Friday Night & Beyond: Insights on Havdalah (Plus How To, Text & Audio)

Friday Night & Beyond: Insights on Havdalah (Plus How To, Text & Audio)

Great for beginners, this thorough excerpt from “Friday Night and Beyond” by Lori Palatnik offers an explanation of the structure and meaning behind the ritual, a step-by-step how-to guide of the Orthodox Ashkenazi custom and pronunciation, complete with the Hebrew, English and transliterated texts, an audio recording, and a formatted PDF printout of the blessings. Lori Palatnik is a writer, Jewish educator and the Founding Director of The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, an international initiative that brings thousands of women to Israel for inspirational trips.

Havdalah – How To

Just as we proclaim the entrance of Shabbat by making “Kiddush,” so too we mark the exit of Shabbat with “Havdalah.”

1. What You’ll Need:

  • double-wicked candle (or two candles held with flames together)
  • cup of wine or grape juice
  • spices (cloves work well)
  • piece of foil (or plate) for dripping the candle on, and extinguishing the flame

2. Shabbat ends when three medium-sized stars are visible in one glance in the evening sky. This time varies according to location and season. In North America, a quick way to calculate when Shabbat is over is to add one hour and 10 minutes to candle lighting time. (For example, if Friday night candle lighting was 6:00 p.m., then Shabbat ends at approximately 7:10 p.m. Saturday night.) For an excellent software program that lists Shabbat times for cities around the world, see

3. If the time for the end of Shabbat has passed, one can recite the following words and begin to do “weekday” activities:

Baruch ha-mavdil bein kodesh le-chol.
Blessed is the one Who divides between the sacred and the mundane.

Also, during the evening service, there is a special insertion in the silent Amidah that acts as a preliminary Havdalah.

Either way, one is still required to perform the Havdalah ceremony over wine.

4. One should not eat or drink until the Havdalah ceremony is complete.

5. Havdalah is made up of five sections:

a) Introductory paragraph.

b) Blessing over wine. Judaism teaches us to transform the physical to the spiritual. Just as simple grapes were transformed into wine, so too we take pleasure in the spiritual renewal we have accomplished over Shabbat, and hope it will continue to grow throughout the coming week.

c) Blessing over spices. The Kabbalists tell us during Shabbat, we each receive an extra soul, or extra spiritual sensitivity. So as Shabbat goes away, so does the extra soul, causing us to feel faint. For this reason we smell some spices (spiritual smelling salts!) to comfort our soul at the loss of Shabbat.

d) Blessing on the flame. The Talmud says that when Adam was created on Day Six, he became very sad when he saw darkness setting in on Friday night. He thought perhaps the world was ending! So on Saturday night, God gave Adam the gift of fire. This is why we say the blessing over fire on Saturday night. The Havdalah candle represents the primordial first light of creation; new beginnings, a new commitment. We hope to extend the light of Shabbat into our week.

After saying the blessing, we make use of the flame by holding our hand near the flame and looking at our fingernails. When Shabbat comes in, we light a simple candle; yet, when Shabbat is leaving, we light a larger flame of intertwined lights, for now we had the experience of living with an additional soul and the opportunity that provides.

e) Finally, the blessing of the Havdalah itself.

6. The procedure is as follows:

Fill a kiddush cup with either wine or grape juice, until the liquid overflows a bit onto the plate below. This is symbolic of our desire for blessings to overflow into the week.

Light the Havdalah candle (a braided candle with at least two wicks, or two candles held with their flames together). Someone other than the person making the blessings should hold the candle. If alone, place the candle in a holder.

You can either sit or stand, and should not speak until the ceremony is completed.

Holding the wine cup in the palm of the right hand (or left for “lefties”), the first paragraph is said:

Blessings for Havdalah

Hineih Eil yeshuasi, evtach ve-lo efchad, ki azi ve-zimras Yah Adonoy, va-yehi li lishu’ah. Ushav’tem mayim be-sasson mi-ma’ainei ha-yeshuah. La’Adonoy ha-yeshuah, al amecha bircha-secha selah. Adonoy tzeva’os imanu, misgav lanu Elohei Ya’akov selah. Adonoy tzeva’os, ashrei adam botei’ach bach, Adonoy hoshiah, ha-melech ya’aneinu ve-yom kareinu. La-yehudim hay’esa ora ve-simcha, ve-sason vikar. Kein ti’heyeh lanu. Kos yeshuos esa, uve-sheim Adonoy ekra.

Behold God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. Indeed, God is my strength and my song and He has become my salvation. You shall draw water with joy from the wells of salvation. Salvation belongs to God; 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. Lord of Hosts, happy is the man who trusts in You. God, save us; may the King answer us on the day we call. “The Jews had radiance and happiness, joy and honor.” So may it be for us. I will raise the cup of salvations and invoke the name of God.

Continue with the blessing over the wine (but don’t drink yet):

Savri maranan ve-rabanan ve-rabotai: Baruch ata Adonoy, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, Borei peri ha-gafen.

Honored and distinguished ones: Blessed are You, God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.

Those present respond “Amen.”

The cup is then passed to the left hand. The spice box (usually cloves or sweet pepper) is picked up with the right hand and the following blessing is recited:

Baruch ata Adonoy, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, Borei mini vesamim.

Blessed are You, God, King of the Universe, Creator of various kinds of spices.

Those present respond “Amen.”

The leader then smells the spices and passes them around for all to smell.

With the wine cup still in the left hand, the blessing over the fire (candle flame) is said:

Baruch ata Adonoy, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, Borei me’orei ha-aish.

Blessed are You, God, King of the Universe, Creator of the lights of fire.

Those present respond “Amen.”

Everyone now extends their hands toward the flame to see their fingernails (to take advantage of the light of the candle).

The cup of wine is now passed back to the right hand for the concluding blessing:

Baruch ata Adonoy, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, ha-mavdil bein kodesh le-chol, bein ohr le-choshech, bein Yisrael la-amin, bein yom ha-shevi’i le-sheishes yemei ha-ma’aseh. Baruch ata Adonoy, ha-mavdil bein kodesh le-chol.

Blessed are You, God, King of the Universe, who makes a distinction between sacred and mundane, between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations, between the seventh day and the six working days. Blessed are you, God, Who makes a distinction between sacred and mundane.

Those present respond “Amen.”

The leader then drinks at least 2 ounces of the liquid.

The balance of the wine is used to extinguish the flame. Try pouring some into a dish and immersing the flame until the fire is out. Some have the custom, before extinguishing, to light two new candles, so that the “light” of Shabbat continues into the week.

It is also customary to dip one’s fingers into the spilled wine, and place some drops onto your eyelids or ears ― as an omen to “see and hear” good things throughout the week.

Aish Havdalah