Friday, August 22, 2008

Melaveh Malchah: After Shabbat Afterlife After Party

The ritual meal of Melaveh Malchah ("Escorting the Queen") involves prayers, dancing, and songs performed at the close of the Sabbath, often as an extension of the "third meal" and Havdalah (hence it is sometimes called "fourth meal" - trending toward the Hobbit-like).

[A Sabbath Queen brooch]

It is intended to extend the Shabbat rest and experience. Based on a customary practice mentioned in passing in the Talmud (Shabbat 119b; S. A. Orach Chayyim 300), it is greatly expanded by Hasidism into an extended, at time raucous, party.

The ritual marks not only the departure of the Shekhinah ("the Sabbath Queen") from those who have known her special intimacy throughout the Sabbath, but also the taking leave of the "added souls" that join us during the Sabbath. The Shekhinah is thereby strengthened for the ordinary days that will follow. It also benefits the living and the dead. Participation by the living may enjoy various blessings, including relief to illness or barreness.[1]

Loosely connected to the theme of extra-ensoulment during Shabbat, according to one tradition, the souls of departed sinners in Gehenna are spared punishment for the duration of the Sabbath. Performing Melaveh Malchah is understood to extend that reprieve and help ease their term in the punishing afterlife [2].

Zal G'mor: To learn more, consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism - http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050

1. Wertheim, A., "Traditions and Customs in Hasidism," Essential Papers in Hasidism, p. 372

2. Ginsburg, E., The Sabbath in Classic Kabbalah and Rabinowicz, p. 277, and The Encyclopedia of Hasidism, p. 309


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