One of our newer additions to our family routine has been the weekly Havdallah ceremony. It was a tradition that my husband and I had talked about integrating for years but Shabbats were "busy" days of rest for us newlyweds and we always found ourselves dragging home and into bed after a long Shabbat out, completely forgetting, and just trying to get a bit a "rest" before the new week of work began. Learning the importance of these Feasts, Holy Days and Traditions is a process. My Husband and I have not always enjoyed the blessing of them all either. But as we incorporate each Biblical festivity we realize the joy and beauty of each both as it relates to Yeshua and as it blesses us personally. So what is Havdallah, how do we celebrate it, and where is Yeshua in it?
What is Havdallah?
Havdallah is a short set of prayers or blessings that commemorate the end of the Holy Sanctified day of rest, and the beginning of the work week where normal life resumes. It is the moment to thank God for setting aside the Holy and separating it from the Mundane or common. There is a phrase that says "blessed are you oh Lord our God who separates the holy from the mundane", but the word for mundane is the same as the word for "sand" in the sandbox or seashore. To me its that God set aside this special time for us to fellowship with Him and each other, to rest fully and differently than the common everyday activities that consume our time and energy through the week. It's like finding that special Conch shell on an endless beach of white sand. It's Wilson on a shipwrecked Island.
As far as I know there is no specific mention of Havdallah in scriptures although I like to think that when the New Testament speaks of the early church getting together to break bread on the first day of the week, that likely it is referring to this little tradition which closes out the Shabbat and officially begins the work week at sunset on Saturday night which is according to the Biblical and Jewish Time-table actually "the first day of the week". Remember, Biblical days begin the night before and the early believers would have been marching off to work on Sunday mornings with the rest of the world rather than to a local church building.
Interestingly, it was a Havdallah service held after the Saturday night service of our church where I grew up that introduced me to the Jewish roots of Christianity. For a season, my parents accommodating me as a preteen who disliked youth group and we attended Saturday evening services. At the same time a Jewish gentlemen in the church felt a burden to facilitate the Havdallah service after. We saw the sign outside a classroom as we walked to the parking lot and decided to check it out. I don’t remember much, but these weekly gatherings with just him and out family became a bright spot for me to look forward to something, and each week blew my mind at all the details of the feasts and God’s plan to reveal Yeshua as the world’s Savior, first to the Jew and then to the nations. (Romans 1:16 )
Again as a young adult I would attend a monthly secular Havdallah services at a reform synagogue, but it was motivated as a social gathering rather than as a significant act of worship. Now that we have reincorporated Havdallah personally into our family I appreciate the beauty of the words and ceremony. It’s become a treasured part of our week, and I tear up almost every time.
How do we Celebrate?
Sometimes I get envious that I didn't get to grow up learning all the jingles and prayers and songs, but at the same time, its like a continual treasure hunt of learning, and we get the opportunity to "reinvent" the traditions with our own family. One thing we have learned in our journey is there isn't really a "right" way to do it. Ashkenazi and Sefardi Jews recite the prayers similarly but with their own flare, as do west coast vs east coast American Jews. Don't idolize a method, and get pretentious that one way is more right than another. This is about worshipping our Creator and offering thanksgiving to Him.
In order to fully enjoy the Havdallah ceremony you will need to collect 5 items:
a ceramic or glass plate with a lip
a small cup
grape juice or wine (we water ours down)
a braided candle or 2 votive candles
a container of fragrant spices (cinnamon & cloves and you can add cardamon, anise and anything else fragrant.
We are still working on memorizing the blessings and we are very thankful for technology which provides great resources to guide us along. This is our favorite video to follow along with. Our son prefers this animated version, but we find it rushes through the blessings and ceremony too quickly. There are some other great Havdallah activities and resources found here at the PJ Library.
Honestly, we don’t count the number of stars in the sky. Usually, Saturday night (motzeh -exit- shabbat) is our weekly family movie night. Depending on the weather and when we watch our movie, whether in the evening or afternoon, we will do the Havdallah ceremony before or after. In general, though, we do like to wait until the sun has dipped below the horizon and wait until dark just to psychologically extend our Shabbat rest just a little longer. Below, at the end of this post, is the Hebrew, Transliteration and English translation so you can pray and follow along.
To set the mood of closing Shabbat we dim as many lights as possible so that when we light the Havdallah candle it will shine brightly in the dark. (We are to be a light of hope to a dying and dark world). As we strike the match, this is the first act of "work" for the new week. To bring Light and Joy of God's light into our week.
We set the cup on the plate, with the candle and the spices. We pour the juice into the cup until it overflows into the plate. We like to dilute with water because we don't like to waste juice or wine. You can choose to dilute or not. And if you forgot to buy juice one week, plop a grape into the cup and fill it with water. (I might have done this a few times). Light the candles and begin the blessings.
As you recite each blessing, you want to bring attention to the element. Remember, God gave us 5 senses for learning and building memories. Havdallah is no different in using sight, sound, speech, touch, taste and smell.
For example, with the blessing over the juice you pass around the cup and allow everyone to take a sip and taste the sweetness of the Fruit of the Vine--a symbol of joy and God's salvation. Ahem. looks a lot like communion which celebrates the blood covenant of Yeshua's Salvation.
For the blessing of the Spices, make sure the spices are opened if they are in a sealed off container, and let everyone smell them. Our lives as believers are called a pleasant aroma to the Lord 2 Corinthians 2:15 .
For the Blessing over the Light, we put our hands up against the light and see how the light dances on our fingers and how the shadows change as we move our hands. We remember how we as believers are called to Walk in the Light and not in the darkness. 1 John 1:7
As you recite the beginning blessings and closing blessings, we thank God for the provision of HIS SON as our cup of Salvation. That Yeshua drank our cup of Wrath for us and died in our place, and He has set us apart, sanctified us as Holy in His sight. For God no longer sees our sins, but sees His Holy Son in our stead. Galatians 2:20
Why? Where is Yeshua in this?
Our mission as a family is to be intentional with all that we do with our children. It’s all too easy to get busy and distracted which leads to being passive and then reactionary in parenting. I catch myself all to often in the passive reactionary cycle. Do we execute this perfectly in all things? Of course not. We fail, often miserably, but the point is to try and try again and to do the best we can. (Proverbs 24:16)
When we approach Biblical Holy Days and Extra Biblical tradition we want to be intentional to see how God wants to use each thing we are doing and celebrated to glorify Himself and reveal His son. So, while Havdallah is an Extra Biblical tradition, it has Yeshua written ALL OVER IT. Literally. As we've already explained above, each blessing and element points us to a different aspect of our faith walk and scripture. And I'm sure you could even find more scriptures to correspond to each blessing. And as you can read below, every line of the blessing is referring to salvation--calling on the very name of Yeshua. Each time we recite this blessing, every week, my heart breaks again for everyone around the world who is celebrating Havdallah void of faith or even knowledge of who Yeshua is! They are calling out for salvation without seeing who is their savior, calling out His name repeatedly not knowing to whom it belongs.
So, as you consider bringing Havdallah into your weekly schedule, consider using it as a time set aside to intercede for God’s people that they would see Yeshua as their Messiah. That as they pray for their cup of salvation, they would drink deeply from the living waters of Yeshua!
הִנֵּה אֵל יְשׁוּעָתִי, אֶבְטַח וְלֹא אֶפְחָד, כִּי עָזִּי וְזִמְרָת יָהּ יְיָ, וַיְהִי לִי לִישׁוּעָה. וּשְׁאַבְתֶּם מַֽיִם בְּשָׂשׂוֹן, מִמַּעַיְנֵי הַיְשׁוּעָה. לַייָ הַיְשׁוּעָה, עַל עַמְּךָ בִרְכָתֶֽךָ סֶּֽלָה. יְיָ צְבָאוֹת עִמָּֽנוּ, מִשְׂגָּב לָנוּ אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב סֶֽלָה. יְיָ צְבָאוֹת, אַשְרֵי אָדָם בֹּטֵֽחַ בָּךְ. יְיָ הוֹשִֽׁיעָה, הַמֶּֽלֶךְ יַעֲנֵֽנוּ בְיוֹם קָרְאֵֽנוּ. לַיְּהוּדִים הָיְתָה אוֹרָה וְשִׂמְחָה וְשָׂשׂוֹן וִיקָר. כֵּן תִּהְיֶה לָּֽנוּ. כּוֹס יְשׁוּעוֹת אֶשָּׂא, וּבְשֵׁם יְיָ אֶקְרָא.
Hinei El yeshuati, evtach velo efchad, ki ozi vezimrat yah, Adonai vayehili liyeshuah. Ushavtem mayim besasson mima’anei hayeshuah. La’Adonai hayeshuah, al amcha virchatecha, selah. Adonai tzeva’ot imanu, misgav lanu, Elohay Ya’akov, selah. Adonai tzeva’ot, ashray adam botayach bach. Adonai hoshi’ah, hamelech ya’anaynu veyom koraynu. Layehudim hayetah orah vesimcha vesason vikar. Kain tehiyeh lanu. Kos yeshuot esa uveshaym Adonai ekrah.
Behold, God is my savior, I will trust God and not be afraid, for my strong faith and song of praise for God will be my salvation. You will draw water joyously from the wellsprings of salvation. Salvation is the God’s; may Your blessing rest upon Your people. God of the heavenly armies is with us; the Lord of Ya’akov is a fortress protecting us. God of the heavenly armies, happy is the individual who trusts You. God, redeem us! The King will answer us on the day we call God. The Jews had light, happiness, joy and honor; may we have the same. I will raise the cup of salvation and call out in the name of the God.
The Blessing over the fruit of the vine (wine or grape juice)
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּֽפֶן.
Baruch atah, Adonai, Elohaynu melech ha’olam, boray pri hagafen.
Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.
The Blessing over Spices
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא מִינֵי בְשָׂמִים.
Baruch atah, Adonai, Elohaynu melech ha’olam, boray minay vesamim.
Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, Creator of the different spices.
The Blessing over the Candle
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא מְאוֹרֵי הָאֵשׁ.
Baruch atah, Adonai, Elohaynu melech ha’olam, boray me’oray ha’aysh.
Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, Creator of the fire’s lights.
The Blessing over Havdalah
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הַמַּבְדִיל בֵּין קֹֽדֶשׁ לְחוֹל, בֵּין אוֹר לְחֹֽשֶׁךְ, בֵּין יִשְׂרָאֵל לָעַמִּים, בֵּין יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי לְשֵֽׁשֶׁת יְמֵי הַמַּעֲשֶׂה. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, הַמַּבְדִיל בֵּין קֹֽדֶשׁ לְחוֹל.
Baruch atah, Adonai, Elohaynu melech ha’olam, hamavdil bayn kodesh lechol bayn or lechoshech bayn Yisrael la’amim bayn yom hashevi’i leshayshet yemay hama’aseh. Baruch atah, Adonai, hamavdil bayn kodesh lechol.
Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who separates between the holy and the profane; between the light and dark; between Israel and the other nations; between the seventh day and the six days of the week. Blessed are You, God, who separates between the holy and the profane.
Eliyahu HaNavii-- (because Elijah supposed to come before Messiah--we saw this fulfilled in John the Baptist)
אֵלִיָהוּ הַנָבִיא, אֵלִיָהוּ הַתִּשְׁבִּי, אֵלִיָהוּ הַגִלְעָדִי בִּמְהֵרָה יָבוֹא אֵלֵינוּ עִם מָשִׁיחַ בֶּן דָוִד Eliyahu Hanavie, Eliyahu Hatishbi, Elyahu Hagiladi, Bimherah Yavo Elenu Im Mashiach Ben David Elijah the Prophet, Elijah the Tishbite, Elijah the Giladite, May he soon come to us, with Messiah the son of David