HAVDALAH Part 2 – How To Celebrate

The Havdalah ceremony is very sweet and simple, but it has deep significance! It is centered around four blessings, which are said when lighting the candle:

1. Candle – Ner

As we lit the candles to indicate the beginning of Shabbat so we light a special candle at its conclusion. The two candles, as it were, have become one – united in the peace, harmony and beauty of Shabbat.

Havdalah candles have six strands braided together to show that the light of Shabbat can be carried into the six week days. It produces a huge flame so someone other than the person saying the blessings should light it. Children (with supervision) love this job! If alone use a holder, and keep a sheet of tinfoil handy to catch drips.

If a Havdalah candle is not available, one can hold two candles together with their wicks joined to illustrate the principle of unity. In the event that no candles are available, or if traveling and in a hotel room, one can hold two matches together; they also produce a great burst of light!

Havdalah Celebrate 1Before lighting, say the blessing: Borei me’orei ha’esh [1]. Once the candle is lit to signal the arrival of the new week, the lights are dimmed and we are reminded that darkness still covers the earth. Traditionally, everyone lifts their hands towards the flame. Jewish commentary offers the explanation that as we see the light shining through our fingernails it is a reminder that before the fall Adam and Eve’s bodies were light-filled and radiant. We can give thanks that Yeshua is the Light of the world and our lives are filled with His light. Together, our hope is in YHWH – our Father, the God of Israel – and we dedicate the work of our hands in His service.

2. Wine – Yayin

After raising the lights again, the leader fills a Kiddush cup with grape juice or wine until it overflows into a plate below. This is symbolic of our desire that the blessings of Shabbat will flow into the week ahead, and also of our joy in the Lord that causes our “cup to run over” (Psalm 23:5).

The leader then lifts the wine cup in right hand and reads a paragraph [based on Scripture verses from Isaiah & the Psalms] that proclaims God as the source of Salvation.

Hinei El Yeshuati, evtach ve’lo efchad, ki ozi ve’zimrat Yah, va’yehi li lishuah.
Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. Indeed the Lord
is my strength and my song and He has become my salvation.

Ushe’avtem mayim be’sasson mi’ma’ainei ha’Yeshua.
You shall draw water with joy from the wells of salvation!

La’Adonai Ha’Yeshua, al amcha birchatecha. Selah.
Adonai Tzeva’ot imanu, misgav lanu Elohei Ya’akov. Selah!
Salvation belongs to the Lord; may Your blessings be upon Your people. Selah! The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is a refuge for us. Selah!

Adonai Tze’vaot, ashrei adam botei’ach bach.
O Lord of hosts, blessed and joyous is the man who trusts in you!

Adonai, ho’shia, ha’melekh ya’aneinu be’yom kareinu.
Lord, save us, may the king answer us on the day that we call.

La’Yehudim haita orah ve’simcha, va’sasson vikar. Ken, tihiyeh lanu.
The Jews had radiance and celebration, joy and honor. So may it be for us.

Kos Yeshuot esa, u’ve’shem Adonai ekra.
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord!

The leader then says the blessing Borei pri Ha’gaffen [2], but before drinking the wine passes the cup to the left hand and picks up the spice box with the right hand and recites Borei minei besamim [3] – blessing the Creator for His creation of the variety of spices.

Havdalah Celebrate 2

Picture by New York artist Lynne Feldman, www.LynneFeldman.com

3. Spices – Besamim

This is another special moment everyone enjoys! The spice box is passed around and each one inhales the fragrance of the spices and hopes to carry the fragrance of Shabbat through the week. One Jewish explanation offered is that, here at the transition to the regular week, we lose our extra Shabbat soul and need the spices as ‘smelling salts’ to revive us! In addition, we see a beautiful Messianic connection in the Brit Chadasha:

But thanks be to God, who in Messiah always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Messiah to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
(2 Cor. 2:14 – 16)

May our lives carry the fragrance of Yeshua, the Lord of the Sabbath; a royal fragrance that will bless and draw others to our Father God wherever He may take us.

4. Final Blessing

The leader now pronounces the final blessing, Baruch ha’mavdil bein kodesh le’chol, which praises God for enabling us to distinguish between secular and holy; sacred and profane.

Baruch Atah Adonai Elokeinu melekh ha’olam, Ha’mavdil bein kodesh le’chol
Blessed are You O Lord, our God, King of the universe, Who makes a distinction between sacred and secular.

Bein ohr le’choshekh, bein Yisrael le’amim
Between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations

Bein yom ha’shvii le’sheshet yamei ha’maaseh
Between the seventh day and the six working days

Baruch atah Adonai ha’mavdil bein kodesh le’chol.
Blessed are You, O Lord, who makes a distinction between sacred and secular.

Havdalah Celebrate 3

Now the leader drinks the wine or grape juice – at least 2 oz. – and the candle is extinguished in the spilled wine in the plate.

And everyone says…”Shavua tov!” Have a good week!

 ~Keren Hannah


1. The full Havdalah ceremony can be found in the Jewish Siddur (Prayer book).

Blessing on Lighting the Candle:

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu, Melech ha’olam, Borei Me’orei ha’esh.
Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who creates the illuminations of the fire.
All respond: Amen.

2. Blessing over the Wine:

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu, Melech ha’olam, Borei pri ha’gaffen.
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.
All respond: Amen.

3. Blessing over the Spices:

Baruch Atah Adonai ELoheinu, Melech ha’olam, Borei minei besamim.
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Creator of many spices.
All respond: Amen.

HAVDALAH Part 1 – Farewell to Shabbat


~ Keren Hannah Pryor

 “Blessed is God, who distinguishes between the sacred and profane,
between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations.”
(Kiddush blessing)

The Hebrew word havdalah means to differentiate, or to distinguish one thing from another. A word from the same root is hevdel, difference. The ability to distinguish is a valuable gift; a tool that the rush of the modern world can easily dull. In our busy-ness and distraction, days tend to run into one another; life becomes a blur and we become blind to the uniqueness of each day as well as the special ‘set apart’ days. We can lose sight of the inherent beauty and the meaning of things around us and begin to take them for granted. The challenge presented to us, as spiritual beings, is to focus, to be aware and to notice the God-ordained differences – to differentiate – and thereby to learn from them, to appreciate their meaning and to take pleasure in them. This does not happen automatically; it requires our conscious intent and participation.

The Hebraic observance of Havdalah marks the end of Shabbat, and takes place in the evening at a time when three stars appear in the sky. It tells us that we are now leaving the special set apart time and entering the regular week, and that there is a difference. The question arises: “Why should believers in Yeshua take notice of this little ceremony?” To attempt an answer, let us consider the first Messianic congregation in Jerusalem. There were thousands in Israel who followed Yeshua when He lived and taught and more so after His resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
We read in the book of Acts, for example: “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” (6:7).

It was a dynamic, intense encounter of faith in the God of Israel that spread to all areas of the Diaspora [places in the then known world where Jews were living as a result of the exile from the Land of Israel]. At that time there was no synagogue-church split and all believers participated in synagogue worship services. They already were, or else became, active members of the local Jewish community. We can surmise that there was much interaction within the community and that the families who were followers of Yeshua would have included rituals to illustrate their experience in Messiah in the context of the existing God-inspired Feast celebrations. These may well have become “seeds” embedded in the wider traditional liturgy and ritual and which point toward future revelations of Messiah Yeshua. Havdalah may well be one of these seeds. Out of interest, let us consider the story of Eutychus, in Acts 20:7-11.

“On the first day of the week, [As the day starts after sunset, the ‘first day’ of the week starts after Shabbat ends – Motzei Shabbat – the time of Havdalah] when we were gathered together to eat, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lights in the upper chamber where we were gathered.”

Although the service of Havdalah was only instituted officially by the scribes of the Great Assembly in Jerusalem around the 4th Century, we may discern that this post-Shabbat gathering was a very important and meaningful time of meeting for the early Messianic believers. This was the time of Yeshua’s resurrection, and the longing for “the Light of the world that ushers in the Day that is all Shabbat,” which is at the heart of Havdalah, can be clearly associated with Him. As we explore the traditional ceremony of Havdalah, we find clear pointers to Messiah that would have been celebrated joyfully by the early followers of Yeshua; and which, likewise, are significant today.

NerYayin / Candle – Wine 

The Sabbath is welcomed with the lighting of candles and it is ushered out with the lighting of a special, braided, multi-wicked candle. Women enjoy the honor of ushering in the Sabbath, often referred to as a Queen, with its atmosphere that epitomizes the feminine aspects of life – receptivity, love of beauty and harmony, and the tendency to cultivate and nurture God given potential. The man of the household, where relevant, performs the Havdalah ceremony at the conclusion of the Sabbath, and ushers in the new week with its more masculine energy and the constructive drive of regular weekday activities.

The central element of Havdalah is the candle (ner). It has six wicks woven into one, which represents the intent to carry the light of Shabbat into the six workdays ahead. The other two elements are wine, or grape juice, and spices. All one’s senses are involved during the short ceremony. Sight (candlelight), hearing (prayers and song), taste (wine), smell (spices) and touch (as the spice box is passed around to everyone present).

The wine (yayin) is poured until the cup overflows. This is a symbol of our joy and blessing in YHWH, which has been filled during Shabbat and which we trust will flow over into the week ahead.


A few simple braided havdalah candles. [1]


A ‘home made’ havdalah set. On red tray: A Kiddush cup on a saucer and a candle in glass on foil. Alongside, a perforated ornamental box with cloves

Spices – Besamim

The spices (besamim) emit a sweet fragrance, reminiscent of the fragrance of Shabbat, which we also desire to carry forward with us into the week ahead. Enfolded in Shabbat is the promise and the hope of Messiah’s arrival to reign over all the earth as King of kings. The setting of the sun on Shabbat indicates that that time has not yet come and with this realization comes a measure of sadness. The spices serve the purpose of reviving our spirit and restoring our joy.

One can be very creative in fashioning a personal spice container, however a great variety are available for purchase. A unique, traditional spice box is one made of silver in the shape of a miniature castle, complete with turret, flag, and sometimes bells, and a castle door. The beautifully crafted design, shown below, illustrates the fact that even as we bid farewell to the Sabbath Queen we anticipate the arrival of the King!


Spices, in Yeshua’s time, were a symbol of royalty. Kings of Israel were anointed with special spices and the fragrance would inform people of their presence. For example, the arrival of King Solomon from the desert is described in the Song of Songs, “…like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense” (3:6).

The God-designed incense, offered on the altar of incense in the Holy Place of the Temple, filled the air of Jerusalem with its unique fragrance, and set it apart as the royal, capital City of the Great King.

Melaveh Malka!

In general, after Havdalah, people resume their regular weekday activities. However, certain Orthodox Jewish groups prolong the joy of Shabbat with a celebration called Melaveh Malka or “Escorting the Queen.” It is considered an extended ushering out of the Sabbath, which is seen as a Queen or a Bride to whom one gave a special welcome and it is appropriate to give her a fitting farewell. A gathering is held that includes singing, dancing, praising, and the enjoyment of refreshments. All rejoice as if eternal Life in His Presence had already begun. Is that not what the disciples were celebrating in Messiah?

Interestingly, Melaveh Malka also is known by the Aramaic name: Seudah De’David Malkesa – the Banquet of King David, who is a type of the King Messiah – Mashiach ben David.

The Havdalah symbols also indicate the coronation of King Messiah.

  • The spice box represents the palace and fragrant Presence of the King who will rule and establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
  • The cup of wine represents the joy of salvation and also the richness and blessing of covenant relationship.
  • The flame of the candle assures us that just as light was God’s first creative act, His everlasting Divine light in our King Messiah will soon dispel all the world’s darkness. On that day we will celebrate ‘yom she’kulo Shabbat’ the Shabbat that will never end.

Indeed, at Havdalah we are reminded that even now we can celebrate Heaven on Earth in the Risen Messiah, who soon is coming again in glory to reign as the King of kings in His Father’s Kingdom on earth.


1.  Candles available through Judaica WebStore or Galilee Experience