The New Synagogue of Long Island
The Synagogue for Spiritual Judaism

Havdalah Ceremony

 

At the end of the Shabbat day, when three stars appear, it is time for the brief ceremony of Havdalah (literally, separation or distinction), at which time we take leave of Shabbat. Our rabbis teach that on Shabbat, we are given an extra soul. At Havdalah we relinquish that extra soul but hope that the sweetness and holiness of the day will remain with us during the week. The service can take place in the home, in synagogue or in a group.  Havdalah is a beautiful, brief ceremony that uses three elements to mark the moment we sadly say goodbye to the beauty of Shabbat, and pledge to carry its gifts into the week to come.

 

We drink from a cup of wine, which symbolizes the joy we experienced on Shabbat. We take one last sip of the joy of Shabbat as we bid Shabbat goodbye for another week. We pass a spice box (full of cinnamon or another sweet-smelling spice), which symbolizes the lingering scent of the sweetness of Shabbat, whose pleasant aroma we breathe in one last time that it might last us through the week to come until we can welcome Shabbat again.  We light a multi-wicked candle, which symbolizes how our busy separate selves come together on Shabbat.  The lighted candle also symbolizes the light of Shabbat and the strands of the braid have been interpreted as the many types of Jews in the world, all of whom are part of one unified people.  The light, the wine, and spices all come together to help us carry Shabbat with us through the week until the next Shabbat.  We extinguish the candle into the wine to conclude the ceremony, as a final moment of “goodbye” to Shabbat. With the singing of Shavua Tov and Eliyahu haNavi we wish each other a “good week” to come and long for a day when Shabbat won’t need to end at all!

 

These blessings talk about distinctions between the holy and the everyday, between light and darkness, and between the seventh day of rest and the six days of work.  Shabbat is a taste of perfection, but our work in the world is needed to bring it about.

 

In Judaism, the concept of making distinctions and separations permeates many facets of religious life. There are distinctions between holy time and ordinary time; certain books are holy and distinguished from books which are mundane; holy spaces are also treated with particular reverence. The Torah teaches that G-d created the world by making distinctions - first between light and darkness, next between water and empty space, finally between earth and water. To mark the beginning of Shabbat, the sacred time, Jews light two candles and recite a berachah (blessing) which praises G-d who commanded to kindle lights in celebration of the occasion. We mark the end of Shabbat with Havdalah.


The Havdalah (“Separation”) ceremony is a multi-sensory ritual employing our faculties of speech and hearing, sight, smell and taste to define the boundaries that G-d set in creation “between the sacred and the everyday.” This act of separation is what connects Shabbat with the rest of the week. When the boundaries between the holy and the ordinary are blurred, the holy is no longer holy and the ordinary is left with nothing to uplift it. By defining the separation of Shabbat from the workday week, the relationship between the two is also established - a relationship in which Shabbat imparts its vision to the rest of the week and the six days of daily life feed into the sanctity of Shabbat.


Take a moment before Havdalah to search for something special that you want to carry with you into the week.  Remember it and reflect on it when things don’t go according to plan.

 

Shabbat Shalom!

Sabbath Peace

 

Shavua Tov!

A good week


Rabbi Stuart A. Paris, HaKohen


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Torah Completion and Celebration

Sunday, May 15, 2016

7 Iyar, 5776

Rabbi Stuart Paris and Rabbi Gedaliah Druin

Rabbi Gedaliah Druin completing the last letter of the Torah