Friday, November 21, 2008

Saying Goodbye To Shabbat

Shabbat ends when three stars appear in the sky, a little more than an hour after candle lighting time. Maariv, the evening service, is recited in the synagogue and, upon returning home, havdalah is chanted. Havdalah, which means separation, is a set of four blessings.

1) The blessing over wine (or grape juice): While the blessing over wine is the first blessing recited, the wine is not drunk until after the fourth and final blessing. If wine or grape juice is not available, other liquids such as beer or whiskey may be used.

2) The blessing over spices: A container of spices, often cloves, is taken in hand and the appropriate blessing is recited. The spices are passed around for all present to smell. The smelling of spices is done in order to revive the soul, which otherwise might be depressed over the departure of Shabbat.

3) The blessing over fire: This blessing is recited over a special, multi-wick havdalah candle. By making the blessing over fire, one is establishing the distinction between Shabbat, when one may not use fire, and the remainder of the week, when one may. Additionally, according to tradition, Adam was given fire at the conclusion of the first Shabbat.

4) The blessing over distinctions: The final blessing praises God for distinguishing between holy and secular, light and dark, Israel and other nations, and Shabbat and weekdays.

After the four blessings have been recited, the person reciting them drinks the wine or grape juice. Many people have the custom of then extinguishing the havdalah candle in the wine or grape juice.

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