כׇּל יֹשְׁבֵי תֵבֵל | Kol Yoshvei Tevel: the L&L Wedding Bentcher, by Lara Chausow and Lauren Weiss

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Lara Chausow and Lauren Weiss live in Washington, DC. They met at Tikkun Leil Shabbat in 2015 and married at Adas Israel in 2018, and they still attend multiple shuls. Lara is a data analyst for the government, and Lauren is a lobbyist for an association of family planning health centers. They write,

כׇּל יֹשְׁבֵי תֵבֵל Kol Yoshvei Tevel[1]”All inhabitants of Earth,” Isaiah 18:3 partial. Also Psalms 33:8 and Lamentations 4:12. is a bentcher that my wife and I made for our same-sex wedding, designed by Hillel Smith, based on a base text by José and Josh Portuondo-Dember. It is: fully egalitarian, has full transliteration, has non-gendered language for G-d, and has full option of wife/husband/spouse pairings for sheva brachot. The PDF (linked above) is for anyone to use (it has a couple of errors, sorry about that), and if you want, you can download the IDML file to edit and create your own bentcher!

This book of prayers for the home — commonly referred to as a bentcher in Yiddish — contains the blessings that many Jews invoke after meals, during the Sabbath (Shabbat) and holidays, and in honor of weddings.[2]Jews from different communities have different formulations for some of these blessings. We each come from Ashkenazic (generally, Eastern European Jewry) families, and have thus chosen to use the phrasing common to that tradition.

We hope that this bentcher will provide our guests with a valued memento from our wedding. As with our entire wedding, we strove to create a bentcher that represented our values, both as individuals and as a couple. The title of this bentcher, “Kol Yoshvei Tevel,” translates to “all who dwell on Earth.” This is a phrase that many add to prayers for peace that traditionally are for “us” (those saying the prayer) and “for all of the people of Yisrael” (Jews everywhere). By expanding the prayers, we are not only wishing for peace for all people, but also stating that we are part of, and cannot be separated from, all of humanity.

Additionally, this bentcher uses gender-neutral words for God and for humanity, includes our foremothers as equals to our forefathers, and normalizes both same-sex and different-sex couples.[3]In keeping with our understanding of the gendered nature of Hebrew, we have provided options for brides and grooms. We welcome you to use additional terms for spouses as you feel best meets your and your spouse’s gender identity. We have included transliterations, translations, and explanatory notes in hopes that the text is accessible to all, no matter one’s level of familiarity with these prayers or fluency in Hebrew. As we could not find an existing bentcher that met these needs, we decided to make our own. We are deeply indebted to José and Josh Portuondo-Dember, who gave us the files for the bentcher they created, and to Hillel Smith, who designed this bentcher. We hope that others will want to use this bentcher going forward, either as is, or as a building block for their own creation. Contact us at laraandlaurengetmarried@gmail.com for the files.

May you use this bentcher in happiness and merriment for years to come!

Notes   [ + ]

1. ”All inhabitants of Earth,” Isaiah 18:3 partial. Also Psalms 33:8 and Lamentations 4:12.
2. Jews from different communities have different formulations for some of these blessings. We each come from Ashkenazic (generally, Eastern European Jewry) families, and have thus chosen to use the phrasing common to that tradition.
3. In keeping with our understanding of the gendered nature of Hebrew, we have provided options for brides and grooms. We welcome you to use additional terms for spouses as you feel best meets your and your spouse’s gender identity.

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