You'd hope that with all the navel gazing (live blogging!?) that led up to Chelsea Clinton's marriage to Marc Mezvinsky -- with all the speculation about the role of religion in the wedding of the Methodist former first daughter to a Jew from a powerful stock -- that someone would have cared to provide a little nuance to the different religious imagery that made appearances in their no-luxury-spared ceremony Saturday. You'd hope ... but you'd be disappointed if you looked to the usual suspects.
The New York Times, who live blogged updates coming out of the wedding, offered a story that used the word "Jewish" twice and "rabbi" and "Methodist" once each. It can all and only be found in this two paragraphs:
The interfaith ceremony was conducted by Rabbi James Ponet and the Rev. William Shillady. Ms. Clinton is Methodist, and Mr. Mezvinsky is Jewish.
It included elements from both traditions: friends and family reading the Seven Blessings, which are typically recited at traditional Jewish weddings following the vows and exchange of rings.
Gee, thanks. That's really enlightening.
Forget even mentioning the whole issue of Jewish intermarriage -- I hear that's all the rage -- how about a few basics?
Maybe The Washington Post, which dedicated a special online section to the nuptials, did better. Certainly they must have been a bit more attentive to the religion(s) at the heart of the ceremony.
Well, to start, the Post story, like the NYT's, mentioned "Jewish" twice and "rabbi" and "Methodist" once each. And then it follows the same formula for dealing with this interfaith marriage. The Post gives short-shrift to say the least:
After dark, former president Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton allowed a statement about their "great pride and overwhelming emotion," and their staff offered a few grace notes about the interfaith ceremony, which was conducted by Rabbi James Ponet and the Rev. William Shillady. (Mezvinsky was raised in the Jewish faith, while Clinton is a Methodist.) Along with their vows, there was a reading of the Seven Blessings, a Jewish tradition.
The Post didn't even bother to mention the prayer shawl that Mezinsky wore or the huppa under which they were wed.
Call me a naive, maybe even a little old-fashioned, but I thought that religion had more to do with a wedding ceremony than a few sentences -- a parenthetical even -- in a 700-word story. That's not a lot of newsprint, but it's enough to warrant an explanation of what the Seven Blessings are.
Thank heavens for my old reporting home, The Jewish Journal, which, full disclosure, still hosts The God Blog. Rob Eshman, the paper's editor-in-chief, writing on Bloggish, gave a brief bio for a rabbi who would marry a Jew to a non-Jew and sorted out the Seven Blessings:
The Seven Blessings are more traditionally known by their Hebrew name, Sheva Berachot. They are recited at traditional Jewish weddings following vows and the exchange of rings.
Eshman then went on to list the Seven Blessings -- a lot of "blessed are ..." -- and to quote My Jewish Learning explaining the import of the berachot.
The sheva berakhot are the real heart of the Jewish wedding ceremony; it is in this liturgical moment of the ceremony that themes of joy and celebration and the ongoing power of love are expressed. Taken from the pages of the Talmud (Ketubot 8a), the blessings, from one to seven, begin with the kiddush over wine and increase in intensity in their imagery and metaphors. It is no accident that there are seven of these blessings, since the number seven brings to mind the seven days of creation. Poetic echoes of creation and paradise abound in the blessings, as does the age-old yearning for return to Jerusalem. Significantly, the final blessing culminates with imagery of the entire community singing and celebrating with the bride and groom, reminding all present that the couple standing under the huppah is a link in the chain of Jewish continuity.
Yeah, those aren't too significant. Readers are much better served with a story about the guest list.