The Sheva Brachot are one of the core ‘set pieces’ of a Jewish wedding. [Scroll to the end of this page to hear 4 different musical versions of the same blessings.] While the wording is very traditional, and the blessings are traditionally sung by the celebrant or a chazan (cantor), there are many ways to reframe the seven blessings if you wish. For example, each blessing could be spoken by a different participant in the ceremony (eg family members or friends), and could be done in English as well as – or instead of – the Hebrew.
First, here is a conventional translation of the original Hebrew (which, as you will see later, can be creatively adapted, not least, to be more gender-neutral):
- Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
- Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has created all things in His honour.
- Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, creator of man.
- Blessed are You, Lord our God, who created man in His image, after His likeness, and prepared for him – out of his own self – an eternal companion. Blessed are You, O Lord, creator of man.
- The barren woman will rejoice and be exceedingly glad when her children are united within her joy. Blessed are You, O Lord, who makes the bride and groom joyous with her children.
- May these beloved companions rejoice just as You made Your creatures joyous in the Garden of Eden. Blessed are You, O Lord, who makes the bride and groom joyous.
- Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth, singing, pleasure and delight, love, brotherhood, peace and friendship. O Lord our God, may the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the jubilant voices of grooms from their canopies and youths from their feats and songs, soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. Blessed are You, O Lord, who makes the groom joyous with the bride.
At my own wedding, my father-in-law first sang the Sheva Brachot in Hebrew. Then we had individuals and couples come up to read the blessings in English (freely ‘translated’ and re-interpreted in a more universalist framework), each with a short explanation. This is also a way to celebrate marriage between Jewish and non-Jewish partners, and same-sex couples.
One of Partner 1’s parents (originally father of the bride) first sings all seven blessings in Hebrew.
- We bless the wine that is being used for ritual. “Blessed are you, creator of the universe who creates the fruit of the vine.”
- Marriage is considered to be a testimonial to God’s creativity, since the union of two disparate natures is considered a miracle. Every wedding goes further to complete creation which originates in God. “Blessed are you, creator of the universe, whose presence is manifest in all of creation.”
- We celebrate the creation of people, and the bride and groom [bride & bride, groom & groom etc] are blessed as separate individuals. “Blessed are you, creator of the universe, who creates individual people.”
- We celebrate the connection between ourselves and the creator, and that we hold in us the Divine; this union with the Divine is what makes possible union at all levels, including union with another human being. “Blessed are you, creator of the universe, who creates both male and female [and non-binary] in your own image, each reflecting the image of God for the other. Blessed are you who created humanity.”
- Every marriage symbolises the hope of tikkun olam – healing for the world. Marriage is not just a looking in towards each other, but a source of strength to look outwards into the world, playing a part in community, its enrichment and healing. “May all that has been broken be made whole; may all that has been empty be made full; and may all those who have been separated be united once more in joy.”
- The Partners are blessed as a couple, beloved companions who rejoice in harmony. “From the Divine, source of all energy, we call forth an abundance of love to envelop this couple. May they be for each other lovers and friends, and may their love partake of the same innocence, purity and sense of discovery that we imagine the first couple to have experienced.”
- The couple rejoice in one another, and the whole community joins in the celebrations. “Blessed are you, creator of the universe, who creates joy and gladness, laughter and exultation, pleasure and delight, love and harmony, peace and companionship. We look forward to the day when all creation rings with the sounds of laughter and happiness, two brides and bridegrooms [or life partners] on their wedding days, and the songs of lovers and soulmates. Blessed are you, Creator Spirit, who has enabled this couple to rejoice today in one another.”
A parent of Partner 2 (originally Mother of the groom) offers the wine to both partners.
Here is a third English version, adapted to find universal meanings to some of the specifically Jewish references (to Israel, Judah and Jerusalem), and alternating the order of mention of bride and groom.
- Blessed are You, Eternal God, who rules the universe, and creates the fruit of the vine.
- Blessed are You, Eternal God, who rules the universe, whose glory is evident in all of creation.
- Blessed are You, Eternal God, who rules the universe, and creates man and woman [or adapt to other gender identifications of the couple].
- Blessed are You, Eternal God, who rules the universe, who created woman and man [or ‘people’] in the divine image, that together they might perpetuate life. Blessed are You, Eternal God, who creates man and woman [‘people’ or ‘humans’].
- May the world be filled with the laughter of children. Blessed are You, Eternal God, who brings joy through children.
- Grant perfect joy to these loving companions, as in our story of the first woman and man [or ‘the first two partners’ or ‘first couple’] in the Garden of Eden. Blessed are You, Lord, who grants the joy of groom and bride [‘two loving partners’, ‘groom and groom’, ‘wife and wife’ etc].
- Blessed are You, Eternal God, who rules the universe, who created joy and gladness, bride and groom [or gender-appropriate terms], pleasure, song, delight, laughter, love and harmony and peace and companionship. Soon, Lord our God, may there be heard the voices of forgiveness and reconciliation, of wholeness, and of joy and gladness, voices of groom and bride [or gender-appropriate terms], the jubilant voices of those joined in marriage under the bridal [wedding] canopy, the voices of young people feasting and singing. Blessed are You, Lord, who causes bride and groom [or gender-appropriate terms] to rejoice together.
Here are some different musical versions of the Sheva Brachot, all sung by me. The first is intended to be unaccompanied.
Alberto Mizrahi (arranged by Mary Feinsinger, © Transcontinental 2001, in Kol Dodi: Jewish Music for Weddings, p.59)
These next three versions have all been published with keyboard accompaniments. They sound lovely with accompaniment, but I have presented all of them here without accompaniment, since a keyboard instrument or player is not always available at a Jewish wedding ceremony. I am happy to sing at Jewish wedding ceremonies with or without instrumental accompaniment.
French Sephardic, from traditional motifs (arranged by Mary Feinsinger, © Transcontinental 2001, in Kol Dodi: Jewish Music for Weddings, p.20)
Traditional (arranged Morris Barash, © Transcontinental 2001, in Kol Dodi: Jewish Music for Weddings, p.45)
Sol Zim (in The Ultimate Jewish Wedding Book, e.d. Velvel Pasternak, Tara Publications, 2005, p.29)