Havdalah for the Summer Solstice
In Jewish tradition the summer solstice is called Tekufat Tammuz, or the solstice of the month of Tammuz. There is no traditional ritual to mark the solstice, but there are a number of legends associated with the summer solstice, including the legend that on the summer solstice no one has a shadow. The following ritual is a celebration of summer based on Jewish legends and mystical traditions.
Go to a lake or sea, or prepare a large bowl of water. Hum a niggun, or sing a song celebrating light or fire. Welcome the four sacred worlds of assiyah (west/earth/body), yetzirah (south/water/heart), beriyah (east/air/mind), and atzilut (north/fire/essence) by turning to face each direction while holding a candle or while sprinkling water from a bowl of water. Ask everyone to say their name and one wish for the coming summer.
Remind the group that in Jewish lore, the summer solstice is a day when, for a moment, we all lose our shadows. Ask each person present to throw a flower or other organic non-polluting object into the body of water and speak aloud one thing he or she needs to release or give away, one thing that has been "shadowing" him or her. Let these objects float away.
Ask each participant to sit for a moment and feel the energy of the earth, which reflects the energy of the Divine, and consider how he or she needs to be cleansed in order to face the future.
God has sent a tent for the sun, and a lake of water stands before it, and when it goes forth, the Holy One tempers its strength in the water lest it go forth and burn up the world…”
(Genesis Rabbah 6:6)
On this day of the glory of the sun, we bathe in water to bring gentleness and healing to ourselves and to the world. May the sun’s fire bring us abundance and fruitfulness, not drought and destruction. May we cleanse our own radiance so that we too shine in the world, bringing warmth and light to all.
Have all participants immerse in the sea or a lake or bathe their hands or feet in water. Hum a niggun while the immersion is taking place.
At the end of the immersion, all present recite:
Livrachah velo liklalah
Lesova velo lerazon
Lechayim velo lemavet
For blessing and not for curse.
For fullness and not for hunger.
For life and not for death.
After the washing or immersion, conduct a Havdalah Ceremony to welcome the new season:
Over wine or grape juice:
Beruchah at shekhinah, eloheinu ruach ha’olam, boreit peri hagafen.
Blessed are you, Shekhinah filling the world, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Over fragrant leaves or grasses of summer:
Beruchah at shekhinah eloheinu ruach ha’olam boreit isvei vesamim.
Blessed are You, Shekhinah filling the world, who creates fragrant grasses.
Over a braided candle:
Baruch ata adonai, eloheinu melech ha’olam, borei me’orei ha’eish.
Blessed are You, Adonai, spirit of the world, who creates the light of fire.
Baruch ata adonai eloheinu melekh ha’olam, oseh vereishit, asher betevunah meshaneh itim umachalif et hazmanim od kol yemei ha’aretz zera vekatzir vekor vechom vekayitz vechoref veyom velailah lo yishbotu. baruch ata adonai mevareich hashanim.
Blessed are You, Holy One who fills the world, who fashions the world, changes the times with wisdom, and turns the seasons. All the days of the earth, planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease. Blessed are You, Holy One, who blesses the years.
Mix wine with water (if possible, water from the sea or lake).
Extinguish candle in wine and water.
Say: Tekufah tovah: a good season!
Rabbi Jill Hammer is the director of Tel Shemesh and the author of Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women.
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