Saturday, September 5, 2015


As Jews the prayers we recite and the rituals we observe create strong links in an historical chain that dates back for more than two thousand years. The observance of  Havdala creates the separation between Shabbat and the rest of the work week. It occurs at the end of the day when three stars appear in the sky. It's a ritual intended to use all five senses: to taste wine, smell the spices, see the flame and feel its heat, and hear the blessings.

A series of biblical verses is recited.

A cup of wine is filled to the brim and held in a cupped hand, the Havdalah braided candle is lit, and
the wine is blessed.

The second blessing is over spices - besamim. They're usually stored in a decorative container and passed around so that everyone can smell the frangrance as compensation marks the loss of the specialness of Shabbat.

The third blessing over fire is made with the candle of several wicks, symbolizing the many uses of fire in our lives. Lighting the candle represents the separation of Shabbat from the work week, since it is forbidden to light a candle during Shabbat. The custom is to hold one's fingers up to candle and gaze at reflection of light on fingernails.

The fourth and final blessing is the Havdalah blessing itself which signifies the separation of the holy from the everyday. The wine is drunk except for a little bit that is poured into a dish. The candle is extinguished in it to indicate that the candle was lit exclusively for the celebration of Havdalah. The little finger is dipped into the wine and touched to the eyes to commemorate the verse in Psalm 19:19 'The commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes'

At then end everyone wishes each other Shavuah Tov, to have a good week.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Shabbat Rituals

There are two rituals honoring Shabbat in which I had the opportunity to participate. Lighting Shabbat candles to welcome the day and the Havdalah ritual of bidding the day farewell until next week. I've posted images of each in the recent past here. This post is the first of another set. I still haven't quite gotten the images I'm looking for to portray the beauty of each of the rituals, but I'll keep trying.

The Shabbat candles are lit on Friday evening before sunset. According to legend the first person to have practiced the ritual was Sarah, Abraham's wife. The Jewish Sages made the enactment of the lighting into ritual to signify peace in the home and to welcome the Shabbat, Queen of days. The candles are most often lit by a woman past Bat Mitzvah age. If unmarried she lights one candle, if married, two, and one for each child. Given the size of most very observant or haredi families, this could turn into quite a display. After lighting she waves her hands three times over the flames, covers her eyes, and recites the traditional Shabbat blessing. Usually a blessing is recited before performing a ritual, but in this case it's done afterwards  because after the blessing, Shabbat has begun and the lighting would be prohibited.

Also, it's traditional during this ritual to put money in a box for Tzedakah, which is sometimes translated as charity, but has a much deeper connotation when translated as righteousness. More about Havdalah in the next post.

Setting the example for giving Tzedakah:

Now it's my turn:

Me too:

Lighting candles, one for each child:

The glow of Shabbat candles, a beautiful light:

Watching mommy:

I know how to do it!