When Cantor Frankel chants the 7 Blessings/the Sheva Brachot in the vows renewal ceremony, we will hear a list of almost every word the Hebrew dictionary knows for joy. And what a joy it is to celebrate the bond of love and commitment! The conclusions of the final two of the blessings ask God to cause the couple to rejoice. Traditionally text says chatan and kallah, groom and bride; we are a community that thankfully includes LGBTQ couples and so we make a change to: reh-im and ahuvim, two words for beloved. If you listen closely, you will hear that in the 6th blessing, we ask God to cause one beloved and (in Hebrew v’) the other beloved, to rejoice together. In the 7th blessing, we ask God to cause one beloved with (in Hebrew im) the other beloved to rejoice together. By the time we reach the 7th blessing, the couple is not only one and the other, but one with the other, bound together in covenant.
Please take a look with me at the high bimah. Above the chuppah and the ark, what do you see?… Another chuppah! As the temporary chuppah celebrates the covenant of a couple, that permanent chuppah celebrates the covenant of our people with God, the Torah scrolls just beneath serving as our ketubah, our marriage contract.
Tonight we celebrate brit, covenant. Our couples share a covenant with each other, our community shares a covenant with God. And on this Shabbat, my first as your new senior rabbi, I celebrate a covenant with this congregation. When I see that chuppah that always adorns our sanctuary, I think of the relationship you and I share, the bond, not only you and me, but you with me. And that is a covenant I cherish.
How beautiful to celebrate tonight, the commitment of married couples, and the commitment of a rabbi and congregation — and I will add, the other enduring commitments that members of our community make, to friends, work, families, and world around you — how beautiful to celebrate commitment tonight, during the very week when the Jewish people observed the festival of Shavuot, the holiday commemorating the revelation of Torah at Mt. Sinai. Shavuot, the revelation of our people’s tradition, values and purpose, sanctifies the ultimate Jewish covenant!