There is one particular feature of the Havdallah service which, to me, is inspirational. The story goes as follows. G-d created the first humans on Friday, on the sixth day of creation. He created man, He created woman, and after committing their sin on the very first day, G-d sentenced them to exile from Gan Eden, from paradise. But He gave them a stay of execution for one day, so they spent Shabbat in Gan Eden. And whenever we celebrate Shabbat, we experience a kind of paradise regained.
When it came to motzei Shabbat [post-Shabbat period], Adam and Eve encountered darkness and exile for the first time, and they were frightened. And at that moment, say the Sages, G-d showed Adam and Eve how to make fire, how to make light and taught them how to light up a dark world. And that is why we celebrate the Havdallah with that special candle – the Havdallah candle.
And that is the message of Havdallah. Let this little paradise that we create on Shabbat spread its light throughout the coming week, and may the candle of Havdallah that we light – that G-d taught the first humans to light – show us the way forward in what is sometimes a dark and dangerous world. When, outside, the world is dark, there are two things you can do: you can curse the darkness or you can light a candle. Let us light a candle that will bring the light of peace and joy and blessing to the Jewish people and to the world.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is an international religious leader, philosopher, award-winning author and respected moral voice. Described by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales as “a light unto this nation” and by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as “an intellectual giant”, Rabbi Sacks is a frequent and sought-after contributor to radio, television and the press both in Britain and around the world. Since stepping down as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth – a position he served for 22 years - Rabbi Sacks has held a number of professorships at several academic institutions including Yeshiva University and King’s College London.