Havdalah During the Nine Days
Have you given any thought to how you are going to make Havdalah this Motzai Shabbos? The proper way to perform Havdalah on Motzai Shabbos Chazon, the Shabbos preceding Tisha B’Av, is one annual issue that seems to always have disparate approaches. The main problem is that the very essence of Havdalah is ending Shabbos, resulting in the fact that it is actually recited during ‘chol’, weekday. That is fine for an ordinary week, but Motzai Shabbos Chazon is halachically part and parcel not only of the Nine Days, but actually considered ‘Shavua shechal bah Tisha B’Av’. This means that even the Sefardim, who generally are lenient with the Three Weeks’ and Nine Days’ restrictions, are still required to keep them this week. And one of these restrictions prohibits drinking wine, the mainstay of Havdalah. So how are we supposed to synthesize making Havdalah while not transgressing this restriction?
Just Drink It!
The first approach to this problem is the Shulchan Aruch’s. He maintains that whoever makes the Havdalah should just drink the wine himself. The Gr”a explains this position (and is later echoed by the Mishna Berura) that Havdalah is no worse than a Seudas Mitzva; just as at a Seudas Mitzva (such as a Bris) one may drink the wine even if it falls out during the week of Tisha B’Av, so too by Havdalah. They add that according to the Shulchan Aruch, these restrictions were never intended to negate a Mitzva. This ruling is accepted and followed by Sefardic Jewry, and this Motzai Shabbos, their psak is to drink the Havdalah wine.
The Rema’s opinion is a bit more complicated. He maintains that it is preferable to find a child and let him drink the Havdalah wine. That way, the one who actually makes the Havdalah does not have to transgress this prohibition. He concludes however, that me’iker din the Shulchan Aruch is correct, and if one cannot find a child to drink the wine, then an adult may do so.
But one detail the Rema neglects to mention is how old this child should be. The Magen Avraham (and clarified by the Machatzis HaShekel and Dagul Mervava ad loc.) qualifies the Rema’s ruling. He explains that the child must not be old enough to be able to mourn the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, for if a child is able to understand and properly mourn, there is no halachic advantage gained by having him drink the cup. Additionally, the child must be ‘higia l’chinuch’, old enough to understand the need to make a bracha before drinking, for, if not, the Havdalah would end up being a ‘bracha levattala’, in vain, unless an adult drinks the wine. So basically, to fulfill the Rema’s ruling lechatchila, the child must be in the ballpark of 6 to 9 years old; otherwise, it would be preferable for an adult to drink it. This ruling is followed by most mainstream Ashkenazic authorities, including the Mishna Berura and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.
Just Beer It!
However, there is a third opinion, that of the Aruch Hashulchan. He maintains that the best solution to our concern is to make Havdalah on Motzai Shabbos Chazon using beer instead of wine. Since beer is cited throughout the ages as a ‘Chamar Medina’, a ‘drink of the land’ on which Havdalah is permitted to be made, it would therefore be the simplest resolution to our problem.
However, many authorities remain hesitant to rely on this l’maaseh. The reason for this is that there is no clear-cut delineation of what ‘Chamar Medina’ actually is or how to properly define it, resulting in different poskim having very different understandings of its parameters.
For example, many authorities maintain that one may only rely on using ‘Chamar Medina’ if wine cannot be found anywhere in the city. Others maintain that it must be a popular drink that people would always serve at a proper meal. A different definition cited is that it must be a drink that one would serve to honor someone. Others define it as a drink that can be intoxicating, making it having alcoholic content a prerequisite. Another view is that it must be a drink that has inherent importance. Others say it refers to a drink that one has ‘chavivus’, or affection toward.
Although our ubiquitous beer fits many of these definitions, still the Magen Avraham and Vilna Gaon ruled that in Ashkenaz, beer has lost its status of ‘Chamar Medina’. Also, due to the whole machlokes regarding defining ‘Chamar Medina’, as well as the fact that many authorities rule that if wine is available, it trumps beer’s use for Havdalah, consequently, many poskim are hesitant about fulfilling the mitzvah of Havdalah with beer in this day and age. Additionally, based on how beer is viewed nowadays, and especially in Eretz Yisrael, several poskim, including the Chazon Ish, rule that beer would no longer be considered ‘Chamar Medina’.
Conversely, many contemporary authorities do confirm beer as ‘Chamar Medina’, even nowadays; yet, they still generally maintain wine’s superiority for Havdalah.
What To Do?
So now that we explained that there is a three-way machlokes, what’s the bottom line?
Generally speaking, Sefardim follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch and the adult who makes the Havdalah should drink the wine. Most mainstream Ashkenazim follow the Rema’s psak and try to find a child in the proper age range (approx. 6 - 9). If one cannot be found, then an adult should drink the wine. Yet, surprisingly, several contemporary Ashkenazic poskim, including Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld, the Chazon Ish, and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, held that it is preferable to follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch and an adult should rather drink the wine.
But what of the Aruch Hashulchan’s beer solution? This author was told by mv”r Rav Yaakov Blau zt”l that although he personally held that it was preferable to drink the wine, nonetheless, if one was accustomed to making Havdalah on beer, or if one’s minhag was to do so on Motzai Shabbos Chazon, then he is allowed to continue doing so, even in Eretz Yisrael. On the other hand, this author has heard from Rav Efraim Greenblatt shlit”a (the Rivevos Efraim) that one may make Havdalah with beer on Motzai Shabbos Chazon, with no compunction.
However one ends up making Havdalah this Motzai Shabbos [make sure to discuss this with your rabbinic advisor in advance], it is important for us all to remember that these restrictions were instituted by our Rabbanim as a public show of mourning during the most devastating time period on the timeline of the Jewish year. Our goal should be to utilize these restrictions as a catalyst for inspiration towards Teshuva. It is worthwhile to do so, as well. As the Gemara relates, everyone who observes and properly demonstrates their personal mourning over the destruction of Yerushalayim will merit seeing its rejoicing.
The author wishes to acknowledge R’ Zvi Ryzman’s sefer Ratz KaTzvi (on Hilchos Shabbos Ch. 15), which contains a wealth of information on the parameters of ‘Chamar Medina’ and has been extremely useful in writing this article.
Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 551, 10).
See Tur & Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 294 - 296) at length, Ohr Zarua (vol. 2, 25), Pirkei D’Rav Eliezer (Ch.20), Mishna Berura (296, 8), Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 182, 1 & 14, quoting the Zohar on the importance of using wine for Havdalah).
Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 551, 10), Biur HaGr”a (ad loc. s.v. u’mutar), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 67).
Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 551, 152), Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halacha Glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (122, 14), Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 551, Din Achilas Bassar B’Teishes HaYamim 24).
Rema (O.C. 551, 10), based on the Shu”t Maharil (15). Interestingly, the Maharil himself writes that he saw that his Rabbeim were not so zahir with this restriction. The Gr”a (ad loc. s.v. v’nohagin), and later the Mishna Berura (ad loc. 68) explain that regarding Havdalah there is an option to let a child drink it as opposed to a Seudas Mitzva.
Magen Avraham (O.C. 551, 31), Machatzis HaShekel (ad loc.), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 70), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (122, 8). The Steipler Gaon (Orchos Rabbeinu vol. 2, pg. 135) and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Ashrei HaIsh O.C. vol. 3, pg. 468 - 469, 34 & 35) are quoted as maintaining that if a child within that age range can not be found, it is still preferable to allow a boy up until his Bar Mitzva to drink, before relying on an adult to drink. However, the Butchacher Gaon (Eshel Avrohom O.C. 551, 10) held that once a child can properly mourn, an adult might as well drink in his stead. Rav Elyashiv stressed that this dispensation for a child is only for a boy not a girl. An adult male drinking Havdalah wine is preferable to a girl within the proper age range. [See O.C. 296 inthe Rema (8), Bach (1), Magen Avraham (4 & 11), Derech Hachaim (Dinei Havdalah 3) and Mishna Berura (35 & Shaar HaTziyun 34).]
Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 551, 26).
As seen in Gemara Pesachim (107a) in the story of Ameimar. See Tur & Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 292, 2) and Biur Halacha (ad loc. s.v. im).
Rashbam (Pesachim ad loc.), Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos Ch. 29, 17), Tur (O.C. 272), Bach (O.C. 182), Magen Avraham (ad loc. 2), Levush (O.C. 292, 1), Derech Hachaim (Hilchos Havdalah 5), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (O.C. 272, 10), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (45, 1 & 96, 3), Mishna Berura (272, 24 & 296, 8). However, see Shu”t Shevet HaLevi (vol. 3, 26 & vol. 5, 32) who is melamed zchus on those who do not follow this.
Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 272, 14 & 296, 13). He maintains that even if wine is available, as long as beer is very popular one may make Havdalah with it. See Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 4, 77) who implies similarly but argues that nowadays beer would no longer fit the bill, but tea and coffee would.
Aderes (Kuntress Over Orach), Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe O.C. vol. 2, 75) and the Tzitz Eliezer (Shu”t vol. 8, 16). Although several contemporary poskim argue [see Shu”t Rivevos Efraim (vol. 3, end 439), quoting Rav Elya Meir Bloch, Telzer Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yaakov Ruderman, Rosh Yeshivas Ner Yisrael, and Rav Yisrael Zev Gustman, Rosh Yeshivas Netzach Yisrael, as well as Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg (cited in Ratz Katzvi on Hilchos Shabbos 15, 7)], Rav Moshe excluded soda from this category as he maintained it is mainly drunk for thirst and not as a drink meant to honor someone. Rav Aharon Kotler and Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky are quoted as agreeing with Rav Moshe on this. L’choirah even according to the mekeilim, their Kavanna was on a higher end soda that is popular but still has a chashivus, like Coca-Cola (see previous article titled “The Coca-Cola Kashrus Controversy”), which even in Eretz Yisrael nowadays is considered a “chashuv” drink. Ostensibly, Faygo Redpop or Kristal soda would be assur to use for Havdalah l’divrei hakol.
Shu”t Halachos Ketanos (vol. 1, 9), Maharsham (Daas Torah O.C. 296, 4), Shu”t Shem M’Shimon (O.C. 14), & the Chida (Birkei Yosef O.C. 296, 3; cited in Shaarei Teshuva ad loc.) according to Rav Ovadia Yosef’s understanding of his words. See Shu”t Yabea Omer (vol. 3, O.C. 109, 19) and Shu”t Yechaveh Daas (vol. 2, 38). Rav Ovadiah adds that Rav Chaim Na’eh (Ketzos Hashulchan 97, Badei Hashulchan 7 & 8) and the Minchas Shabbos (on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 96, 14) rule that one may not make Havdalah on tea or coffee, as does the Levushei Mordechai (Shu”t Mahadura Tinyana O.C. 51), and he personally concludes that one who makes Havdalah on tea or coffee has possibly made a bracha levatala. However, the Tzitz Eliezer (ibid.) argues that this was not the Chida’s intent, and concludes that b’shaas hadchak one may make Havdalah on tea or coffee, as did Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe O.C. vol. 2, 75). Rav Nissim Karelitz (Chut Shani on Hilchos Shabbos vol. 4, Ch. 6, 4, pg. 112 s.v. u’lmaaseh) agrees that only b’shaas hadchak may one make Havdalah on black coffee; if it is mixed with milk and/or sugar then one definitely may not. On the other hand, Rav Pesach Eliyahu Falk (Shu”t Machazeh Eliyahu 34) cites many issues with making Havdalah on tea or coffee, and concludes that onlyb’shaas hadchak may one do so, but exclusively on coffee or tea with milk and/or sugar, the way one normally drinks it. He adds that if someone would make Havdalah with black coffee, he would need to repeat Havdalah. A similar sentiment is shared by Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 4, 77; see footnote 11) who maintains that nowadays ‘Chamar Medina’ does not need to be intoxicating, as that is not the type of drink people commonly have at a meal. He maintains that the most common ‘Chamar Medina’ nowadays is tea and coffee, and therefore one may make Havdalah using them, but only the way they are commonly drunk, with milk and sugar. He concludes that Brisker Rav was known to have made Havdalah on tea and coffee.
Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 8, 13), Mishna Berura (O.C. 296, 10; based on a diyuk from the Taz (O.C. 182, 1) and Elya Rabba (ad loc. 5).
Rema (O.C. 296, 2). See Biur Halacha (ad loc. s.v. im) and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 26). See also Ratz KaTzvi (on Hilchos Shabbos Ch. 15, 9 & 10) who maintains that this is also the Sefer HaChinuch’s position (Parshas Yisro, Mitzva 31) as well. The Rema rules that on Motzai Pesach it is preferable to make Havdalah on beer, because then it is chaviv to him. See next footnote.
The Rema (O.C. 296, 2) rules that on Motzai Pesach it is preferable to make Havdalah on beer, because then it is chaviv to him. However, the Magen Avraham (ad loc. 6) vehemently argues, that in Ashkenaz - beer is not considered ‘Chamar Medina’, and concludes that it would therefore be assur to make Havdalah with it, even if no wine was available. The Gr”a, Rabbi Akiva Eiger (ad loc.), and the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (ad loc. 10; he does conclude that in ‘Medinos Eilu’ nohagin lehakel like the Rema), as well as later the Mishna Berura (ad loc. 12) all seem to accept the Magen Avraham’s psak that in ‘Ashkenaz’ one may not rely on the Rema’s ruling to allow Havdalah to be made with beer. [However, it is important to note that they all agree that if one is in a place where beer is positively considered ‘Chamar Medina’, then one may make Havdalah on it.] However, the Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 13) argues, stating that if that were true, why did the Rema add the part about Motzai Pesach, he should have just stated a rule. He therefore maintains that one may make Havdalah on beer, even if wine is available, as long as it is popular (see footnote 11). There is an interesting epilogue to this Motzai Pesach machlokes. The Torah Temimah (Parshas Bo Ch.12, 168) writes that he heard that the Vilna Gaon used to make Havdalah on Motzai Pesach on beer, possibly to fulfill the diyuk of the Targum Yonason on that pasuk. However, as Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo on Moadim vol. 2, Ch. 10, footnote 71) pointed out, this seems odd as it would go against his own ruling of the preference of wine over beer; additionally, in the Maaseh Rav HaShalem (Minhagei HaGr”a, Hilchos Pesach, 185, pg. 208 -209) it only mentions that the Gaon would make sure to taste some chametz on Motzai Pesach, not actually make Havdalah on it. Thanks are due to R’ Joel Schnur, Vilna Gaon descendent and enthusiast extraordinaire, and Rabbi Eliezer Brodt, author of Bein Keeseh La’Asor and Likutei Eliezer, for pointing out these sources to me.
Including the Chazon Ish and Rav Chaim Kanievsky (see Kovetz Teshuvos vol. 1, 57, s.v. ode b’hanal), Rav Nissim Karelitz (Chut Shani on Hilchos Shabbos vol. 4, Ch. 6, 4, pg. 111 s.v. uv’chu”l; however he concludes that b’shaas hadchak and if it is impossible to get wine for Havdala, then one may use beer), Rav Binyomin Zilber (Shu”t Az Nidberu vol. 11, 48 s.v. siman 371), and Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 4, 77; see footnote 11).
Including Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo on Moadim vol. 2, Ch.16, Dvar Halacha 16), Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Kovetz Teshuvos vol. 1, 57, 1), Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky (Emes L’Yaakov on Shulchan Aruch O.C. 296, footnote 325 & O.C. 551, footnote 525), Dayan Yisrael Yaakov Fischer (cited in Kovetz Beis Yisrael Shevat - Adar 5755 pg. 80 & Shu”t Rivevos Efraim vol. 7, 103, 2), Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Shu”t Ohr L’Tzion vol. 2, Ch. 20, 19), Rav Ovadia Yosef (Shu”t Yechaveh Daas vol. 2, 38), Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg (Chidushei Basra pg. 294), the Rivevos Efraim (Shu”t vol. 3, 371; and by oral psak), the Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa (vol. 2, Ch. 60, 4 7 footnote 14), and the Sha’arim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (96, Kuntress Acharon 3). See also Shu”t Shevet HaLevi (vol. 3, 26 & vol. 5, 32) who is melamed zchus on those who make Havdalah on beer.
Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld (Shu”t Salmas Chaim, new print 317), the Chazon Ish (Dinim V’hanhagos Ch.19, 8), and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo on Moadim vol. 2, Ch. 14, 27). As mentioned previously, the Butchacher Gaon (Eshel Avrohom O.C. 551, 10) held that if there is a safek on a child’s status, an adult might as well drink in his stead. The Terumas Hadeshen (cited in Leket Yosher pg. 110) also was known to have drunk the Havdalah wine himself.
The author wishes to thank R’ Naftoli Tabatchnik for posing this sheilah to Rav Greenblatt today.
See Mishna Berura (549, 1), based on the Rambam (Hilchos Ta’anis Ch. 5, 1).
Taanis (30b) & Bava Basra (60b).
Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.
L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!