The idea we had was simple. Get together several Jewish families in Edmonton who share both our commitment to a progressive, egalitarian Judaism and our passion for good food, friends and laughter.
Havdalah seemed to be the ideal event around which we should plan. Marking the end of Shabbat and the beginning of the regular work week, Havdalah is a weekly observance that is often overlooked among liberal Jews. It is much more common for families to light candles and say blessings on Friday evening to mark the start of the Sabbath. But I have found that Shabbat - when observed as a day of rest, recreation, and family fun – can be made to feel even more special when it culminates in a brief Havdalah service.
Our “Havdalah Chavurah” is an informal circle of friends coming together to celebrate Havdalah. Our first gathering was blessed with warm spring weather so we dusted off the patio furniture and took the event into the backyard. While the kids ran around like crazy, we enjoyed those first beers of the season outside in the sunshine. The twins were surrounded by their school chums and everyone was having a ball. Dinner was potluck, featuring the chicken nuggets that Ella and I made, a couple of those flank steaks, and lots of other good stuff brought by our friends.
After dinner, we congregated in the living room for the brief service. I like to sing the Debbie Friedman Havdalah blessings, finishing with Eliyahu Ha’Navi, and call that the service.
If you are wondering what the Havdalah Brachot sound like, listen here.
Something compelling and engaging has been started here. It is based on friendship, community and common belief that there are lots of enjoyable ways to be Jewish.
Where it leads is the adventure ahead of us all.