Making Commandments Beautiful: Part 2

June 28, 2013

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Shabbat message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, June 28, 2013.

Making Commandments Beautiful: Part 2

Another area of “Hiddur Mitzvah” – beautifying the commandments – is at Havdalah, truly a beautiful ceremony. Just as the Sabbath is ushered in with the light of candles and wine, the Sabbath is ushered out with candles, wine and spices. The main blessing praises God for separating between the Holy and the Secular, light and darkness, the Sabbath from the other days of the week. A braided candle is used – it MUST have multiple wicks, and the blessing praises God for creating the lights of the fire. And we smell spices – entering the new week at sunset on Saturday night smelling sweet spices ushering in the secular week with sweet smells.

Originally, the spices were simply myrtle leaves placed in a ceramic cup, but over the centuries the commandment was “beautified” by creating spectacular spice boxes, often in the shapes of castles or city architecture in the style of whatever cities in which the silversmiths were commissioned. Even the candles used at Havdalah were often fanciful. Since the blessing mentions “lights” (plural), Havdalah candles have multiple wicks and are often braided or woven and made from multiple colors.


Braided havdalah candles , Spice box in the traditional shape of a castle turret, & Spice box in the shape of a harp.

Shabbat Shalom

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