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Shavuot 5772

By: Rav Ari Shames

Hamavdil ben Kodesh LKodesh- Rav Shames

This coming Shabbat, Parshat Bamidbar, is Erev Shavuot, which creates a unique situation crossing the seam between Shabbat and Yom Tov. In general, we are used to the idea that at the outset of a holy day we make Kiddush and at its conclusion we say havdalah. This week we find Yom Tov starting as Shabbat ends, which challenges us to figure out what to do with this complicated situation.

The Gemara in Pesachim deals with the first issue - what should come first? While one would think that it makes sense to first end Shabbat and only then begin Yom Tov, it could be argued that we would prefer delaying havdalah in order to preserve the special nature of Shabbat for even a few more moments.

This dilemma is compounded by two other brachot that accompany the havdalah (and the Kiddush), the bracha on the flame and the bracha on the wine. In an incredible example of thinking out of the box, the Gemara spells out each and every permutation. The Gemara concludes with the decision represented by the acronym YKNHZ- Wine, Kiddush, Flame, Havdalah, Shechiyanu - and this is indeed our practice today.

The complications, however, do not end here. The next challenge is to figure out the correct formula for the havdalah itself. Our standard version, which concludes ,"Between the holy and the mundane", is clearly not applicable to the shift from Shabbat to Yom Tov (we cannot degrade Yom Tov by labeling it mundane). In order to solve this issue the conclusion was adjusted to read ,"Between holy and holy", indicating that there is a distinction between Shabbat and Yom Tov, with Shabbat being the more intense form of holiness but nonetheless Yom Tov still is labeled as holy.

This adjustment, however, leaves us with yet another puzzle. Our havdalah is made up of three sections - Introduction, List of Divisions and Conclusion.

Introduction:

Blessed are You, our God, King of the world - '

List of "Divisions"

1.Who separates between holy and the mundane

-

2.Between light and dark

-

3.Between the Jews and the Nations

-

4.Between the seventh day and the six days of work

-

Conclusion:

Blessed are You Who separates between holy and the mundane -

The Gemara in Pesachim mandates that the number of "divisions" that we list in the havdalah be either 3 or 7. The Gemara immediately questions this by pointing out that our standard havdalah actually has 4??

The Gemara resolves this by explaining that there are really only three in the list. The last one:

"Between the seventh day and the six days of work - "

is simply a literary tool used to "tie up the loose ends" and summarize the main point before the conclusion. The Gemara has two descriptions of this clause:

  1. Shmuel - One must have a clausesimilar to the conclusionright before the conclusion.
  2. Pumbadita - One must have a clausesimilar to the openingclause right before the conclusion.

In the case of the regular havdalah both of these are identical, as the first clause and the conclusion both read:

Who separates between holy and the mundane -

The debate between these two positions is in our case, where Yom Tov starts on Motzei Shabbat and the conclusion now reads:

Who separates between holy and holy -

According to Shmuel we need to adjust the penultimate line, while according to Pumbadita it can remain the same as the first clause is not affected.

We now have a clear idea of what we should say for this havdalah: The standard formula with a corrected conclusion and, according to Shmuel, a corrected penultimate as well.

Here is where the problem really gets difficult!! At some stage, not clear when and not clear why, the (at least Ashkenazi) custom became to say:

Introduction:

Blessed are You, our God, King of the world - '

List of "Divisions"

1.Who separates between holy and the mundane

-

2.Between light and dark

-

3.Between the Jews and the Nations

-

4.Between the seventh day and the six days of work

-

5.Between the holiness of Shabbat and the holiness of Yom Tov

-

6.You sanctified the 7thday as opposed to the six days of work

-

7.You have separated and sanctified Your nation with Your Holiness

-

Conclusion:

Blessed are You Who separates between holy and holy-

How did this happen? Why the excessive and seemingly repetitious language? In addition, our penultimate clause does not fulfill either Shmuel's positon or that of Pumbedita!

All of the Ashkenazi commentators base themselves on the explanation of Rabenu Tam who says that on this occasion we do not suffice with 3 divisions but rather we have 7. (As one would expect, there is a difference of opinion as how to get to the number 7. I have numbered them above based on the Tosfot, but see the Rosh and Mordechai for other possibilities.) According to Rabenu Tam the final clause refers to a division within Am Yisrael between Kohanim, Leviim and Yisraelim. This distinction is very similar to the model of the distinction between Shabbat and Yom Tov, from "holy to holy"- both are holy but at different levels, leaving us with a penultimate line that accords with the position of Shmuel.

However we are still left with part of the puzzle. The fourth clause:

Between the seventh day and the six days of work -

is out of place. We wrote earlier that it is not to be counted as one of the divisions but rather as the line to summarize the paragraph, while according to Rabenu Tam's calculation it needs to be one of the 7.

I would like to suggest a different approach to the issue. I think that the final three clauses, the ones that we do not have at any other time serve another function:

Between the holiness of Shabbat and the holiness of Yom Tov -

You sanctified the 7thday as opposed to the six days of work -

You have separated and sanctified Your nation with Your Holiness - :

There is a progression from "separated", to "sanctified", to "separated and sanctified".

When we began the shiur we said that there is a challenge in this coming Motzei Shabbat in that we need to make both Kiddush and Havdalah and we need to figure out which to do first. I think the progression that we see tries to convince us that there really is no dilemma at all. Both Kiddush and Havdalah represent the same concept. The Rambam, in his introduction to the laws of Kiddush, writes that "there is a positive commandment to sanctify the Shabbat as it enters and as it ends", referring to both Kiddush and Havdalah as stemming from the same source.

To distinguish between two elements entails much more than simply recognizing a difference between them. Halacha requires us to make a value statement concerning our attitude to the realm of time. Shabbat is not only different than the weekdays but it is holier than they are. The same act of separation/sanctification is fulfilled by Kiddush as it is by Havdalah.

According to this approach we reintroduce the terminology of Kiddush to this very special Havdalah and we are sensitized to the complicated task of transforming from Shabbat to Yom Tov. We need to evaluate the qualities of both and simultaneously distinguish one from the other while infusing them both with the relevant style of Kedusha.

Shabbat Shalom AND Chag Sameach

Rav Shames

 

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