Havdalah is the name for the Jewish ritual that farewells Shabbat and gives a blessing for the new week. It is a beautiful ceremony that separates between the time of Shabbat and the rest of the week; and between sacred and profane. The havdalah ceremony is traditionally performed after sunset on Saturday evening, when three or more stars can be counted in the dark sky.
The Havdalah Set
A havdalah set is used for this special ceremony. In the havdalah set is a Kiddush cup, a havdalah candle holder and a havdalah spice box.
The Havdalah Candle
A candle is lit for the havdalah ceremony to separate between light and darkness. According to Jewish Law a havdalah candle needs to combine two or more flames. There are special havdalah candles available exactly for this propose, some are a number of candles braided together and other havdalah candles have multiple wicks.
The Kiddush Cup
The Kiddush cup used for havdalah can be a regular Kiddush cup or a cup from the havdalah set. It is filled with wine for the havdalah ceremony. According to Jewish tradition only men and not women drink the havdalah wine.
The Havdalah Spice Box
Although a spice box is not technically required to perform the ceremony of havdalah many people have a special spice box reserved for this purpose. The havdalah spice box is traditionally a small beautifully decorated box to keep fragrant smelling spices such as cloves and cinnamon. In some Sephardic communities sprigs and branches of fresh fragrant herbs are used instead of a spice box.
The Havdalah Ceremony
To begin the havdalah ceremony, wine is poured into the Kiddush cup and the havdalah candle is lit. Next a special prayer is said proclaiming God as our protector and strength. The Kiddush cup that is filled with wine is raised and a blessing over the wine is said:
“Blessed are you Lord, King of the universe, who creates fruit of the vine”.
Next a blessing over the spices is said:
“Blessed are you God, King of the universe, who creates fragrant spices”, and the havdalah spice box is passed around for all of the people present to smell.
After this a blessing over the havdalah candle is made:
“Blessed are you God, King of the universe, who creates the light of fire”
Now it is customary to hold the fingertips up to the flame and to gaze at them briefly. There are several explanations for holding the fingertips up to the candle light: one explanation is that the fingers cast a shadow on the palm, so we can distinguish between light and darkness.
Lastly the havdalah blessing is said:
“Blessed are you God, King of the universe, who separates between sacred and profane, between light and darkness, between Israel and the rest of the nations, between Shabbat and the rest of the week, Blessed are you God, who separated holy from profane.”
This final blessing marks the end of the havdalah ceremony and the people present will give each other blessings of “Shavuah Tov!” for the new week to be good, and filled with health and success.