Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 15 September 2018 / 6 Tishri 5779

Breaking the Yom Kippur Fast Before Havdalah?

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
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An annual question arises this time of year, usually from a woman who will be waiting for her husband to come home and make Havdalah after Maariv on Motzai Yom Kippur, when the fast was already over a few minutes after Tzeis Hakochavim (nightfall).[1] Is she required to wait for Havdalah to break her fast by taking a drink of water?

Similarly, there are those who wait for a later Zman of Tzais Hakochavim before performing Melacha on Motzai Yom Kippur, due to Yom Kippur’s being called a ‘Shabbos Shabboson’ in the Torah.[2] Would that chumrah extend to fasting as well; namely, must they wait until the later Zman as well, before breaking their fast?

The question that lies behind these questions is whether the five ‘Inuyim’, restrictions of affliction obligated on Yom Kippur (abstaining from eating and drinking, washing, anointing, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations), are considered part and parcel of its inherent Kedushas HaYom, holiness, or are they regarded as separate, yet synchronized, halachic mandates?

The Brisker Rav’s Safek

Several years ago, one Motzai Yom Kippur, this author discussed and debated this intriguing issue with his former neighbor Rabbi Noach Sosevsky, and his brother-in-law, Rabbi Dovid Schoonmacher, today Roshei Yeshiva of Yeshivas Ohr Yerushalayim (OJ) and Yeshivas Darche Noam (Shapell’s), respectively. At the time we did not reach a definitive conclusion; thus we were gratified to learn later on that the renowned Brisker Rav zt”l, in his discussion of the merits of both sides of this topic, did not either.

The Brisker Rav writes[3] that, in principle, the proper ruling should depend on whether the prohibition of performing Melacha prior to making Havdalah on Motzai Shabbos after Shabbos already technically ended is due to Kedushas Shabbos, or to the Chiyuv of Havdalah. He explains that if the former understanding is accurate, then the same should apply on Motzai Yom Kippur, that all related halachos, whether Melachos or Inuyim, are still forbidden until Havdalah is made. Yet, if Melacha on Motzai Shabbos is only forbidden due to the requirement of making Havdalah, then it stands to reason that only Melacha is forbidden until Havdalah is made, and the ‘Inuyim’ officially end at Tzeis Hakochavim.[4] Although the Brisker Rav himself seemed to find the lenient view more compelling, nonetheless, he concluded ‘tzarich iyun’.

Thirst Quenching in Shul or Not a Drop to Drink?

The first mention of an actual psak lemaaseh as a general ruling that one may indeed drink water before Havdalah on Motzai Yom Kippur if needed is by Rav Meshulam Finkelstein zt”l of Warsaw, in the early 1900s, in his essential commentary on issues relating to the Yomim Noraim, the Matteh Efraim, titled ‘Elef HaMagen’.[5] He cites precedent to his rule from an earlier psak of Rav Yosef Shaul Nathanson zt”l, the eminent ‘Shoel U’Meishiv’.[6]

Apparently, in one shul, the Chazzan droned on for over a half-hour past Tzeis Hakochavim (seemingly with no end in sight!) and one of the mispalellim was extremely thirsty. One of the local loquacious ‘lamdanim’ there reasoned that, although still in the middle of Neilah, since it was after Tzeis Hakochavim, the fast was truly over and his parched partner was allowed to take a drink of water. It seems that he helped himself as well. However, while slaking their thirst, they were ‘caught’ by another constituent who harangued them, claiming that until Havdalah was made it was still Yom Kippur, and asserting that this thirsty fellow and his ‘lamdan’ enabler compadrè were halachic violators. Post-fast, the no-longer dehydrating gentleman wrote to the great Shoel U’Meishiv to ask who was correct.

Rav Nathanson replied that although technically the formerly thirsty fellow’s ‘lamdan’ companion was halachically correct, yet, due to others’ seeing and not realizing that the fast was over, and possibly emulating incorrectly, cautioned that if one needs to take a drink of water on Motzai Yom Kipper after Tzeis Hakochavim and prior to Havdalah, he may do so only B’tzina, in private. Based on this ruling, the Elef HaMagen wrote that one is permitted to drink water on Motzai Yom Kippur before Havdalah, if needed.

The Magen Avraham’s Machlokes?

However, and quite interestingly, one of the precedents cited for this ruling is a cryptic comment of the Magen Avraham. In the beginning of the Siman in Shulchan Aruch discussing Motzai Yom Kippur,[7] the Magen Avraham cites a seemingly unrelated discussion of the Levush’s, regarding why in several locales they did not allow Havdalah in shul on Motzai Yom Kippur, even with children at hand to drink the wine. The Levush writes that this custom is perhaps based on the notion that since adults cannot drink until they personally make Havdalah at home, the same applies to children as they may come to later make mistakes in the matter.

The Magen Avraham questions the validity of this answer, as, if one had intention to fulfill his obligation with the shul’s Havdalah, he was yotzai. Moreover, the same ruling applies to Motzai Shabbos as well. If so, he reasons, what potential mix-up or mistake is possible? As such, he asserts that it is permissible to perform Havdalah in shul on Motzai Yom Kippur. He concludes his passage by stating “v’nireh li d’muttar b’rechitz ah uv’kulam kodem sheyavdil”, that in his opinion, washing and the rest of the ‘Inuyim’ are essentially permitted prior to Havdalah on Motzai Yom Kippur.

Several of the super-commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch, including the Machatzis Hashekel, Pri Megadim, and Levushei Srad,[8] understand this brief discussion as a Machlokes in psak regarding breaking the fast before Havdalah. They maintain that the Levush was actually paskening that the ‘Inuyim’ are part and parcel of the Kedushas HaYom. As such one may not break their fast (or perform any of the other ‘Inuyim’) prior to properly making Havdalah, while the Magen Avraham argued that, although interrelated, they are not essentially connected. As such, once Tzeis Hakochavim arrives, the mandated ‘Inuyim’ actually end.

Although the Elyah Rabbah rules like the Levush, most other Acharonim, including the Ba’er Heitiv, Shulchan Aruch Harav, Matteh Efraim, and Mishnah Berurah,[9] rule akin to the Magen Avraham’s understanding, stating that after Tzeis Hakochavim all other ‘Inuyim’ are now permitted, even prior to Havdalah, except eating and drinking (which is still prohibited due to Hilchos Havdalah, just like on every Motzai Shabbos). On that, the Elef HaMagen commented that, even so, there is a water dispensation, similar to every Motzai Shabbos.

Water Allowance

As mentioned previously, this pre-Havdalah water hetter is based on a separate issue entirely: Hilchos Havdalah. As the Gemara in Pesachim (105a) explains, and duly codified in halacha,[10] one may not eat or drink anything once Shabbos is over prior to making Havdalah, except for water. In fact, the Gemara cites strong potential ramifications for those who are lax with this halacha.[11] Although there are those who are machmir with drinking water as well before Havdalah on Motzai Shabbos,[12] loosely based on the Rema’s comment about the dangers of drinking well water during Bein Hashmashos of Shabbos,[13] nonetheless, the general consensus is that this is truly muttar.[14] Additionally, as the reason for this stringency is only applicable on Motzai Shabbos, it would be irrelevant to our discussion unless Yom Kippur fell out on a Shabbos that year.

Come what may, the many poskim who follow the Magen Avraham’s approach regarding most ‘Inuyim’ ending on Motzai Yom Kippur soon after Tzeis Hakochavim nonetheless would still prohibit eating and drinking until Havdalah is made, with the exception of drinking water, which would be permitted.

Water Challenges

On the other hand, not everyone agreed with this assessment. Rav Meir Arik zt”l, the ‘Imrei Yosher’, as well as Rav Yoav Yehoshua Weingarten zt”l, the ‘Chelkas Yoav’, challenged this understanding based on Tosafos in several places, where Tosafos seems to understand that the Yom Kippur fast is mandated throughout davening Maariv on Motzai Yom Kippur.[15] This would imply that he held that the ‘Inuyim’ and ‘Kedushas HaYom’ share the same halachic status, seemingly fitting with the Levush and Elyah Rabbah’s understanding, and not the Magen Avraham’s more lenient view. And, although the Sdei Chemed disputed this interpretation of Tosafos’ meaning, maintaining that it would be questionable to cite proof to this from Tosafos’ brief comments,[16] nonetheless, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l raised a different issue.

Rav Shlomo Zalman[17] argued that there is an important distinction between Motzai Shabbos and Motzai Yom Kippur. On Motzai Shabbos, water was permitted to be drunk on the entire preceding day, Shabbos. As such, there is no obligation to perform Havdalah simply to allow water’s consumption. Conversely, regarding Motzai Yom Kippur, water was forbidden the entire day, along with all other food and drink. As such, he maintains that it would seem tenuous to suggest that water should be considered in a different category than all other food and drink regarding partaking of it prior to making Havdalah. In other words, as drinking water is one of the ‘Inuyim’, it stands to reason that it is only after one concludes all of the ‘Inuyim’ that water becomes permitted.

Therefore, he rules that if one is very thirsty and wishes to drink water before Havdalah on Motzai Yom Kippur, he must first end the fast by reciting ‘Attah Chonantanu’, or by stating ‘Baruch HaMavdil Bein Kodesh Lechol’. As such, he would be officially ending the fast for himself, and thus allowing water to be drunk. Yet, the pre-Havdalah rules would now be in effect, and all other food and drink (but none of the other ‘Inuyim’) are still prohibited until Havdalah is performed.

A Watery Finish?

However, there does not seem to be a clear-cut contemporary consensus on this topic. Many authorities, including the Steipler Gaon, Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul, and Rav Ovadiah Yosef, zichronam l’vracha, maintain that since most Acharonim pasken lemaaseh like the Magen Avraham’s understanding, and the Elef HaMagen expressly permitted it, based on precedent from the Shoel U’Meishiv and Sdei Chemed, as well as due to the Brisker Rav’s inclination to this shittah, practically, one does not need to end Yom Kippur itself simply to take a drink of water, once it is after Tzeis Hakochavim.[18]

Yet, other authorities, including Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, the Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchaso, and the Mishnas Yosef, follow the more stringent view, and agreeing with Rav Shlomo Zalman’s assessment, that drinking water is only permitted after reciting ‘Baruch HaMavdil’, and thus effectively ending Yom Kippur.[19]

There is also a middle-ground shittah, maintaining that, although me’ikar hadin, drinking water is essentially permitted after Tzeis Hakochavim, nonetheless it would be preferable to first recite ‘Baruch HaMavdil’ before drinking.[20] This might very well be the preferred option for a thirsty woman waiting for her husband to come home and make Havdalah.

In conclusion, although it turns out that there is no clear psak, one thing is certain. If one finds himself very thirsty during Neilah, it would be prudent to ask a Rav what to do, and ascertain which halachic opinion to follow in his specific situation, and not simply rely on the assurances of a local ‘lamdan’.

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz, author of Mi’Shulchan Yehuda on Inyanei Yoreh Deah, serves as the Shoel U’Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim.

His first English Halacha sefer is due out shortly.

For all questions or comments, please contact yspitz@ohr.edu.

This article was written l’zechus
Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam v’chol yotzei chalatzeha
for a yeshuah sheleimah teikif u’miyad.



[1]This is because there is a special rule regarding Motzai Yom Kippur, that there needs to be an additional Tosefes from ‘Chol al Hakodesh’ after Tzeis Hakochavim. See Gemara Yoma (81b), Rosh (ad loc. Ch. 8: 8), Tur and Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 624: 2), Shulchan Aruch Harav (ad loc. 2), Matteh Efraim (ad loc. 2), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 1), and Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 3). The Elef HaMagen (ad loc. 3) cites the Alshich (Vayikra Ch. 23: 32) who explains that the Tosefes of ‘Inuyim’ after Tzeis Hakochavim serves in lieu of the Yom Kippur Korbanos.

[2]Parashas Acharei Mos (Ch. 16: 31).

[3]Chiddushei Maran Ri”z Halevi al Kiddush Hachodesh, Yoma, and Sukka(pg. 23b or 44 s.v. tzarich iyun).

[4]See also Chiddushei Maran Ri”z Halevi al HaRambam (Hilchos Shabbos, Ch. 29: 5), where he discusses this at length, explaining that this debate in havana regarding Melacha prior to Havdalah on Motzai Shabbos, is the core essence of the machlokes Rishonim on the topic.

[5]Elef HaMagen (O.C. 624: 4).

[6]Shu”t Shoel U’Meishiv (Mahadura Tlita’ei, vol. 1: 129).

[7]Magen Avraham (beg. O.C. 624), also citing the Levush (ad loc. 2).

[8]Machatzis Hashekel (beg. O.C. 624), Pri Megadim (ad loc. s.v. yeish), and Levushei Srad (ad loc. s.v. vn”l).

[9]Elyah Rabba (O.C. 624: 1), Ba’er Heitiv (ad loc. 1), Shulchan Aruch Harav (ad loc. 15), Matteh Efraim (ad loc. 2), and Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 3).

[10]See Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos Ch. 29, Halacha 5), Rif, Rosh, and Nemukei Yosef (Pesachim ad loc.), Tur and Shulchan Aruch and main commentaries (O.C. 299: 1), and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (96: 4).

[11]Pesachim 105a. The Gemara says that it may bring on a terrible death via ‘askira’. Tosafos (ad loc. s.v. lo) notes that nowadays this may include death by choking or drowning. The conclusion of the Gemara, as per the Chachamim, is that this does not include water, and not like Rav Huna originally held.

[12]See Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 291: 17 and 299: 6), citing the ‘Gaonim in Shaarei Teshuva at the end of sefer Naharos Damesek’, as well as the Arizal, who exhorted not to drink even water before Havdalah, as aside for the chashash of ‘askira’ (and apparently not like the Gemara’s seeming conclusion), there is a separate potential issue. See next footnote. Similarly, the Minchas Shabbos (96: 11), also cites the Shevet Mussar’s Midrash Talpiyos (Anaf Havdalah, pg. 118b), that it is proper to be machmir with drinking water. See also Shu”t Mishnah Halachos (vol. 4: 159, 3) who asserts that ‘vaday lechatchilla’ one should not drink water before Havdalah.

[13]Rema (O.C. 291: 2). See Shulchan Aruch Harav (O.C. 291: 2) and Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 5) for an explanation regarding souls returning to Gehinnom during this time period. This minhag is based on a Midrash (Shochar Tov on Tehillim Ch. 11) and is cited by several Rishonim including Tosafos (Pesachim 105a s.v. v’h”n), Rosh (ad loc. Ch. 10: 13), Mordechai (ad loc. 36b, end 2nd column), Agudah (ad loc. 81) and Tur (O.C. 291).As theRema himself mentions quoting Rabbeinu Meshulam,there is also some debate whether this is really referring to Bein Hashmashos of Shabbos turning into Motzai Shabbos or actually on Erev Shabbos turning into Shabbos. See Hagahos Maimoniyos (Hilchos Shabbos Ch. 30, 10: 2), Beis Yosef (O.C. 291 s.v. v’R”T) and Bach (ad loc. s.v. v’R”T). See also Shemiras Haguf V’Hanefesh (vol. 2, Ch. 130) and Shu”t Divrei Moshe (O.C. 13) at length, elucidating how this custom of not drinking water at all during this time period can be sourced in the Rema’s enigmatic and seemingly unrelated ruling regarding drinking well water. The Debreciner Rav (Shu”t Ba’er Moshe vol. 4: 34) maintains that as this Midrash- basedminhag is not cited lemaaseh by the Shulchan Aruch, and the Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos Ch. 30: 10) seemingly directly argues on it, and there are opinions that it only applies on Erev Shabbos, rules that certainly one need not be concerned regarding water that was already in the house. He adds that one who wishes to be stringent may simply add some ‘orange soda’ or something else that will change the water’s taste, as then it would be considered ‘shaar mashkim’.The Steipler Gaon was known to be very machmir with this (Orchos Rabbeinu, new edition; vol. 1, pg. 238 - 239: 13 and 14).

[14]As noted by the Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 299: 1) that although ‘anachnu nizharim gam mimayim, b’emes lav m’dina hu’, as drinking water before Havdalah is ‘muttar m’dina’. The Ben Ish Chai (Year 2, Parashas Vayeitzei 19) expresses similar sentiment, that mayim is essentially muttar, yet ‘yeish machmirin b’mayim m’taam acher’.

[15]Minchas Pitim (O.C. 624), and Chelkas Yoav (Kuntress Kava D’Kushyeisa, Kushya 86; appending to the 5757 version of Shu”t Chelkas Yoav vol. 1), based on Tosafos in Yoma (87b s.v. mispallel) and Brachos (29a s.v. tichlala). Additionally, they question citing precedent from the Magen Avraham at all, as in Hilchos Pesach (O.C. 291 s.v. u’mi) regarding partaking of Chometz prior to Havdalah on Motzai Pesach, he seems to contradict this psak, as he does not mattir, but rather concludes inconclusively. However, it should be noted that several authorities, including the Machatzis Hashekel, Shoel U’Meishiv, and Sdei Chemed (ibid.) offer solutions to this seeming contradiction.

[16]Sdei Chemed (vol. 6, Asifas Dinim, Maareches Yom Kippur, 4: 2). He maintains that Tosafos was referring to the need for davening Maariv after Tzeis Hakochavim on Motzai Yom Kippur, as opposed to just simply ending the fast. He explains the need to state this: if the tzibbur would first go home in order to make Havdalah for their families and break their fast, there is a fair chance that they may not return for Maarivb’tzibbur. He therefore holds that Tosafos’s brief comments cannot be cited as proof to the propriety of the Levush’s shittah over the Magen Avraham’s.

[17]Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchaso (vol. 2, Ch. 62, footnote 59) and Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 1, Ch. 5, Dvar Halacha 41).

[18]Steipler Gaon (Igros U’Reshimos Kehillas Yaakov vol. 5, pg. 26, 12; he opines without having the sefarim in front of him to be me’ayen properly, that the Acharonim who are machmir must have been referring to drinking other drinks, whereas the Brisker Rav who was lenient must have been referring to water), Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Shu”t Ohr L’Tzion vol. 2, Ch. 22: 7; interestingly, he writes that he is disagreeing with the Sdei Chemed who argued on the Shoel U’Meishiv; however, it should be noted that the Sdei Chemed ultimately defended the Shoel U’Meishiv’s psak), and Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Chazon Ovadiah on Yomim Noraim pg. 387). Others who rule this way include the Moadei Yisrael (Yomim Noraim 245; he is metzaref the minority opinion of the Baal Halachos Ketanos, vol. 2: 282 – 283 and 284 – 285, who posits that one is not chayev kareis for drinking water on Yom Kippur as it is not ‘zayni’, satiating; although the halacha does not follow this opinion, he asserts that certainly one may metzaref this to allow drinking water on Motzai Yom Kippur prior to Havdalah), Rav Eliyahu Chaim Sternbuch (in his recent maamar in Kovetz Eitz Chaim vol. 30, Tishrei 5779, ‘B’Inyan Shtiyas Mayim Kodem Havdalah B’Motzai Yom Hakippurim’, pg. 257 s.v. u’lchein), and the Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 624: 8). This author finds it interesting that many of the authorities who rule this way cite this as ‘the Magen Avraham’s psak’, although he never actually explicitly addressed this exact issue.

[19]Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Ashrei HaIsh, O.C. vol. 3, Ch. 21: 28; adding that only one who is in a ‘matzav dachuk’ can drink water, and only after Havdalah), Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Shu”t Siach HaTorah, pg. 312, Teshuvah 1234 and Moadei HaGra”ch vol. 2, pg. 260, Teshuvah 536), Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchaso (vol. 2, Ch. 62: 25), and Shu”t Mishnas Yosef (vol. 10: 102).

[20]See Shu”t Avnei Derech (vol. 10: 71) and Shu”t Aderes Tiferes (vol. 6: 53).


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!

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