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    Religious or Spiritual, Marriage Is Still a Great Blessing

    howardEditor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series.

    In the last San Francisco Bay Times, Reverend Elizabeth River shared two closing prayers. Both were examples of readings appropriate for couples who request “spiritual but not religious” wedding ceremonies. Many of my couples also state that they desire a spiritual but not religious ceremony. I would like to share two prayers from the Jewish tradition.

    These are both adaptations of the Sheva B’rachot (Seven Blessings), which are recited at traditional Jewish weddings.

    The first was inspired by the creative rendering of the Sheva B’rachot by Rabbi Leila Gal Berner. She included a quote in the third stanza from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

    As we celebrate with this couple on this wonderful occasion, we give thanks for the sweetness of their love and the sweetness in all nature.

    We fully honor G-d*/society/ourselves when we live our lives with integrity and honesty. We rejoice in the courage and commitment that this loving couple expresses today and throughout their relationship.

    “Just to be is a blessing; just to live is holy.” Today we open ourselves to the beauty and wonder in all life.

    Each and every one of us was created in G-d’s image. Today we are awakened to the preciousness of the Divine Spark within each of us and we marvel at the manifold beauty of each creation.

    Today we rejoice with this couple and offer our thanks for the creation of joy and gladness, pleasure and delight, love and harmony, peace and friendship.


    This next reading was inspired by the creative rendering of the Sheva B’rachot by Rabbi Stacy Offner:

    Thank you G-d, for creating that wonder which is the world:

    The mountains, the oceans, the deserts,

    The forests and the fields

    all is full of life.

    Thank You, O G-d, for creating all people in Your image.

    Each Person reflects the wonder of creation.

    All people are sacred, creators of life.

    May the joyous hope of a better world

    Inspire all people to work together

    For justice and thus for peace,

    So that the homeless will have homes,

    The hungry will be fed,

    The persecuted and oppressed will be free,

    And all people will learn

    To live in peace with each other

    And in harmony with their environment.

    We surround this couple with our love.

    May they be for each other lovers and friends.

    May their individual gifts help them

    To create new worlds together.

    Blessed are You, O G-d, Creator of joy and gladness,

    Song, laughter, good luck, hope,

    Love, happiness, peace and friendship.

    May we all witness the day

    When the dominant sounds throughout the world

    Will be these sounds of happiness:

    The voices of lovers,

    The sounds of feasting and celebrations,

    And the songs of peace.

    We give thanks to the Source of All

    for creating that wonder which is the world and for allowing this couple

    to find each other in your world.


    * The custom of using the word G-d in English is based on the traditional practice in Jewish law of giving the Creator’s Hebrew name a high degree of respect and reverence.

    Both readings teach us that while a wedding is a celebratory event, we simultaneously must be aware “that not all is right in our world. People are hurting; animals and trees are dying; the temperature rises, affecting more than we can imagine, and injustice thrives in too many places.” (Excerpted from Prayer of Concern—Community Congregational Church Tiburon, September 6, 2015 Sabbath service)

    No matter if we are spiritual, religious, both or neither, the Jewish tradition commands us to rejoice in celebration and also commands us to work toward making the world a better place.

    Thanks to Rev. Elizabeth River for delving into this topic in her previous column. And thanks to the Com-munity Congregational Church for their warm welcome. Lastly, as we have just observed Rosh Hashanah, I wish my Jewish readers a wonderful New Year!

    Howard M. Steiermann is an Ordained Ritual Facilitator based in San Francisco. For more information, please visit