Havdalah is the Jewish ceremony which ends the Sabbath day, giving us enter into the work week ahead.
The creation story in the book of Genesis speaks of God laboring six days a week and resting on the Sabbath, the seventh day. So too the people Israel, Jews, work six days and rest on the Sabbath, the seventh day according to the Jewish/Hebrew days of the week. This weekly holy day marks a time to rest, honoring creation by appreciating it, enjoying it, rather than using and working it. A day of basking and not laboring. Of delight. And when the sun goes down on Saturday night we transition back into our regular schedule, the work week. This transition is marked by a special ritual: Havdalah.
Havdalah means separation. Its function, as a ritual, is to mark a distinction between the Sabbath and the rest of the week. And also to infuse the very last few minutes of Sabbath with as much joy and enjoyment as possible. It is a last filling station of Shabbat rest and peace before moving into the work of the world.
Havdalah “tops off our tanks“ by touching all of our senses.
First we gather. Havdalah can be done alone but most often in Progressive Judaism it is a group actvitiy. Gathering with community, shoulder to shoulder is an act that touches us. Just the act of being drawn together by shared values and heritage Is something powerful. Not a daily activity for most of us.
Next we light a candle in the middle of the circle. Every stares at and lifts their hands to this one light.
Then we bless and share the sweet fruit of the vine.
Then we pass around a bag of spices to smell.
We sing the blessings over each ritual item: the wine, the candle, the spices, together as one.
Sometimes arms are put around each other and there is swaying.
Finally we wish each other a good week, a week of peace. A week filled with increaing joy. We end with blessing each other.
Havdalah is a happy separation. It is a separation between the joy of Sabbath and the joy returning of being co-creator with God of this magnificent universe—doing the holy work of tending this garden, our planet, caring for each other, making the world go round.
A global Pandemic has changed our world. But Shabbat and not Shabbat, the work week are eternal. We are gathering virtually but that does not mean that the light of Jewish community is diminished. We move forward by connecting ourselves to that which does not change, to the evergreen aspects of our traditions. Simple things like: lighting a braided candle, smelling fresh herbs from the garden, a glass of wine, singing with family or community, wishing each other a sweet week ahead.
At the core of the Havdalah ritual is the candle. The Havdalah candle is unique in being made up of many wix. It is a braided candle. Most often a braid of three. The candle symbolizes the unity of the Jewish people, and potential unity the community and the individual and God. The Jewish trinity-the holy nexus between the individual, society/community and the Divine. We keep in mind the intersection as we enter back into the work world-back into laboring to create a place where we want to live and love and where future generations will want to live and love too.
So ”what about Havdalah”? Havdalah might be the answer to creating an increasingly richer and meaningful Jewish life.
Please join us this Saturday at 6:30 pm for a Kol Ami Community Havdalah across space. On Zoom. Bring your light. Bring your candle. A glass of Wine. Some spices. We will gather together all of our sparks to bring greater light to this world. We will bless each other and sing in this new week. Look in HaKol, your email or contact us through the website for more information.