In honor of my parents' anniversary in January, I posted 13 Things About Jewish Weddings.
In honor of my cousin's wedding, which I'm attending tonight, I thought I'd post a little about the Sheva Brachot, the Seven Blessings that are a major feature of the Jewish wedding.
1. The Sheva Brachot, or Seven Blessings, are really considered the heart of the wedding ceremony. Asking for abundant blessings for the bride and groom, the blessings are usually sung beautifully and can provide an opportunity for involving friends and loved ones as readers in the ceremony. They are also repeated during the Grace after Meals at the wedding meal and traditionally at seven dinners for seven nights after the wedding. (The couple is usually hosted by friends and relatives each night, the dinners are known as sheva brachot.)
2. The first blessing is: Blessed are You, our God, Ruler of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine. It is said over a cup of wine, which is not drunk until all 7 blessings have been said.
3. "Wine gladdens the heart," the Psalms tell us. So many Jewish occasion are sanctified by a cup of wine.
4. The second blessing is: Blessed are You, our God, Ruler of the universe, Who has created everything for your glory.
5. Marriage is considered to have a higher goal, a higher purpose, for the glory of God. While some people would say that this higher purpose is the creation of children (and that is certainly a high purpose), I would say it is not the only higher purpose of marriage. I do believe that two people coming together to create a holy union of love is in itself for the glory of God.
6. The third blessing: Blessed are You, our God, Ruler of the universe, Creator of Human Beings. The traditional translation (oh, and the Hebrew itself) says "Creator of man." I tend to believe that God created man AND woman.
7. God's creation of humankind enabled God to fully embrace and experience human love, which is truly a unique thing. As I said before, that love is indeed enough.
8. The fourth blessing: Blessed are You, our God, Ruler of the universe, Who has fashioned human beings in your image, according to your likeness and has fashioned from it a lasting mold. Blessed are You Adonai, Creator of Human Beings. Humans again? Yep. Marriage (and its subsequent physical consummation) are perhaps one of our most powerful reminders of our humanity. Where there is love, there is hope.
9. The fifth blessing: Bring intense joy and exultation to the barren one (Jerusalem) through the ingathering of her children amidst her in gladness. Blessed are You, our God, Who gladdens Zion through her children. Jerusalem is always at the forefront of our times of celebration.
10. The psalms tell us to bring Jerusalem to our mind at our times of greatest joy. By ritualizing it, we make certain not to forget.
11. The sixth blessing: Gladden the beloved companions as You gladdened Your creatures in the garden of Eden. Blessed are You, our God, Who gladdens groom and bride. Does it get any better than this? As we come to the joyous culmination of the seven blessings, we are reminded of Paradise, of the Garden of Eden. Every marriage evokes a reminder of the first love on earth.
12. My favorite, and the seventh blessing: Blessed are You, our God, Ruler of the universe, Who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth, glad song, pleasure, delight, love, brotherhood, peace, and companionship. Dear God, let there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the grooms' jubilance from their canopies and of the youths from their song-filled feasts. Blessed are You Who causes the groom to rejoice with his bride.
As if seven (see #13) wasn't a powerful enough number, this blessing also brings in the number 10. There are 10 adjectives used to describe the happiness that will (hopefully) exist in the household of this couple: joy, gladness, mirth, gladsong, pleasure, delight, love, brotherhood, peace, and companionship. (Were you counting?) Ten reminds us of the 10 commandments, the building blocks of the Torah, and a number considered to be "complete," just like a married couple. (There's actually even more symbolism in this blessing but too much to go into today!)
13. Seven is considered to be a very special number. It is the number of the day of Shabbat, and thus considered to be the number of peace. (And someone once told me that it was Mickey Mantle's number, so that explains it all too...right?) Seven is considered to be a lucky number in other cultures too, so it's very fitting and lucky for the bride and groom to be blessed seven times.
Translations from Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer at MyJewishLearning.com
See more Thursday Thirteen here.
And a hearty Mazel Tov to the bride and groom, Deena Malka and Yaakov!