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Make Light, Not Dark


As the Shabbat Queen departs and darkness descends, the Havdalah ceremony fills us with hope and courage. Havdalah means “separation”—between light and dark, between the holy and the mundane.

Havdalah is a multi-sensory experience. If there is a group, one person recites while all participate and answer “Amen.” You’ll need: A prayerbook, cup, wine or grape juice, a candle (multi-wick, if available), and aromatic herbs (whole cloves are popular).

  • Fill the cup to the rim. Lift it in your right hand (unless you are left-handed).
  • The fragrance of the besamim revives and soothes the soul as the Shabbat departsRecite the preliminary verses. Pause when you reach “For the Jews there was light, happiness, joy and honor—so be it for us!” and allow everyone to say it in unison.
  • Recite the Hagafen blessing on the wine.
  • Put the cup down. Recite the blessing on the aromatic herbs. Give everyone a chance to take a whiff. Their fragrance is meant to revive and soothe the soul as the Shabbat departs.
  • Recite the blessing on the candle. Everyone looks at his or her fingernails by the candle’s light. On the first Saturday night after creation, darkness engulfed the world for the first time. G‑d gave Adam the wisdom to rub together two stones and harness fire—for which we now offer thanks.
  • Lift the cup again, and recite the concluding Havdalah blessing.
  • Sit down and drink at least 1.5 ounces.
  • Extinguish the candle by dipping it in the wine that overflowed onto the plate beneath the cup. Many dip a finger into this wine, and run the finger over the eyelids.

Technical notes:

Once the sun has set on Saturday evening, we don’t eat or drink until after Havdalah. If you had begun a proper meal with bread before sunset, however, you may continue into the night. Any activity prohibited on the Shabbat is still prohibited until Havdalah, or until you say “Blessed be He who separates between the sacred and the mundane.” That’s included in the evening prayer, but can be said independently.

See also our comprehensive Havdalah Wizard.

Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Anonymous January 21, 2013

Beer Love the idea. Sounds progressive. Which brands of beer are Kosher ? Reply

Arieh Montreal January 19, 2013

Beer In the article says "wine or grape juice" but my rabbi (from Chabad) every week does Havdala with a beer. Reply

Anonymous October 17, 2012

Havdalah Never knew what it meant. I knew that it meant the end of Shabbos and a meal. Your article like the wine is sweet and to the point. I'll have to pay attention next time I am present at a havdalah. Reply

Rabbi Menachem Posner October 12, 2012

To Mark When Shabbat is followed by the intermediate days (chol hamoed) of Sukkot, fragrant spices are used. On chol hamoed Pesach, however, the Chabad custom is not to use spices (lest they contain chametz). Reply

ruth housman mashfield, ma October 11, 2012

these ceremonies can be beautiful I understand the separation between the holy and mundane as practised in havdalah and its meaning, but on a deeper, level, it's clear to me that the mundane and the holy are inseparable. It's all in how you view what is sacred and how you act in the mundane world. To see a spark in all things, is to see the separation is not clear, from "one world to, the next". I could argue for the sacred in the profane, because it's clear all opposites also do fold together.

I believe when you are wrapped in a spiritual mode, such a ceremony is a way of completion and certainly for me, the ceremony of casting bread on the waters is so beautifully meaningful. Reply

Mark Boston, MA October 11, 2012

Havdalah When Shabbat is followed by Yom Tov intermediate days e.g. Sukkot, do you use a spice (during Havdalah ); as this happened during this past week? Reply

Prof. Jose Antonio Ayasta Nassif Santiago, Chile January 30, 2011

On Havdalah Make Light, Not Dark What the world now needs most: The Light of G-d. Reply

Henri Joseph Schreve-Cohen Mussel canal, Netherlands August 22, 2009

help It is wonderfull to have this site and the minuts of mitzvoth, easy to print and to teach childeren inan understandeable way. I live in a village where the nearest jewish community lays too far away to visit, so for us, no beith Knesset each shabbes and no minyan. but this Mitzvah minute is a minute far more worth than presious stonen. Rav Todot le Daqath Mitzvoth bishvil ha-ezra.
Shalom mi Holland (Europe) Reply

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