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Havdalah Concludes Shabbat, Ignites Our Senses

Many of us are wondering what will life be like post COVID pandemic—first and foremost, will we be alive? Will we be healthy, weak, relieved, scared, safe, ecstatic to have our freedom again? Will we continue to have a greater awareness of what is most important in life, not put as much emphasis on the daily grind, the hustle, the material things that bring only temporay satisfaction? Will we be more understanding, patient, empathetic, loving, and responsible for each other? After living in a bubble for so long, will we continue to live to our full potential, our higher purpose, and will we remember what it feels like to life each other up and that we are all in this together?

When Jewish people observe Shabbat they go through a similar transition on Saturday night when the stars come out and we prepare to re-enter the week, that transition from the holy to the mundane. Our body and soul has been renewed for the last 25 hours, will we carry this renewed energy and deeper sense of purpose into the work week? That is what Havdalah, a Hebrew word that means “separation,” is all about. This special ceremony concludes Shabbat and engages all of our senses so that we remember to carry that beauty forward.

This beautiful ritual  of Hadvalah requires us to use all five senses—to taste the wine, smell the spices, see the flame of the candle and feel its heat, and hear the blessings. We ignite all our senses as we say goodbye to the restful gift of Shabbat and pledge to carry this renewed energy into the week to come.

During a brief Havdalah ceremony, we drink from a cup of wine so that we can taste the joy we experienced on Shabbat.

We lift a cup of wine and say this blessing:

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, borei p’ri hagafen.

We praise You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, Creator of the fruit of the vine.

We pass around a spice box and each take a turn smelling the contents inside, which might include cinnamon, cloves or other sweet smelling spices. We absorb the lingering fragrance of Shabbat.

We hold up the spice box and say this blessing:

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, borei minei v’samim.

We praise You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, Creator of varied spices.

My favorite part of Havdalah is ligniting this multi-wicked candle in a dark room, the sound and sight and warmth of the flame is something to behond. Not only goes the Havdalah candle remind us of how our physical self intertwines with our spiritual being on Shabbat, but also how making  fire represents civilization, hope, and a way to overcome the darkness (both literal and figurative). Lighting the candle also harkens back to Adam and Eve, who were afraid of the darkness until God showed them how to make fire.

We lift the Havdalah candle and recite this blessing:

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, borei m’orei ha-eish.

We praise You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, Creator of the lights of fire

Next, we hold the Havdalah candle and recipe this blessing:

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam,
hamavdil bein kodesh l’chol, bein or l’choshech,
bein Yisrael laamim,
bein yom hash-vi-i l’sheishet y’mei hamaaseh.
Baruch atah Adonai, hamavdil bein kodesh l’chol.

Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all: who distinguishes between the holy and ordinary, between light and dark, between Israel and the nations, between the seventh day and the six days of work. Praise to You, Adonai who distinguishes the holy and ordinary.

Finally, we sip the wine or grape juice, and extinguish the candle in the liquid. We snuff out the candle in a cup of wine, and that sizzle is the official sound that concludes Shabbat.

So the light, the wine, and spices all come together to help us carry Shabbat with us through the week until the next Shabbat. By using all of our senses and repeating this ceremony every week, the message of hope, a new tomorrow, and a sense of greater purpose become engrained in our very being and influence our thoughts and actions in the week to come.

Shavua Tov–have a good week ahead!

Listen to the Havdalah blessings HERE!