A beautiful ceremony marks the end of Shabbat on Saturday evening. This ending ritual is called Havdalah, which means separationor distinction in Hebrew. The Torah teaches that God created the world by making distinctions, first between light anddarkness, next between water and empty space, then between earth and water. The final distinction made in that week of creation was between regular time and holy time. Just as candles, wine and challah begin Shabbat, a braided candle, wine and spices mark the end of Shabbat. We use all five of our senses ina short ritual. Even if you haven’t spent the day celebrating Shabbat, Havdalah is a lovely time to gather family and friends together before you move into the week of errands, chores and work. The Havdalah ceremony consists of blessings over wine, fragrant spices, the braided candle and, lastly, acknowledging distinctions. There are also two simple songs that conclude the ceremony.

The Four Blessings: Background

Shabbat officially ends when you can see three stars in the night sky. Inorder to watch the light fade from the sky, turn off your lights. You may wish to hold your Havdalah ritual by the fading light shining through your windows.You will need a braided candle, a full cup of wine and a container of fragrant spices.

Why a braided candle? The blessing refers to “lights of fire.” The braided candle gives us several wicks to represent those lights. Braided candles can be purchased at Jewish bookstores where you will find many variations, from two candles twisted together to multiple, multicolored braids. In a pinch, you can hold two Shabbat candles together or even two matches. Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin interprets the braiding of the candles saying,

"We tend to enter Shabbat with our souls unraveling, pulled as we are in so many directions by the demands of the week and the many roles we play. On Shabbat, we have time to weave together those disparate strands of our lives. We may begin the day like the Shabbat candles, apart, pieces of ourselves separated from one another. But through the peace of Shabbat,we emerge whole once again, woven together like the wicks of the Havdalah candle.

[From The Tapestry of Jewish Time: A Spiritual Guide to Holidays andLife-Cycle Events, Behrman House, 2000, page 44.]

Why A Full Cup Of Wine?

Wine is a symbol of the sweetness of Shabbat. The full glass of wine that we use symbolizes our wish for the blessings of Shabbat to overflow into the coming week.

Why Spices?

We are thought to have a second soul on Shabbat that leaves us when Shabbat ends. The sweet smell of the spices reduces our sadness at the departure of Shabbat. There is only one rule about the fragrant spices: that there should be more than one. You may use cloves and cinnamon from your baking cupboard or any other sweet smelling herbs, flowers or fragrant fruit.

It is easy to make your own spice container or use any open dish or container. If you insert whole cloves into an orange, you will have a “spice box.” You may also purchase elegant silver or pottery versions tohold your spices.


Type of Custom: Kiddush, Motzi & Handwashing

Holiday/Event:

Source: InterfaithFamily