Kiddush and Havdalah: Marking the Boundaries of Sanctified Time 

By :  Judith Hauptman E. Billi Ivry Professor Emerita of Talmud and Rabbinic Culture Posted On May 22, 2023 / 5783 | Monday Webinar The Space In Between

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Part of the series, The Space in Between: Thresholds and Borders in Jewish Life and Thought 

With Dr. Judith Hauptman, E. Billi Ivry Professor Emerita of Talmud and Rabbinic Culture, JTS  

Kiddush marks the onset of Sabbath sanctity and havdalah marks its end. Both of these ritual acts derive from the Talmud. A review of Talmudic texts reveals that although kiddush did not change much during the Talmudic period, havdalah underwent significant modification. It began as a simple statement of the end of Sabbath sanctity but evolved into a full-blown ritual in which we recite blessings, light a candle, smell spices, and drink wine. Anecdotes abound. In this session, we study the changes to the havdalah ceremony and consider what brought them about and what they communicate about this unique moment that marks the end of the Sabbath. We reflect on how marking the beginning and end of the Sabbath allows us to experience its holiness more acutely.

Lecture Notes

  • Dr. Judith Hauptman opened the session by pointing the limited textual definitions of the Shabbat observance in Tanakh, explaining that the rabbis explored this more fully in the Mishnah and Talmud. She focused on the bookends of commemoration, kiddush and havdallah.
  • Kiddush is first mentioned in opposing viewpoints presented by Hillel and Shammai and is then deepened by subsequent rabbis. Some of the issues that emerge from these Talmudic discussions include:
    • When a Friday afternoon meal becomes lingers into Shabbat, how should one approach the food (clearing it? Leaving it to eat?)? No, cover the meal and then say the kiddush, then remove the cover and you have a sabbath meal.  This is a reversal of an earlier decision. Hauptman pointed out that halakha is not unchanging.
    • The kiddush is recited twice on Friday night and again on Saturday. The Saturday kiddish is different, emphasizing different verses about Shabbat observance.
    • Mostly the rabbis put forth that women are exempt from the time bound commandments, but they are required to say kiddush and can say it for men.
  • These texts point to the importance of kiddish as establishing Shabbat and stresses that the commandments of keeping and observing the Sabbath are incumbent on everyone.   
  • Havdalah is the separation between the holiness of shabbat and the rest of the week. Hauptman introduced the rabbinic debates on where havdalah ought to occur (in the home over wine vs in the synagogue during Ma’ariv), what needs to be recited (wine, light, spices or just a statement of separation from Shabbat). The rabbis discussed the existing practices and the confusion around these practices. One of the elements that was determined was having havdalah recited twice (in synagogue and at home) mirrors the recitation of the kiddush twice.
  • These amazing rituals began as ways to acknowledge the entrance and exit of Shabbat and provide clear time markers (despite the obscurity and challenges of places delineations on time).

About the Series

We are living in an undefined time: our daily existence is no longer dominated by the pandemic, yet neither have we settled into a new normal. This sense of being in transition—neither here nor there—  can feel destabilizing; but is the time in between really temporary, or are we always living in between moments, identities, and phases of life?  

In this series, JTS scholars will delve into the idea of liminality—the time or space in between—which we encounter often in Jewish ritual, identity, law, and life. Join us to consider what these many manifestations of “in-between-ness” can teach us about ourselves and about Judaism, and to explore how we might find strength and meaning in an orientation not of “either/or” but of “both/and.” 

We will explore themes of borders, thresholds and transitions as they pertain to the story of Creation, gender, conversion, birth and death, the duality of living as a Jew in America, and more.


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