Shabbat, the weekly Jewish day of rest, is an opportunity for you to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and focus on the things that matter most to you–family, community, personal growth. As the sky gets dark on Saturday evening, it can be hard to let go of this restful oasis.
Luckily, Judaism has a special ceremony that allows you to officially part with Shabbat, while expressing the hope that some of the restorative power of this special day will remain throughout the work week. This farewell ceremony is called havdalah, which literally means “separation.”
How To Make Havdalah
When three stars are in the sky on Saturday evening, it’s time for havdalah. You’ll need a braided candle, a spice box filled with spices, and a kiddush cup holding wine or grape juice. There?s a special blessing to recite over each of these items; the text can be found in a Jewish prayer book or here.
Gather family and/or friends together and, if you like, form a circle. To enhance the mood, you can dim or turn off the lights in the room, and have different people hold the candle, the spice box, and the kiddush cup. The havdalah blessings are recited or sung in Hebrew or English either by one person or all together.
As each blessing is said, the relevant item is made accessible to the group: The kiddush cup is held up for all to see, but the wine is not sipped until the end. The spices are passed around, and each person takes a moment to smell their sweetness. The candle is held high, and every person puts a hand up into the candle’s light, turning the hands over, palms in, and bending the fingers. Some people look into the eyes of those near them to see the light reflected there.
When the blessings are concluded, each person can take a sip from the wine or grape juice. It is customary to pour the remainder of the wine/juice into a nonflammable dish or basin in which the candle is then extinguished.
Shabbat is now officially over. Wish each other: Shavua tov! (A good week!)
For the Kids
Kids usually love havdalah–probably because it is short, sweet, and multi-sensory. Here are some ways you can involve your kids in this ritual, and make it even more fun:
1. Spices for All: Together with your kids, make enough small packages of cloves and cinnamon sticks so that when it’s time for the blessing over the spices, everyone can have their own. You can collect used film canisters from camera stores (yes, some people still use film in this digital age!)–these make great individually-sized spice containers. Your kids can use stickers to decorate the canisters. Little mesh bags (like these from Oriental Trading) also make great spice holders.
2. Pyrotechnics: When you’re putting out the havdalah candle at the end of the ceremony, pour whiskey or vodka into a dish and extinguish the candle in it. It will burst into a big, quick burning flame, sure to enchant the kids. Just be aware of safety–make sure all the little people stand at a distance while watching this trick.
3. Make it a Sing-a-Long: You can sing the havdalah blessings (Jewish musician Debbie Friedman wrote the music that has become classic–check it out here ). And after havdalah ends, there are some customary songs to sing like Eliyahu Hanavi and Shavua Tov–which has its own English lyrics too: “A good week, a week of peace, may gladness reign and joy increase.” After all this traditional singing, surely your crew will be ramped up for a jam session. Why not give Shabbat a lively send-off of your own?
Now’s your chance to pull out the instruments–real or toy–and sing your family’s favorite songs together.