Friday, August 03, 2007

"torah' chuppah, ma'asim tovim" - why good deeds come last?

Commenting on the last post, my wife asked:

"Now, why do maa'sim tovim come last in the wishe[s]. I know the girsa is standardized (and that some omit Torah for the girls who are rather encouraged to marry the Torah) but why would good deeds only follow chuppah?"

As usual, good question, but this time I have a good answer : ) which someone told me b'shem R' Mordechai Breur (if I recall correctly). Why do we invoke these items specifically in our bracha? The gemara (Kiddushin 29) lists the mitzvos which are incumbent upon a father to do for his child, and on the list (in order) are the mitzvos of talmud torah, marrying off his child, and teaching a child a profession. The bracha is a blessing for the parent to be zocheh to properly fulfill these obligations. Ma'asim tovim, which comes last, is simply another way of saying learning an honest trade, and does not being used here in the sense of manners or ethics. Proof of the pudding is that unlike what most people say at a bris, “k’shem shenichnas..ken tikanes”, which expresses this as a bracha for the baby, the Rambam’s (Milah 3:2) grammatical formulation is “k’shem shenichnasta…”, a bracha for the parent. And as most parents will sympathetically acknowledge, we can use all the brachos we can get when it comes to raising kids properly.


  1. I once heard that 200 years ago in Lita (where the custom was to marry off children) the following joke circulated:

    Why do we say Torah, Chupah and Maasim Tovim? Because children learn Torah when they're very little, but they;re only metzuveh in maasim tovim at bar mitzvah. [These days] Chupah comes before Bar Mitzvah!

    Which was an exaggeration, but even they recognized that 13 and 14 year olds were only boys, even if they were getting married.

  2. For me, and I suspect for others as well, the answer is because I thought I knew what Maasim Tovim meant until I saw my Eishes Chayil in action...

    1. Good for you! May you always see your wife's maasim tovim and she see yours as well. Hatzlacha.

  3. The sequence f events from a child coming to Torah (bar mitzvah) and then to Torah is easy to understand. But
    Surely masim Tovim can be performed at any age!

    What particular maasim Tovim cannot be achieved until after Marriage?

    The greatest act a person can do in is to bring children into the world.

    So when we wish for a baby to be brough up to Torah chuppah and maasim Tovim we are expressing a desire that this child will bring the cycle around again by growing up to produce Jewish children, learned in Torah.

  4. Anonymous9:36 PM

    There is another reason. In Torah the first commandment given to the first couple is "Be fruitful, and multiply...."

    So first one learns Torah/what is commanded.

    Then one fulfills the commandments, symbolized by the first commandment given to humans, by taking a spouse and all that that entails.

    Then one considers the good deeds that are not specifically commanded and sets about doing those.

    If you wanted a good translation into English "May he/she know Torah, do Torah and go beyond Torah." (beyond in a righteous sense, that is)