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About Shabbat

How do you start the Shabbat meal?

To start the Shabbat meal, you first must make Kiddush. (Kiddush means to make holy). Kiddush is a blessing over a cup of wine to start the Shabbat meal. After making Kiddush, you must make the blessing over the bread, or Challah.

What is the importance of Challah?

There are two Challot, which represent the double portion of manna, the miracle food that the Israelites ate in the desert, that fell on Friday. The Challot are placed on a board and covered with a cloth to represent the envelope of dew which surrounded the manna in the desert. For this reason, it is very important to have a Challah cover.

Why is lighting candles so important?

Candles should be lit just before the sun goes down over the horizon, saying the Brachah: Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has commanded us to kindle the Shabbat light. The candles may be lit earlier if necessary, but not earlier than about an hour before the sun goes down. As soon as a woman lights candles, it is Shabbat for her. Even if she lights a bit early, she may do no work.

How do you say / light Havdalah?

First, you must take a cup of wine, and while holding it in your right hand, say the Brachah, "borei peri hagafen." Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. Then you must make a Brachah over a box of spices, smell it, and hand the box to everyone so that they can smell it, too. Afterward, some one must hold up a plaited Havdalah candle, put their fingers up to the candle and say another Brachah. After a fourth Brachah, you drink the wine.

Why must you pour out so much wine so that it spills over the sides of the cup?

It's a sign of abundant blessings pouring over us. It's a way of asking God to bless us so much that our blessings overflow.

Why do you have to use a plaited Havdalah candle?

You must use a plaited Havdalah candle because you get a flame that is really several flames burning together. You can see different colors darting from the flame. It is a way of thanking God for the opportunity to work and be creative again. That's also why we hold our hands up to the flame. The light shining on your fingers stand for having benefit from the work we do.

Why do you use Havdalah spices?

It is because we have an extra soul then. When Shabbat goes away, so does the extra soul, and we are left feeling ordinary. We smell the spices to revive our soul which is now a bit sad because it has lost its companion. It's really a way of saying that something very special is over, and that we're now ready to get on with the rest of the week until Shabbat comes around again.
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