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Inner Meaning of the Sheva Brachot

Inner Meaning of the Sheva Brachot

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1) Wine

Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

The seven blessings which draw divine blessings for the duration of the couple's married life commence with a blessing over a cup of wine.

While every person projects a certain persona, wine has the ability to reveal the person behind the façade, the hidden elements of the person's personality. After imbibing a drink of wine, people tend to reveal the personality which lurks beneath the surface -- for better or for worse. What an appropriate metaphor for marriage, when two soulmates resolve to accept each other unconditionally; not only the persona projected by the other, but also the hidden and subconscious elements of their spouse.

Additionally, wine gladdens the heart.1 But in order to produce this heart-gladdening beverage, a grape must be crushed. Married life is full of crushing moments -- the key is to together overcome those challenging occasions, which leads to new levels of love and happiness.

2) The Purpose

Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has created all things for His glory.

The couple declares that their marriage has a higher goal than satisfying their own needs and desiresMarriage is the fulfillment of many basic human needs. It satisfies the natural attraction men and women feel towards each other and provides people with a sense of stability. It also creates a suitable environment for having and raising children.

At this juncture, the couple declares that their marriage actually has a higher goal and purpose than satisfying their own needs and desires. "All was created for G‑d's glory," and this event is no exception to the rule.

"All was created for G‑d's glory," including -- or perhaps especially -- the Jewish home. Judaism doesn't allow for a separation of powers -- i.e. G‑d and spirituality being relegated to the synagogue, with the home being the domain of personal ambitions, hobbies and priorities. This blessing is an expression of the couple's intent to establish a Jewish home predicated on spiritual values. A home whose goal it will be to be a bastion of light, Torah and mitzvot; a home devoted to G‑d's glory.

3) Man

Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the universe, Creator of man.

This blessing thanks G‑d for creating man; Adam. This blessing is a precursor to the following one, which thanks G‑d for creating Eve, thus allowing for the possibility of marriage.

This blessing, however, has deep meaning on its own. Before Eve was surgically removed from Adam's own flesh, she and Adam were one entity, one being. Spiritually, too, the souls of every husband and wife were originally one entity in the Garden of Eden, before being sent down to inhabit the respective bodies of a man and woman. The ability to physically and emotionally fuse a male and female, to make two into one, stems from their souls' original state of oneness. This blessing, which alludes to the point in time when man and woman were still one entity, is intended to evoke the soul connection within the context of this physical union.

4) Woman

Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who created man in His image, in the image [of His] likeness [he fashioned] his form, and prepared for him from his own self an everlasting edifice. Blessed are You L-rd, Creator of man.

This blessing thanks G‑d for the excitement and mystery created by bringing together two people with differing temperamentsThe Creator didn't suffice with an androgynous Adam/Eve. Instead, He divided the original entity into two, and then "prepared for Adam from his own self an everlasting edifice." This blessing thanks G‑d for the dynamic of marriage He designed by creating two entities -- the excitement and mystery created by bringing together two people with differing temperaments, idiosyncrasies, and psyches. The following blessing discusses the benefit of this sort of union.

5) Jerusalem

May the barren one [Jerusalem] rejoice and be happy at the ingathering of her children to her midst in joy. Blessed are You L-rd, who gladdens Zion with her children.

In a simple sense, we invoke the memory of Jerusalem following the dictum:2 "Let my tongue cleave to my palate if I will not remember you; if I will not bring Jerusalem to mind during my greatest joy."

Furthermore, after expressing the couple's intention to establish a home dedicated to increasing G‑d's glory, and to allow their soul connection to permeate their union, we mention the corollary of their commitment. Every Jewish home is a dazzling point of light. All these points of light eventually combine to chase away all forces of darkness, ushering in the Redemption, when Jerusalem will rejoice at the ingathering of her children.

On a mystical level, referring to Jerusalem as the "barren one" and then making mention of her children, is a metaphor for the different stages in a couple's relationship.

Originally, the two were one; seemingly an ideal state. And "they" were barren. The potential for children came about only after Eve was separated from Adam. Our ability to produce and accomplish is a result of our estrangement, and the struggles which characterize the quest of infusing two opposites with their hidden underlying unity.

6) Joy

Grant abundant joy to these loving friends, as You bestowed gladness upon Your created being in the Garden of Eden of old. Blessed are You L-rd, who gladdens the groom and bride.

A Jewish marriage creates a link between all the past generations and all the future generationsEmotions cannot be felt by the physical senses, but certainly have an impact on, and express themselves in, people's physical behavior. They determine whether people walk with a bounce in their step or slouch along miserably. Joyful emotions are expressed through dancing; a person who is happy naturally "dances for joy."

There are two general sorts of dances, each one expressing a different level of joy. There is the choreographed dance which is composed of different steps and movements. All participants follow a rhythm; their steps determined by the rules of the particular dance.

Then there is a dance which is not choreographed at all. When King David first brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, he is described as "hopping and dancing" with joy.3 The unbridled joy which consumed him at the moment didn't allow him to restrict his movements to the orchestrated steps of a given dance. His whole being danced and jumped.

While choreographed dances are tasteful and beautiful, and are a staple of all weddings, the intense joy experienced at a wedding is expressed in the circles of "free dancing" which characterize traditional Jewish weddings.

Every Jewish person is a part of the larger Jewish body -- a body which includes every Jewish soul throughout the generations. A Jewish marriage creates a link between all the past generations and all the future generations. Thus, every Jewish marriage is a historic and momentous event, not only for the couple and their families, but also for the community at large. This is evidenced by the participation of all the invited guests in the dancing and singing -- every individual rightfully feeling him or herself to be very much a part of this momentous occasion.

7) Completion and Beyond

Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who created joy and happiness, groom and bride, gladness, jubilation, cheer and delight, love, friendship, harmony and fellowship. L-rd our G‑d, let there speedily be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the sound of a groom and the sound of a bride, the sound of exultation of grooms from under their wedding canopy, and youths from their joyous banquets, Blessed are You L-rd, who gladdens the groom with the bride.

This blessing is characterized by two numbers: ten and five.

The blessing uses ten adjectives to describe the atmosphere which will hopefully pervade the home of the newlywed couple: 1) Joy. 2) Happiness. 3) Gladness. 4) Jubilation. 5) Cheer. 6) Delight. 7) Love. 8) Friendship. 9) Harmony. 10) Fellowship.

Ten is a complete number. The blueprint of creation is the Torah, whose essence is contained in the Ten Commandments. As a result, the world was created with ten supernal building blocks -- the ten Divine Attributes (sefirot) -- which manifested themselves in the Ten Utterances with which G-d created the world.4

The concluding blessing of the Sheva Brachot wishes the bride and groom a life of perfect happiness. A happiness which permeates every aspect of their beings.

The number five represents the divine core which utterly transcends creationBut completion isn't enough. The blessing continues with enumerating the five "sounds"; five being a number which symbolizes the transcendence of perfection.

The world was formed using four basic elements: fire, wind, water and earth. Creation is subdivided into four categories: the human race, the crown jewel of creation; the animal kingdom; the world of vegetation; and all inanimate creations. The quadruple nature of creation expresses itself in many more areas as well, such as the four seasons and four directions. This numerical theme is a result of the world's sustaining force -- the four letters of the Tetragrammaton.5

The number five represents the divine core which utterly transcends creation.6 The Jewish soul is a reflection of this idea, containing four levels which express its own identity, and then a fifth level, the yechidah, which is the divine core of the soul.

Marriage is when the souls of the bride and groom finally reach completeness -- ten -- and then use that accomplishment as a springboard to tap into the divine essence of their souls and the world at large -- five -- which is infinitely higher than any completion mere creations can possibly reach on their own.

FOOTNOTES
1.

Psalms 104:15.

2.

Psalms 137:5-6.

3.

II Samuel 6:16.

4.

Ethics of our Fathers 5:1.

5.

This does not contradict the previous assertion that the ten is the perfect number. According to kabbalah, the ten sefirot are grouped into four divisions (see Tanya, Part III, ch. 5).

6.

The kotz (point) which protrudes from the uppermost edge of the first letter (the yud) of the Tetragrammaton is a reference to this transcendent level.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor, and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife Chaya Mushka and their three children.
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Discussion (4)
May 19, 2011
sheva brochos
beautiful written. will impart some of the
brochos at a grandsons sheva brochox
im y h.
Anonymous
May 3, 2011
beautifully written
thank you for sharing this wisdom
cma
summerlane
October 8, 2010
Excellent , thank you!
Yael
Tel Aviv
April 9, 2009
about the seven Blessings
Thank you for your knowlege of the word of G-d.
Rev. Beverly Pratt

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