Monday, June 2, 2008

I Swiped An Extra Bracha

Attending the wedding of a cousin and fellow blogger last night, MoCoSpouse and I were excited to have the honor of being among the Chosen people to deliver the sheva brachot--the seven blessings that are part of the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony. The groom called about a month ago to offer us the prized Bracha #1, and confirmed by e-mailing the transliterated blessing and English translation we were assigned.

I studied the transliteration and found the original Hebrew text online, which I often find easier to read than the transliteration. The day before the ceremony, the groom contacted me to ensure I had my part down. I mentioned my mastery of the Hebrew, and the the groom quickly clarified that we would only be reading the English translation, leaving the heavy lifting to the rabbi. Okay, works for me.

With the exception of a few technical difficulties and unmuffled motorcycles nearby that made the audio portion of the wedding difficult for all to hear at times, the outdoor wedding was perfect. For the visual portion, the bride was stunning and smiling from ear-to-ear. The groom was dapper and charming. Threatening skies held off. The ceremony went off without a hitch. That is, until the rabbi announced it was bracha time.

The rabbi called all the readers to line up at the podium, where the brachot were printed with our names in what must have been 80-point font. In case someone forgot their part or reading glasses, the groom left nothing to chance.

So MoCoSpouse and I took the podium, and the rabbi recited the first of the seven brachot.

"Baruch Ata Adonai, Elohainu Melech HaOlam, Boreh Pri HaGafen." (emphasis added)

And we looked at the transliteration. What we read clearly under our names was:

"Baruch Ata Adonai, Elokainu Melech HaOlam, SheHakol Barah Lichvodo."

"You are blessed, Lord our God, the sovereign of the world, who created everything for his glory."

Anybody who ever went to Hebrew school through the second grade should recognize the blessing the Rabbi offered as the standard prayer over wine, and seeing as it's offered approximately 373 times during the wedding ceremony, I thought his reciting it was merely a preliminary leading up to our assigned bracha. Yet there was a pause on the part of the rabbi that clearly indicated he was waiting for a translation. From us.

A thousand thoughts raced through my mind. Had my cousin's decision to join a reform congregation led him to a spiritual leader who was somehow cutting corners--would he also be enjoying the crabcake hors d'oeuvre waiting for us after the ceremony? How do I deal with this unscripted portion of the service? Do I throw caution to the wind and answer the Hebrew with the correct translation, or use the translation provided for #1 as it appeared on the crib sheet?

So what came out of my mouth was the product of hearing the given prayer translated thousands of times in my lifetime.

"Blessed art thou, oh Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hath created the fruit of the vine."

"That is correct," the rabbi called out, as if he were a game show host and the buzzer was about to go off.

I stood at the podium without leaving, not sure exactly what to expect next as Bracha Couple #2 stood alongside us.

"Baruch Ata Adonai, Elokainu Melech HaOlam, SheHakol Barah Lichvodo"

Yesssssss! Our assigned blessing!

So MoCoSpouse and I provided the given translation.

"Also correct!" the rabbi added.

I thought about getting cocky and asking "Brachot for $600, Alex?" and taking on the next bracha challenge as well, but wisely restrained myself as we took our seats as readers #2 and on continued to take their turns. All the while, I kept wondering about the unscheduled blessing over the wine. What was the significance? I made a mental note to look it up online when we got home.

All continued smoothly with everyone reading their assigned parts. The groom's sister took on the challenge of lengthy #6, for which I believe Oliver Stone is currently negotiating movie rights. Then the unlucky #7 readers got to the podium. The rabbi had nothing to say as they stood there for an uncomfortable moment, waiting for a bracha that never arrived. They had no choice but to slither back to their seats, understandably confused, underblessed and humiliated.

Only in creating this entry and studying all seven brachot have I learned the shocking truth. The blessing over the wine is, in fact, one of the seven brachot. The groom had provided us with the brachot in order from one source, the top choice when you Google "seven brachot" while the rabbi chose to work from his own script, #4 on the Google hit list at the time of this writing. So I inadvertently jonesed Bracha #7.

So for the thousands of Jewish brides and grooms planning their ceremonies during this busy wedding month, the lesson is simple: make sure you find a rabbi who knows how to Google.

To the hapless pair of first cousins who traveled hundreds of miles to recite Bracha #7, only to find it shamelessly stolen in full view by a second cousin once removed: God probably understands and forgives, hopefully you do as well.

Mazel tov to the bride and groom!


B and T Crowd said...

Thanks for the writeup! The Rabbi actually looked over the order I provided and agreed to it a month ago, and then again in the groom's room before the Ketubah signing. He then mentioned the blessing over the wine, only to correct himself and say it would be the seventh blessing. It sure was awkward when he made it the first blessing!

shiny said...

Here's where it gets a bit confusing: during the wedding ceremony, the Sheva Brachot are recited in exactly that order -- borei pri hagafen coming first and six following it. However, during Birkat Hamazon (Grace after Meals for those of you unfamiliar with it), the same seven blessing are recited, but the original numbers 2-7 go first with borei pri hagafen following those as the new number seven. Kind of keeps everyone on their toes... :)