Simchat HaDorot

By Rabbi Lisa Hochberg-Miller


When we sanctify something, we take something which is ordinary and we transform it into something holy, by our deeds and our words. This is the meaning of Shabbat, the day we make special among the six ordinary week days. The havdalah ceremony, held on Saturday evening, marks this distinction between ordinary and sacred. It marks the end of a special day and the return to the every- day. Judaism gives us many occasions to change ordinary days into sacred day; through ceremonies we make a bris, a wedding, a holiday into a special experience that transcends time and space. In that spirit, Grandma Essie, your children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren have created a unique ceremony tonight, a simchat hadorot, a rejoicing of the generations. For us, your 90th birthday is a cause of celebration; we celebrate and we rejoice because your 90 years have blessed our lives so deeply. And so in our love we choose to sanctify this day, to elevate your 90th birthday from an every-day to a special day, an event which transcends time and space.

Steve, Emily, Jamie, Kevin:



(Translation) Blessed are you Adonai, Sovereign of the Universe, who has created us, sustained us, and enabled us to arrive at this special moment.


Mom, it is not unusual that we choose to honor you for your long life. Judaism teaches a respect for our elders. The rabbis of old believed that age and wisdom went hand in hand, and that it was proper to stand when an elderly person entered the room, then take a place at their feet. The elders grew in wisdom through their life experiences, and each of us could grow from listening to their advice. The Talmud teaches that Rabbi Jose ben Judah said, : He who learns from the young, to what is he like? To one who eats unripe grapes or drinks new wine from his vat. He who learns from the old, to what is he like? To one who eats ripe grapes, or drinks old vine. (Avot 4:26)


In your reaching 90 Grandma, you find yourself in good company. The Torah tells us that Sarah bore her first son Isaac, when she was 90- and then went on to live to be 127. Abraham was 100 at Isaac's birth and he lived to be 175. If you were to live to be as old as Noah you would have another 860 years ahead of you! Personally, we wouldn't mind, but we'd have to re-write the Guiness Book of World Records! And our beloved Moses lived "until 120", a blessing we still wish upon people today.



The havdalah service, the separating holy from ordinary, has three blessings. We bless the wine, the spices, and the candle. In Judaism wine is used whenever we sanctify, whenever we make something special.


special memories

Blessing over the Wine


Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech HaOlam Boray Pri HaGofen. (Take sip, pass around.)



The spices of havdalah remind us of sweetness. As we breathe the warm pleasing scent of the cloves mingled with the citrus, it calls to mind the sweetness of family.

*Family memories

Blessing over the spices


Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech haOlam, boray meenay b'sameem.



The third havdalah blessing is light. With light do we make light. It is this inner spark Grandma that you have passed to us, both through your children to each succeeding generation, and to each generation as you have touched them. Our four generations are intertwined as are the four wicks of this havdalah candle. Four wicks, 4 generations, 4 grandchildren, 4 great-grandchildren. D'or L'dor, from generation to generation, so does your light pass to each of us. We light your candle grandma, and each generation takes its brightness from you. Your candle shares its warmth and glow and yet loses none of its own.


Light Grandma's havdalah candle.

Bernice and Ray:

light candle from hers, put in holder.

Sam and Karen:

light candle from hers, put in holder.

Steve and Emily:

light candle from hers, put in holder.

Blessing over the candle

Bob :

Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haOlam, boray m'oray ha'ash.




Grandma, in the past few years you have struggled against eyes that dimmed, that threatened to shut you off from the world of light. You have not let them shut you off from the world of people. In your limited vision you have made friends and endeared yourself to new acquaintances. You have not let your slightened eyesight slighten your relationship with your family. The rabbis of the Talmud had a special name for those who were blind. They were called Sagi Nahor, those who had an inner light. One does not need eyes to see. True vision and insight into people comes from the heart. Although you do not accept your condition, you have come to live with it with grace -- a grace that humbles those of us around you.


Havdalah blessing;

Bernice, Ray, Sam, others:

*Prayers of thanksgiving

Priestly Blessing


We sanctify you grandma, by blessing you with the blessing of Aaron and the priests. Last night you told us that our task as a family is to hold onto each other, and so we hold each other now, as we all hold you and we your children bless you:


Yivarechecha Adonai V'yish-mar-echa
Ya-er Adonai Penav Aleicha, V'yi-chu-necha
Yesa Adonai Penav Aleicha, V'yi-sem lacha shalom.

May the Lord bless you and keep you
May the light of the Lord's presence shine upon you and be gracious to you,
May the Lord bestow favor upon you and grant you peace.


Yom Huledet Sameach  Happy Birthday to You  We Sing!

Complete Ceremony

Want the latest news from Ritualwell?

Subscribe to our email list for announcements of new rituals, Jewish inspiration, online classes, and more!