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I have learned, and seen in practice, that we don't invite people to a b'rit milah directly but rather just announce a date and place. The reason, according to this answer citing Rema Yoreh Deah 265:12, is that it would be bad to decline an invitation but if you weren't invited, you can choose to not attend.

I understand that b'rit milah is an important mitzvah and worthy of celebration, but why, more specifically, is it bad to decline an invitation to one? We don't seem to have this problem with other s'machot, like weddings. (Or, at least, I couldn't find any "not really an invitation" wordings for weddings via Google.)

  • A question here, linked from the answer I linked to, asks why we do this and whether it applies to other s'machot; the answer there does not address the latter. – Monica Cellio May 15 '15 at 1:28
  • +1. This is a great question. You'd think the same reasoning would apply to a wedding feast, for example. This is based on P'sachim 113b, which mentions an opinion that people who avoid participating in a gathering for a mitzva feast are considered excommunicated by Heaven. Based on P'sachim 49a, Rashi (113b) and Tosafos (114a) give examples of such a mitzva feast: for a circumcision and for a wedding between a kohen and the daughter of a kohen (the latter e.g. was really only given to contrast with a case where the daughter of a kohen marries an 'am ha'aretz of the basest order). – Fred May 15 '15 at 2:47
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    Actually, the Rama doesn't directly mention the idea to avoid inviting people, but the Pischei T'shuva (YD 265:18) cites the מקום שמואל (number 80) in the name of the Sharvit HaZahav as the source for this custom. The Rama just mentions that someone who avoids attending a circumcision feast is considered as if he is excommunicated by Heaven. – Fred May 15 '15 at 3:22
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    My wedding "invitation" was careful to avoid language of inviting. – Y     e     z May 15 '15 at 3:44
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    Another reason springs to mind. At weddings the gemoro says there are arguments. Maybe you would join in. – cham May 15 '15 at 12:15
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+50

The Gemara in Pesachim 113b (according to the girsa of Tosfos) states:

שבעה מנודין לשמים אלו הן יהודי שאין לו אשה ושיש לו אשה ואין לו בנים ומי שיש לו בנים ואין מגדלן לתלמוד תורה ומי שאין לו תפילין בראשו ותפילין בזרועו וציצית בבגדו ומזוזה בפתחו והמונע מנעלים מרגליו ויש אומרים אף מי שאין מיסב בסעודת (בגמ׳: בחבורה) מצוה

Tosfos Pesachim 113b:

ואין מיסב בסעודת מצוה - היינו סעודת מילה, דאמר במדרש דניצול מדינה של גיהנם וסעודת נישואין בת"ח ובת כהן לכהן

According to Tosfos, this prohibition would include a wedding (or at least, a wedding which constitutes seudas mitzvah).

The Rema rules that one who does not partake of a Seudas Bris Mila is menudah lashamayim - he doesn't extend this to other seudos mitzva. (See Pischei Teshuva 265.18 who brings the minhag not to extend invitations in order to avoid this outcome)

There are three possible distinctions between seudas bris and other seudos mitzva:

  1. R' Moshe Feinstien (Igros Moshe OCH V2 §96) explains that the Rema understands the curse to be for the zilzul mitzva of not attending the seuda. This applies by seudas bris, which is lkovod mitzva. However, not attending or partaking of a wedding feast is not a zilzul mitzvah, (because seudas nessuin is lkovod hachosson vkallah, not lkovod mitzva) and therefore is not included in the curse.

  2. Alternatively, one could suggest the importance of a seudas bris milah over other seudos mitzva based on the Shaarei Teshuva (551.15) who cites the Ohr Neelam that it is doiraysa, whereas other seudos mitzvah are only drabbanan. [The source for seudas milah being doiraysa is Pirkei D"r Elazar Ch. 29, and Avudraham (quoted in Beis Yosef YD 265); others quote Nidda 31.] (- It is worthy to note that the Vilna Gaon held exactly the opposite - that Bris Milah is d'rabbanan and Nissuin is d'oiraysa)

  3. The Chasam Sofer (Shu"t OCH §159) writes that seudas bris milah is not just a seudas mitzva, but it is a seudas yom tov - the day becomes a festival, and the feast is the seudas hayom (he explains accordingly the Rema's psak allowing one who makes a bris to shave during the sefira).


[See this link (posted by @DoubleAA), which provides a variety of circumstantial reasons why it would not apply to a wedding: 1) Weddings last for considerably longer, and therefore one is not obligated to attend; 2) People generally invite many more people to a wedding, and therefore your attendance is not as important (there are other reasons there, but they will not answer the Rema)]

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    +1 Also the seudas mitzvah by nisuin is specifically in the cases noted, which is not the majority of the time. That's why people don't usually avoid the inviting term. Of course this would mean that in a scenario where is is a real seudas mitzvah, it should in fact be avoided. According to Tosafos at least. – user6591 Jul 7 at 22:42
  • @User6591 - True, but I didn't include that in the answer because the question was specifically about the Rema, not common practice. The Rema would have to include that too... – chortkov2 Jul 8 at 6:21
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I thought the avoidance of a formal invitation was related to Eliyahu haNavi's presence at the bris. It would be a perceived slight to his honor if one was formally invited to the bris/seudah and did not attend. I'm looking for a source.

  • It's not true... The Rema is coming from the Gemara, which discusses seudas mitzva. – chortkov2 Jul 7 at 15:45
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Rav Jachter notes the particular significance comes from

Tosafot (Pesachim 114a s.v. Ve’ein) explains that the Midrash states that one who eats at a Seudat Brit Milah is spared from Gehenom.... We might suggest another reason for the seriousness of this matter. We mentioned that Chazal compare a Brit to a Korban. Accordingly, we may compare eating at a Seudat Brit Milah to eating a Korban. Sharing a meal is a bonding experience. When we eat a Korban we celebrate our relationship with Hashem (see Rav Joshua Berman's "The Temple," which develops this point at length). Similarly, when we participate in a Seudat Brit Milah we celebrate the covenant between Hashem and the Jewish People.

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    Although I'm not sure why the first reason Rav Jachter offers would explain bris milah specifically, as Tosafos there quotes the Midrash which says the gehenom saving applies to the chasana seuda of a Talmid Chacham as well as the chasana seuda for the daughter of a Kohen to a Kohen. – NJM Mar 13 '17 at 3:57
  • Does he then argue that because a seudat b'rit milah is a celebration of our covenant with God, one can't decline an invitation to one? Would a Shavuot meal have the same consideration? – Monica Cellio May 12 '17 at 14:36

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