Sunday, May 23, 2010

Turkish Jews Wear Havdalah Besamim from Sundown Friday to Nightfall Saturday

I know, I know. School’s coming to a close and for now there are no more holidays on the horizon. All the more reason we should take a look at Shabbat, especially if you’re giving some thought to next year’s lesson plans.
We all have our Shabbat comfort aromas. Like a yoga mantra, these fragrances envelope us in a sense of calm. The Havdalah service ending the Sabbath day reminds us of Shabbat’s sweet scent through the use of Besamim – fragrant spices. While most of us use a dry blend of whole cloves, cinnamon pieces and allspice, Turkish Jews prefer a spice from nature. In fact, they use fresh Besamim to bookend the Shabbat. Here’s what they do. Before Shabbat begins they pick or buy a fresh sprig of an aromatic spice such as rosemary or mint. The men place the herb in their jacket lapel and go to synagogue wearing this sweet smelling reminder. The sprig is never removed. By Havdallah time it becomes a convenient accessory. Returning to synagogue with the same herb lodged in their lapel, they say Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha olam, bo're minei b'samim, "Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, Who creates varieties of spices." They then remove the sprig and breath in its aroma in order to savor Shabbat and the tranquility it provides.
What a wonderful way to start the work week! You can get that message across to your students every Friday afternoon. Add some seasoning to your lesson plan by explaining the symbolism of the Havdalah spices, then send your students home with fresh spice sprigs. Ask them to come up with some creative post-Havdalah ways to use the spice.
Keep me posted on their ideas.
Have a Shavua Tov…Tami

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