Havdalah explained

Havdalah in Hebrew means "separation" or "distinction". Ceremonially marking the end of Sabbath or festival. Prayers, a cup of wine (or other beverage, except milk or water), spices and an intertwined multi wick candle are used to make a distinction between the sacred and the ordinary.

The ceremony, instituted by the Men of the Great Assembly, consists of four blessings (over wine, spices, candle and the Havdalah) Women are also obliged to recite or hear Havdalah.. 

The Hebrew acrostic YaBNeH gives the order of the blessings. In the Ashkenazi rite, the ceremony is introduced with a passages containing extracts from Isaiah 12:2-3; Psalm 3:8, 46:7 or 46:11, Esther 8:17 and Psalm 116:13, referring to God's salvation. (See below)

Then the benediction over wine, or if another beverage is used the 'she-hakol niheyey bid-varo' benediction, is recited. God is then blessed for creating varieties of aromatic plants, which are then smelled. This rite is interpreted as a symbolic compensation for the loss of the "additional soul" that accompanies the Jew throughout the Sabbath (Zohar Lev. 35:2). Ashkenazim customarily use a box of aromatic spices and Sephardim aromatic plants. Another popular spice is a etrog (citron) embalmed with cloves. 

A third blessing, ‘Who created the lights of the fire,’ is made over a candle of at least two wicks. For this purpose it is customary to use a special Havdalah candle. If a Havdalah candle is not available, two ordinary candles may be used with their flames merged into one. The fingers are held up before the candle flame and bent to cast a shadow on the palm of the hand.  This is to show the difference between light and darkness, thus indicating the conclusion of Shabbat and that fire may now be kindled, since the lighting of fire on the Shabbat is prohibited in the Torah (Ex. 35:3). 

The ceremony continues with the Havdalah benediction: 'Blessed art Thou, O God ... who distinguishes between the sacred and the profane, between light and darkness, between Jews and other nations, between the seventh day and the six weekdays. Blessed ... who distinguishes between the sacred and the profane.'

On the Saturday night coinciding with a festival, the spice benediction is omitted and a different Havdalah benediction is recited during the Kiddush. During hol ha-mo'ed (intermediate days of Passover and Succot) or at the end of a festival, only the wine and Havdalah benedictions are recited.


Havdalah introductory passage
click on the English or Hebrew text to see the source
(For web hebrew fonts click here)

See how God is my salvation! I trust and shall not fear, .
for God the Lord is my strength and song, .
and He has become my salvation! .
And you shall draw water with joy from the wells of salvation. .
Deliverance comes from the Lord; Your blessing on Your people! .
The Lord of all creation is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge. .
The Jews had light and joy, gladness and honour .
-so may it be with us! 
I lift the cup of salvation and call in the name of the Lord. .


It is unusual that the words ‘the Jews had light and joy, gladness and honor, so may it be with us’ should be used; as surely it would be Jews that were saying Havdalah. A clue may be in the next verse of Esther, verse 17, where the word ‘mat-yahad’ -‘become jews’ is used. This word is only used once, here in Esther, in the whole of the Tenach. The final blessing in Havdalah calls for the return of Elijah, as a precursor to the coming of the Messiah, when all men will come to the mountain and acknowledge the ‘One G-d’ and all convert to Judiasm?

Original word: ãäé
Word Origin: denominative from a form corresponding to ãåäé    Judah - the territory of the tribe of Judah
Transliterated:  Yahad
Phonetic Spelling: yaw-had 
Parts of Speech: Verb
Definition: To become a Jew (in fact or in fraud), become Judaised

Original Word: äãé
Word Origin: a primitive root; used only as denominative from  ãé hand
Transliterated Word: Yadah
Phonetic Spelling: yaw-dah
Parts of Speech: Verb
Definition: To throw, shoot, cast, cast down, throw down, to give thanks, laud, praise, to confess,  to give thanks.

Original Word: éãåäé
Word Origin: patronymically from äãåäé  the son of Jacob by Leah
Transliterated Word: Yehuwdiy
Phonetic Spelling : yeh-hoo-dee
Parts of Speech: Noun Masculine
Definition: Jew