Havdala and Melaveh Malka Part 1

  • Rav Doniel Schreiber



By Rav Doniel Schreiber


Shiur#14: Havdala and Melaveh Malka



I. Havdala


1. Source


A. The Torah Obligation


            Reciting havdala at the end of Shabbat, according to most rishonim, is a Torah obligation derived from the pasuk (Shemot 20:8) "Remember the Shabbat to sanctify it;" sanctify Shabbat at its entrance with kiddush, and at its departure with havdala (Rambam, Laws of Shabbat 29:1; Sefer Ha-Chinukh no.31; Semag no. 29; and Rabbeinu Yona cited in Beit Yosef OC end of siman 296).  However, other Rishonim assert that havdala is only a rabbinic obligation (Rabbeinu Tam cited in Responsa of Rosh 11:3, Rosh ibid., Rash Mi-shantz cited in Pri Megadim OC 296 and Orchot Chaim cited in Beit Yosef OC).  For further research see Maggid Mishneh ibid., Pri Megadim OC 296, MB 296:1, Sha'ar Ha-tziyun ibid., and Arukh Ha-shulchan 296:1-4.


            Originally, one fulfilled the Torah obligation of havdala by mentioning two things: the holiness of Shabbat and the fact that Shabbat is distinct from all other days of the week (Rambam, Sefer Ha-mitzvot no. 158, and compare with Pesachim 103b-104a).  This requirement is satisfied by saying anything akin to "barukh ha-mavdil bein kodesh le-chol," blessed is He who distinguishes between sacred and secular (OC 299:10, Levush ibid., and MB 299:34,35).  It is even possible that merely saying "shavu'a tov," have a good week, would fulfill the Torah obligation (see Tzitz Eliezer, vol. 11, no. 34, analagous to the Torah obligation of kiddush, which, according to R. Akiva Eiger, is fulfilled by saying "shabbata tuva," have a good Shabbat).  For further research: see SSK, vol. II, 58:5, note 18, whether one must mention the exodus from Egypt to fulfill the Torah obligation of havdala.


B.  The Rabbinic Obligation


            However, the rabbis, in an effort to standardize havdala, instituted that we recite "ata chonantanu," a paragraph inserted into the berakha of "ata chonen" during ma'ariv on motza'ei Shabbat (Berakhot 33a and OC 294:1), as well as an additional havdala called "havdala al ha-kos."  "Havdala al ha-kos" is recited over a cup of wine and includes blessings recited over besamim (spices) and ner (fire) (Berakhot 51b, Pesachim 103a, and OC 296:1).  See also Berakhot 33a and Arukh Ha-shulchan OC 296:2,3.


            Poskim appear to be divided, however, as to which recitation of this standardized havdala is primary, fulfilling the Torah obligation, and which is secondary, discharging merely the rabbinic obligation.  The practical ramification is at which recitation should one intend to fulfill the Torah obligation.  The Mishna Berura (296:1) considers havdala in the amida primary; this seems to be indicated explicitly in the gemara Berakhot 33a.  However, the Chatam Sofer (Teshuvot OC, no. 21) understands the primary enactment to be havdala al ha-kos.


            The history behind this "double" havdala is as follows: When Ezra brought the Jewish people from Bavel back to the land of Israel, many of the Jews were poor.  Thus, when the Anshei Knesset Ha-gedola (the men of the great assembly) were creating a more elaborate and standardized form of havdala, beyond the simple utterances of "barukh ha-mavdil bein kodesh le-chol," they did not want to obligate Jews to recite havdala on wine, which was beyond the financial means of the masses.  Instead, they instituted the tefilla of "ata chonantanu" in the ma'ariv amida on Saturday night.  Later, when the Jewish people became wealthier, Anshei Knesset Ha-gedola ordained that havdala now had to be recited instead on wine.  However, when Am Yisrael became poor again, Anshei Knesset Ha'gedola instituted the requirement that both forms of havdala - "ata chonantanu" and "al ha-kos" - must be recited.  See Berakhot 33a and Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav OC 294:2.


2. Are Women Obligated in Havdala?


            The dispute over the nature of havdala, as to whether it is a Torah obligation or a rabbinic one, is not merely academic.  One practical ramification is whether or not women are obligated to recite havdala.  If havdala is a Torah obligation rooted in "remembering" Shabbat, then since women are required to "remember" Shabbat they are also obligated to recite havdala (see shiur #7).  However, if havdala is a rabbinic obligation, it is possible to conclude that women are exempt from this mitzva.  If the rabbis instituted that one must recite havdala at the conclusion of Shabbat, i.e., on a weekday, then havdala's character should be independent of the SHABBAT law which requires women to keep the positive commandments, including rabbinic ones, of Shabbat (see shiur #7).  Therefore, women should be exempt from reciting havdala according to the general rule for time-bound mitzvot (see shiur #7).  (See Orchot Chaim cited in Beit Yosef OC, end of siman 296, Pri Megadim ibid., MB 296:34, and Arukh Ha-shulchan OC 296:4.)  Yet, it is still possible that even if havdala is a rabbinic obligation, it may be that the rabbis fashioned havdala similar to the laws of kiddush, thereby obligating women (see Maggid Mishneh ibid. and Arukh Ha-shulchan ibid.).


3. May women recite havdala?


A. Stringency of Rema


            In practice, the Shulchan Arukh (296:8) rules that women are obligated in havdala just as they are obligated in kiddush; he does mention that there are some who disagree.  However, the Rema (ibid.), based on Orchot Chaim who writes: "Women do not recite havdala for themselves," rules that while women are obligated to hear havdala, they should not recite it themselves.  Apparently, the Rema is concerned that a woman who recites havdala would be in fact reciting a blessing in vain.  Interestingly, this ruling of the Rema appears to contradict a legal precedent he himself established.  He writes, in the context of mitzvat shofar (OC 589:6), that women who choose to perform time-bound mitzvot may recite the blessing for the mitzva.  Why should havdala be any different?


B. Justification for the Rema's stringency


            Acharonim are divided on how to explain this apparent contradiction in the Rema.  The Magen Avraham (OC 296:11) understands that the Rema permits women to recite the blessing on time-bound mitzvot only when the mitzvot involve an action such as the mitzvot of shofar and lulav.  However, when the time-bound mitzva is itself merely a blessing, as in havdala, they may not recite the blessing.  The Magen Avraham suggests that perhaps this is the reason women do not have the custom to recite kiddush levana, as it does not involve an accompanying action.  The Taz (OC 296:7) offers a different reason for the Rema's limitation.  He suggests that women may recite a blessing for time-bound mitzvot only on mitzvot which are a Torah obligation, such as shofar and lulav, but not on time-bound rabbinic mitzvot such as havdala.


C. Leniency of the Bach


            The Rema's position that women may not recite havdala is disputed by R. Yoel Sirkis, author of the Bach (Bayit Chadash).  R. Sirkis asserts (Bach OC, end of siman 296) that the Rema misunderstood Orchot Chaim who ruled: "Women do not recite havdala for themselves."  Rather, asserts R. Sirkis, Orchot Chaim meant merely that women are not obligated to recite havdala; this does not mean that women are prohibited from reciting havdala if they choose to.  The proof for this, asserts R. Sirkis, is that women may recite the blessing for mitzvat shofar and lulav, and may also make a zimun among themselves (see OC 199:6,7), even though they are not obligated to perform any of those mitzvot.  Using this logic, women should also be able to recite havdala.  [R. Sirkis notes, however, that the custom is that women are obligated in mitzvat havdala - a fact similarly true for mitzvat shofar].  Therefore, R. Sirkis rules that women may recite havdala for themselves even if there are men available to recite havdala for them.


D. Ruling of Early Acharonim


            The Magen Avraham (OC 296:11) cites the Rosh in support of the Bach.  According to the Rosh, there is apparently no limitation on women reciting blessings which do not contain the classic formulation of "ve-tzivanu" ("and has commanded us").  Since havdala does not contain this formulation, women should be able to recite it.  In accepting the Bach's proofs, as well as support from the Rosh, the Magen Avraham rules against the Rema.  He asserts that women may recite havdala for themselves over the wine (and the besamim as they are birkot ha-nehehin).


            The Taz (OC 296:7), however, rejects the position of the Bach (his father-in-law) and rules in accordance with the Rema that women may not recite the havdala over wine.  Nonetheless, he does permit women to say "ata chonantanu" in the amida motza'ei Shabbat since it is not a blessing unto itself.


E. Ruling of Later Acharonim


            Among the later poskim, the Arukh Ha-shulchan (OC 296:5) argues vehemently and persuasively against the Rema's ruling which forbids women to recite havdala.  Firstly, he writes, it is incorrect to claim that the reason women may recite a blessing over lulav is because it is a Torah obligation but they cannot recite havdala since it is merely a rabbinic one.  In fact, lulav is a rabbinic obligation throughout all of Sukkot, except for the first day when it is a mitzva min ha-Torah, and women nonetheless recite a blessing on the lulav all of Sukkot.  Secondly, he argues, it is incorrect to assert that women may recite a blessing over shofar but not havdala since shofar is a time-bound mitzva involving an action whereas havdala is merely a blessing.  In fact, havdala does involve an action - one must drink the cup of wine!  And, beyond that, there is no compelling reason to say that it makes a difference for women whether a mitzva involves an action or not.


            Thirdly, asserts the Arukh Ha-shulchan, most poskim rule that havdala is a Torah obligation.  Thus, not only are women obligated min ha-Torah to recite havdala, but they may even exempt men.  Additionally, even if havdala is only a rabbinic obligation, some poskim rule that women are still obligated mi-derabanan to recite havdala and can exempt men.  Finally, those who rule that women are exempt from havdala are merely a minority opinion.  On the basis of these arguments, the Arukh Ha-shulchan rules that while it is preferable for women to hear havdala from men to fulfill all opinions, nonetheless, if men are not available to motzi them, it is obvious that women must recite havdala for themselves.


            This is also the ruling of Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav (OC 296:19), Mishna Berura (296:35,36), and R. Moshe Feinstein zt"l (cited in The Radiance of Shabbat, by R. Simcha Bunim Cohen shlita, p. 113, note 8).  Interestingly, R. Akiva Eiger (OC 589:9) understands that this ruling is precisely the intent of the Rema.


F. Women and the Drinking of Havdala Wine


            A problem is raised, however, with the ruling which allows women to recite havdala.  The Magen Avraham (OC 296:4) cites the Shela, who rules, based upon kabbala, that women may not drink from the wine of havdala.  How, then, may women recite havdala if they may not drink from the wine?!  The Mishna Berura (296:35) explains that the Magen Avraham only accepts this stringency in an ideal situation (le-khatchila); however, where there are no men to recite havdala, women may say the havdala and drink the wine rather than missing the mitzva of havdala.  Alternatively, the Arukh Ha-shulchan (OC 296:5) indicates that this stringency is not an actual law, but merely a custom, and that not everyone follows this custom.  Furthermore, the author of Terumat Ha-deshen gave his wife havdala wine to drink (cited in Yalkut Yosef, vol. 4, Shabbat 1, p. 458, note 15).  Moreinu Ha-rav Aharon Lichtenstein shlita similarly told me that it is permissible for women to drink from the havdala wine.  For further research, see Be-ikvei Ha-tzon, by mori ve-rabi Rav Hershel Schachter shlita, no. 39, p. 269.


G. Procedure for Women who recite havdala


            In general, a woman who recites havdala should follow the standard procedure.  This is despite the fact there is some debate with regard to a woman reciting the blessing on the fire.  The issue develops as follows.  It appears that the blessing over fire on motza'ei Shabbat is unconnected to Shabbat since it commemorates Adam Ha-rishon's discovery of fire on the Saturday night following creation (Pesachim 54a).  Since this blessing is an independent obligation from Shabbat, it falls into the category of time-bound mitzvot from which women are exempt.  The Bi'ur Halakha (296:8, s.v. Lo Yavdilu) seems to reflect this opinion when he writes that women are not obligated to recite the blessing over fire.


            However, some poskim interpret the Bi'ur Halakha's ruling as a prohibition against women reciting the blessing over fire (see for example Shoneh Halakhot 296:8).  This prohibition could be based on a number of reasons.  Perhaps, they argue, the Bi'ur Halakha is worried here about the position of Magen Avraham (ibid.) that women should not perform time-bound mitzvot which are composed entirely of a blessing.  Alternatively, it is possible that the Bi'ur Halakha is concerned for the position of R. Akiva Eiger (cited in Bi'ur Halakha 298:5, s.v. Ein) who states that the recitation of an unnecessary blessing would be considered an interruption between the other blessings of havdala (see SSK. vol. II, 61:24, note 68).


            However, most other poskim interpret the Bi'ur Halakha at face value: women are merely exempt, not prohibited, from reciting this blessing (see for example Yabi'a Omer, vol. 4; OC no. 24, par. 9).  In fact, most poskim obligate women to recite the blessing over fire since it is not a blessing over a mitzva, but rather a birkat ha-shevach, a blessing praising God, which is equally relevant for men and women (see, for instance, Igrot Moshe EH vol. 4, no. 65, and Yabi'a Omer ibid.).


4. Yatza Motzi and the Gender Gap


            A man who has already fulfilled his havdala obligation may recite havdala for other men (MB 297:13).  The question remains, however, may a man repeat havdala specifically for women?  The answer is that he may not recite havdala for women who are able to recite havdala themselves.  The reason is that since, according to a minority view, women are not obligated to recite havdala, the mechanism of yatza motzi may not apply and a recitation of havdala by a man in this case might be a berakha le-vatala.  While this is only a minority view, it is improper for someone to unnecessarily recite havdala where there is a measure of doubt regarding its efficacy (see MB 296:36).  Accordingly, a husband who normally recites havdala at home for his wife should intend to not fulfill his obligation with the havdala recited in shul.  With this in mind, he will still be obligated in havdala, and may recite havdala for his wife at home.


            However, where a woman is unable to recite havdala herself, and the only one available to recite it for her is a man who has already said havdala, the man may recite havdala for her.  This is because most poskim believe women are obligated in havdala and may benefit from yatza motzi.  Since there is no alternative in this scenario, we rely on the majority opinion (Arukh Ha-shulchan OC 296:5 and apparently the ruling of MB ibid.).


            Similarly, women should not recite havdala for men, since according to a minority view women may not be obligated in havdala.  However, where a man is unable to recited havdala himself and no one else is available to exempt him, a woman may recite havdala for him.  This is true even if she has already fulfilled her obligation of havdala.