• Nesuin: The Marriage
• Why do we recite the Seven
• The Sheva Brachot -
The Seven Blessings
• Who Recites the Blesings?
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?
Each marriage is seen as the beginning of a new world. Five of the seven marital blessings, Sheva Brachot, speak of creation. Seven blessings parallel the six days of creation and the seventh day of Shabbat.
Along with creation, the giving of the Torah courses through the Jewish marriage ceremony. It was then that the Jews accepted God as their one and only. Much of what happened at Mt. Sinai is the basis for Jewish marriage customs. Seven heavenly voices were heard as the Torah was given, and seven blessings are used to unite a couple.
Later on in Jewish history the Sages of the Gemara listed seven benefits of marriage in Yebamot 62b;
1. achieves complete human stature
5. access to the deeper meaning of the Torah
6. protection from temptation
Everything belongs to God, the Creator of all. Before enjoying anything in His world, we get “permission” by saying a blessing. Lying in wait for the newlyweds are the seven joys of marriage. Seven blessings free a couple to enjoy them.
In some Sephardic communities, the bride and groom are covered by a tallit as these blessings are said.
The Sheva Brachot are as follows:
Kiddush – blessing over the wine. Jewish milestones are consecrated with wine. Reciting a second blessing over a previously blessed cup is a no-no, so the cup is refilled or a separate cup is used.
In earlier times, the bride may have been given the wedding cup instead of a ring.
2. Blessed is God who created all things for His glory.
“The whole of creation was created for God’s glory, but was not fulfilled until man was made, and was not complete until woman joined him…Marriage is the attainment of creation’s completion and the wholeness of God’s glory.” (Kaplan, 187)
3. Blessed is God for creating humankind.
4. Blessed is God for creating man in His image, in the image of His likeness, and who formed for him out of his very self a structure to last for all time. Blessed is God who fashioned humankind.
God is blessed for creating man and woman. Eve was formed from the rib or side of Adam and is the “structure” referred to in this blessing.
5. May the barren land rejoice when her children are gathered to her in happiness. Blessed is God who will gladden Zion with her Children.
Jerusalem’s fate reigns supreme – even over the joy of a wedding. Isaiah addressed Jerusalem pledging to her “…as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall God rejoice over thee.” (Isaiah 62:5)
6. May these loving friends be granted great happiness, just as You brought joy to your creations in Eden of old. Blessed is God who makes the bride and groom happy.
Adam and Eve were the happiest couple. Shaped from the same flesh, they were completely compatible. As the first couple on earth there were no old boyfriends or girlfriends to cast shadows over their happiness. They had no doubts that they were right for each other.
The couple is termed “reim ahuvim,” loving friends. Happily married couples balance the lover/friendship aspects of their relationship.
7. Blessed is God, our God, who created happiness and joy, groom and bride, rejoicing and joyous song, delight and pleasure, love and harmony/brotherhood, peace and friendship. Soon, God, Our God, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, will hear the voice of happiness, the voice of joy, the voice of the groom, the voice of the bride at their wedding and young people at their feasts. Blessed is God, who grants gladness to the groom and bride.
According to some customs the blessing over the wine
is said after the six marital blessings.
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.
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.