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Parshah Halacha – Parshat Vayetzei

Why Seven and About the Blessing on the Wine
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In the Torah portion we read how Yaakov was tricked into marrying Leah despite having been promised Rachel as a wife. When he confronted his uncle and father-in-law Lavan, he was told “מלא שבע זאת – Complete this week,” and you can have Rachel. The commentaries say that this “week” is referring to the seven days of feasting that customarily follow a wedding.[1] Since the Torah had not yet been given and since Lavan was not Jewish, the celebration was not done for the sake of the mitzvah but was simply the custom of important people at that time.[2] It was Moshe who enacted that we celebrate these days in a way that resembles that ancient tradition.[3]

The Midrash (Pirkei DeRabi Eliezer 16) spells this out further:

“Where do we learn the idea of a seven days of feasting after a wedding? From
Yaakov who made a feast for seven days when he married Leah, as it says (in the
verse quoted above), “Complete this week.” The people of that place were kind
to Yaakov, and they all came to the party. G-d rewarded them for this mitzvah
in this world so they would not have merit in the World to Come. Several
generations later, he made Aram into a world power that went on to have many
military victories (see Kings II, 5:1).

According to anther opinion in that Midrash:

We derive the seven days of feasting from Samson who feasted for seven days after marrying a (converted) Philistine woman, as the verse says (Judges 14:12), “Now Samson
said to them, ‘Let me ask you a riddle, if you can tell it to me within the seven days of feasting and you will guess it…” Some say that the reason Lavan insisted that Yaakov complete the seven days of feasting for Leah was so that he show publicly that he was
agreeable to marrying Leah.[4] The Jerusalem Talmud (Mo’ed Kattan, quoted above) says that Lavan wanted the feast for Leah completed before the wedding of Rachel because two joyous occasions may not be celebrated simultaneously.

Celebrating in Egypt

According to another Midrash (Tanna Devei Eliyahu Rabbah 23), even
while they were slaves in Egypt, the Jewish people would celebrated their
weddings with seven days of feasting . Their Egyptian captors respected this
and would give them seven days off from their work.
The rest of this article will focus on the meaning of the seven
blessings recited at a wedding and during the Sheva Brachot feasts.

Why Seven?

  • Corresponds to the Seven Days of Creation
Rabbeinu Bachaye (in Kad HaKemach chapter Chattan Biveit HaKnesset) writes that every wedding corresponds to the creation of the world
(since the continuity of the world depends on marriages and the subsequent
children that are born). The seven blessings of the Sheva Brachot therefore correspond to the seven days of creation. The blessing of HaGafen
on the wine corresponds to Shabbat as we say the blessing over wine at the
beginning of Shabbat (during Kiddush) and at the end of Shabbat (at Havdalah).[5]
  • G-d Blessed Adam and Chava with Seven Blessings
According to the Midrash (Pirkei DeRabi Eliezer chapter 12). G-d
made 10 chuppot for Adam and Chava in Gan Eden. He made them out
of gold, pearls, and gems. The prophet Yechezkel alluded to these ten chuppot
when he wrote (28:13) “In Eden, the garden of G-d you were; every precious
stone was set in your covering; ruby, topaz, diamond, chrysolite, onyx, and jasper,
sapphire, carbuncle, and crystal and gold.” The word “covering” refers to a chuppah
and the ten precious materials mentioned in the verse allude to the ten chuppot.
G-d acted as Chazzan and recited the blessings under the chuppah,
as the verse says, “And G-d blessed them, and… said… ‘Be fruitful and multiply
and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea and over
the fowl of the sky and over all the beasts that tread upon the earth.’” These
can be understood to be seven blessings: 1) Be fruitful 2) and multiply 3) and
fill the earth 4) and subdue it 5) and rule over the fish of the sea 6) and
over the fowl of the sky and 7) and over all the beasts that tread upon the
earth (Biur HaRadal). Our Sheva Brachot mirror these seven blessings.
  • Seven Blessings of Avraham
Rabbi Avraham Chalpon of 18th-century Tiberius writes (Chayei Avraham ot 351) that the seven sheva brachot blessings correspond to the seven blessings with which G-d blessed Avraham (Gen. 12:2 and 3). They are 1) “And I will make you into a great nation, 2) and I will bless you, 3) and I will make your name great, 4) and you shall be a blessing 5) And I will bless those who bless you, 6) and the one who curses you I will curse, and 7) and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you.”
  • Seven Voices of Sinai
Every wedding mirrors the wedding of G-d and the Jewish people at
Mount Sinai. As such, just as at Mount Sinai G-d communicated with us using
seven “voices,” we too recite seven blessings at the chuppah.
The seven voices are enumerated in Tehillim, chapter 29. (See the commentaries
on that chapter who explain that it its referring to the Sinai revelation.)
They are: 1) The voice of the L-rd is upon the waters 2) The voice of the L-rd
is in strength 3) The voice of the L-rd is in beauty. 4) The voice of the L-rd
breaks the cedars 5) The voice of the L-rd splits with flames of fire 6) The
voice of the L-rd causes the desert to quake and 7) The voice of the L-rd will
frighten the hinds and strip the forests (Chayei Avraham ibid).
  • Seven Years of Yaakov
These seven blessings also allude to the seven years that Yaakov
worked in order to marry Rachel (ibid).
  • Malchut
Kabbalisticly, the Kallah (bride) represents the Divine Attribute
of Malchut (Kingship). This attribute receives the Divine
blessings from the six Divine Attributes of Chessed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod and Yesod (Kindness, Strength, Beauty, Victory, Splendor
and Foundation). It is therefore appropriate that when a man (who represents
the six attributes) marries a woman (who represents the seventh attribute), we
recite seven blessings (ibid in the name of Tziyuni al HaTorah by Rabbi
Menachem Tziyuni of 14th-century Spira, Parshat Ki Tetzei).[6]
When to Bless on the Wine?
It is customary that when reciting the Sheva Brachot blessings
under the Chuppah, we say the blessing on the wine before the other blessings.
On the other hand, when reciting these blessings after the Grace after Meals
during the days of the wedding feasts, we recite the blessing on the wine after
the other blessings. Several reasons are given for this change:
  • The Wine is in Honor of the Chattan and
Under the chuppah we recite the blessing on the wine first as it is
a blessing more commonly recited (Tadir). However, when reciting the Grace after Meals, we purposefully delay the blessing until the end. The reason for this is to
emphasize that at this time we are not reciting the blessing of wine because of
the Grace after Meals (as some have the custom to do) but rather in honor of
the Chattan and Kallah (Beit Hillel on Even Ha’Ezer 62, cited in Bait Shmuel
  • Before or After the Wedding
When reciting the blessings under the chuppah,
the actual wedding ceremony has not yet been completed (as the Yichud
[seclusion after the Chuppah] is part of that ceremony). As such, the blessing
on the wine is recited first since it is more common (Tadir).
On the other hand, during the seven days of feasting, the wedding has already
been completed. As such we follow the opinion of Bait Shammai who says that the
blessing on Shabbat should be recited before the blessing of wine during
Kiddush since Shabbat begins before we drink the wine. Although regarding
Kiddush we follow the opinion of Bait Hillel and recite the blessing on the
wine first, that is because according to Bait Hillel it is only due to the wine
that we are able to recite the Kiddush (see Brachot 52b.) Whereas regarding the
Sheva Brachot most opinions say that they may be recited
without wine (if necessary). As such, the blessings on the wedding should be
recited first (Sefer Hamakne by Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz of Frankfurt, Kuntres
Acharon on 62:1).
  • Less Interruptions
Logically the blessing on the wine should come first since
according to many authorities the wine is essential to the blessings and should
therefore precede them (see Bait Hillel’s opinion quoted above). As such, when
making the blessings under the chuppah, we recite the blessing on the wine first.
Although there is a time lapse between that blessing and the drinking of the
wine by the Chattan and Kallah, we are sure they will not speak in between (due
to the serious atmosphere under the Chuppah). At the time of the Grace after
Meals, however, we are concerned that were we to recite the blessing on the
wine before the other blessings, people might interrupt and speak before they
drink from the wine (six blessings later). This would render the blessing on
the wine to have been made in vain. We therefore change the order and recite
the blessing on the wine last (Siddur Derech Chayim by Rabbi Yaakov of Lisa,
Hilchot Eirusin VeNissu’in, Dinei Birkat HaMazon Beveit HaChattan).
May we soon merit to drink the wine over which King David will recite the Grace after Meals in the great Feast of the Messianic Era!
[1] Rashi based on Jerusalem Talmud, Mo’ed Kattan 1:7, Rashbam and Targum Yonatan
[2] Ramban Gen. 29:21
[3] Jerusalem Talmud Ketubot 1:1
[4] Be’er Mayim Chayim
[5] In a similar vein Rabbi Aryeh Frumer of Kozhiklov explained (Eretz Tzvi vol. 2, Derushim 6) that the reason G-d’s name may be erased to bring peace between a husband and wife (see Numbers 5:23) is that a peaceful home is the equivalent of writing out G-d’s name. [Since peace in the home is called Shalom Bayit and Shalom is a name of G-d, maintaining that peace is like writing G-d’s name.] This is the reason why G-d allows His name to be erased in order to maintain peace in a home as it is “worthwhile” seeing that this home will now “write” another name of G-d. As such, every wedding which establishes a peaceful home (with G-d’s help) is considered equal to the writing of G-d’s holy name. Our sages say that writing G-d’s name is equivalent to writing the Torah (see Rashi on Shabbat 28b D.H. Shin). According to the Zohar (introduction to Bereishit) one who reveals new Torah insights is tantamount to having created a new world. As such, it follows that a wedding (which is equivalent to writing the Torah) is also considered to be like the creation of a new world. The sages therefore established that we recite seven blessings at a wedding corresponding to the seven days of creation.
[6] Editor’s note, the explanation I found in the Tziyuni al HaTorah parshat Ki Tetzei was somewhat different.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!

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