What Is Havdalah?

On Friday evening, we sanctified the Shabbat with the Kiddush ritual; now, as we take leave of it after a night and day of divine rest, we once again pronounce the holiness of the day over a cup of wine.

The Havdalah (“Separation”) ceremony is a multi-sensory ritual employing our faculties of speech, hearing, sight, smell and taste to define the boundaries that G‑d set in creation “between the sacred and the everyday.”

Havdalah is done after nightfall on Saturday evening, which is when Shabbat ends. “Nightfall” is the point at which is grows dark enough for three medium-sized stars to become visible. Because making Havdalah involves actions that are forbidden on Shabbat (e.g., lighting and putting out a flame), it is important not to do so untill after Shabbat has ended.

For Shabbat-end times in your location, click here.

You Will Need:

1) Wine or grape juice. In a pinch, beverages such as beer, juice or even tea may be used.
2) A cup or goblet with a plate or tray underneath.
3) Spices. Cloves and/or myrtle twigs are generally used, but any pleasant-smelling spice or plant will do. Many households have a specially designed spice box to hold the Havdalah spices.
4) A braided candle, or two candles you can hold together to create one flame.

What to Do:

One person can make Havdalah for a group of people, as long as all listen attentively with the intention to fulfill the mitzvah, and respond “amen” at the conclusion of each blessing. The person making Havdalah should likewise intend to recite the blessings for all the other participants as well.

Fill your Havdalah cup to the brim—to the point that the wine actually spills over—and lift it into the cupped fingers of your right hand (see illustration). Light the Havdalah candle.

You should stand while saying Havdalah, but prepare a seat, since you will want to sit down before drinking the wine.

Holding the ceremonial cup of wine for Kiddush or Havdalah.
Holding the ceremonial cup of wine for Kiddush or Havdalah.

The introduction to the Havdalah consists of nine joyful biblical verses which set the tone for a hopeful and joyous week to come. The reader chants the following aloud:

Indeed, G‑d is my deliverance; I am confident and shall not fear, הִנֵּה אֵל יְשׁוּעָתִי אֶבְטַח וְלֹא אֶפְחָד
for G‑d the L‑rd is my strength and song, and He has been a help to me. כִּי עָזִּי וְזִמְרָת יָהּ יי וַיְהִי לִי לִישׁוּעָה
You shall draw water with joy from the wellsprings of deliverance. וּשְׁאַבְתֶּם מַיִם בְּשָׂשׂוֹן מִמַּעַיְנֵי הַיְשׁוּעָה
Deliverance is the L‑rd’s; may Your blessing be upon Your people forever. לַיי הַיְשׁוּעָה עַל עַמְּךָ בִרְכָתֶךָ סֶּלָה
The L‑rd of hosts is with us; the G‑d of Jacob is our everlasting stronghold. יי צְבָאוֹת עִמָּנוּ מִשְׂגָּב לָנוּ אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב סֶלָה
L‑rd of hosts, happy is the man who trusts in You. יי צְבָאוֹת אַשְׁרֵי אָדָם בֹּוטֵחַ בָּךְ
L‑rd, deliver us; may the King answer us on the day we call. יי הוֹשִׁיעָה, הַמֶּלֶךְ יַעֲנֵנוּ בְיוֹם קָרְאֵנוּ

The following line is said first by those listening to Havdalah and then by the leader:

For the Jews there was light and joy, gladness and honor—so let it be with us! לַיְּהוּדִים הָיְתָה אוֹרָה וְשִׂמְחָה וְשָׂשֹׂן וִיקָרּ כֵּן תִּהְיֶה לָנוּ

The following is said just by the leader:

I will raise the cup of deliverance and invoke the name of the L‑rd. כּוֹס יְשׁוּעוֹת אֶשָּׂא וּבְשֵׁם יי אֶקְרָא

Blessing Over Wine

Now raise your right hand—the hand holding the cup of wine—a little bit higher, and recite the blessing on the wine:

Attention, Gentlemen! סַבְרִי מָרָנָן
Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Everyone responds by saying “amen.”

Blessing Over Spices

Set down the wine cup, pick up the spices in your right hand, and say:

Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who creates various kinds of spices. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא מִינֵי בְשָׂמִים

Everyone responds by saying “amen.” All sniff the aromatic spices.

Blessing Over Fire

Havdalah, which marks the end of Shabbat, includes wine, spices, and a flame.
Havdalah, which marks the end of Shabbat, includes wine, spices, and a flame.

The leader says:

Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who creates the lights of fire. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא מְאוֹרֵי הָאֵשׁ

Everyone responds by saying “amen,” looks at the flame and enjoys the light. It is customary to lift one’s fingertips so that the flame’s glow falls on them.

The Main Havdalah Text

Lift the goblet in your right hand, and say the following:

Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
who makes a distinction between sacred and mundane, between light and darkness, הַמַּבְדִּיל בֵּין קֹדֶשׁ לְחוֹל בֵּין אוֹר לְחֹשֶׁךְ
between Israel and the nations, between the Seventh Day and the six workdays. בֵּין יִשְׂרָאֵל לָעַמִּים בֵּין יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי לְשֵׁשֶׁת יְמֵי הַמַּעֲשֶׂה
Blessed are You, L‑rd, who makes a distinction between sacred and mundane. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי הַמַּבְדִּיל בֵּין קֹדֶשׁ לְחוֹל

Have a seat, drink at least 1.5 oz. of wine, then extinguish the flame with the remaining wine. Dip your fingertips in the wine on the plate and wish everyone, “A good week!”


If you drank more than 3 oz. of wine, make the appropriate afterblessing.

It is now customary to read Ve-yiten Lecha, an anthology of biblical blessings: Isaac’s blessings to Jacob, Jacob’s blessings to Manasseh and Ephraim, blessings pronounced by Moses, by King David, etc. Recite these blessings together with a friend—both of you reading from the same book—to emphasize that the greatest blessing is the ability to share a blessing.

Following Havdalah, we make a farewell party for the Shabbat Queen. This is usually a light meal, but rich with traditional after-Shabbat songs. It is also customary to tell stories of the righteous on this evening.

Motzaei Shabbat (as these special hours following the Shabbat are called) is a bittersweet time: there is sadness over the Shabbat Queen’s departure, but she leaves a trail of joy and tranquility even as she goes. Hold the mood and savor it as you slowly re-enter your weekday life . . .

Important Havdalah Resources

PDF of Havdalah text from the Kehot Siddur
PDF of Ve-yiten Lecha to be said after Havdalah
What Is Havdalah?
What to Expect at Havdalah