Saturday, 17 January 2015

What is an Avraham Seev?

Wendy Bensussen and John Lefor are getting married on Thursday and having an Avraham Seev on Shabbat at SBH. But what exactly is it? The Shabbat after the wedding the bridegroom (Hatan) is called to the Torah. Indeed, this custom is done by all Sephardic communities but most Sephardic communities call it a Shabbat Hatan. Ashkenazim have the custom to call up the Hatan the Shabbat before and they call it an "Aufruf" which is Yiddish for an aliyah to the Torah. 

This custom of calling the Hatan to the Torah either the Shabbat before or the Shabbat after is ancient and goes back to the time of King Solomon. Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir comments on the significance of being called to the Torah. "The custom of calling the Hatan up to the Torah sends a powerful message of belonging and context... There is the belonging to the community and to the Jewish people as a whole." To read his piece click here.

What is unique to Sephardic Bikur Holim and Ezra Bessaroth, is not just the fact that we call this event an Avraham Seev. There is a whole ceremony which to my knowledge is only done by these two congregations in Seattle. (Feel free to let me know if I have that wrong).

Hazzan Ike Azose makes the following remarks when introducing the Avraham Seev Ceremony on page 375 of the Zehut Yosef Siddur. "The Avraham Seev is a custom that goes back many years. It is observed on the Shabbat following a wedding when the bride and groom are present in the synagogue. For this ceremony, we take out an extra Sefer Torah. It is not read until we are finished with the Aftarah. At that point, we place the special Sefer Torah on the Tevah and call up the bridegroom, the Hatan, who will say the blessings of the Torah as usual. From the Sefer Torah, the reader sings the first seven verses of Genesis, Chapter 24 (פ' חיי שרה) alternating each sentence with its Aramaic translation, which is sung by someone else. Each Aramaic verse, however, is sung to the tune of a different Makam (musical mode or theme).

"The appropriateness of the seven sentences can be found in the fact that Abraham, who is old and nearing death, makes his servant Eliezer swear that he will go back to Abraham's birthplace and choose a wife for his son Isaac... Eliezer came back with Rebecca, a beautiful match and soulmate for Isaac. The congregation's wishes, likewise, go out to the married couple for a very happy marriage."

It is my berakha for Wendy and John that they have a long and very happy marriage together. Mazal Tov!


  1. Mazal Tov to the hatan and kallah. Although the custom of the vast majority of Sepharadim is to not take out a separate Sefer Torah (let alone make berakhot) for the Avraham Seev, but rather to just read the passage from a Humash, the Turkish/ Rhodes custom for the hatan to make a berakha on a separate Sefer Torah is well-documented and defended and predates the Spanish Expulsion by many centuries, starting with:

    Rav Nathan of Rome in Sefer HaArukh - (Erekh Hatan)
    Rav Yeuda ben Barzilai of Barcelona in Sefer HaItim
    Rav Shelomo ben Tzemach Duran - in Tashbetz, in response to an inquiry from the Sefardic community in Malaga

    and later, among others:

    Rav Haim Benveniste in Kenesset Hagedola, concerning the custom in Tire, Turkey
    Rav Hayim Yosef David Azoulay (Hida) in Ledavid Emet
    Rav Yehuda Ayash, Chief Rabbi of Algiers, concerning the custom in Livorno, Italy

    I have no hard evidence, but I would not at all be surprised if the Turkish kehillot in Bat Yam and elsewhere in Israel, as well as those in Istanbul, still practice the custom the same way as we do in Seattle.

    1. Rabbi Azose, thank you so much for sharing these mekorot and additional information. I look forward to studying them! Tizke Lemitzvot.

    2. Rabbi Azose, thank you so much for sharing these mekorot and additional information. I look forward to studying them! Tizke Lemitzvot.


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