Havdala and Melaveh Malka Part 2

  • Rav Doniel Schreiber



By Rav Doniel Schreiber



Shiur #15: Havdala and Melaveh Malka Part 2



            In the previous shiur we discussed the Torah obligation of havdala, its subsequent standardization by the rabbis, and the obligation of women to perform havdala.  We now turn to the details and prohibitions surrounding the mitzva of havdala.


5.  Eating and Drinking Prior to Havdala


            It is prohibited to eat or drink after sheki'a (sunset) until one fulfills the havdala obligation - for men this includes both "ata chonantanu" and "al ha-kos," while for women it is limited to havdala "al ha-kos."  However, one is permitted to drink water.  (See OC 299:1, MB 299:35, Sha'ar Ha-tziyun ibid. 299:46, and MB 106:4.  Compare with Rema 299:10 and Magen Avraham ibid.  See, however, Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav 296:19 that women must daven ma'ariv motzaei Shabbat and recite "ata chonantanu."  See also shiur #12 for the latest time one may begin eating se'uda shlishit.)


6.  Work (Melakha) Prior to Havdala


            In general, it is prohibited to perform all manner of work until one recites some form of havdala.  This may be fulfilled by saying "ata chonantanu" in the ma'ariv amida, by reciting "havdala al ha-kos," or by merely stating: "Barukh ha-mavdil bein kodesh le-chol."  (See OC 299:10 and MB 294:3.  For further details regarding the prohibition of melakha prior to havdala, see the previous shiur.)


6.  Havdala Al Ha-kos


A. The Proper Time


            The custom is to recite havdala al ha-kos after ma'ariv (Biur Halakha 299:4, s.v. Mevarekh); however, one may say it before ma'ariv (Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav 294:1), after nightfall (tzeit ha-kokhavim) (MB 293:9 and Arukh Ha-shulchan 293:3).  One who makes havdala this way is still required to recite "ata chonantanu" in his ma'ariv amida (Berakhot 33a and MB 294:1).  One who forgets to say "ata chonantanu" and has already said "barukh ata Hashem" does not go back.  The reason for this is one may rely on the havdala al ha-kos, which he will say, or has already said (OC 294:1).


            [For further research: At times one may recite havdala prior to nightfall, although one may still not perform melakha until nightfall.  When is this true?  See OC 293:3 and 299:6 and MB ibid.]


B. The Procedure


            We are required to escort out the Shabbat in the same respectful and festive manner that we ushered it in (Rashi Shabbat 119b s.v. Be-motzaei Shabbat and MB 300:2).  Therefore, all who participate in havdala should be wearing Shabbat clothes and the table should be spread with a fine tablecloth.  (See Rema OC 262:1 and MB 262:4,8.)


            The custom is to fill the cup to the brim in order that a bit of wine will spill over when one lifts the cup; alternatively, one could fill the cup until some wine flows over.  This is done to symbolize a blessing for bountifulness in the home at the start of the week.  (See Rema OC 296:1, Arukh Ha-shulchan OC 296:11, and MB 296:5.)


            When reciting havdala for oneself, one may stand or sit.  However, when one is exempting others, it is best for everyone to sit.  Nonetheless, some have the custom to recite havdala while standing even when exempting others; those who will be exempt should stand close to the mavdil.  (See Rema OC 296:6, MB 296:27, and Bi'ur Halakha 213:1, s.v. Al.)  It appears that today the widespread custom is to stand whenever reciting havdala (Igrot Moshe OC, vol. 5, no. 20, par. 17).


            [For further research: The Bi'ur Ha-gra (OC 296:6) writes that one should sit while reciting havdala; however, in the Siddur Ha-gra it is attested that the Vilna Gaon stood while reciting havdala.  In what way may we reconcile this contradiction?  See Tosafot Berakhot 43a, s.v. Ho'il, Igrot Moshe OC, vol. 5, no. 20, par. 17, and The Radiance of Shabbat p. 126, note 7.]


            The correct procedure is to raise the havdala cup in one's right hand while reciting havdala.  Poskim are divided, though, as to whether one must hold the spices in one's left hand during the recitation of havdala (OC 296:6) or not (Arukh Ha-shulchan 296:17).


            It is a widespread custom for the listeners to recite the verse "la-yehudim hayta ora ..." aloud prior to the mavdil saying it.  When the mavdil concludes reciting "borei pri ha-gafen," he transfers the havdala cup to his left hand (OC 296:6); according to others he places the cup the down (Arukh Ha-shulchan 296:17), and holds the spices in his right hand.  After the mavdil recites the blessing "borei minei besamim," he smells the spices and passes it around for each of the listeners to smell its fragrance.  One does not fulfill the mitzva if one does not smell the besamim (MB 297:13).  If necessary, one should smell the besamim (with a blessing if there was an interruption) after havdala (MB ibid. and SSK vol. 2, 61:8).


            Poskim are divided as to the procedure for the next stage.  According to some, the mavdil holds the cup in his left hand and prior to reciting the blessing on the fire, all participants, including the mavdil, examine the fingernails of the their right hand by the light of the havdala candle.  As this is being done, the mavdil recites the blessing "borei me'orei ha-eish."  (See Taz OC 298:2, Mishbetzot Zahav OC 298:2, MB 296:31.)  Others rule, however, that PRIOR to inspecting one's fingernails the mavdil recites the blessing "borei me'orei ha-eish" while holding the cup in his right hand; after reciting the berakha, the mavdil transfers the cup to his left hand and all examine the fingernails of their right hand (Siddur Ha-Gra, Siddua Ha-Yavetz, Knesset Ha-gedola, cited in Mishbetzot Zahav OC 298:2, and Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l in Igrot Moshe OC, vol. 5, no. 20).


            The reason we examine our fingernails by the light of the ner is as follows.  One should be close enough to the havdala flame to be able to differentiate between two kinds of coins.  Since distinguishing fingernails from one's skin is considered akin to differentiating between coins, we have the custom to look at our fingernails (OC 298:3 and MB 298:9).  The correct way to perform this custom is to close one's right hand and look at the nails, the adjacent skin and the palm of the hand, then open the hand and examine the nails again (Rema OC 298:3 and MB 298:11).  Some examine their left hand as well.  Nonetheless, this procedure is classified as a custom and even if one merely enjoyed benefit from the ner without examining one's nails one has fulfilled the obligation (MB 298:9 and see OC 298:4).


            In a case where one hears the blessing on the ner without benefiting from the ner, there is some question as to whether one has fulfilled the mitzva bedi'avad.  Some poskim are stringent, requiring one to benefit from the ner after the completion of havdala (and to recite a blessing over it in case one has made an interruption after havdala) (MB 297:13 and 298:13).  Other poskim suggest that perhaps one has bedi'avad fulfilled the mitzva since the mavdil has benefited from the ner (Kaf Ha-chaim 298:22 and SSK, vol. 2, 61:23, note 62).


            The mavdil continues the havdala while holding the cup in his right hand.  At the conclusion of havdala, the mavdil sits and drinks the wine.  Some have the custom to dip their fingers in the remaining or spilt, wine and then moisten their eyes and inside pockets with it.  Some extinguish the fire in the spilt wine.  See Rema OC 296:1.


            Those listening to havdala should not speak until the mavdil has drunk a melo lugmav (a cheekful - see later) from the havdala cup.  If one does speak, it is possible that he has not fulfilled his obligation.  Thus, one should not say "shavu'a tov" (have a good week) until after the proper amount has been drunk.  (See Igrot Moshe OC vol. 4, no. 70.)  Moreover, one should not recite the blessings over besamim or ner while havdala is being recited (MB 297:14).


            One who hears the paragraph of "ha-mavdil bein kodesh le-chol," but not the blessing over wine, has nonetheless fulfilled the mitzva of havdala (MB 296:33).


            Poskim debate whether one can recite havdala for another person via the telephone.  Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l rules one can rely on this form of havdala only in pressing circumstances; obviously, one should have already said "barukh ha-mavdil bein kodesh le-chol, or "ata chonantanu" (Igrot Moshe OC vol. 2, no. 108 and OC vol. 4, no. 91:4).  See, however, Tzitz Eliezer, vol. 4, no. 26:2 and Yabia Omer, vol. 1, OC no. 19:18 which rule stringently on the matter.


            If one forgot to recite havdala al ha-kos motzaei Shabbat one can still recite havdala up until sheki'a on Tuesday but without using spices and fire (OC 299:6).


            One who has already fulfilled havdala may recite havdala again to exempt others, provided they do not know how to perform the havdala.  If they do know how, it is best that they recite havdala.  However, bedi'avad, if there is reason to, one who has already fulfilled havdala may recite it again for others.  See MB 296:32, 297:13, OC 273:4, MB 273:20, and Bi'ur Halakha ibid. s.v. Ve-hu.  In this case, the mavdil recites the havdala including the blessing over wine and besamim, but not over ner; rather, one of the other participants should recite the blessing over ner.  See SSK vol. 2, 60:14, 61:6,22.


C.  The Wine


            If one has wine and chamar medina (such as beer and whiskey - see end of shiur #8) available, it is best to use wine for havdala (Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav 296:8, MB 296:8, and MB 182:7).  Even if one does not have wine at home, but can get it elsewhere in town, though it may be expensive, this wine is considered "available" and one should procure it for havdala (Bi'ur Halakha 296:2, s.v. Im hu).  When using wine, one must use a cup containing a revi'it (about 3.3 fluid ounces - see end of shiur #9) and drink a melo lugmav (a cheekful) (OC 296:3 and MB 296:23).  However, since drinking only a cheekful creates a situation where  there is a doubt whether one must recite a berakha acharona (a concluding berakha), it is best to drink a full revi'it to satisfy all opinions requiring a berakha acharona (MB 296:6).


            In the event that no wine is available or one prefers chamar medina over wine, one can use chamar medina for havdala (OC 296:2 and Bi'ur Halakha ibid. s.v. Im hu).  Even in this case, it is preferable to use a cup containing a revi'it and drink a melo lugmav.  Nonetheless, some poskim rule that when using liquor for havdala one is merely required to fill a shot glass and drink a small amount.  See end of shiur #8.  One cannot, however, recite havdala on lechem (OC 296:2).


            Preferably, the mavdil should be the one to drink the required amount from the havdala cup.  However, bedi'avad, if one of the other participants drank the required amount instead (including a minor who has reached the age of chinukh, understanding), or if the other participants divided the required amount among themselves, even though the mavdil did not drink at all, the mitzva has been fulfilled.  One may recite havdala, though, with the intention that he will merely taste the wine and then give it to someone else to drink the required amount.  SSK, vol. 2, 60:37.


D. The Besamim (Spices)


            There are a variety of reasons given for the mitzva of smelling besamim motzaei Shabbat.  Among them is that upon the departure of Shabbat one loses the added dimension to one's soul supplied by Shabbat.  For relief, we are instructed to smell spices on Saturday night (see Tosafot Beitza 33b, s.v. Ki havinan, Rashbam Pesachim 102b, s.v. Ve-shmuel, and Tosafot ibid. s.v. Rav).  For further research: See Rambam, Laws of Shabbat 29:29, Tur OC, siman 297, and Or Zarua, vol. 2, no. 292.


            All natural spices, whether from grass, bushes, or trees are suitable for besamim.  It is questionable, however, whether one may recite a blessing on synthetic, or even natural, perfume.  It is thus proper that one not use such substances for this mitzva (OC 216:6, MB 216:32, and SSK, vol. 2, 61:12, note 32).


            If one does not have besamim available, one may recite havdala without them, omitting the blessing on the spices (OC 297:1).  If they subsequently become available, prior to dawn of Sunday morning, one should recite the blessing over them.  (See OC 298:1 and MB 298:3.)


            One who does not have a sense of smell should not recite the blessing over the spices (OC 297:5).


E. The Ner (Fire)


            The blessing over fire on motzaei Shabbat commemorates Adam Ha-rishon's discovery of fire on Saturday night following creation.  This discovery was facilitated by Hashem instilling Adam with the knowledge to creating fire by striking two stones together (Pesachim 54a and MB 298:1).  See Pirkei De-rabbi Eliezer, chap. 20 for another reason for this mitzva.


            It is best to use a fire that resembles a torch (avuka).  This is defined by two flames joined together.  This is accomplished by using a multi-wicked candle or by holding two candles or matches together so that their flames unite.  Nonetheless, a singe flame is acceptable, bedi'avad.  See OC 298:2 MB 298:8.


            If one does not have a flame, one can use an incandescent bulb.  See end of shiur #5.


            If one does not have a suitable ner available, one may recite havdala without it, omitting the  blessing on the ner.  If it subsequently becomes available, prior to dawn of Sunday morning, one should recite the blessing over it.  See OC 298:1 and MB 298:3.


            A blind person should not recite the blessing over the ner (OC 298:13)


II.  Melaveh Malka


            It is a mitzva upon men and women to "escort the Shabbat queen" (melaveh malka) after the conclusion of Shabbat and havdala.  This is accomplished by eating, minimally, a kezayit (olive size) of bread along with meat or some other cooked dish soon after havdala, but not past midnight.  It is commendable to cook a special dish for the melaveh malka.  In a case of need, one may eat cake or other forms of mezonot, or even fruit and fulfill the mitzva.  (See Shabbat 119b, Rashi ibid. s.v. Be-motzaei Shabbat, OC 300:1, MB ibid., Machatzit Ha-shekel no. 300, Ma'aseh Rav no. 16, Tosefot Ma'aseh Rav no. 39, and Eshel Avraham no. 300.)


            It is proper to avoid becoming involved in chores or projects prior to eating the melaveh malka (MB ibid.).  Some have the custom to wear their Shabbat clothes for the melaveh malka as well (Kaf Ha-chaim 300:6).