The Sabbath is often compared to a queen who graces our dwelling-place each week. When she departs, we escort her to the heavens with wine, spices, and a braided candle in a ceremony called havdalah. The word havdalah means “separation,” as we are making a separation between the Sabbath and the work week.
As we recite the blessing over wine, we also hope that just as wine grows sweeter and richer each day, that our relationship with God, Torah and each other deepens from Sabbath to Sabbath.
As we recite the blessing over the spices, the sweet fragrance lifts our spirits. We pray that our deeds of loving-kindness over the next week perfumes the world with sweetness.
As we recite the blessing over the braided candle, it is traditional to hold one’s fingers to the light and to see the candlelight and shadows dancing together. We pray that our common hopes and fears braid our community into a single flame for justice and peace. We pray that the care we show one another illumines any shadows we may encounter.
Although there is a measure of sadness at havdalah that Shabbat is drawing to a close, there is also the excitement of beginning again. If Shabbat marks the completion of creation, then havdalah marks the beginning, and an opportunity for us to reinvent.