Havdalah, literally “Separation,” is the ceremony that gives an end to Shabbat. Havdalah is a ceremony that separates the Holy Sabbath day and the secular work week. It is also a form of symbolism to separate the sacred from the mundane.

This short, simple, and sweet prayer service is done about 45 minutes after nightfall on Saturday night. In Judaism, nightfall is defined by the presence of three visible stars in the firmament.  Shabbat begins when the three stars are visible, and Havdalah is performed between 45 minutes to an hour after the three stars are visible, making Shabbat roughly 25 hours long.

A glass of wine, sweet-smelling spices, and a braided candle are required to perform the ceremony. This ceremony can be celebrated either at home or the synagogue.

  • Glass of Wine
  • Spices
    • Spices or Besamim take the second blessing. The sense of smell is said to be our most spiritual sense. During Shabbat we are have an extra soul within us and when this reinforced spirituality leaves us, we have the spices to smell to transition us into the mundane. A Jewish blessing for the spices (Borei Minei B’Samim) is said before smelling any sweet-smelling spice such as clove, rosemary, or even cinnamon, among many others.
  • Braided Candle
    • This candle has two or more braided wicks to give out more, powerful light than a regular candle and it also symbolizes unity. If a braided candle is not accessible, you can hold two regular candles with the wicks touching so they can burn as one flame afire, or Eish. A Jewish blessing for good fire (Borei Morei Ha’Eish) is recited. We hold our fingers close to the flame and notice the light through our fingernails.
  • Havdalah Blessing
    • Lastly, a blessing for Havdalah (separation) itself is recited over the wine, after the prayer is said, drink the wine.

The whole process of Havdalah involves our five senses

  1. Smell – By smelling the Besamim
  2. Hearing – By listening to the blessings
  3. Taste – By tasting the wine
  4. Sight – By seeing the ceremony and the light through our fingernails
  5. Touch –  By feeling the warmth of the candle when we put our fingers close to it.

We end the ceremony by singing Eliyahu HaNagvi and Shavua Tov.  Shavua Tov simply means, “Have a happy week.”