Despite the wealth of traditions and rituals connected to Jewish weddings, the wedding ceremony itself, without embellishments, is relatively sparse. The opening section, called kiddushin (betrothal), is where all of the legal business takes place, including the formal betrothal blessing and the ring ceremony. Often couples include a reading of their ketubah (marriage contract) as a bridge between this first part of the ceremony and the next part, called nissuin (nuptials). Nissuin includes the chanting of the sheva berakhot (seven blessings), the breaking of a glass, and yihud, in which the bride and groom depart from under the huppah (marriage canopy) to take some time alone before joining guests for wedding festivities.
The sheva berakhot are the real heart of the Jewish wedding ceremony; it is in this liturgical moment of the ceremony that themes of joy and celebration and the ongoing power of love are expressed. Taken from the pages of the Talmud (Ketubot 8a), the blessings, from one to seven, begin with the kiddush over wine and increase in intensity in their imagery and metaphors. It is no accident that there are seven of these blessings, since the number seven brings to mind the seven days of creation. Poetic echoes of creation and paradise abound in the blessings, as does the age-old yearning for return to Jerusalem. Significantly, the final blessing culminates with imagery of the entire community singing and celebrating with the bride and groom, reminding all present that the couple standing under the huppah is a link in the chain of Jewish continuity.
The blessings are:
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.
Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Who has created everything for your glory.
Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Creator of Human Beings.
Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King 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.
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