Havdalah: When Shabbat Comes to an End

The ritual involving a braided candle with two wicks, aromatic spices and wine ushers out Shabbat and distinguishes between holy and secular.

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Israeli Jews usher out Shabbat with the Havdalah ceremony.
Israeli Jews usher out Shabbat with the Havdalah ceremony.Credit: Nir Kafri

At nightfall on Saturday evening, when three stars are visible in the sky, the Sabbath, or Shabbat, is ushered out with a ceremony called “Havdalah” – separation or distinction.

The ritual involves a glass of wine, grape juice or other liquid, a special braided candle with two wicks and aromatic spices.

Four blessings are recited, one for each of the three things used in the ritual, and the Havdalah blessing itself, which honors the separation of things – light and darkness, sacred and secular, Israel and the nations and the six days of work and Shabbat.

Once the blessings are recited, some of the wine is used to extinguish the candle’s flame, marking the end of Shabbat.

The Havdalah ritual requires a person to use all five senses: to taste the wine, smell the spices, see the candlelight and feel its heat and hear the blessings.

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