Traditional Jewish weddings have numerous components: a blessing over wine, a huppah, the gifting of a ring, the breaking of a glass. Today’s daf gives us the origin of another component: Sheva Brachot. Literally translated “seven blessings,” Sheva Brachot is exactly what it sounds like — seven blessings that the officiant or honored guests offer to the bride and groom on the occasion of their marriage. Yesterday, we learned that these blessings are recited in a quorum on all seven days of the wedding celebration.
The first blessing is over a ritual cup of wine and will likely sound familiar:
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe who has created the fruit of the vine.
On today’s daf, Rabbi Yehuda offers us the traditional rabbinic text of the next six blessings:
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe who has created all for His glory.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, creator of humankind.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who made humanity in the divine image, in the image of the likeness of His form, and out of God’s very self formed an establishment for eternity. Blessed are You, Lord, Creator of humanity.
May the barren (city of Jerusalem) greatly rejoice and delight in the ingathering of her children within her in joy. Blessed are You, Lord, who gladdens Zion through her children.
Bring great joy to these loving friends, as You gave joy to Your creations in Eden in ancient times. Blessed are You, Lord, who brings joy to the groom and bride.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has created joy and gladness, groom and bride, delight, exultation, happiness, jubilation, love and brotherhood, and peace and friendship. Soon, Lord our God, may there be heard in the cities of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the sound of the groom and the sound of the bride, the joyous sound of grooms from their wedding canopy and of young people from their feast of song. Blessed are You, Lord, who makes the groom rejoice with the bride.
According to Rabbi Yehuda, these seven blessings are supposed to be recited at weddings. But a canny reader will notice that, actually, we don’t start talking about marriage and the couple themselves until the sixth blessing. The first is about wine, the next three are about God’s creation of the universe and of humankind, and the fifth is about the redemption of Israel in the messianic era. Even the seventh, though it is about marriage, is about the hope for the celebration of marriages in Jerusalem in the messianic era. So really, only the sixth blessing is specific to the couple getting married at the moment.
But while the blessings may therefore appear to be impersonal, they are a profound reminder that all of us, even in our own life-cycle celebrations, our most personal and individual moments, are embedded in a broader world, human community and religious community.
And indeed, later on on today’s daf, this point is brought home even further. We learn that Rav Ashi would offer all seven blessings to the bride and groom on the first day of their marriage, but for the next seven days, would recite all seven blessings only “if there were new faces present.” If no new people were present, then Rav Ashi would offer only the seventh blessing to the bride and groom.
Want to keep things small and insular? Then you get only the last blessing (which, reminder, is not actually the one about this specific bride and groom!). Want all the blessings? You have to keep extending the circle of celebration further and further out.
But even justsaying the seventh blessing reminds us that we are also all embedded in a history with a rich past and a redemptive future. We are never only solitary individuals or couples but are also deeply interconnected with everything around us. And on our wedding day, we recognize those interconnections, and hope that our celebration will be a sign for the coming joy of the whole world in the messianic era.
Read all of Ketubot 8 on Sefaria.
This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on July 14th, 2022. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.