Just as Shabbat is inaugurated with the recitation of kiddush it is similarly escorted out with the recitation of havdalla. It is forbidden to eat once Shabbat has ended until one has recited (or heard) havdalla although it is permitted to drink water if absolutely necessary.[1] One who began a meal before sunset may continue the meal even beyond nightfall as there is no obligation to interrupt one's meal as soon as Shabbat ends in order to daven maariv or recite havdalla. It is interesting to note that in the days of Ezra the Jewish people were so poor that the requirement to recite havdalla on wine was suspended since most people simply couldn’t afford wine. When the economic situation improved and it was determined that wine was once again within people's means the full havdalla was reinstituted.[2]

Stand or Sit?

Some families have the custom to stand for havdalla,[3] while others sit for it.[4] Those who advise standing for havdalla teach that just as one rises when an important guest takes leave so too one should stand when reciting havdalla which heralds the departure of Shabbat.[5] There also exists a custom to sit when one is reciting havdalla in the company of others but to stand when one is reciting it alone.[6] It seems that the custom to stand for havdalla is the more predominant one.[7] According to all authorities, however, one should drink the havdalla wine while seated.[8] One should not remove one's Shabbat clothes until at least after one has recited havdalla.[9]

Filling the Havdalla Goblet 

It is customary to fill the havdalla goblet with wine until it begins to overflow which symbolizes our wish for a week overflowing with blessings.[10] One should not speak after hearing havdalla until the one who recited it drinks some of the wine.[11] If wine is unavailable then one may use any "chamar medina" for havdalla. Beverages which fall under the category of chamar medina are generally defined as distinctive beverages worthy of being served to guests.[12] It must also be a beverage that one drinks simply in order to enjoy its taste and even when not thirsty.[13] Among the more common drinks classified as chamar medina are: beer,[14] whiskey,[15] liquor, cognac,[16] tea, coffee,[17] and fruit juice.[18]

The Spices

The reason we smell spices as part of havdalla is in order to console ourselves over the loss of the additional soul which we receive at the start of Shabbat and then leaves us at its conclusion.[19] It is also explained that we smell spices in order to mask the stench of the fires of hell which are relit each week at the conclusion of Shabbat.[20] One who is unable to smell due to a stuffed nose should not recite the blessing over the spices.[21] However, it is still permissible to recite the blessing on the spices when making havdalla on behalf of others who will smell the spices.[22] Alternatively, if the one reciting havdalla has a stuffed nose he can allow one of the other participants to recite the blessing over the spices while he recites everything else.[23]

The Fire

A special blessing is recited upon fire as part of havdalla in order to recall that fire was first revealed to mankind on a Saturday night. One who is unable to recite the blessing on either spices or fire at havdalla may do so anytime throughout the night.[24] In the event that candles or matches are unavailable, some authorities allow one to recite the blessing for fire upon a standard light bulb,[25] while others disagree.[26] All authorities agree, however, that one is not permitted to recite the blessing for fire upon a fluorescent light bulb.

The candle one uses for havdalla should be multi-wicked or otherwise consist of two flames which are combined to appear as one.[27] In an emergency, one is permitted to recite havdalla on a single flame.[28] When reciting the blessing on the fire one should ensure to be as close to the flame as possible in order to be able to benefit directly from it's light.[29] It is customary to examine the fingernails and palms of one's right[30] hand by the light of the havdalla candle. Doing so is said to be a sign of blessing.[31] Some have the custom to first look at one's fingernails and then to recite the blessing upon the fire, while others reverse the order.[32] It is customary to extinguish the havdalla candle in the remaining wine which is spilled onto a plate for this purpose.[33]

Women & Havdalla

It is a matter of dispute whether or not women are fully obligated in the mitzva of havdalla. As such, it is preferable for women to hear havdalla from a man rather than to recite it themselves.[34] In the event that there is no man available then a woman should certainly recite it herself.[35] Similarly, it is preferable for a woman to recite havdalla herself rather than to have a man who already recited havdalla to do so again specifically for her.[36] Although there is an opinion that women should not recite the blessing upon fire when reciting havdalla on their own,[37] common custom is for them to do so.[38]

It is customary for women not to drink from the havdalla wine.[39] Among the reasons for this is in deference to the view that women are actually exempt from havdalla altogether. Should this be true, the amens that a woman responds following the blessing upon the spices and fire would constitute a hefsek, a forbidden interruption, from the time the blessing was recited over the wine until she finally drinks it at the conclusion of havdalla.[40] There are also a number of kabbalistic reasons why women should not drink the havdalla wine.[41] As such, women should endeavor to hear havdalla recited by a man. Nevertheless, the halacha is not like this view and a woman who is left with no alternative but to recite havdalla herself should drink the wine, as well.[42]

Havdalla & Yom Kippur

It is interesting to note that it is actually a matter of dispute whether or not the blessing over spices should be recited as part of havdalla at the conclusion of a Yom Kippur which coincides with Shabbat.[43] This is because the primary reason that we smell spices at the conclusion of Shabbat is in order to console ourselves over the loss of the additional soul. However, the reason we are given an additional soul is in order to facilitate the consumption of the many special foods that we enjoy and indulge in on Shabbat.[44] Since eating on Yom Kippur is forbidden, there is simply no need for this additional soul and therefore (according to most opinions) it is not given on such a Shabbat.[45]

As such, some have the custom to omit[46] the spices from havdalla when Shabbat coincides with Yom Kippur while others include them as usual.[47] There is also the "compromise" approach of smelling the spices only after havdalla has been completed and one has drank some of the wine.[48] The most widespread custom is to recite havdalla as normal, complete with the spices when Yom Kippur coincides with Shabbat. Indeed, this is the manner in which one should conduct oneself unless one has a family custom to the contrary.[49] One should recite havdalla at the conclusion of Yom Kippur while still wearing one’s kittel.[50]

[1] OC 299:1; Salmat Chaim 1:65.

[2] Berachot 33a; Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 294:2.

[3] Rema, OC 296:6.

[4] OC 296:6.

[5] Beit Yosef, OC 296.

[6] Mishna Berura 296:27.

[7] Rema, OC 296:6; Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 296:15; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 296:17; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 96:7

[8] Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 296:15; Mishna Berura 296:6.

[9] Mishna Berura 262:4,8.

[10] Rema, OC 296:1.

[11] Igrot Moshe, OC 4:70.

[12] Igrot Moshe, OC 2:75.

[13] Igrot Moshe, OC 2:75. For more opinions on which drinks can be classified as chamar medina see: Magen Avraham 182:2, 272:6; Halachot Ketanot 1:9; Rivevot Ephraim 7:103; Teshuvot V'hanhagot 4:77

[14] OC 272:9; Be’er Heitev, OC 296:7; Mishna Berura 296:12; Ohr L’tzion 2:20:19.

[15] Magen Avraham 272:6; Mishna Berura 296:12; Be'er Moshe 6:54.

[16] Minchat Yitzchak 10:22.

[17] Tzitz Eliezer 14:42. See Yabia Omer 3:19 for a dissenting opinion.

[18] Aruch Hashulchan, OC 272:14.

[19] Bach, OC 287; Mishna Berura 297:2.

[20] Pitchei Olam, OC 624:3. See Seridei Aish 1:29 for more interpretations.

[21] Kaf Hachaim, OC 297:34.

[22] OC 297:5.

[23] Yalkut Yosef 297:10; Avnei Derech 1:47.

[24] OC 299:6.

[25] She'arim Hametzuyanim Behalacha 96:6.

[26] Har Tzvi 2:114; Yabia Omer 1:17.

[27] Mishna Berura 298:8.

[28] Mishna Berura 298:7.

[29] OC 298:4.

[30] OC 298:3, Aruch Hashulchan, OC 298:8.

[31] OC 298:3, Mishna Berura 298:9.

[32] Mishna Berura 296:31; Kaf Hachaim, OC 296:45; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 96:9; Igrot Moshe, OC 5:9.

[33] Rema, OC 296:1.

[34] Rema, OC 296:8.

[35] Mishna Berura 296:34.

[36] Mishna Berura 296:36.

[37] Biur Halacha 296.

[38] Igrot Moshe, CM 2:47

[39] Mishna Berura 296:35.

[40] Har Tzvi, OC 157.

[41] Magen Avraham 296:4; Tola'at Yaakov, in the Chapter "Sod Motzaei Shabbat". For additional reasons see Rivevot Ephraim 4:97:56.

[42] Aruch Hashulchan, OC 296:4,5,18; Shevet Halevi 4:54:7; Yabia Omer 4:23; Shemirat Shabbat K'hilchata 60:38.

[43] OC 624:3; Mishna Berura 624:5; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 624:1.

[44] Rashi, Beitza 16a.

[45] Mishna Berura 624:5; Kaf Hachaim, OC 624:9. But see: Shaar Hatziun 624:6.

[46] OC 624:3

[47] Salmat Chaim 1:69.

[48] Kaf Hachaim, OC 624:9.

[49] Mishna Berura 624:5; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 624:1.

[50] Kaf Hachaim, OC 624:8; Pitchei Olam 624:2.