The following ritual was created as a resource for couples who have been in a committed long-term relationship who wish to participate in a Jewish version of “renewing the vows.” Unlike a Christian wedding, there are no vows taken or made between partners in a Jewish wedding. Rather, the Jewish marriage ceremony reflects the sacred joining together of two people, blessed by God and their community.
This ceremony can help guide you to create your own ritual to celebrate an anniversary or life change or to re-commit after a particular trying time or marital crisis.
I have based the format of the ceremony on that of a wedding, retaining some of the basic elements and using symbols which, in our tradition, reflect God, home and TorahThe Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general.. I have also used traditional blessings in non-traditional ways, for circumstances other than those usually intended for those benedictions.
I invite you to use the ceremony below as a starting point, an impetus for the exercise of your own imagination to create something meaningful for you. Embrace your own vision as well as traditions, symbols, readings, objects and elements which resonate with your own personal concept of the holy.
A wonderful video which reflects the love between long married partners is Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” available on youtube.
MIKVEHThe ritual bath. The waters of the mikveh symbolically purify – they are seen as waters of rebirth. A convert immerses in the mikveh as part of conversion. Many Orthodox married women go to the mikveh following their period and before resuming sexual relations. Couples go to the mikveh before being married. Many, including some men, immerse before Yom Kippur; some go every Friday before Shabbat.
It is suggested that each partner immerse in a mikveh prior to the ceremony to mark the occasion as a sacred renewal, much as is done in preparation for a wedding.
The partners are seated on chairs to be approached and greeted by their guests.
Their children, other guests, or the officiant, approach the couple, put a hand on each of their heads and gives the blessing:
יְשִׂימְכֶם אלוקים כְּאַבְרָהָם וְשָׂרָה אַשֶׁר בָּנוּ אֶת בֵּית יִשֽׂרָאֵל
Yismeykhem eloheynu k’avrahamAbraham is the first patriarch and the father of the Jewish people. He is the husband of Sarah and the father of Isaac and Ishmael. God's covenant - that we will be a great people and inherit the land of Israel - begins with Abraham and is marked by his circumcision, the first in Jewish history. His Hebrew name is Avraham. v’sarahThe first matriarch, wife of Abraham, and mother of Isaac, whom she birthed at the age of 90. Sarah, in Rabbinic tradition, is considered holy, beautiful, and hospitable. Many prayers, particularly the Amidah (the central silent prayer), refer to God as Magen Avraham – protector of Abraham. Many Jews now add: pokehd or ezrat Sarah – guardian or helper of Sarah. asher banu et beit Yisrael.
May God bless you as He did AbrahamAbraham is the first patriarch and the father of the Jewish people. He is the husband of Sarah and the father of Isaac and Ishmael. God's covenant - that we will be a great people and inherit the land of Israel - begins with Abraham and is marked by his circumcision, the first in Jewish history. His Hebrew name is Avraham. and Sarah, who together built the house of IsraelLit. ''the one who struggles with God.'' Israel means many things. It is first used with reference to Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel (Genesis 32:29), the one who struggles with God. Jacob's children, the Jewish people, become B'nai Israel, the children of Israel. The name also refers to the land of Israel and the State of Israel..
The couple rise and walk, hand and hand, to the huppahMarriage canopy symbolizing the couple's new home. while the officiant/guests sing:
מִי אַדִיר עַל הַכֹּל מִי בָּרוּך עַל הַכֹּל מִי גָדוֹל עַל הַכֹּל הוּא יְבָרֵךְ אֶת הָאַהוּבִים
Mi adir al hakol mi barukh al hakol mi gadol al hakol hu y’varekh et ha’ahuvim.
He who is powerful above all, who is great above all, who is supreme above all,
may He bless these beloved companions.
and/or hum a niggunA wordless melody. of their choice.
The officiant recites:
בְּרוּכִים הַבָּאִים בְּשֵׁם ה׳ רֵעִים אֲהוּבִים
.מִי אַדִיר עַל הַכֹּל מִי בָּרוּך עַל הַכֹּל מִי גָדוֹל עַל הַכֹּל הוּא יְבָרֵך אֶת הַרֵעִים הָאַהוּבִים
B’rukhim ha’baim b’shem Adonay reyim ahuvim
Mi adir al hakol mi barukh al hakol mi gadol al hakol hu y’varekh et ha’reyim ha’ahuvim.
Blessed in God’s name are these beloved companions who come before us.
He who is powerful above all, who is great above all, who is supreme above all,
may He bless these beloved companions.
(For the ceremony, the couple faces each other.)
1) The blessing is made on a cup of wine:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה׳ אֶלוֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָפֶן
Barukh atah Adonay Eloheynu melekh ha’olam, borey p’ri hagafen.
Blessed are You, oh God, who created the fruit of the vine.
2) To symbolize the candles lit to light the home on ShabbatShabbat is the Sabbath day, the Day of Rest, and is observed from Friday night through Saturday night. Is set aside from the rest of the week both in honor of the fact that God rested on the seventh day after creating the world. On Shabbat, many Jews observe prohibitions from various activities designated as work. Shabbat is traditionally observed with festive meals, wine, challah, prayers, the reading and studying of Torah, conjugal relations, family time, and time with friends. and holidays, as well as the fire which symbolizes the “light of the soul” and the Eternal Presence, each partner takes a lit candle and together they light a third, joining the flames and their souls, as one partner, or both, recite from the selections below:
נֵר ה׳ נִשְׁמַת הֶאָדָם
NerCandle Adonay nishmat hey’adamAdam is the first human being created by God. Symbolizes: Creation, humankind..
The light of God is the soul of man
לֹא אִישׁ בְּלֹא אִשָׁה וְלֹא אִשָׁה בְּלֹא אִישׁ וְלֹא אשְׁתֵּיהֶם שְׁכִינָהבְּלֹ
Lo ish b’lo i’sha v’lo isha b’li ish v’lo ishtehem a’khinabel.
Not a man without woman nor a woman without a man, nor the two together without the presence of God.
“God made the soul as a sphere cut in two, half in one body, half in another. When the halves come together, the primordial, original love is aroused; that love which existed before time and space.”
(Adapted from kabbalistic quote found in Kitvai HaRambam and MosheThe quintessential Jewish leader who spoke face to face with God, unlike any other prophet, and who freed the people from Egypt, led them through the desert for forty years, and received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. His Hebrew name is Moshe. Idel, KabbalahThe tradition of Jewish mystical interpretation of sacred texts. The foundational kabbalistic text is the Zohar. and Eros)
3) The officiant, family members or guests recite from the selections below:
(Adapted from the Central Conference of American Rabbis Rabbi’s Manual):
מִי שֶׁבֵּרַךְ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעַקֹב וְאִיְמוֹתֵינוּ שָׂרָה רִבְקָה
רָחֵל וְלֵאָה,הוּא יְבָרֵךְ אֶת הָרֵעִים הָאַהוּבִים וְיַצְלִיחַ אֶת דַרְכָּם אַשֶׁר יֵלְכוּ בָּה הַיוֹם מֵ וָהָלְאָה יַחְדָו
.וְשַׁלְוָה בְּלִבּוֹתָם כָּל הַיָמִים אֲשֶׁר הֵם חַיִים עַל הָאַדָמָה
וְיַאַרִיךְ יְמֵי הֶם. בַּנְעִימִים וְיִשְׁלַח
.בְּרָכָה וְהַצְלָחָה בְּכָל מַעַשֵׂה יְדֵיהֶם עִם כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲחֵיהֶם וְנֹאמַר: אָמֵן
Mi sheberakh avoteynu Avraham Yitzkhak v’Yaacov v’imoteynu Sarah Rivkah
Rakhel v’LeahThe third of the Jewish matriarchs, Lead is the eldest of Lavan's daughters and one of the wives of Jacob. She is the daughter whom Lavan tricks Jacob into marrying instead of his younger daughter Rachel, whom Jacob has requested to marry. Leah is mother to six of the the twelve tribes and to one daughter, Dinah., hu y’varekh et ha’reyim ha’ahuvim v’yatzlikha et darcam asher yeylkhu bah hayom mey va’hal’ah yakhdav
v’salvah b’libotam kol ha’yamim asher hem khaim al ha’adamah.
V’ya’arikh y’mey hem. Ban’imim v’yislakh
b’rakhah v’hatzlakha b’khol ma’aseh y’deyhem im kol Yisrael akheihem v’nomar: Amen.
May God who blessed our fathers Abraham, IsaacAbraham and Sarah's much-longed-for son and the second Jewish patriarch. Isaac is nearly sacrificed by his father at God's command (Genesis 22). He is married to Rebecca and is the father of Esau and Jacob. His Hebrew name is Yitzchak. and JacobLit. heel Jacob is the third patriarch, son of Isaac and Rebecca, and father to the twelve tribes of Israel. More than any of the other patriarchs, Jacob wrestles with God and evolves from a deceitful, deal-making young man to a mature, faithful partner to God. His Hebrew name is Yaakov., and our mothers Sarah, RebeccaThe second Jewish matriarch, Isaac's wife, and mother to Jacob and Esau. Rebecca is an active parent, talking to God when she is pregnant and learning the fate of her children, then ultimately manipulating Isaac and the children to ensure Jacob's ascendancy. Her Hebrew name is Rivka., RachelLavan's younger daughter and Jacob's beloved wife second wife (after he is initially tricked into marrying her older sister, Leah). Rachel grieves throughout her life that she is barren while Leah is so fertile. Ultimately, Rachel gives birth to Joseph and dies in childbirth with Benjamin. Rachel is remembered as compassionate (she is said to still weep for her children), and infertile women often invoke Rachel as a kind of intercessor and visit her tomb on the road to Bethlehem. and Leah, bless this couple. Guide them further on their life’s journey. Together let them find favor in the eyes of those who see them together and let them continue to build a Jewish home worthy of praise where they will find tranquility in their hearts all their lives.
May all their endeavors be blessed.
God, the source of all life, bless this couple. May the love that binds them be strong and lasting and let their hearts be filled with patience and understanding for one another.
May their home continue to be a sanctuary built on devotion to God, Torah and Israel.
May they be blessed with a long life together filled with good health, good fortune, adventure and peace, their love and friendship continuing to deepen through the years.
(Adapted from Rabbinical Assembly Rabbi’s Manual and the Central Conference of American Rabbis Rabbi’s Manual):
May God who blessed our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah,
bless __________________ and _________________, who are here today with gratitude for all the blessings their years together have afforded them. May God protect them and may they continue to enjoy God’s blessings, witnessing their descendants occupying themselves with Torah and mitzvotLit. Commandment. It is traditionally held that there are 613 mitzvot (plural) in Judaism, both postive commandments (mandating actions) and negative commandments (prohibiting actions). Mitzvah has also become colloquially assumed to mean the idea of a “good deed.". Grant them benediction and success in all their endeavors, embraced by the love of their children/ grandchildren/ great- grandchildren and other loved ones, so they may live in joy, peace and companionship. Amen.
May God who blessed our ancestors, bless ____________________ and ___________________.
They have been privileged to build a Jewish home filled with love and harmony, peace and partnership. They are blessed with children/grandchildren/ great-grandchildren growing up in health and happiness, loving Torah and performing acts of lovingkindness. They are here today in gratitude for all the kindness which God has bestowed upon them since their wedding day. May God continue to watch over them and protect them from any sorrow and distress. May they enjoy good health together for many years to come.
(Adapted from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association Rabbi’s Manual):
Our God and God of our ancestors, our hearts are filled with joy and gratitude as we look back over the years that ________________ and _________________ have shared together in marriage. Source of Life, we know that these years have allowed them to grow as individuals and as a couple, inspired by the wisdom of those who came before, strengthened by the support of the community and nurtured by the love they share together and with their children/ grandchildren/ great-grandchildren.
4) The couple recites together (from Hosea 2:21-22):
וְאֵרַשׂתִּיךְ לִי לְעוֹלָם וְאֵרַשׂתִּיךְ לִי בְּצֶדֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּט
וּבְחֶסֶד וּבְרַחַמִים וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בֶּאֱמוּנָה וֽיָדַעַתְּ ה׳אֶת
V’eirastikh ki l’olam v’eirastikh li b’tzedek u’vmishpat
u’vkhesed u’vrakhamim v’eireastikh li be’emunah v’yada’at hai’et.
I betroth you to me forever,
I betroth you to me with steadfast love and compassion,
I betroth you to me in faithfulness.
READINGS & RECITATIONS
1) The couple can read something they wrote, a poem, song lyrics etc., and/or a child of the couple or a guest can read something original, adapted or copied. Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 is also suggested.
(See Appendix E below for suggestions about to compose a meaningful recitation.)
2) The couple recites (from Jeremiah 2:2):
זָכַרְתִּי לָךְ חֶסֶד נְעוּרַיִךְ אַהֲבַתְּ כְּלוּלֹתָיִךְ לֶכְתֵּךְ אַחֲרַי בַּמִדְבָּר בָּאָרֶץ לֹא זְרוּעָה
Zarkharti lakh khesed n’urayikh ahavat k’lulotayikh lekhtekh akharey bamidbar b’aretz lo z’ruah.
I remember the love of your youth, the devotion of your commitment,
how you followed me in the wilderness in a land not known.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה׳ אֶלוֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם הַטוֹב וְהַמֵיטִיב
Barukh atah Adonay Eloheynu melekh ha’olam hatov v’hameitiv.
Blessed are you God, king of the universe, who is good and beneficent.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה׳ אֶלוֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֱחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְמָנוּ וְהִגִיעָנוּ לַזְמַן הָזֶה
Barukh atah Adonay Eloheynu melekh ha’olam shehekheyanu v’kimanu v’higianu lazman hazeh.
Blessed are you God, king of the universe
who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this day.
5) As a symbol of the home and the life they have built together, committed to each other, to their family, to their community, to God and the Torah, the couple exchange mezuzot or display a mezuzahThe mezuzah is a small box containing parchment on which are written the words of the Shema (Judaism's most central prayer). It is affixed to the doorpost of a Jewish home in order to fulfill the commandment to "inscribe [the words of God] upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates." in the form of jewelry, a wall mezuzah or wall hanging.
They recite that part of the ShemaThe most central prayer in Jewish liturgy, the Shema states: "Hear O Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord is One." These words are written inside mezuzot and t'fillin. It is traditionally said during all major services and when waking and going to sleep. prayer which refers to mezuzah and to the value and importance of keeping the Torah holy and passing on its wisdom:
וְאָהַבְתָּ אֶת ה׳ אֶלֹקֶיךָ בְכֹל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכֹל נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכֹל מְאֹדֶךָ וְהָיוּ הַדְבָרִים הָאֵלֶה
מְצַוְךָ הַיוֹם עַל לְבָבֶךָ וְשִׁנַנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּם בָּם…וּכְּתַבְתָּם עַל מֽזוּזוֹת בֵּיתֶךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ
V’ahavata et Adonay eloheykha b’khol l’vavekha u’vakhol nafshekha u’vakhol m’odekha v’hayu hadevarim haeleh
m’tzevekha hayom al l’vaveykha v’shantam l’vaneykha v’dibartam bam…u’khtavtam al m’zuzot beytekha u’visharekha.
And you shall love God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your resources.
Let these matters that I command you today be upon your heart.
Teach them to your children…..and write them on the doorposts of your house and gates.
The traditional Sheva BrakhotSeven blessings with which the bride and groom are blessed at their wedding. Also refers to the seven days of celebration following the wedding, during which the seven blessings are recited at every meal at which there is a minyan of ten Jews and there is at least one guest who was not present at the wedding. (seven wedding blessings) are recited by family members and guests. Since these blessings are not being used for their original purpose, some may prefer to substitute “Hamakom” (an appellation often used for God; literally “the place,” figuratively, the one who guides the cosmos) for “shem HashemLit. The Name, referring to the ineffable name of God; used as a substitute for any of the more sacred names of God when not speaking in prayer. Particularly used in conversation.” (the holy name of God.) “Reim haahuvim” (beloved companions) may also be substituted for “hatan v’kallahLit. Bride.” (bride and groom) if preferred.
The couple might consider the following as they write a statement:
- What did they look forward to at their wedding and how did it play out?
- What values do they share and have they lived by?
- What surprises were in store?
- What do they look back on with happiness? With regret?
- What are their hopes for the future?
- What challenges do they anticipate?
Children or friends of the couple might consider the following as they write a statement:
- What have I learned from this couple?
- How has their life together influenced my life?
- What values have they represented to me?
- What do I wish them?