By: Rabbi Mordechai Mishanieh

1.   What is the reason for reciting the havdala blessing after Shabbat?

Just as we are required to sanctify Shabbat when it enters, we are likewise required to sanctify it when it departs. According to some opinions, this obligation is a Torah commandment.

2.   How is Havdala recited during prayers?

While everyone is obligated to take part in havdala recited on a cup of wine after prayers, men are additionally obligated to add the prayer, “Ata honantanu” in the beracha of “Ata Honen.” during the amida prayer in arbit on Saturday night.

If one forgot to recite “Ata Honantanu” in arbit, he does not repeat the amida, as he can rely on the havdala he recites over a cup of wine. In this case, one must ensure not to perform any melacha (activity that is forbidden on Shabbat) until havdala.

One who recited havdala before praying arbit nevertheless adds the prayer of “Ata Honantanu” in arbit.

3.   May one eat or drink before reciting or hearing havdala on wine?

One may not eat or drink anything except water on Saturday night until he concludes havdala. The Kaf Hahaim cites the ruling of the Arizal that one should even refrain from drinking water.

If one had begun eating se’uda shelishit before Shabbat ended, he may continue the meal after dark and does not have to stop to recite havdala.

4.   May one perform melacha (work forbidden on Shabbat) before havdala?

It is preferable to refrain from doing any melacha prior to havdala. However, one may ask another Jew who has recited havdala to do a melachah for him. If one must perform melacha, after Shabbat is over but before havdala, then he/she should recite, “Baruch hamavdil ben kodesh lehol” and may then perform activity that is forbidden during Shabbat.

5.   How is Havdala on Wine Conducted?

On Moss’aei Shabbat, one must recite four berachot: “borei peri hagefen” on the wine, “borei minei/assei/assbei besamim” on a fragrant item, “borei me’ore ha’esh” on a candle, and “hamavdil ben kodesh lehol.”

It is proper to overfill the cup when pouring the wine as a sign of beracha. One should hold the cup in his right hand when reciting havdala, except when reciting the blessing on the besamim and on the candle.

It is preferable to sit during the recitation of havdala.

6.   Can one fulfill his obligation by hearing somebody else recite havdala?

One can fulfill his obligation by hearing another person’s recitation provided that he hears all the words. He must remain silent throughout the recitation and until the person who recited havdala finishes drinking the wine.

If one only heard the last blessing (“hamavdil”), then he has fulfilled his obligation for that beracha – assuming he heard all the words of the beracha – and he should recitethe blessings on the besamim and candle by himself.

7.   What items may be used for besamim?

It is preferable to use a hadas (myrtle branch) for havdala, especially the one which was used on Succot, if it is still fragrant. A fragrance that is used to neutralize odors, such as air sanitizers, cannot be used, but perfumes are suitable because they are used to produce a fragrance. One must ensure to recite the beracha on an actual item, and not just a fragrance. For example, one cannot recite the beracha on perfume or cologne sprayed on his hand unless the hand is wet from the spray. If the substance has dried, he may not recite the beracha over the fragrance on his hand.

If one does not have besamim, he nevertheless recites the rest of havdala.

One who cannot smell due to nasal congestion or another condition should not recite this blessing.

One should hold the besamim in his right hand while reciting the beracha.

8.   Which type of candle can be used for havdala?

It is preferable to use a candle that has two or more wicks, so that there is more light upon which to recite the beracha. If one does not have a candle with two wicks, two single candles can be used by joining the wicks together. If this is not feasible, one may use a single candle.

When reciting the beracha, one must be close enough to the candle so that the light emanating from the flame would be bright enough to discern between two different coins. It is customary to bend one’s fingers toward his palm and look at the end of his fingernails when reciting the beracha. The Or LeSion writes that this should be done before the beracha.

One cannot recite this beracha on an electric light bulb.

If one does not have a candle, he nevertheless recites the rest of havdala.

9.   If one recited havdala, can he repeat it for someone else?

Even though one has already fulfilled his obligation, he can recite havdala again for one who is unable to recite it. He must ensure to smell the besamim after the beracha in order that it should not be a beracha levatalah (a blessing recited in vain).

10.Are women included in the havdala obligation?

While women are exempt from reciting arbit and hence the “Ata honantanu” havdala prayer, women are obligated to either recite or hear havdala recited on a cup of wine.