The Sheva Berakhot

Abundant blessings for the bride and groom.

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Under the Chuppah

During the ceremony, the blessings are traditionally chanted in Hebrew and may also be read in English. In the Sephardic tradition, a parent will often wrap the bride and groom in a tallit (prayer shawl) before the recitation of the blessings begins, to recognize the intimacy and significance of the moment. Many contemporary couples use the theme of "blessing" to creatively interpret the reading of the sheva berakhot: they may invite seven friends or family members to each recite one of the blessings or have the traditional blessings sung in Hebrew while friends or family members offer seven non-traditional blessings in English. There are many English interpretations of the sheva berakhot available (see The Creative Jewish Wedding Book for examples), some of which use neutral or feminine God language instead of the traditional male imagery. Often couples will include the sheva berakhot in Hebrew and/or English in their wedding programs so that guests can fully participate in this important moment in the ceremony. Traditionally, everyone present joins with the leader in singing parts of the final blessing.

At the Wedding Celebration

It is customary for the sheva berakhot to be recited again during the wedding celebration over a glass of wine, following the birkat hamazon (grace after meals). This second sharing of the blessings gives couples an additional opportunity to honor their loved ones by inviting them to offer one of the blessings. Another beautiful custom for this sharing of the sheva berakhot is for the wine to be divided into two different cups--representing bride and groom--that are then poured together into a third cup. The wine that has been mixed together is poured back into cups for the bride and groom, and also poured into the third cup, shared by the community. This ritual shows how the couple is now connected, and how their life together is intertwined with community.

The Week After the Wedding

While today most newly married couples are eager to sneak away for honeymoon time alone (and often to de-stress from their wedding planning marathons), Jewish tradition held that the bride and groom needed time with the community to help start their marriage out on the right foot. For the seven days following the wedding, the bride and groom were treated like a queen and king, and were invited to dine at the home of a different friend or relative on each night. These festive meals were called "sheva berakhot." Following dinner, the seven blessings would be recited again--as long as a minyan of ten men were present and there was at least one new person (who hadn’t been at the wedding) present. The idea of the dinners was to have real community celebrations for the couple, and parties often went into the night. During generations when marriages were arranged and couples may have met just before marriage the sheva berakhot meals served as a way for the couple to get to know each other, while being supported by the community.

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Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is a freelance writer and educator based in Philadelphia. She is the author of two books of plays for children: The Magic Tanach and Other Short Plays and Extraordinary Jews: Staging Their Lives as well as The Creative Jewish Wedding Book.