While the number of rituals for a Jewish wedding may seem countless, there are two that are essential – the erusin ceremony (in which the rings are exchanged) and the nesuin ceremony (in which the seven blessings are recited). The first ceremony, constructed of nine simple Hebrew words, Harei at mkudeshet li b’taba’at zo, kdat moshe v’yisrael, translated as, “Behold, be consecrated to me according to the laws of Moses and Israel”, coupled with acceptance of a ring comprises the act of marriage itself in which there is a transition, from being two single people to a married couple. Right after this ceremony (or after a pause for the Rabbi’s speech or reading the ketubah) is the second ceremony in which the seven blessings are recited.
While the erusin ceremony is a quick contractual ceremony in which two people are agreeing to be “set apart” for each other to the exclusivity of everybody else (which is put into effect by accepting the ring) the second part of the ceremony, the recitation of the blessings, is a bit more lofty by nature and reflects how this couple’s marriage exists within the grand narrative, between the Creation of the world’s first couple and Redemption, when the sounds of joy and gladness return to the streets of Zion and Jerusalem.
If the erusin ceremony is about contract, the nesuin ceremony is about blessing. Blessing, in Hebrew, berakha, can be played with to mean “b’rakh” or “in softness” (the word “berakh” is knee in Hebrew is the soft/flexible/ ‘bending’ part of one’s body.)
The essence of marriage is tied in with these two short ceremonies. Whereas on the one hand, marriage is about a contract in which there is an expectation that decisions will be made and upheld. On the other hand, marriage is also about blessing, which contains within it the grander narrative of our lives, and the ‘softer’ side of our relationships including compassion and compromise, patience and joy. Both sides – contract and blessing – are critical to a Jewish notion of marriage.
Article courtesy of Dasee Berkowitz, Jewish Life Cycle Consultant
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