Easing the Transition From Shabbat

Shemini By :  Shira D. Epstein Former Dean of the William Davidson School, JTS Posted On Apr 1, 2016 / 5776 | דבר אחר | A Different Perspective

Havdalah for young children and families (http://pin.it/qLL1iEs)

The parashah delineates several distinctions between holy and unholy: what constitutes an acceptable sacrifice; which animals fall within the category of kosher; the actions that might transition a vessel, oven, or garment to the status of unclean.

At the end of Shabbat, we invoke these same words during havdalah, praising God “who makes a distinction between holy and profane.” Judaism recognizes that the transition from the calmness of Shabbat to the demands of the work week can be jarring, and that ritual infused with joy and playfulness can ease the anxiety. Havdalah activates all of the senses—by having us sniff the spices, gaze at the fire, taste the wine, hear the melody, feel the warmth of the flame on our outstretched hands. 

The Paradigm Project’s Pinterest board for Havdalah highlights this engagement of the senses. Although havdalah was not originally crafted as a child-centered ritual, it appeals to that nervous kid inside each one of us, the one who wished for just one more day of vacation, or that the demands of Monday morning might be postponed by a snowstorm. Much in the same way that children desire elaborate bedtime rituals to ease the transition to solitude and darkness, so too does havdalah ease the transition from “holy time.”