Our daf teaches us that when a man marries a maiden, it is a mitzvah for him to rejoice with her for seven days. During this week of rejoicing, the newlyweds are not allowed to work and festive meals are prepared in their honor.
In the beginning of tractate Kallah we are taught that it is an absolute requirement that a bride be blessed, at least at the nissu’in (chuppah), where seven blessings are recited. These blessings are referred to as Birkat Chassanim or Sheva Berachos.
Further on (7b), the Gemara teaches us that Sheva Berachos should be recited during the entire week of rejoicing as long as there are panim chadashos – new guests – present at each meal.
A New Guest
The Rambam (Hilchos Berachos 2:10) explains that people who did not hear the recital of Sheva Berachos at the chuppah qualify as panim chadashos (even if they participated in the wedding feast).
The Rosh (Kesubbos, siman 13), however, maintains that panim chadashos refers to new guests who have not participated in the wedding feast or in any of the previous Sheva Berachos meals (regardless of whether they listened to the recital of Sheva Berachos at the chuppah). Moreover, the Rosh explains that panim chadashos refers to meaningful guests who add joy to the meal. (Alternatively, some say the guests must be significant enough for the host to prepare extra food on their behalf.) Strangers, therefore, do not qualify as panim chadashos.
Several commentators (Aruch HaShulchan, Even HaEzer 62:24-26; Kehillos Yaakov, Kesubos 76, ad loc.) explain that the Rambam and Rosh fundamentally disagree regarding why the presence of panim chadashos necessitates the recital of Sheva Berachos.
Joy Or Mitzvah?
The Rosh maintains that their presence enhance the joy of the chassan and kallah (and that’s why they must be meaningful to the crowd). The Rambam, on the other hand, believes that any person who has not fulfilled the mitzvah of reciting (or listening to) Sheva Berachos in honor of the chassan must do so when feasible. That’s why Sheva Berachos are said when panim chadashos are present and that’s why it makes no difference whether the news guests add joy to the meal.
The Sabbath And Panim Chadashos
Tosafos (s.v. ve’hu), the Rosh, and many other Rishonim maintain that Sheva Berachos are recited on Shabbos even if there are no new guests present – because Shabbos itself is considered a new guest. The Rambam, however, doesn’t mention this rule. Presumably this is because his rationale for panim chadashos requiring the recital of Sheva Berachos applies equally on Shabbos and weekdays. The Rosh’s rationale, however, has to do with enhancing the simcha of the assembled. And if this is the reason, then Shabbos itself provides the enhanced joy.
The Mechaber (Even HaEzer 62:8) cites the view – which has become our present custom – that we should recite Sheva Berachos after the evening and afternoon Shabbos meals regardless of whether new guests are present. We should only do so at seudah shelishis, however, if there are new guests present.
The Rema differs and rules that even for the third Shabbos meal there is no need for new guests. One of the reasons he offers is that derashos are usually delivered at seudah shelishis and these constitute panim chadashos.