Saturday, December 23, 2017

My Favorite Weekly Jewish Ritual: Havdalah

The deeper my journey into Judaism, the deeper my Shabbat observance and practice. It is powerful to draw on this ancient weekly holiday and make it meaningful in contemporary life. My favorite ritual of Shabbat (outside of Friday evening services) is Havdalah.

This Hanukkah my family gifted me with a beautiful Havdalah set.



I decided to make my own spice mix for the spice box. In looking up how to do this I found plenty of do-it-yourself bags and boxes and a list of possible spices. There is one spice store that actually sells a Havdalah spice mix. I used their ingredient list as inspiration for my own. The traditional spices are cloves and cardamom and sometimes cinnamon. In fact, my new spice box was filled with whole cloves.  So I chose the following mix of spices that I found at my local Penzey's (I love Penzey's!): Ceylon Cinnamon, Cardamon Seeds, Whole Cloves, and Orange Peel.


I started looking around the web to see if I was supposed to grind the spices or leave them whole or what. I didn't find any specific instructions and from the photos, the spices were mostly whole or in big pieces. So I mixed the spices in a small container that I could seal with a lid for storage. I took about 20 whole cloves, half of a cinnamon stick, 2-3 cardamom seeds, and a generous sprinkling of orange peel. Cardamom seeds have a very strong scent so I used the least of those. I mixed it based on how it smelled, particularly with the orange peel. It is really about personal preference. I took a plastic knife and blended them together. So here is what mine looked like:



Then I filled the spice box and put the lid on what was left.




My cats are usually my company for Havdalah and I am still working on Hebrew (this will be a lifelong learning project), I found a great version of the Havdalah prayers from The Shabbos Project. In 2014, at the end of this global observance of Shabbat many locations held large public Havdalah services.  The Maccabeats and Netanel Hershtik created a video with images from the 2014 Havdalah services around the globe. It is fun to watch the video with pictures of Havdalah from around the world. Most useful, however, is that there is a version that is just the lyrics in Hebrew, transliteration into English and the English translation!! So each Saturday evening, I pray along with the Maccabeats and Netanel Hershtik. It is a beautiful way to mark the end of Shabbat and to carry its sweetness into the week ahead!

Shavua Tov!