Havdallah is one of those ceremonies that I have found enriching, fun and in little need of change. It's a quick ceremony marking the end of Shabbat with all of the hallmarks and symbols of a ritual embodying a full sensual experience, allowing the sacredness of Shabbat to flow into the regular week. The wine, the spice box, and the twisted candle bring the tastes of Shabbat to all of the senses. So, when a congregant of mine asked me to participate at her son's bar mitzvah party by leading the Havdallah ceremony, I was grateful for the opportunity to bring this sacred ritual to the bar mitzvah party as the capstone to a powerful day.
As is often the case, after I was asked to participate, she then tentatively asked if I minded if they changed a few things. After I passed the "uh oh" moment, she allayed my fears when she suggested that everyone participate in the Havdallah ceremony by having sparklers. We had the wonderful idea that our bar mitzvah boy, with Havdallah candle in hand would go around lighting each sparkler. Well, when the time came, it took much longer to light the sparklers and, boy, were we happy that everyone took the initiative to light their own sparklers using the tiki torches. Amazingly, it had a wonderful effect.
After we talked about including the sparklers, she then broached the spices dilemma; how to allow everyone to participate in the spices part of the ceremony. We tossed in the idea of having little spice bags for everyone, but quickly nixed it. Then my congregant in all her creativity came up with the idea of a candied orange peel for everyone to enjoy a piece. Far from traditional, this isn't your mama's spice box, it became an extraordinarily inventive twist on spices, both sweet and savory to the nose and mouth.
Below is the link to the recipe for the candied orange peel:
When navigating between the sacred and the joyous, the prayers and the parties, we must encourage, support and leave space for those sparks of creativity and ingenuity to spill over and mix with each other while not subsuming the gravitas of these milestone events.
In an age where the bar mitzvah ceremony and party are often relegated to two different universes, it was really amazing, awe-inspiring and humbling to see that chasm bridged by a family willing to engage in the narrative of Jewish life and make it their own.