Havdallah: A Transitional Ritual from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha'atzmaut

Almost 10 years ago, Beit Tefilah Israeli—a Tel Aviv-based creative, innovative, and inclusive Jewish community—recognized the need for a sensitive ceremony that celebrates Israel’s national triumph and resilience, and expresses the sorrow for a dream of peace, still unfulfilled. Framed by the famous lines of Ecclesiastes, “a time for weeping and a time for laughing, a time for wailing and a time for dancing,” the ceremony weaves together songs, poems, speeches, and ritual moments. We invite you to explore these core texts and discussion questions as a way of familiarizing yourselves with the richness of this content and experience. 

The centerpiece of the ceremony is a modern Havdallah prayer, modeled after the Shabbat Havdallah prayer said every Saturday night—this time separating the holy sorrow of Yom Hazikaron and the holy joy of Yom Ha'atzmaut. Below are excerpts and guiding questions taken from their rich resource.

Beit Tefilah Israeli begins their Havdallah ceremony with two texts: a selection from the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet), and a poem from renowned Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai (click on Israel Resource Card at right). As you explore these two texts, we invite you to consider:

  • How do Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) and Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai each express the tension between mourning and celebrating?
  • What resonates with you in these approaches? What challenges you in these approaches?
  • In what ways are these two texts speaking to one another?
  • How might these texts and ideas help us understand and approach the transition from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha'atzmaut?

Kohelet Chapter 3

from Ecclesiastes Chapter 3

A season is set for everything,
a time for every experience under heaven:
A time for being born and a time for dying,
A time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;
A time for slaying and a time for healing,
A time for tearing down and a time for building up;
A time for weeping and a time for laughing,
A time for wailing and a time for dancing;
A time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
A time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces;
A time for seeking and a time for losing,
A time for keeping and a time for discarding;
A time for ripping and a time for sewing,
A time for silence and a time for speaking;
A time for loving and a time for hating;
A time for war and a time for peace.
לַכֹּל זְמָן
וְעֵת לְכָל־חֵפֶץ תַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם
עֵת לָלֶדֶת וְעֵת לָמוּת
עֵת לָטַעַת וְעֵת לַעֲקוֹר נָטוּעַ׃
עֵת לַהֲרוֹג וְעֵת לִרְפּוֹא
עֵת לִפְרוֹץ וְעֵת לִבְנוֹת׃
עֵת לִבְכּוֹת וְעֵת לִשְׂחוֹק
עֵת סְפוֹד וְעֵת רְקוֹד׃
עֵת לְהַשְׁלִיךְ אֲבָנִים וְעֵת כְּנוֹס אֲבָנִים
עֵת לַחֲבוֹק וְעֵת לִרְחֹק מֵחַבֵּק׃
עֵת לְבַקֵּשׁ וְעֵת לְאַבֵּד
עֵת לִשְׁמוֹר וְעֵת לְהַשְׁלִיךְ׃
עֵת לִקְרוֹעַ וְעֵת לִתְפּוֹר
עֵת לַחֲשׁוֹת וְעֵת לְדַבֵּר׃
עֵת לֶאֱהֹב וְעֵת לִשְׂנֹא
עֵת מִלְחָמָה וְעֵת שָׁלוֹם׃

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A Man in His Life

by Yehuda Amichai

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Song is Our Life

There is a Hassidic teaching, frequently quoted by Abraham Joshua Heschel, which describes three levels of bereavement. The first level is tears (the simplest, most general way we express grief). The second slightly better level is silence. The third way, which this Jewish teaching suggests is the highest level of expressing grief, is through song. Crying is our pain, silence is our courage, but song is our life. Those who made our lives possible, and filled them with meaning, receive our praises through song.
[SOURCE: You Are My Witness: The Living Words of Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer]

Music plays a crucial role in our lives as the soundtrack of our experience. Whether it’s songs that remind us of those we mourn or the ones we associate with our most joyous memories, music accompanies us wherever we go, enriching our lives. As you listen to "Halevai", a collaboration between famed Israeli lyrist Ehud Manor and musician Boaz Sharabi, we invite you to consider:

  • What role does music play in your life?
  • What role might it play on Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut? How might it help frame these days?
  • Which prayers in "Halevai" resonate with you and what actions do they inspire?

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