Kislev 5762 – Women Saying Havdalah

1 Kislev 5762

L’chvod HaRav:

I have a question about havdalah. I learned that women are obligated in all the laws of Shabbos, such as Kiddush etc. Are women allowed to lead a group of people in saying havdalah since they are chayav in doing that also? I have a hunch that based on other rulings, women are technically allowed to lead havdalah, but should not.

Thanks for your answer.

Name & Seminary withheld

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Dear Name Withheld,

Thank you for your question. There is a dispute among our Rishonim whether or not women are obligated to recite Havdalah. It is quoted in the Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 296:8. The opinion of the Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 30:1) is that women are obligated, just as they are obligated in Kiddush (because of the juxtaposition of Zachor V’Shamor – which obligates women to recite Kiddush despite the fact that they are usually exempt from time bound Mitzvos), since both Kiddush and Havdalah are part and parcel of the one Mitzvah of “Zachor Ess Yom HaShabbos L’Kadsho”. The Mishnah Berurah quotes the dissenting opinion as that of the Rash MiShantz, who argues that since Havdalah is recited after Shabbos, it can not be considered part of the Mitzvah of Kiddush. Consequently, the usual exemption of women from time bound Mitzvos applies to Havdalah.

Therefore, it is not preferable for women to recite Havdalah even for themselves, since according to the second opinion it would be a Beracha L’Vatala. Although the Ashkenazic custom is for women to recite berachos over Mitzvos that they are exempt from, the Mogen Avraham explains that this is only regarding Berachos over Mitzvos that require an act, such as Shofar and Lulav. When the entire Mitzvah is the Beracha, as by Havdalah, one who is exempt from the Mitzvah should not recite it.

If there is no one to recite Havdalah for the woman, they may recite it for herself and fellow women (Mishnah Berurah 296:35). However, she most certainly may not say Havdalah on behalf of a man, since he is clearly obligated in this Mitzvah, and it is a doubt whether she is obligated at all. For one person to be “Motzi” another person in a Mitzvah, they must be obligated also. Additionally, if a man were to hear Havdalah in Shul and come home, he would not be permitted to say Havdalah for his wife and daughters, and may only do so if there is another male present (even a minor). Since he already fulfilled his obligation, and it is not clear that they are obligated, his Beracha could be a Beracha L’Vatala. In this case it is preferable that they make their own Havdalah.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler