Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wholeness and Separation

Havdalah means "separation," because we separate the week from Shabbat...but it always makes me feel connected instead. We engage all five senses, feeling the warmth from the candle, seeing its light on our fingernails, smelling the spices and tasting the wine and hearing each other sing. These are things we are supposed to carry with us throughout the week. So, what is separating?

Rabbi S. has been at Shabbat for the last few weeks, and each night, as part of the service, he explains a portion of the siddur, sometimes word by word. Why L'cha Dodi, why Mi Chamocha? He says when we say "Shabbat Shalom" we're saying more than "Sabbath Peace" or "Hi! It's Shabbat!" Shalom has the same root as Shalem, which means "whole." Shabbat Shalom is about journies into wholeness.

In my worst moments, I envision braided havdalah candles and braided challot unbraiding themselves, the woven strands of wax and bread dough separating until nothing is whole. It's very unsettling - symbols of connection and all-things-entwined coming apart at the seams. It's hard to change the vision so they pieces embrace each other again. No matter how many times I try to reverse it, the strands want to be alone, they want to separate, even though they're supposed to represent wholeness. Shalem. Shalom. Connection.

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