The law, with its profound insight into the human psyche, required that the couple stay together during the first week to continue to celebrate. They are not to go to work or otherwise to separate, unless there is an urgent need. This tradition harks back to Jacob, who celebrated seven days with Leah and then with Rachel. The custom became widespread and was not confined to Jews; Samson’s marriage to his Philistine wife was also celebrated for seven days.

The law considers the seven-day rejoicing to have been formally instituted by Moses, much as he ordained the shiva, the seven days of mourning. Extreme moments of love, like death, are deeply emotional. It is difficult, if not impossible, for an individual to experience such traumatic moments and then continue life as though nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Moses ordained, therefore, that both celebration and commemoration be followed by a seven-day tapering-off period, during which one might ponder and accept the intensity of the event and allow it to be gradually integrated into the psyche. Both shiv’at ye’rnei ha-mishteh (or simply, Sheva Berakhot), seven days of rejoicing, and shiv’at ye’mei avelut (or shiva), seven days of mourning, are not to be working days. The community is asked to participate in both events—to console the mourners in their home, and to provide a minyan for Sheva Berakhot every day for the newlyweds; and both are followed by special periods of one year: for kaddish for the mourners; for staying together at home (naki yih’yeh le’beito) for the new husband and wife.

The Sheva Berakhot are recited for only the seven days, beginning from the first meal after the chuppah. They are to be recited morning and night, if the halakhic conditions are met, on every one of those days. Since to do this there must be a minyan at each meal, honeymoons are not planned by many tradition-al Jewish couples until after the seven days. At the beginning, the new husband and wife must learn to accommodate each other in a familiar setting, not in some far-off place that has no relation to the anticipated reality of their future lives. They are part of a family and a community, and this should be their primary environment. The popular emphasis on the glories of the honeymoon period are so overrated and idealized that the newlyweds, busy adjusting to the demands of everyday life, begin to feel disappointed, let down, and unsuited for each other. Judaism says, wisely, that this is precisely the time to stay at home and to be surrounded with family and friends, familiar sights and sounds. It is a time for bride and groom to "rejoice one another" by being together simply and wholesomely in the environment in which they lived as singles.

New Faces (Panim Chadashot)

The party atmosphere of the wedding must inform all of these festive minyan meals of the Sheva Berakhot. Therefore, the law requires panim chadashot, new faces. If everyone at the meal was at the wedding, the party would soon lose its spontaneity. The requirement for a Sheva Berakhot party is that at least one member of the minyan must be someone new. The law levies upon each person who was not at the wedding the requirement to "rejoice" the couple. Thus the Sheva Berakhot provided a marriage setting in which each new person could instill new simchah.

Newcomers who have not eaten together with the new couple, even though they attended the chuppah and heard the blessings, are considered to be "new faces." This also applies to those who came to visit during the seven days, but did not eat.

On the Sabbath or a festival, a "new face" is not necessary as part of the minyan. The Sabbath is what is "new."

If possible, the seven blessings should be recited on Friday night, Saturday afternoon and also at the third Sabbath meal, Se’udah She’lishit. It is customary, in order to endow the third meal with greater significance, for the groom to speak on a theme of Torah, if he is capable of doing so.