Just as we begin Shabbat a bit early, some 18 minutes before the sun sets, when we light candles, so we delay the end of Shabbat after sunset. We wait for the stars to come out and once there are at least three medium sized stars in the sky it is time to say Havdalah. On a cloudy or rainy night, we might not be able to see the stars, so we go by the calendar. Though there are different traditions as to when we should end Shabbat, a good rule of thumb is to add about an hour to Friday’s candlelighting time and that should be about the right time to say havdalah.

We need three items for the ceremony: a cup of wine or grapejuice, a box of spices, and a braided candle. In the absence of wine or grapejuice, other beverages may be used and the appropriate blessing of Shehakol nihyeh bidvaro substituted. If you don’t have a fancy spicebox, you can use any container of spices, usually cinnamon or nutmeg or ginger are used or combine them in your own container. (In a pinch, a teabag can do.) As for the braided havdalah candle, you can use two regular candles with the wicks held together to make a flame if you do not have the special candles. Our gift shop, however, does carry them. You may want to have a special plate or some aluminum foil to catch the drippings from the candle and to pour a bit of wine onto at the end to extinguish the candle.

A nice introductory tune is the following which I learned from the congregation I served in Dallas, Texas, many years ago. The verse appears in the prayers at the end of Shabbat:

כִּי בְשִׂמְחָה תֵצֵֽאוּ וּבְשָׁלוֹם תּוּבָלוּן, הֶהָרִים וְהַגְּבָעוֹת יִפְצְחוּ לִפְנֵיכֶם רִנָּה, וְכָל עַצֵי הַשָּׂדֶה יִמְחֲאוּ כָף.


Ki v’simcha tetzeiu, uv’shalom tuvalun, he-harim v’hagvaot yiftz’chu lifneicham rinah v’chol atzei hasadeh yim-cha-u chaf.

With joy you shall go forth and in peace you shall be led; the mountains and the hills shall burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field shall applaud.

Light the havdalah candle and give it to someone else to hold or put it into a holder. Fill the wine cup. The custom is to fill it to overflowing or at least have a full cup. Pick up the cup in your stronger hand and begin singing the introductory verses of havdalah:

הִנֵּה אֵל יְשׁוּעָתִי, אֶבְטַח וְלֹא אֶפְחָד, כִּי עָזִּי וְזִמְרָת יָהּ יְיָ, וַיְהִי לִי לִישׁוּעָה. וּשְׁאַבְתֶּם מַֽיִם בְּשָׂשׂוֹן, מִמַּעַיְנֵי הַיְשׁוּעָה. לַייָ הַיְשׁוּעָה, עַל עַמְּךָ בִרְכָתֶֽךָ סֶּֽלָה. יְיָ צְבָאוֹת עִמָּֽנוּ, מִשְׂגָּב לָנוּ אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב סֶֽלָה. יְיָ צְבָאוֹת, אַשְרֵי אָדָם בֹּטֵֽחַ בָּךְ. יְיָ הוֹשִֽׁיעָה, הַמֶּֽלֶךְ יַעֲנֵֽנוּ בְיוֹם קָרְאֵֽנוּ.


Hinei El yeshuati, evtach v’lo efchad, ki ozi v’zimrat Yah, Adonay, vay’hi li lishuah. U-shavtem mayim b’sason, mi-may’nei ha-yeshuah. Ladonay ha-yeshuah, al amcha birchatecha selah. Adonay Tzevaot imanu, misgav lanu. Elohei Yaakov selah. Adonay Tzevaot, ashrei adam bote-ach bach. Adonay hoshiah, hamelech ya-aneinu v’yom koreinu.

Behold, God is my salvation. I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation. Salvation is the Lord’s; on Your people is Your blessing, Selah. The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our stronghold, Selah. Lord of hosts: happy is the one who trusts in You. Lord save! May the King answer us on the day we call.

It is customary for those gathered to recite the next verse before the leader, who then repeats it.

לַיְּהוּדִים הָיְתָה אוֹרָה וְשִׂמְחָה וְשָׂשׂוֹן וִיקָר. כֵּן תִּהְיֶה לָּֽנוּ.


“Layehudim hay’ta orah v’simcha v’sason vikar.” - Kein tihyeh lanu!

“For the Jews there was light and gladness, joy and honor.” (Esther 8) - So may it be for us!

The leader now raises the cup a bit and continues:

כּוֹס יְשׁוּעוֹת אֶשָּׂא, וּבְשֵׁם יְיָ אֶקְרָא.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּֽפֶן.


Kos yeshuot essa, uv’sheim Adonay ekra.
Baruch ata Adonay, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, borei p’ri hagafen.

I will lift the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Do not drink the wine yet, set the cup aside for the final blessing and pick up the spices next and say the second blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא מִינֵי בְשָׂמִים.


Baruch ata Adonay, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, borei minei v’samim.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the various spices.
Smell the spices and pass them around. Now extend your hands toward the candle flame with your fingers bent over the palms of your hands so that you can see the shadow of the fingers in your hand. Now say the third blessing.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא מְאוֹרֵי הָאֵשׁ.


Baruch ata Adonay, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, borei me-orei ha-eish.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the lights of the fire.

Pick up the cup once more and chant the final blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הַמַּבְדִיל בֵּין קֹֽדֶשׁ לְחוֹל, בֵּין אוֹר לְחֹֽשֶׁךְ, בֵּין יִשְׂרָאֵל לָעַמִּים, בֵּין יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי לְשֵֽׁשֶׁת יְמֵי הַמַּעֲשֶׂה. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, הַמַּבְדִיל בֵּין קֹֽדֶשׁ לְחוֹל.


Baruch ata Adonay, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, ha-mavdil bein kodesh l’chol, bein or l’choshech, bein yisrael la-amim, bein yom ha-shviyi l’sheishet y’mei ha-maaseh. Baruch ata Adonay, hamavdil bein kodesh l’chol.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who distinguishes between sacred and secular, between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations, between the seventh day and the six days of work. Blessed are You, Lord, who distinguishes between sacred and secular.

Drink most of the cup and then use the remainder of the wine to extinguish the candle, either pouring some on a plate or some foil or dunking the candle into the cup.

Then we sing these lines to conclude the ceremony, one song running into the next:

הַמַּבְדִיל בֵּין קֹדֶשׁ לְחוֹל חַטאֹתֵינוּ הוּא יִמְחֹל. זַרעֵנוּ וְכַסְפֵּינוּ יַרְבֶּה כַחוֹל וְכַכּוֹכַבִים בַּלָּיְלָה.
שָׁבוּעַ טוֹב!
אֵלִיָהוּ הַנָּבִיא, אֵלִיָהוּ הַתִּשְׁבִּי, אֵלִיָהוּ אֵלִיָהוּ, אֵלִיָהוּ הַגִּלְעַדִי.
בִּמְהֵרָה בְיָמֵינוּ יָבוֹא אֵלֵינוּ עִם מַשִׁיחַ בֵּן דָּוִד.


Hamavdil bein kodesh l’chol, chatoteinu hu yimchol. Zareinu v’chaspeinu yarbeh cha-chol v’cha-kochavim ba-lailah.

Shavua Tov!

Eliyahu hanavi, Eliyahu ha-Tishbi, Eliyahu Eliyahu, Eliyahu ha-Giladi. Bimheirah v’yameinu yavo eileinu im mashiach ben David.

He who distinguishes between sacred and secular, may He forgive our sins. May He multiply our offspring and wealth like the sand and the stars of the night.

A good week!

Elijah the prophet, Elijah the Tishbite, Elijah, Elijah, Elijah the Gileadite. May he come to us speedily in our day with the Messiah son of David.

Listen here.