How To Do Havdalah

Havdalah, which means “separation” is a special candle lighting ceremony that marks the conclusion of Shabbat. The service involves all the senses and is a peaceful way to get in the right headspace for the week ahead. This practice is very accessible and a great way to include family and friends who are not Jewish, or to bring spirituality into your family’s weekly routine. Here’s a guide to practicing this tradition that celebrates the end of Shabbat.

The Basics 

  • Blessing the Wine: Wine and/or grape juice is often used in Judaism to signify importance. And Havdalah is no exception. You’ll need to fill up a large glass to the top, representing a cup overflowing with blessings for the coming week.  
  • Spices Galore: According to Jewish tradition, we get an extra soul for the duration of Shabbat. A good smell revives you as the extra soul leaves. You can use anything you like. Try a mixture of cinnamon sticks and cloves, potpourri or, for a little DIY, cloves stuck into an orange.  
  • Creating Light: Havdalah candles are typically made of braided wax with several wicks, and are usually blue and white, or multicolored. If you don’t have a Havdalah candle, no problem. You can hold birthday or Shabbat candles together—really anything with two or more flames works.  
  • Holy Distinctions: Shabbat is special is because it’s different from the rest of the week. The last blessing of the Havdalah service talks about the distinction between the holy and the every day and ritualizes the transition between the two. Note: When a holiday starts on Saturday night, this blessing is different because we’re going from holy to holy instead of holy to regular. 

The Ceremony 

How to Lead and Participate in Havdalah  

  1. Use your own Havdalah set, or improvise with a cup, spice shaker and any vessel that can hold a candle. Put these items on a flameproof plate.  
  1. Pour the wine or grape juice, but don’t drink it. Light the multi-wick candle. (You may want to turn off the lights to amplify the beauty of the candle’s glow. If you’re in a group, you might gather together.) 
  1. The traditional Havdalah service starts with a short paragraph praising God and calling on God’s protection, but feel free to say whatever speaks to you about the end of Shabbat, the coming week and/or gathering with loved ones.  

People often sing a wordless tune to transition to the other blessings and in between the four blessings that make up the service. Altogether, the service will likely last less than 10 minutes. 

Blessings 

Kiddush (Wine) 

Hold up the kiddush cup and recite the blessing over the wine. After the blessing, put down the cup without drinking. 

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech Ha-olam, borei p’ri ha-gafen.

Blessed are You, Infinite One, creator of the fruit of the vine. 

Spices 

Hold up the spices while saying the blessing over the spices. Breathe in the scent and pass them around for everyone to enjoy the smell. 

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech Ha-olam borei mi-ney v’sa-mim. 

Blessed are You, Source of many kinds of spices. 

besamim

Candle 

Designate someone to hold the candle throughout the service, or hold up the candle so everyone can bask in the light.  

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat.

Blessed is the Oneness that makes us holy through commandments and commands us to kindle the light. 

Blessing of Separation 

Recite the final blessing of separation. 

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech Ha-olam ha-mav’dil bein-ko-desh l’chol, bein-or l’cho-shekh, bein-yis’ra-el la-a-mim. Bein-yom hash’vi’I l’she-shet y’mey-ha-ma-a-se. Baruch atah, Adonai ha-mav’dil bein-ko-desh l’chol. 

Blessed is the Oneness that makes us holy and distinguishes between the sacred and the profane, between light and darkness, between Israel and other people of the world, between the seventh day and the six days of the week. 
Blessed are You, Infinite One, Who distinguishes between the sacred and the profane. 

Take a sip, pour a little wine or grape juice onto the plate and extinguish the flame in the liquid.  

Wrapping Up 

At the end of Shabbat, we sing a song about Elijah (yes, the same one from the Passover seder). Shabbat is said to be like a taste of the world to come, so we often associate this one day a week with the Messianic age, which is when the prophet Elijah is said to come. Want to add some female stories to the service? Some people add another song about Miriam the prophet, sung to the same tune.  

Concluding Havdalah 

At the very end of all the blessings, wish shavua tov, a “good week,” to those around you. This greeting is typically used throughout the weekend up until Monday.  

If you’d like, dip your fingers in the wine that extinguished the flame to symbolically bring Shabbat blessings into the week.  

You may want to include a short song to conclude Havdalah as well, which aside from repeating “shavua tov,” several times, includes the words: “A good week, a week of peace, may gladness reign and joy increase.”  

The end of the service is your chance to reflect. As Shabbat closes out, ask yourself: What are you hoping for in the week to come? What sweetness from Shabbat will you carry with you into the everyday? 

Looking for more ways to bring Shabbat into your life? Here are some ways couples can bring Shabbat into their homes.


18Doors

18Doors is here to support interfaith couples and families exploring Jewish life. We offer educational content; connections to welcoming organizations, professionals and programs; resources and trainings for organizations, clergy and other program providers; and our Rukin Rabbinic Fellowship provides offerings for couples in cities nationwide. If you have questions, please contact info@18doors.org.

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Author: 18Doors