Havdalah: A Celebration of Difference

Found In: Ending Shabbat: Havdalah

By Rabbi Leila Gal Berner | Complete Ceremony

This Havdalah service is intended to emphasize the idea of pluralism and diversity within Judaism and to stress that different styles and approaches to Judaism are valuable, legitimate and important. Originally, I had planned this Havdalah to focus specifically on the issue of patrilineal and matrilineal descent, but I found the issue too limiting. As Reconstructionists, we grapple with the issue of enfranchisement of Jews on many fronts. I therefore felt that creating a Havdalah ceremony that could be applicable in general terms as a ceremony of welcoming and inclusion would be more useful than a ritual designed specifically for patrilineally-descended Jews. This Havdalah ceremony aims to emphasize acceptance and inclusion of all who we as Reconstructionists welcome as Jews  matrilineally  and patrilineally descended individuals and Jews-by-choice.

It may be noted that this ceremony can be expanded fairly easily to be a ritual of affirmation and acceptance of Jews with alternative lifestyles (e.g., gay and lesbian Jews), older and physically challenged Jews (who are often ignored within the younger or more healthy Jewish community) and Jews of different ethnic backgrounds (Ashkenazim, Sefaradim, Ethiopian Jews, etc.). The two most appropriate places for explicit inclusion of these groups would be in adding sentences ("We celebrate...") preceding the blessing over the spices and preceding the blessing over the lights.

Havdalah: A Celebration of Difference

Niggun

Reader:

We come together to celebrate Havdalah. Traditionally, Havdalah is thought of as a separation between Shabbat and the rest of the week. The Jew is saddened by the ending of Shabbat, the separation from "holy time." We mourn the loss of the neshama yetayra the "extra soul" that visits each of us on Shabbat. We feel a wrenching separation from holiness as we enter our "profane" week.

Reader:

 

The idea of separation can be a destructive one.

Reader:

Some Jews separate themselves from other peoples of the earth some thank God for "not making us like the other nations," for "separating our portion in the world from theirs."

Reader:

Sometimes Jewish men and women are separated from one another just at a time when unity should be encouraged. In the synagogue, a mehitza, a physical barrier keeps men and women apart. And usually, the mechitzah leaves women "behind the veil," behind a curtain which physically, symbolically and spiritually makes them outsiders.

Reader:

 

And the walls of separation grow higher and thicker and more impenetrable.

Reader:

Sometimes some Jews are not accepted by other Jews because they were born of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. Sometimes, some of us are rejected because we journeyed toward Judaism and became Jews-by-choice in rituals of conversion that are different from other Jews'.

Reader:

And the walls of separation grow higher and thicker and more impenetrable.

Reader:

Separations weaken us, sapping our individual and communal energies. Spiritually and communally, within Judaism and in our world, we become impoverished. More and more walls are built one Jew is separated from another Jew with a different approach to Judaism, or a different birth status. Jews are separated from non-Jews, young are separated from old, white people from people of color. Ultimately, we come to live in a world overwhelmed by walls.

Reader:

So let us celebrate Havdalah together as the Hebrew word hevdel) suggests: let us celebrate difference the differences between Shabbat and the other days of the week and the many differences between peoples which so enrich our world.

(candle is lit)

Reader:

We celebrate the ending of Shabbat and the beginning of a new week filled with Life. We seek strength to face the week ahead, to deal as best we can with the challenges and difficulties we may encounter. We seek the openness of heart and of mind to be able to fully appreciate the joys and blessings we may find. In the week ahead, we express our faith in God and in our partnership with the Power that makes for yeshua salvation in the universe.

Reader (chanting):

Hinei El yeshuati evtach v'lo efchad
Ki azi v'zimrat Yah, Adonai va-yehi
li li-shua. U'sh'avtem mayim b'sasson mi
ma'ayaney ha-yeshua.

All:

Behold, God is my deliverer. I trust and am not afraid. For God is my strength and my stronghold, the Source of my deliverance. And we shall draw water in joy from the wells of salvation.

Sing together:

Mayim Mayim (popular Israeli melody)

U'shavtem mayim b'sasson mi-mainay ha-yeshua (2)
Mayim (4)
Hey, mayim b'sasson!

Hey (4)
Mayim (6) b'sasson!

Reader:

We rejoice in our connection with God and godliness in our world, and we rejoice in our lives as Jews.

Reader (chanting):

Ashrey adam boteyach bach!
Adonai hoshiya...

All:

 

Happy is the person who trusts in You. 0 God, help us to reach redemption. Help us to find the Power within ourselves which brings us closer to wholeness and peace shlaymoot) and shalom).

Reader (chanting):

La-yehudim ha'ita orah v'simcha v'sasson v'yikar - ken tihyeh lanu!

All:

 

The Jews have been blessed with light and joy, gladness and honor. So may it be with us!

Reader (chanting):

 

Kos yeshuot esah - uv'shem Adonai ekrah...

All:

 

We will lift up the cup of salvation, calling upon God to help us drink from it and also replenish it.

(Red wine is poured)

Reader (chanting):

 

N'varech et Eyn Ha-khayyim
matzmikhat p'ri ha-gafen
un'kaddesh et y'mey ha-khol
zekher l'toldotenu.1

AMEN

All:

 

Let us bless the Source of Life that ripens fruit on the vine as we hallow the days of the week in remembrance of our history.

Reader:

 

As we taste the sweetness of the red wine and mix it with the flavor of the white, we celebrate the sweetness of our many "selves" as we come together as Jews in unity.

(pours white wine into the red; wine is passed around)

All:

 

We celebrate the sweetness of Shabbat and the different sweetness of the days of our week. We celebrate the different gifts with which we have been blessed this past week and with which we will be blessed in the week to come.

Reader (a matrilineally descended Jew):

 

We celebrate our Jewish mothers, remembering with honor Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah and all the Jewish women who came after them.

(places one kind of spice in a communal bowl)

Reader (a patrilineally descended Jew):

 

We celebrate our Jewish fathers, remembering with honor Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the Jewish men who came after them.

(places another kind of spice in the bowl)

Reader (a Jew-by-choice):

 

We celebrate our journey and arrival to Judaism and the Jewish people, and we honor our choices.

(places another kind of spice in the bowl)

(Here other individuals can celebrate their different identities as Jews, their life-choices and life-styles. Some suggestions of people to be celebrated: people blessed with long lives, infants beginning their life-journeys, gay and lesbian Jews, Jews of color, adolescents and many more! This moment provides a good opportunity for communal and individual sharing)

Reader (chanting):

 

N'hallel et nishmat kol khay
un'varech al miney b'samim.2

AMEN

All:

 

Let us celebrate the breath
of all living things
and praise all essences.

We celebrate the gathering of many spices and fragrances that, together, bring sweetness to our lives as a People.

(spice bowl is passed around and everyone takes a deep breath of its fragrances)

Reader:

 

We are using all of our physical senses we hear the lovely melodies of our Havdalah songs and our chanted blessings, and we have tasted the sweetness of wine. We have smelled the lovely fragrances of the spices, and now we see the flickers of light in our Havdalah candle and feel the warmth of its flames.

Reader:

 

Our great teacher, Rabbi Hillel, composed the words of our traditional blessing over the Havdalah lights. He carefully crafted the words to say that God creates (in the here-and-now) the lights (the plural form) of fire. Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha-Olam - Boreh M'Oray Ha-Esh is the traditional formulation of this blessing. What meaning can we find in Hillel's carefully crafted words?

Reader:

 

Many lights, in many forms, our rabbis have taught us, are continually being kindled and recreated by us. The wisdom to create fire and to kindle anew all kinds of lights is wisdom which we receive from God. We therefore thank God for continually helping us to create light within us, and to bring forth that light into the world.

All:

 

Within each of us, within each of our different selves, are embedded holy sparks. Within the lights of the Havdalah candle, crafted from a braid of wax strands with many wicks are the shimmerings of our special differences and the illumination we each bring into the world.

Reader:

 

As we reflect upon the lights of the candle, so we wish the holiness of those lights to be reflected inwardly and outwardly into the world. We raise our hands and hold our fingernails in the direction of the light in our nails, one of the few parts of the human body that continue to grow even into our old age, the light is reflected. For we recognize that we, too, must grow through our lives so that we may shine forth into the world.

Reader (chanting):

 

N'vakkesh et nitzotzot ha-nefesh
m'khayot m'orey ha-esh.3

AMEN

All:

 

Let us seek the unseen sparks
that kindle the greater lights.

Reader:

 

In our Shabbat that is now ending and our week that is now beginning, we continue to honor our differences. And in the honoring, we see glimmers of our vision of a repaired world, a world in which the walls of separation have tumbled, a world in which the cracks and fissures have been mended.

All:

 

We pray for a "Messianic Age," a time of peace and true goodness, when all peoples of the earth will be in harmony with one another, when differences will be sources of joy and tools of unity. We pray for a world no longer in need of tikkun. We sing of our vision:

Reader:

 

We call holy all of these differences and each and every one is blessed.

Reader (chanting):

 

Navkhin beyn khelkey ha-shalem
v'al ha-hevdelim n'varech:
navdil beyn Shabbat l'shavua
v'et shneyhem n'kaddesh.

AMEN

All:

 

Let us distinguish parts within the whole and bless their differences:
Like Sabbath and the six days of creation
may our lives be made whole through relation.
As rest makes the Sabbath holy, may our work make holy the week.
Let us separate Sabbath from week and hallow them both.

(candle is extinguished in the wine)

All sing together:

 

Shavuah tov (8)

A good week, a week of peace,
may gladness reign and joy increase.

SHAVUAH TOV!4

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1. Havdalah blessings (in Hebrew and the English immediately following them) were written by Marcia Falk (copyright1987) and should not be reproduced without the author's permission. The song by Leila Berner (copyright 1987) should not be reproduced without permission. The text of the this Havdalah service was written by Leila Berner and should not be reproduced without permission.
2. Havdalah blessings (in Hebrew and the English immediately following them) were written by Marcia Falk (copyright 1987) and should not be reproduced without the author's permission. The song by Leila Berner (copyright 1987) should not be reproduced without permission. The text of the this Havdalah service was written by Leila Berner and should not be reproduced without permission.
3. Havdalah blessings (in Hebrew and the English immediately following them) were written by Marcia Falk (copyright 1987) and should not be reproduced without the author's permission. The song by Leila Berner (copyright 1987) should not be reproduced without permission. The text of the this Havdalah service was written by Leila Berner and should not be reproduced without permission.
4. •As will become evident, some sections of the traditional liturgy have been entirely omitted (e.g., the "Ha-mavdil beyn kodesh l'chol..." etc. blessing and Eliyahu Ha-Navi). •In other places, certain phrases in the traditional Hebrew liturgy have been omitted. In the first paragraph, which begins "Hinei El-yeshuati," the words "your blessing be upon Your people" and "the God of Jacob is our Stronghold" have been omitted, because I felt that they emphasized Divine Election, which is not in keeping with the Reconstructionist approach of this Havdalah service. •The blessings over the wine, the spices, the lights and "Havdalot" were all written by Marcia Falk (copyright 1987) and should not be reproduced without the author's permission. •I wrote the Havdalah song (Hevdelim) (copyright1987) and it should not be reproduced without my permission.