Many of us celebrate Shabbat in one form or another — sitting down with friends or family for dinner, attending services, reading the Torah portion, or taking a walk in the park. We have learned, over time, that it is important to rest, to separate one day from the rest of the week, and to make that time holy. Very few of us, however, do Havdalah on a regular basis.
This ancient ceremony is a beautiful way to end Shabbat, to separate holy time from the rest of the week. We perform Havdalah at the end of Shabbat when three stars have appeared in the sky.
Rabbinic tradition teaches that on Shabbat we are given an extra soul, and at Havdalah we relinquish it but still hope that the spirit of Shabbat will remain with us for the rest of the week before we are given another soul the next Shabbat.
We bless a cup of wine, spices, and a candle. We sing additional blessings which talk about the distinctions between the holy and ordinary, between light and dark, and between Shabbat and the rest of the week. We sing of Elijah the prophet and in doing so make a connection between creation and the messianic era, a time of peace and justice. We end by wishing each other a good week and a week of peace.
Shaarei Shamayim has now integrated havdalah into its ritual life. Each month a member of Shaarei Shamayim hosts a gathering, which incorporates half an hour of Jewish chanting, half an hour of meditation, havdalah, and dessert. We are continually looking for new ways to reach out to our members and to find new rituals that speak to who we are as a Jewish community.
If you are not accustomed to chanting or meditation, I hope you will consider trying it out. Many find these practices deeply meaningful and compelling, and by contributing to this new approach to Havdalah we can enrich ourselves and each other.