Melaveh Malkah

Shabbat doesn't have to end when the havdalah candle goes out.

Print this page Print this page

Melaveh Malkah in Practice

The melaveh malkah has no structured format. It is common to have a light, usually dairy, meal. Some people kindle another pair of candles like those lit on Friday night, symbolically drawing out the light of Shabbat into the rest of the days of the week.

Because of the melaveh malkah's flexibility, it has been adapted to a wide variety of tastes, themes, and styles of observance. Many synagogues and Jewish organizations use melaveh malkah as an ideal setting for a mixer, lecture, or fundraiser. Women's groups may take the opportunity to relate stories of heroic biblical foremothers and other inspirational women from Jewish history. Zionist groups sometimes combine melaveh malkah with a kumzitz, sharing songs, jokes, and stories around a bonfire. For families, a melaveh malkah offers the perfect opportunity to institute an alternative Saturday night activity during which the TV is left off for just a little while longer, and everyone gathers for food and games.

Several collections of Jewish music have been released specifically with the melaveh malkah in mind. David Werdyger, the father of popular Hasidic singer Mordechai ben David, compiled A Gerer Melava Malka which includes songs from the Hasidic community of Ger, with some familiar favorites like "Eliyahu HaNavi." Shlomo Carlebach, too, has an album entitled Melava Malka in Notting Hill. Various Jewish organizations have also released songbooks of both Jewish and secular tunes appropriate for a Saturday night celebration. These and other collections attempt to capture the spirit of joy and optimism characteristic of any melaveh malkah.

Melaveh malkah is a lesser-known, minor tradition, but one that can be turned into something truly unique, exciting, and relevant for any community.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Miriam Brosseau

Miriam Brosseau is a musician and Jewish educator based in Chicago, IL. She and her husband, producer Alan Jay Sufrin, make up the "biblegum pop" duo Stereo Sinai.