all (and didn't wash or make motzi) .. so at least in light of this psak, I know that since they didn't intend to take part in a zimmun, maybe I'm in the clear. (though they certainly didn't explicitly plan to NOT take part in a zimmun)

also, now i'll have to go and see what the sefaradi poskim say to know if I'm really in the clear.

I wonder why I never thought to check the halachah on this inyan before..

did you find anything.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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