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It’s About Time

Saturday, 7 November 2009


Sometimes we just need a kick in the pants to do something that we had wanted to do all along but somehow lacked the motivation to get started.

Shabbat. It is the hub around which the rest of my week turns. And it has been that way for my entire life. The hurried bustle of Friday afternoon that must cease even if there are unfinished projects or loose ends. Candles. Blessing of the children. Kiddush. Washing of the hands. Motzi. Dinner. Shul. The start of Shabbat almost always begins the same way. But then…

Shabbos just sort-of skulked away in the dark of the night. No fanfare. No proclaimation. No nothing.

And not because there was no ritual for it. Because there is. It’s called Havdallah.

I don’t know why we didn’t do it every week. Looking back, I’m a little surprised that I never questioned why we performed the entry rituals religiously but the exit rituals with such preciese irregularity.

I would guess that for most liberal Jews, Havdallah is regareded as that warm-fuzzy closing circle on the Saturday night during a Shabbaton or at summer camp. Or perhaps a one-time event at their “Havdallah Bar Mitzvah.”

But that’s not what I want Havdallah to be for our children. I want Shabbat, with its majestic arrival, to depart with equally graceful pagentry. I love the way the ritual symmetry frames these 25 hours, marking a clear dinstiction between the sacred and the ordinary.

So when I challeged the congregation on Yom Kippur to select a “not-yet mitzvah” in this new year of 5770, I had the perfect opportunity to introduce this weekly mitzvah into our family life. So far, we have missed just one week. And though we adults had already agreed not to make ourselves crazy about the inevitable missed opportunities, not doing Havdallah just that one time felt strange.

Perhaps when we finally get around to taking on a commandment for which we had been yearning to perform, we take to it immediately. Internalizing it swiftly. And then missing it dearly when we don’t do it.

Maybe that’s why tonight’s Havdallah was sooooo sweet…

Shavua tov.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Saturday, 7 November 2009 10:15 pm

    isn’t it funny – we’re the same way. i always say we have to get our havdalah in gear…

    we do sing the mavdil blessing at bedtime. but it’s not the same as doing the while shebang weekly…

  2. Frume Sarah permalink*
    Wednesday, 18 November 2009 2:23 pm

    But it is a great start! And can lead so easily to getting your Havdallah on 😉

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