Shabbat and Havdala

Our Humanistic Shabbat and Havdala celebrations have increasingly become home-based celebrations where a small number of families gather together to celebrate.

Machar’s Shabbat ceremonies may include: readings, responsive readings, candle lighting, commentary or discussion of secular humanistic issues, drama or performance of some sort, and songs. We may sing in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, or even Ladino. Wine (or grape juice) and challah are key elements in Shabbat ceremonies. 

Congregational Humanistic Shabbat liturgy

In-home Humanistic Shabbat liturgy

Machar Shabbat at home booklet

Humanistic Tot Shabbat liturgy

Early or at least related origins of Shabbat can be found in the Babylonian calendar — Shabbatum — the magic number of 7. There were certain days when it was considered unlucky to do any work, but this only pertained to the king and other high-ups. It had nothing to do with a day of rest. That came with the Jewish evolution and the instituting of what could be viewed as the world’s first labor law.

Two versions of the Ten Commandments

  • Exodus 20:8-11: Remember Shabbat (the final day of creation)
  • Deuteronomy 5:12-15: Keep the Shabbat (a memorial of the exodus).

All deserve a day of rest — man and beast. This goes beyond religion into the laws of the land. It’s humanitarian.

At the end of Shabbat comes “Havdala,” which means “differentiation.” Havdala is the ceremony in which we contemplate the distinctions we make between the “special” day and the “common” day, between Shabbat and the rest of the days of the week. Coming at dusk, it is a time to close Shabbat and think about making a fresh start in the week to come. It is a time when we also think about trying to make a difference in this world.

Machar Havdala liturgy

Machar Havdala service February 2014

Havdala for some of us is a time to think about what we are feeling connected with and what we are feeling separated from. We are all unique and distinct from one another, yet in certain ways we are connected to each other. We try to celebrate our connections and accept our differences. Thinking like this brings to mind present-day issues like separation between opposing factions, Israel and Arab nations, religious and secular.