Blessing are You, King of the Universe, who has created the fruit of the vine.

The Talmud teaches that at the beginning of the Sabbath, the special sanctification (Kiddush) is recited [1] and after the termination of the Sabbath the Havdalah ("distinction") benediction — signifying the separation of the Sabbath from the weekday — is recited [1]. Both are recited over a cup of wine.

Detail from medieval manuscript,
c14th century, Spain

The Babylonian Talmud elaborates that the "distinction" blessing was originally inserted in the "'Amidah" prayer at the evening service of a day following one of greater holiness; the prevailing custom, however, was to recite the Havdalah ceremony at home over a cup of wine, while only making mention of it in the Amidah. [2]

At a later date, it became customary to recite the Havdalah over a cup of wine in the synagogue as well, in order to exempt those who had no wine in their home: "when [the people] became richer — they instituted that it should be said over the cup of wine; when they became poor again — they inserted it again into the prayer." [3] Today the ceremony is generally recited at home.

Havdalah over a cup of wine is also customary when the Sabbath is immediately followed by a festival, since the festival's stringency is less than that of the Sabbath. [4] Combined in this case with the festival Kiddush, the blessing distinguishes "between holy and holy" as opposed to "between holy and profane." The order of this Kiddush-Havdalah is indicated by the well-known acrostic yaknehazyayin (wine), Kiddush, ner (candle), Havdalah, zeman (season=she'heheyanu). [5] When the end of the festival is followed by a working day, Havdalah is recited wine wine only, i.e., without candle or spices.

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There are several customs involving the wine: pouring of some of the wine on the ground as an omen of blessing, overfilling the cup as an omen of plenty and prosperity, passing the last drop of wine in the cup over the eyes; and extinguishing the lamp with the remaining drops.


[1] BT Pes. 106a
[3] BT Ber. 33a ; in the Jerusalem Talmud, the description of the ceremony's origin is more ambiguous.
[2] Taanit 4:3
[4] BT Hul. 26b
[5] BT Ber. 33b

Topic of the Month: WINE

HAVDALAH Table of Contents



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