Havdalah, A Taste of the World to Come

on Tuesday, 01 November 2011. Posted in Rabbi Marshall's Articles

The ORacle, November 2011 Issue

Havdalah is a favorite ritual of mine. The lights dim and we sway softly to the familiar melody, the light of the Havdalah candle reflected in each person’s eyes. The hiss of the candle’s flame as it meets the sweet wine reminds us of our opportunity each week to recommit ourselves to the people we seek to be in our highest moments. We welcome the week with our arms around each other singing “Shavuah Tov.” Together we begin anew with a foundation of community, a foundation of holiness.

The theology behind the first Havdalah blessing, Henai el yeshuati, conveys a stirring message of the Eternal’s salvation. As Jews, we seek salvation from poverty, illness, and ignorance. As we exchange Shabbat with its foretaste of a world to come, for our profane world struggling to actualize this vision, we voice our hope for a future when Shabbat peace will be an everyday occurrence (for more see My People’s Prayerbook, Volume 7: Shabbat at Home).

Each ritual object has its own symbolic meaning. The Havdalah candle, perhaps is the most emblematic. It traditionally represents the light of Shabbat and humans’ ability to kindle fire on the 6th day of creation. In it, I see a passionate flame for justice and the many ways Temple Beth Or works to realize the salvation for which we pray. From each b’nai mitzvah tikkun olam project, to building a fence at Housing Hope, to beach cleanups. All of you bring Torah into the world as you work towards tikkun olam, repair of the world, and in doing so, help bring nearer the messianic age we look to at the end of Havdalah. The words of Torah are truly translated into the works of your hands.

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I am very much looking forward to inviting all Temple Beth Or members to my home November 19th to celebrate the end of Shabbat with a Havdalah service, and enjoy an evening filled with homemade desserts and a rousing song session led by our Temple Beth Or songleaders!

Our sing-along will include Hebrew and English songs, please bring your ruach! My home is not large, so prepare to be cozy. No need to bring anything, but I accept all dessert requests!   I so look forward to sharing Havdalah and singing together.

L’Shalom,