Judaism prescribes myriad daily blessings designed to make us aware of our human existence. A Jew may utter 100 blessings a day for acts ranging from eating to using the bathroom. Yet, nowhere in the tradition is there a blessing for making love, or even for one’s first sexual encounter. The blessing read under the wedding canopy may have served, at one time, to bless that encounter, but for many Jews today that is no longer the case.
While the idea of invoking the divine at such a moment may seem awkward to some, others might find an appropriate blessing enormously useful in connecting a sense of holiness to an act of intimacy. First sexual encounters are experienced differently by many young men and women. Some girls or young women may feel coerced or otherwise unready; boys or young men may similarly feel social or cultural pressures to have sexual experiences before they are in the right relationship at the right time. For others, first sex is a joyous, liberating experience, one they might wish to celebrate ritually.
What if Jewish parents taught their children that love-making is a holy act, that the first time is a holy moment, one worthy of uttering the “She-heheyanu” blessing:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמָן הַזֶּה
B’rukha At Ya Eloheynu Lit. Spirit. Some new versions of blessings call God "Spirit of the World" (Ruakh Ha’olam), rather than "King of the World" (Melekh Ha'olam). ha-Olam shehekheyatnu v’kiy’matnu v’higiatnu laz’man hazeh.
Blessed are You, Eternal God, Source of Life, who has kept us in life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this joyous moment.
Imbued with the idea that sex belongs in a sacred context, young women and men might feel more empowered about their choices in sexual interaction. They might not place themselves in sexually compromising positions, or they might choose to forego sex entirely until they can share an experience that is, in fact, sacred.
Used by permission of the author