It is customary to sing hymns at the close of the Havdalah ceremony, several of which contain references to the prophet Elijah; according to one tradition, Elijah will make his appearance at the conclusion of Shabbat to announce the coming of the Messiah. "Elijah the prophet, Elijah the Tishbite, Elijah the Giladite, May he arrive quickly in our time with the Messiah son of David."

One of the most popular hymns sung at conclusion of the ceremony is Hamavdil (Heb."He who distinguishes"); it begins with the words "May He who distinguishes between holy and profane forgive our sins" (Hamavdil ben kodesh le-hol hatotenu Hu yimhol). The acrostic yields the Hebrew name of the author, Isaac the Younger — Yitzhak Ha-katan; several scholars identify him with Isaac b. Judah ibn Ghayyat of Spain (1030-1089).

Hebrew words

Three versions of Hamavdil, as sung by:

Pharaoh's Daughter
B'nai Jeshurun, NY
Ilene Safyan & Margie Rosenthal

Hamavdil ben kodesh l'hol, hatoteinu hu yimhol; zareinu v'chaspenu yarbeh kahol v'chakochavim balaila. Shavua Tov.

English translation
May He who separates between the sacred and the everyday, forgive our sins; may He multiply our offspring and our money like the sand, and like the stars at night. A good week!

It is been claimed that the hymn was originally composed for the concluding Ne'ilah service of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, as suggested by the central themes of forgiveness and closing of gates. In certain Sephardi communities, (e.g. Algeria) it is still recited during the Ne'ilah service when the Day of Atonement falls on the Sabbath. [1] While two versons evolved, one became the standard hymn for the Havdalah service in most Jewish rites, including the Karaite one.

In the second line, "May he multiply our offspring as the sand and as the stars in the night," the words, "and our wealth" were added after the request for offspring. The editor's mother offers another alternative, replacing the word "money" with "honor."


Hatam Sofer, Orah Hayyim, No. 67; Rabbi Moses Sofer, following Mordecai ben Hillel on Yoma

Pharaoh's Daughter, CD: Out of the Reeds JAM/Knitting Factory Records, KFW-273, 2000
Rabbis Bronstein and Matalon, and Hazzan Priven, With Every Breath: Music of Shabbat at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun
Ilene Safyan & Margie Rosenthal, Sheera Recordings, Around Our Shabbat Table may be purchased from soundswrite or jewishmusic.
Elijah the Prophet



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