Havdalah – Spilled Wine

I was watching a video about Shabbat and the rabbi mentioned a custom to spill some wine out before drinking it. Can you tell me the basis for this?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Most likely the rabbi was talking about Havdalah. There is a common custom to overfill the cup slightly so that it spills over. This is done as a sign of plenty – that we will have sustenance to spare for the coming week. (This shouldn’t be done excessively though, as it would waste wine.)

At the end of Havdalah, after finishing to drink, a little more wine is poured out to extinguish the candle. (Some just use the wine which already overflowed.) Some have the additional custom of dipping their fingers in the spilled wine and touching it to their eyes as a sign of love for the mitzvah and a sign of protection. Some also wet their fingers with the wine and touch it to their forehead and the insides of their pockets – as signs of plenty and protection.

If the video you saw was talking about spilling wine in general, there is a Kabbalistic concept of spilling out the first wine before drinking, because of negative spirits, but to my knowledge this is not in practice.

(Sources: Rema to Shulchan Aruch O.C. 296:1, Mishna Berurah 5, Shemirat Shabbat K’Hilchatah 60:40, footnote 150, Talmud Hullin 105b with Rashi.)

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