The havdalah service is arguably one of the most Messianic of all the services in Judaism. It is the service that separates the end of Shabbat from the rest of the week. Consisting of an opening prayer, several blessings, and a closing prayer, the service itself takes but a little time to complete. However, with the inclusion of music, and fellowship, it can last all night long!
We celebrate Havdalah once each month, at the home of one of our congregational families. It begins at 5:00pm with a pot luck fellowship meal. That means that everyone should bring a dish, so that we can break bread together. It is still the Shabbat, so it doesn’t need to be complicated, just delicious! And remember that we adhere to the Leviticus 11 dietary restrictions.
Following the fellowship meal, there is usually some music, and then the service itself begins. The elements of the Havdalah service might be confusing to those who do not know, so let me explain them briefly.
- The fruit of the vine – a cup of wine or grape juice is a symbol of joy throughout the Scriptures. We remember the joy of the Shabbat at its conclusion in the hope that it will follow us all through the week, until we arrive again at the next Shabbat the following Friday evening.
- Sweet, fragrant spices – we smell the spices to remind us of the sweetness of Shabbat. Take a good whiff, because the smell must linger through the whole week!
- A multi-wick candle – one of the prevailing themes of the Havdalah service is that God created darkness and light, secular and holy, the 6 days of the week and the Sabbath, and they stand in contrast to each other. As the multi-wick candle is lit and shines it’s light brightly, one places their hand with the fingers curled such that the light of the candle is reflected in the fingernails. This will create a dramatic picture of light (in the fingernails) and darkness (in the palm) set against each other. This will also remind us of the fact that God has indeed separated the Shabbat from all of the other days as special, and worthy of honor.
The service includes a number of prayers and blessings. In order that you may become familiar with them before attending or hosting a Havdalah service, they have been included below for your review.