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 Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part IV: Nesuin
A Conservative Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

 • Nesuin: The Marriage Ceremony
 • Why do we recite the Seven Blessings?
 • The Sheva Brachot - The Seven Blessings
 • Who Recites the Blesings?

Nesuin - The Marriage Ceremony
Nesuin is the formal marriage ceremony. The ceremony’s name is derived from “nasoh,” to accompany, and referred to the bride as she was escorted to the groom’s home. Couples enter Nesuin as sons and daughters and emerge from it as a new family unto themselves. Status switching lends itself to the other meaning of Nesuin, which is to “take” or “lift.”

Nesuin begins with another blessing over the wine, followed by the recital of the marital blessings – sheva berachot, and ends with the crushing of a glass. Once Sheva Brachot are said, the couple is permitted to be physically intimate with each other. Though they may want to attend the reception first.

Nowhere does the Jewish admiration of marriage come through as strongly as it does in the Sheva Brachot (seven marital blessings) in the Nesuin ceremony.

Why are Seven Blessings Said?
Nowhere does the Jewish admiration of marriage come through as strongly as it does in the sheva berachot (seven marital blessings) in the nesuin ceremony. Up until the time of the Talmud, the rabbis debated whether the five, six or seven blessings should be said. Seven won out.

Each marriage is seen as the beginning of a new world. The children who will be born figure into this thought, but each couple renews the world as they bring the radiant light of committed loving to the world. Five of the seven marital blessings, sheva berachot, speak of creation.

The creation theme further underscores Judaism’s view of marriage as the natural state of adults and recalls the role marriage plays in continuing the process of creation.

Another reference to the new world created by the newlyweds is the seven blessings which recall the Torah’s seven days of creation. Seven is a particular significant number in Judaism. Shabbat is on the seventh day. Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, is in the seventh Biblical month. There is a biblical command to let the land lay unplanted every seventh year.

The Sheva Brachot are as follows:

1. Kiddush – blessing over the wine. Jewish milestones are consecrated with wine.

2. Blessing God for creating all things.
God’s created the potential, marriage brings creation to wholeness.

3. Blessing God for creating humankind

4. Blessing God for fashioning people in the divine image. God is blessed for creating a means to perpetuate the ultimate creation – humankind - through the institution of marriage.

5. Praying for the joy that will result when the world achieves its ultimate repair and “Zion is united with her children.”

6. Wishing the couple the same joy and peace that Adam and Eve found in each other while in the paradise of Eden.

The couple is termed “reim ahuvim,” which is often translated as “dearly beloved,” but literally means “loving friends.”

7. Praying that the couple’s love will bring happiness to the world.
God is blessed for creating “happiness and joy, bridegroom and bride, rejoicing and song, delight and cheer, love and harmony, peace and fellowship.”

Note only the last two blessings mention the bride and groom. Throughout the rest of the blessings the perfection of the first moments of creation stand as symbols for the happiness a couple can achieve. With unity and love, the couple can live in the harmony of Eden, the serene perfection of the end of days.

Immediately after the last blessing is recited, the couple sips from the wine cup.  Reciting two blessings over the very same cup would be using God’s name in vain. So a second or refilled cup is used.

Depending on the rabbi, the ceremony may end with a wedding sermon or with “and by the power vested in me by the state of…” Other rabbis and cantors bless the couple with a traditional blessing once said by the kohen priests: “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May God’s countenance turn to you grant you peace.” (Numbers 6:23-24)

Who Says the Blessings
A groom cannot say his own wedding blessings, but the divvying up of the Sheva Brachot honors is otherwise quite flexible. One person can say all seven blessings. Or, one person can say the blessing over the wine and the “created all things for His glory” blessing and five other people for the rest of the blessings. Another variation is to have one person say the first six blessings and honoring a different guest with the last, long (often sung) blessing.

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Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part I: The "Erusin" - the Engagement
Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part II: The Ring and Its Significance
Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part III: The Ketubah Reading
Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part IV: Nesuin, the Marriage Ceremony
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