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Q&A: Fingernails at Havdalah

Q: Why do we inspect our fingernails at the Havdalah ceremony? (Havdalah is the ceremony that ends the Shabbat and ushers in the new week).


A: There are many reasons for looking at the fingernails. One reason is that the fingernails are the last part of the body to be completed before a baby is born, as explained in the Talmud. We look at them in order to remind ourselves that the time has come to "give birth" to the service of the new week.

Havdalah represents the feeling of responsibility that one should have to rectify reality through the separation of light and darkness, and subsequently to light up the darkness.

At the close of Shabbat, we recite the Havdalah  (Separation) prayer. We bless God for separating between:

  1. The sacred and the secular
  2. Light and darkness
  3. Israel and the nations
  4. Shabbat and the days of the week

This is the consciousness of the service of clarification, which is not relevant to Shabbat, the Messianic consciousness of unification.

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