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Havdalah – A New Ritual

To Welcome An Autistic Child Into The Jewish Community, And To Affirm Parents’ Acceptance Of Their Child’s Difference

Instructions: Turn the lights low and light the braided Havdalah candle.

Leader: Havdalah is the short, sweet ceremony traditionally performed at the end of the Sabbath to usher out the holy day of Shabbat and to usher in the more ordinary days of the week. Havdalah honors difference, and teaches that the world was created through difference: In Genesis, God separates light from darkness, then water from empty space, then Earth from water. We celebrate difference, too. Tonight, we celebrate ____, a child with autism who is different from neuro-typical children. Our tradition teaches us that difference is sacred.

Parents: Through this ceremony we share with all of you here our acceptance of ____’s difference as sacred. We accept her diagnosis while knowing, at the same time, that she is much, much more than her diagnosis. We honor ____’s difference while working, at the same time, towards helping her live more fully and comfortably in the larger world. Through this ceremony, we commit to meeting ____ where she is — as she is — and we also commit to enriching who she can be.

All: Prayer cannot bring water to parched fields, nor mend a broken bridge, nor rebuild a ruined city. But prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, and rebuild a weakened will. Blessed are You, Creative Source in the Universe, Who helps us appreciate this difference. Amen. [adapted from Gates of Prayer]

A Prayer for Community

Instructions: Hand over hand, an adult helps ____ hold aloft a ceremonial cup brimming with sweet wine. All join in a wordless chant.

Yay-bay-bay…

All: A prayer for community: Barukh Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, boray pree ha-gafen.

Parents: Blessed are You, Creative Source in the Universe, who bids us share, in joy, this cup of sweet sweet wine, rather than drink from it alone. May we recognize that ____’s need for connection and community is different from ours. Help us help her communicate more clearly, make better eye contact, and more fully read faces and emotions. May we honor and bless ____’s different understanding of relatedness, while at the same time praying for her to join all of us — her “team” — in the hard work ahead of forging connections: with herself, with her family, and with her community. Amen.

All: May we be bound as a community of teachers to — and learners with — this child. We commit to this task of learning and adapting as we go. Amen.

A Prayer for The Senses

Instructions: An adult helps ____ hold aloft, and then pass, ceremonial spices. All take a big whiff.

Yay-bay-bay…

All: A prayer for the senses: Barukh Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, boray meenay b’sah-mim.

Parents: Blessed are You, Creative Source in the Universe, who bids us delight in our senses — smelling, tasting, seeing, touching, hearing. May we recognize that ____’s sensory experience is different from ours: Rain feels like bullets, a fly sounds like a 747, and textured food touching her lips overwhelms her. May we honor and bless ____’s different sensorium — lying on the floor with her, watching the fan overhead — but also lovingly prod her to engage with the world more fully. We pray for ____ to join all of us — her “team” — in the hard work ahead of heightening her tolerance for sensory
experience.

All: May we be bound as a community of teachers to — and learners with — this child. We commit to this task of learning and adapting as we go. Amen.

A Prayer to Hallow Difference

Instructions: An adult helps ____ hold aloft the braided Havdalah candle. Those gathered hold their hands to the light, noting difference: both light and shadow.

Yay-bay-bay…

All: A prayer to hallow difference: Barukh Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, boray m’oray ha-esh.

Parents: Blessed are You, Creative Source in the Universe, who bids us, through the ceremony of Havdalah, to relish difference. In the light and the shadows cast by these intertwined wicks, may we celebrate what has been brought “into the light” about autism — and also recognize how much we still need to uncover. May we honor and bless those exploring autism’s mysteries, and pray that their research brings us increased understanding. Speedily and in our day.

All: May we be bound as a community of teachers to — and learners with — this child. We commit to this task of learning and adapting as we go. Amen.

A Prayer for The Journey

All: Yay-bay-bay…

All: A prayer for the journey: Barukh Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, ha-mav-dil ben kodesh l’chol.

Parents: Blessed are You, Creative Source in the Universe, who calls us to this sacred journey, a road twisted like the Havdalah candle, filled with laughter and tears. You enable us to separate ____ from her diagnosis, and to celebrate the holy in our child.

All: May we be bound as a community that has committed to sensitizing itself to autism. We are grateful to ____ and her family for being our teachers. We welcome ____ and other children like her into our community. Speedily and in our day. With open arms. Amen.

Instructions: Pass the wine and drink, and then douse the flame in it. Turn up the lights and end by singing.

All Sing: L’chi Lach, to a land that I will show you.
Lech L’cha, to a place you do not know.
L’chi Lach, on your journey I will bless you.
And you shall be a blessing,
You shall be a blessing [2x],
L’chi Lach.