Repeating Havdalah for Others

We have several older neighbors in our building who ask me to make Havdalah for them. I try to have them come to us in time for Havdalah, but that doesn’t always work. If I’ve said Havdalah already, can I repeat it for them?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It’s nice that you help your neighbors, first of all. There is a principle in Jewish law that all Jews are responsible for one another. I have an obligation to see to it that other Jews properly observe the Torah. Because of this, I can repeat a mitzvah such as Havdalah to help another Jew perform it. Thus, although it would be best if they came to your house for your family’s Havdalah, if they missed it you could repeat it for them.

You didn’t specify if your neighbors are men or women. For a female neighbor, the law becomes a bit more complicated because there is a dispute in Jewish law if women are obligated in Havdalah. If they are not, I would not be able to repeat Havdalah for them. The reason is because although I have an obligation to help another Jew fulfill the mitzvot, perhaps Havdalah is not a mitzvah for women. And if not, I may not say the blessings an extra time to help one.

(Note that even if a woman is not obligated to do a mitzvah, in most cases she may still voluntarily do it. Thus, even according to the opinion that women are not obligated in Havdalah, a woman can still say it herself. It is just that a man may not say it an extra time for her.)

In practice, the accepted opinion is that women are obligated in Havdalah, and so, if a woman cannot say it, a man can repeat it for her. But because of the minority opinion that they are not, we try to avoid this situation. Thus, it would be best if she could come to you for your family’s Havdalah – or hear it together with another man who needs it. If that doesn’t happen, she should preferably make Havdalah herself. But if she is unable to, you may repeat it for her.

Note finally that in general, it is better for a woman to hear Havdalah (from a man who didn’t recite it already) than recite it herself because there is a custom that women do not drink Havdalah wine (although if she does have to make Havdalah she will need to drink the wine as well). There is also a minority opinion that not only are women not obligated in Havdalah, but they may not even voluntarily recite it. Finally, there is a question if women make the blessing on the fire. See this response for more details about women making Havdalah.

(Sources: Shulchan Aruch O.C. 296:8 with Rema, Magen Avraham 11, Mishna Berurah 35-6, The Radiance of Shabbos 19:II:3, footnote 13.)

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