Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 6 June 2020 / 14 Sivan 5780

Havdalah During the Nine Days

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
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Have you given any thought to how you are going to make Havdalah this Motzai Shabbos? The proper way to perform Havdalah the Motzai Shabbos preceding Tisha B’Av (generally Motzai Shabbos Chazon) 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 are generally lenient with the Three Weeks’ and Nine Days’ restrictions[1], are still required to keep them during this week. And one of these restrictions prohibits drinking wine[2], the mainstay of Havdalah[3]. So how are we supposed to synthesize making Havdalah while not transgressing this restriction?

Actually, this year, 5775 / 2015, this dilemma is doubled, as there are two Havdalahs in question, but interestingly neither is truly on Motzai Shabbos Chazon. The first Havdalah is this week, Motzai Parshas Mattos - Masei, and the second, with the Taanis Nidcheh of Tisha B’Av being observed immediately after Shabbos’s conclusion, gets pushed off until Sunday night. Yet, the Nine Days’ restrictions are still in effect until the next day and Havdalah needs to be made[4]. Hence, the compounded confusion.

Just Drink It!

The first approach to this problem is the Shulchan Aruch’s[5]. 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 with 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[6].[7]

Child Care

The Rema’s[8] 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 does not 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[9]; otherwise, it would be preferable for an adult to drink it. This ruling is followed by most mainstream Ashkenazic authorities, including the Magen Avraham, Chayei Adam, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, and Mishna Berura[10].

Can You Beer It?

However, there is a third opinion, that of the Aruch Hashulchan[11]. 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[12], 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[13]. Others maintain that it must be a popular drink that people would always serve at a proper meal[14]. A different definition cited is that it must be a drink that one would serve to honor someone[15]. Others define it as a drink that can be intoxicating, making having alcoholic content a prerequisite[16]. Another view is that it must be a drink that has inherent importance[17]. Others say it refers to a drink that one has ‘chavivus’, an affection for or affinity to drinking[18].

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’.[19] 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[20], rule that beer would no longer be considered ‘Chamar Medina’.

Conversely, many contemporary authorities do indeed confirm beer as ‘Chamar Medina’, even nowadays; yet, they still generally maintain wine’s superiority for Havdalah[21].

What To Drink?

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[22], held that it is preferable to follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch and an adult should rather drink the wine than a child.

But what of the Aruch Hashulchan’s beer solution? Certainly the authorities mentioned previously who allow beer’s use for Havdalah year-round would permit one to do so Motzai Shabbos Chazon as well. Rav Dovid Feinstein shlit”a is quoted as maintaining beer’s actual preference for Havdalah on Motzai Shabbos Chazon[23]. Indeed, this author has likewise heard from Rav Efraim Greenblatt zt”l (the renowned Rivevos Efraim)[24] that one may make Havdalah with beer on Motzai Shabbos Chazon with no compunction.

In somewhat of a contrast, mv”r Rav Yaakov Blau zt”l told this author that although he personally held that it was preferable for an adult to drink the Havdalah wine, nonetheless, he gave dispensation to one who was accustomed to making Havdalah on beer, or one whose minhag was to do so on Motzai Shabbos Chazon, to continue doing so, even in Eretz Yisrael. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l held similarly[25].

Interestingly, it is reported that ‘Meine Altere Shuchein’, the Bobover Rebbe zy”a, would make Havdalah on Motzai Shabbos Chazon on wine and drink it himself, but when Tisha B’Av would fall out on Motzai Shabbos, on that Motzai Tisha B’Av he would make that Havdalah specifically on beer[26].

However one ends up making Havdalah this Motzai Shabbos [make sure to discuss this with your local 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[27]. 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[28].

Postscript: Interestingly, there is a machlokes between the Mishna Berura and Aruch Hashulchan whether the Sunday night / Motzai Tisha B’Av Havdalah is more relaxed vis- a-vis drinking wine for Havdalah. The Mishna Berura (Orach Chaim 556, 3 and Shaar HaTziyun 7) citing the Dagul Mervavah (ad loc.), writes that it not as restrictive as the rest of the Nine Days for this inyan, and one may therefore personally drink of the Havdalah wine without necessitating finding a child to drink. Yet, the Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 2) disagrees, maintaining that the Nine Days restrictions are still fully in effect, and it is therefore preferable to make Havdalah on ‘Shaar Mashkin’ (Chamar Medina; this is leshitaso - and will be fully addressed later in the article) and not wine. Even more interesting, both of these shittos are actually based on the Maharil, the early Ashkenazic codifier. In his Sefer on Minhagim (Hilchos Shiva Asar B’Tamuz V’Tisha B’Av), he writes regarding Tisha B’Av HaNidcheh that ‘kishehichshich beireich Borei Pri HaGafen V’Havdalah’, which the Dagul Mervavah notes, implies that Havdalah may be made on wine on this Sunday night. Yet, the Aruch Hashulchan follows the explicit ruling of the Rema (Orach Chaim 558, 1), which is based on a responsum of the Maharil (Shu”t 125), that regarding Tisha B’Av HaNidcheh wine is still prohibited until the next morning. As with all cases in halachah, one should ascertain from a knowledgeable rabbinic authority which opinion he should personally follow.

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.

This article was written L’Iluy Nishmas R’ Chaim Baruch Yehuda ben Dovid Tzvi, L’Refuah Sheleimah for R’ Shlomo Yoel ben Chaya Leah and Henna Rasha bas Yutta Ratza and l’zechus Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam v’chol yotzei chalatzeha for a yeshua sheleimah!

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author:

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz serves as the Sho’el U' Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim.

[1] See previous article titled ‘When Do the Three Weeks Start?’.

[2] Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 551, 10).

[3] See Tur & Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 294 - 296) at length, Ohr Zarua (vol. 2, 25), Pirkei D’Rav Eliezer (Ch. 20), Mishna Berura (296, 8), and Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 182, 1 & 14; quoting the Zohar on the importance of using wine for Havdalah).

[4] However, this is not the full Havdalah, [as ‘Borei Me’orei HaAish’ is made on Motzai Shabbos Tisha B’Av and ‘Besamim’ is skipped as on Motzai Shabbos it is considered a bracha of ‘taanug’], and just consists of ‘Borei Pri HaGafen’ and ‘HaMavdil’. See Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 556, 1), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 136, 5), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (125, 6 and 7), Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 556, 1 and 2), and Mishna Berura (ad loc. 3).

[5] Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 551, 10), Biur HaGr”a (ad loc. s.v. u’mutar), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 67).

[6] See Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 551, 152), Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halacha Glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (122, 14), and Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 551, Din Achilas Bassar B’Teishes HaYamim 24).

[7] Although non-alcoholic grape juice would nonetheless not be any more preferential for Havdalah this Motzai Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 551, 10) mentions that any wine, including freshlymade wine is forbidden. The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 66) explains that even though it is sweet and weak, and could not be used as a libation in the Bais HaMikdash, it is still forbidden because the accepted restriction does not differentiate, but rather is to refrain from all types of wine. Since this weak beverage is still considered a 'wine', we do not drink it during the Nine Days. The same would apply to our ubiquitous grape juice, which is still considered a type of wine. Therefore, halachically, using it for Havdalah is no more of a solution than drinking wine. See Shu”t Minchas Shlomo (vol. 1, 64), Shu”t Rivevos Efraim (vol. 8, 177; citing many poskim), Moadei Yeshurun (pg. 130) and Mesores Moshe (pg. 174 s.v. mitz) quoting Rav Moshe Feinstein, Shu”t Even Yisrael (vol. 9, Haaros on Mishna Berura, Hilchos Tisha B’Av pg. 110 s.v. vtz"a), Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 2, 259), Shu”t Ohr L’Tzion (vol. 3, Ch. 26, 8), Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s Moadei HaGra”ch (317 and 318), Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky’s Kovetz Halachos (Dinei Bein HaMetzarim), Sefer Nechemas Yisrael (pg. 114, 295), Netei Gavriel (Hilchos Bein HaMetzarim vol. 1, Ch. 39), and Piskei Teshuvos (vol. 5, 551, 42). Rav Asher Weiss (the renowned Minchas Asher) has recently averred the same to this author.

[8] Rema (Orach Chaim 551, 10), based on the Shu”t Maharil (15). Interestingly, the Maharil himself writes that he saw that his Rabbeim were not so makpid 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.

[9] Although there are different opinions on what the age of Chinuch is for different Mitzvos, nonetheless, the Chok Yaakov (Orach Chaim 472: 27; regarding the Arba Kosos) maintains that it is 5 or 6 years old and the Mishna Berura (263, 1 & Shaar HaTziyun 551, 91; although some say that these two mareh mekomos are soser each other, nonetheless m’pashtus this is his kavanna for the age of Chinuch across the board) sets the age of Chinuch at 6 years old. He adds that it might even be 7 depending on how charif a child might be. Rav Yisrael Yaakov Fischer (Halichos Even Yisrael, Hilchos Bein HaMetzarim pg. 353, footnote 18) writes that for this inyan it is referring to ‘higia l’chinuch’ for brachos but still cannot properly mourn. [For more on how the poskim define the age of Chinuch see sefer Chinuch Yisrael (from the author of the Shu”t Nishmas Shabbos, Ch. 2, 9, ppg. 178 - 182) and Rav Dovid Shapiro’s ma’amar in Kovetz Moriah (Tishrei 5751, vol. 199 - 200, pg. 104 - 105).] However, defining the age of understanding how to mourn is not so simple. The Chavos Yair (Mekor Chaim ad loc.) sets this at 9 years old, while the Me’am Loez (Yalkut Me’am Loez on Parshas Devarim) sets it at 10. Rav Moshe Feinstein, regarding Aveilus writes (Shu”t Igros Moshe - Yoreh Deah vol. 1, end 224) that ‘only when children reach 7 or 8 years old is it possible to be mechanech them to Availus’. There are poskim who maintain that it is preferable for an adult to drink the Havdalah wine himself, and not to rely on a child who may or may not fit the proper age range, as it is unclear. See next footnote as well as footnote 21. In a different, yet perplexing vein, it is interesting to note that the Shulchan Aruch HaRav writes in Orach Chaim 295, 4 that one who exclusively gives a child to drink of the Havdalah wine, without partaking of any himself, is not yotzai Havdalah! Aside for the fact that this would seem at odds with the Rema’s psak here, as several Acharonim point out [see Tehilla L’Dovid (Orach Chaim 295) and Rav Chaim Na’eh’s Ketzos Hashulchan (97, Badei Hashulchan 6)], it also seems to contradict his own ruling in Orach Chaim 190, 4, where he allows a child to drink of any ‘Kos Shel Bracha’ with no restrictions.

[10] See Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 551, 31), Machatzis HaShekel (ad loc.), Pri Megadim (ad loc. Sifsei Daas 31), Dagul Mervava (ad loc.), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 133, 16), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (122, 8), Mishna Berura (551, 70), Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin’s authoritative Ezras Torah Luach (and reprinted in his posthumously published Shu”t Gevuros Eliyahu - Orach Chaim 153 s.v. Shabbos Chazon), and Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky’s essential Luach Eretz Yisroel (Chodesh Av, Parshas Devarim). The Steipler Gaon (Orchos Rabbeinu vol. 2, pg. 135, 23) and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Ashrei HaIsh - Orach Chaim vol. 3, pg. 468 - 469, 34 & 35) are quoted as maintaining that if a child within that age range cannot 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 Avraham - Orach Chaim 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 the following commentaries to Orach Chaim 296: the Rema (8), Bach (1), Magen Avraham (4 & 11), Derech HaChaim (Dinei Havdalah 3), and Mishna Berura (35 & Shaar HaTziyun 34).]

[11] Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 551, 26).

[12] As seen in Gemara Pesachim (107a) in the story of Ameimar. See Tur & Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 292, 2) and Biur Halacha (ad loc. s.v. im).

[13] Rashbam (Pesachim ad loc.), Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos Ch. 29, 17), Tur (Orach Chaim 272), Bach (Orach Chaim 182), Magen Avraham (ad loc. 2), Levush (Orach Chaim 292, 1), Derech Hachaim (Hilchos Havdalah 5), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Orach Chaim 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.

[14] Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 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.

[15] Aderes (Kuntress Over Orach), Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Shu”t Igros Moshe - Orach Chaim 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 Blochzt”l, Rosh Yeshivas Telz, Rav Yaakov Rudermanzt”l, Rosh Yeshivas Ner Yisrael, and Rav Yisrael Zev Gustmanzt”l, Rosh Yeshivas Netzach Yisrael, as well as Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinbergzt”l, Rosh Yeshivas Torah Ore (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 Kotlerzt”l, Rav Yaakov Kamenetskyzt”l (cited in Ratz KaTzvi ibid.), and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbachzt”l (cited in Maadanei Shlomo on Moadim, Bein HaMeitzarim pg. 59) 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, which even in Eretz Yisrael nowadays is considered a “chashuv” drink. Ostensibly, Faygo Redpop or Cristal soda would be assur to use for Havdalah l’divrei hakol. This author has heard b’sheim Rav Yaakov Reisman, son-in-law of Rav Mordechai Gifter zt”l, the famed Telzer Rosh Yeshiva, as well as from Rav Binyamin Sorotzkin (Rosh Kollel Ateres Shlomo), that Rav Gifter used to make Havdalah every week using Ginger-Ale.

[16] Shu”t Halachos Ketanos (vol. 1, 9), Maharsham (Daas Torah - Orach Chaim 296, 4), Shu”t Shem M’Shimon (Orach Chaim 14), and the Chida (Birkei Yosef - Orach Chaim 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, Orach Chaim 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 - Orach Chaim 51), and he personally concludes that one who makes Havdalah on tea or coffee has possibly made a bracha levatala. Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Shu”t Ohr L’Tzion vol. 2. Ch. 20, 19) agrees that tea and coffee are not considered ‘Chamar Medina’, as even though they are popular, one cannot get intoxicated from them. 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 - Orach Chaim 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 13) 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. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach is quoted as holding (Maadanei Shlomo on Moadim, Bein HaMeitzarim pg. 59) that although coffee and tea are me’ikar hadin considered ‘Chamar Medina’, nevertheless, practically, it is almost impossible to use either of them for Havdalah. Since they are drunk hot, how can one drink a mouthful of coffee to be yotzai Havdalah? And if one waits until it cools off, it loses its chashivus, because no one prefers to drink warm coffee and many rather relegate it to the dustbin.

[17] Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 8, 13) and Mishna Berura (296, 10; based on a diyuk from the Taz - Orach Chaim 182, 1 and Elya Rabba ad loc. 5).

[18] Rema (Orach Chaim 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.

[19] The Rema (Orach Chaim 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 14). There is an interesting epilogue to this Motzai Pesach machlokes. The Torah Temimah (Parshas Bo Ch. 12, 168 s.v. ve’ayen) 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 (Parshas Bo Ch. 12, verse 18; that he adds the one should eat chametz on Motzai Pesach). 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 Vilna 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’s mechutan and enthusiast extraordinaire, and Rabbi Eliezer Brodt, author of Bein Kesseh La’Asor and Likutei Eliezer, for pointing out these sources to me.

[20] Including the Chazon Ish, the Streipler Gaon, and his son, Rav Chaim Kanievsky (see Kovetz Teshuvos vol. 1, 57, s.v. ode b’hanal and Orchos Rabbeinu vol. 2, pg. 136, 25), 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 Havdalah, then one may use beer), Rav Binyomin Zilber (Shu”t Az Nidberu vol. 11, 48 s.v. siman 371), the Netei Gavriel (Hilchos Bein HaMetzarim vol. 1, Ch. 39, footnote 13) and Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 4, 77; see footnote 13). Rav Asher Weiss recently told this author that in his opinion, it is problematic to allow beer for Havdalah lechatchila nowadays. He explained that since there exists such a wide range of possibilities and everyone’s drinks are based on their own personal preferences, it is difficult to ascertain and label any specific drink as a ‘national drink’ and considered a true ‘Chamar Medina’.

[21]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 Orach Chaim 296, footnote 325 & Orach Chaim 551, footnote 525), Rav 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 (cited in Chidushei Basra pg. 294), the Rivevos Efraim (Shu”t vol. 3, 371; and by oral psak), the Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa (vol. 2, Ch. 60, 4 & 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.

[22] 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). Rav Moshe Feinstein is quoted as holding this way as well. Rav Yisrael Yaakov Fischer (Halichos Even Yisrael, Hilchos Bein HaMetzarim pg. 353, 16) would give the kos to a kattan to drink if present, but would not actively search for one; if none around, he would unhesitantly drink the wine himself. See Mesores Moshe (pg. 174 s.v. u’lgabei) who quotes Rav Moshe Feinstein as ruling that wine is preferable to beer on Motzai Shabbos Chazon, as he held that one may only use ‘Chamar Medina’ if wine is not available, and the Nine Days restriction on wine is not sufficient to be considered ‘wine not available’. However, in Moadei Yeshurun (pg. 154 - 155, 64), Rav Moshe is quoted as holding that since nowadays the minhag is to make Havdalah davka with wine and not beer, the adult should drink the wine even if a child is present. Mv”r Rav Yaakov Blau zt”l and Rav Asher Weiss both recently told this author that in their opinions this is the preferred solution as well. As mentioned previously, the Butchacher Gaon (Eshel Avraham - Orach Chaim 551, 10) held that if there is a safek on a child’s status (whether or not he is between the proper age ranges), an adult might as well drink in his stead. The Chazon Ish (cited in Birur Halacha - Orach Chaim 551, 10) and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo ibid.) were similarly quoted as maintaining that since it is hard to ascertain whether a child truly fits in between the Chinuch categories, the adult should rather drink the wine himself. The Terumas Hadeshen (cited in Leket Yosher pg. 110) was also known to have drunk the Havdalah wine himself.

[23] Kuntress Yad Dodi (Hilchos Taanis / Bein HaMetzarim, pg. 137, Question 26).

[24] The author wishes to thank R’ Naftoli Tabatchnik for posing this sheilah to Rav Greenblatt shortly before he was niftar. Rav Greenblatt explained that in his opinion, certainly beer nowadays is still considered ‘Chamar Medina’, and one may therefore be noheg like the Aruch Hashulchan’s mehalech.

[25] See Maadanei Shlomo (on Moadim, Bein HaMitzarim, pg. 59).

[26] This was discussed at length in Rabbi Eliyahu Sternbuch’s maamar in Kovetz Eitz Chaim (vol. 20; Av - Elul 5773). He gives interesting hypothesis as to why the Rebbe was noheg this way.

[27] See Mishna Berura (549, 1), based on the Rambam (Hilchos Ta’aniyos Ch. 5, 1).

[28] Gemara 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.

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