Vrodman, edmon
Vrodman, edmon

Dont be spooked by a Halloween Havdallah

There will be no eerie glow coming from your Havdallah candle on Saturday evening, Oct. 31. No boiling or toiling in your Kiddush cup or smell of sulfur in your spice box.

Shabbat will be ending, Halloween beginning, and you can use this time to light up their differences by creating a Halloween Havdallah.

It’s not that I am proposing a Goth Shabbat.


Edmon J. Rodman

Each October our print media gives us umpteen articles about how to carve a pumpkin. Here we will also be carving. But for a totally different result — our medium will be time.


What I am suggesting is using the transition from Shabbat to Halloween to accentuate the distinction between holy Shabbat time and the secular every day.

Recent surveys show the average American home with children will spend more than $50 this year on Halloween. How much will we be spending on Havdallah?

Requiring a braided multi-wicked candle ($4), a little kosher grape juice or Kiddush wine ($4) and some cloves, nutmeg and/or cinnamon in a shaker, Havdallah is a wonderful atmospheric observance whose rewards continue long after the costumes have been put away and the candy gobbled.

The October horror story isn’t whether Jews celebrate Halloween, which is now observed almost wholly as a secular day. Rather, the story that should have us shaking is whether Jews celebrate Shabbat.

Work’s necessity makes us forget: There is an almost tangible distinctiveness to Jewish time.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, in his classic book “The Sabbath,” speaks of Shabbat as a spiritual place, a “palace in time.”

Using the drama of Havdallah to take leave of the palace helps create a defining change of scene, especially before you and the kids head out into an October’s All Hollow’s Eve.

The heart of Havdallah can be found in the phrase “ha’mavdil bein kodesh l’chol” (distinguishing between the sacred and the secular). The name Havdallah comes from the verb “l’havdil” (to separate or distinguish).

Some Jews even say the word l’havdil when they want to make it clear that two things are very different, that they have no business of even being thought of together.

With Havdallah this week, you are saying l’havdil between Shabbat and Halloween, expressing that there is a difference.

For a text for your service, most prayer books have a page or two for Havdallah. What, no prayer book handy? Go online.

Rabbi Amy Scheinerman of Beth Shalom Congregation of in Maryland has prepared a service complete with Hebrew transliteration, including a tip on how to create a homemade Havdallah candle. She suggests using warm water to soften two or three Chanukah candles, then twist them together.

You can also simply hold two candles together with wicks intertwined. Be sure to wrap foil around the candle’s base for a holder.

Wait till you see three stars to begin. Doorbells might be ringing; the kids restless. Look up to the sky, hold your ground and go for the full difference between darkness and light.

Lower the lights. Light the candle and hold it up. Read the first part about deliverance. In contrast to the

fear and shock themes of Halloween, the first line ends with resolute words for both child and adult: “I am confident and unafraid.”

Say Kiddush, the blessing over the wine. Don’t drink yet.

Next, pick up the spices, the b’samim, and say the blessing. They are a kind of smelling salts to revive your post-Shabbat spirits. Shake them, fully breathe them in, then pass them around. So much of Halloween is a me-me-me grab fest; b’samim is a communal pleasure.

Bless the flame. In a darkened room, no jack o’ lantern or blinking skulls are required — two or more wicks burning as one easily showcase the difference between light and darkness. To remind yourself of the difference, hold your palms up toward the candle, curve your fingers inward and see the shadows they cast.

Say the final blessings about God creating everything and everyone distinctly different, as well as distinguishing between the sacred and the everyday. Drink some wine.

Put out the candle in the wine. My kids loved doing this. Listen to the sizzle as the candle is quenched. Better than any sound effect, it is the sound of Shabbat ending and the new week with all its promise beginning.

Sing “Hamavdil,” a feel-good song that connects the blessings of Shabbat to the rest of the week. One verse goes: “Our families and our means, and our peace, may God increase.”

It’s our own kind of candy.

Now, wish each other a “shavuah tov,” a good week. Close the ceremony by singing “Eliyahu Hanavi.”

No “boos” allowed.

Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist writing on Jewish life from Los Angeles

Edmon Rodman
Edmon J. Rodman

Edmon J. Rodman writes about Jewish life from his home in Los Angeles and is the author of the weekly Guide for the Jewplexed on virtualjerusalem.com. Contact him at [email protected].