Monday, July 16, 2007

Bearded Women and Havdalah Wine

The woman to the right has obviously been sneaking the havdalah wine.

A while back, I posted about how at a sheva berachot, the person distributing the segulah wine assured another woman that no man had drunk from the glass. I gave several suggestions as to what were going through their minds, including some extension of harchakot of niddah, and then added, half-jokingly, that perhaps she was afraid that the segulah on the men's cup was to find a female mate, while the segulah on the women's cup was to find a male mate, and she wanted to make sure she did not end up in a same-sex relationship.

Well, a month or so later, I went to another sheva brachos, and a different woman was distributing the segulah wine. She brought it over to son of the guys, and they turned it down. She reassured them that it was the men's cup, such that they would not have to worry that the segulah would take place in the wrong direction. And she was serious. So it is quite possible that my half-joking suggestion was the real one.

They explained that they were still in college and were not looking to get married just yet, which is why they did not want to drink the segulah wine. :)

Another guy at the table, upon reassured that it was the men's wine, said that the segulah works through Hashem's control and Hashem knows what is what.

Anyhow, a short while back the subject of bearded ladies came up, and a girl I know said that she is safe from that because she doesn't drink any havdalah wine.


She was serious, by the way. Apparently, there is a belief -- and one that is believed nowadays by some frum people, that drinking havdalah wine gives you a beard, which is why women do not drink havdalah wine.

Apparently, though this was not brought up,
Another explanation is related to the story of Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge, which grew grapes to make wine.
A more halachically minded person at the table suggested that the origin of the custom for women not to drink havdalah wine was along the lines of this: there is a discussion whether the borei pri hagafen at havdalah is a birchat hanehenin or a birchat hamitzvah {or hoda'ah}, and furthermore there is a dispute whether women are obligated in havdalah. If they are not, perhaps the borei pri hagafen does not cover them, so they should not drink. In which case we enter into a case of a safek whether or not to drink. And so this custom developed, and from the custom came the superstitious explanation.

I've heard people say that drinking havdalah wine improves eyesight. This seems to stem from a gemara in Shabbat 113b, where the topic is Friday night kiddush:
Rabbi asked R. Ishmael son of R. Jose: Is it permitted to take great strides on the Sabbath? — Who then permitted it on weekdays? he replied; for I maintain that a long stride takes away a five hundredth part of a man's eyesight, and it is restored to him by the evening Kiddush.
There is also another belief that has cropped up, that when the girl holds up the havdalah candle, her chatan will be that high. That seems to stem from a desire to have the candle held up high, with a promise said with a smile to encourage it.

I have a possible explanation for the genesis of this belief, besides for the halachic argument. During the 9 days, there is an issue with drinking the havdalah wine since we generally do not drink wine in the 9 days when it is not Shabbat.

In fact, push comes to shove, it is allowed to drink the wine. However, the Rema cites the custom to give the havdalah wine to a child
who is not old enough to mourn but is old enough to require a beracha.
It is quite possible that when giving such wine to a child, an adult or two joked that it would give him facial hair.

Then, given the custom of women not drinking the havdalah wine, the practice merged with the joke, perhaps even as a joke or extension of a joke -- that women couldn't drink lest they grow the facial hair. And the rationalization about Chava is another explanation which cropped up to explain the custom.

Or not. I have no real basis for claiming this. But I think it is plausible, and can see this belief developing in such a vector, even if not specifically this one.


Reuven said...

עי' שו"ת הר צבי או"ח סי' קי"ד

joshwaxman said...

I'm not sure what you mean to convey by this comment. That teshuva seems to be about Baruch Shepatrani of a bar mitzvah boy, where we don't know that he brought forth two hairs.
What does that have to do with beards and havdalah wine. (I can see a tenuous connection to children who we might grow beards.)

Would you care to elaborate?

Reuven said...

sorry קנ"ד

joshwaxman said...

ופרש"י: ליתביה לינוקא לשתותו לאחר שיברך עליו דהאי שיטעום דקאמר לאו דוקא קאמר אמברך דה"ה כי שתי אחרינא דטעמא משום דגנאי הוא לכוס של ברכה שלא יהנה אדם לאלתר שתהא ברכת היין דבורא פרי הגפן שלא לצורך, ומכי טעם לי' אחרינא שפיר דמי, עכ"ל. ויעוין שם בחדושי הרש"ש].

ועפ"י הנ"ל אמר שארי הגאון הגרא"ז מלצר זצ"ל לתת טעם גם מבחינת הלכה על זה שנהגו הנשים שלא לטעום מהיין של כוס ההבדלה (המג"א בסימן רצו ס"ק ד כתב ע"ז לעיין הטעם בשל"ה) משום דאנו חוששים דשמא הלכה כשיטת האומרים דנשים פטורות מהבדלה, ולשיטה זו האמן שהיא עושה על ברכת האור וההבדלה הוי הפסק בין בורא פרי הגפן שיוצאת מפי הבעל לשתייה, ויש לעיין קצת בזה דהרי סוף כל סוף היא חייבת להבדיל מספק, וגם חיוב מספק הוי חיוב ותו לא הוי הפסק. שו"ת הר צבי או"ח א סימן קנד

Ah. That because perhaps women are not chayav in havdalah, the Amen is a hefsek and the cannot drink; but the fact is that they are obligatd misafek, and so it should not be a hefsek.


the chocolate doctor מרת שאקאלאד said...

Well, I don't know the origin of the belief, but this was one of the first things I ever knew about havdala. I have also observed that in my grandparents' generation, even folks who had become completely secular since coming to America displayed real alarm when a girl drank the havdala wine. Shrugging off the strictures of orthopraxis is one thing, but no havdala wine for girls--that stays with you for evah.


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