Havdalah, the set of blessings that ends the Jewish Sabbath, means separation. The text talks about separating light from darkness, the day of rest from the six days of work, the holy from the ordinary, Israel from “the nations.” That last one stems from the controversial biblical concept of Jews as God’s chosen people, and is a reminder of the rough reality now playing out in this holy city.
After a torturous week that included a Palestinian terror attack on a synagogue and the attendant Israeli crackdown, about 200 people gathered Saturday night at Jerusalem’s renovated First Station complex for Havdalah and a pluralistic prayer for peace. Pluralism in this case meant among Jews ”” the rabbis up front included Reform and Orthodox, women and men, the descendants of Eastern Europe known as Ashkenazim and of those expelled from Spain, Sephardim.
The overwhelmingly Ashkenazi audience delighted when Rabbi David Menachem, whose grandfather came to Israel from Iraq, asked permission to chant Havdalah in “a Sephardi tune ”” a Jerusalem tune.”