As dusk deepened into night, I’d step outside and scan the night sky for three large stars close together. Astronomically speaking, at least one was probably a planet – Venus – but the sight of these celestial bodies indicated that Shabbat was over. Soon my father would return from synagogue and recite Havdalah. We’d sniff the sweet spices and gaze at our fingers and nails in the light of the braided torch. After singing “Elijah the Prophet,” my father would wish everyone “A good week, a healthy week, a sweet week.”
In many communities it’s customary to recite the prayer composed by Rabbi Levi Isaac of Barditchev, “G-d of Abraham,” in which we ask for a week of faith, kindness, good fortune, blessing, and success, health, wealth, and honor; children, long life, and plentiful sustenance – for us and for all of Israel. Amen!
Some of my high school teachers used spirits instead of wine for Havdalah, and the candle’s light, rather than being doused, caught the alcohol and set the flames to dancing on the plate. We joined arms in a circle, singing and swaying as we bade farewell to Shabbat, and greeted the coming week. We face the darkness and unknown of the future with the cup of salvations lifted in our hand.
G-d is my deliverance; I am confident and shall not fear, for G-d the L-rd is my strength and song, and He has been a help to me. You shall draw water with joy from the wellsprings of deliverance. Deliverance is the L-rd’s; may Your blessing be upon Your people forever…L-rd deliver us; may the King answer us on the day we call. For the Jews there was light and joy, gladness and honor—so let it be with us.