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Thought for the Day: Masora and Halacha

The havadala in the sh'mone esrei of motzei Shabbos has an interesting status.  Havdala is really meant to be a ceremony to mark the end of Shabbos/onset of the week.  Havdala is a rabbinic innovation that was decreed to correspond to the Torah obligation of making kiddush that marks the onset of Shabbos.  As such, it is, l'chatchila, a bracha said over wine; the wine being a common accompaniment to our religious ceremonies that adds a measure of distinction to the event.

During one epoch in our history wine became prohibitively expensive and havdala became a burden on k'lal yisrael.  In response to that era, Chazal instituted an insertion into the bracha of "atah chonein l'adam da'as" in the ma'ariv of motzei shabbos as a substitute for the wine ceremony.  Once wine went down in price the wine ceremony with which we are all familiar was restored, but the insertion to t'fila was also retained.  As such, the insertion has an interesting status in halacha.  Generally speaking, since one is going to make the full havdala Saturday night, if one (accidentally) omitted "atah chonantanu" then he does not need to repeat his sh'mone esrei.  There are special cases, but that's the basic halacha.

What if someone either either accidentally or because of circumstances (ie, b'shogeig) -- but not due to lack of obligation --  did not daven ma'ariv motzei Shabbos?  That is a matter of some dispute and there are those who hold that he should say "atah chonantanu" in shacharis the next morning.  (Apparently even if he made havdala over wine that night.)  Suppose, however, one is patur from t'fila on motzei Shabbos; an onein, one involved with certain community matters, or a woman.  In that case, says Halichos Shlomo (chap 14, halacha 14, with discussion in d'var halacha 14), everyone agrees that one does not say "atah chonantanu" in shacharis the next morning.  What proof does the Halichos Shlomo offer that there is no machlokes in the case of patur from ma'ariv (as opposed to shogeig)?  It's logical (mistaber).  That's it; he simply says that it is logical that the whole discussion of whether one should say "atah chonantanu" at shacharis is only regarding someone who was obligated in ma'ariv, but not for someone who was patur in the first place.

What's the basis for such a statement?  I would like to say (and you are welcome to argue), that it is because we see no discussion among the poskim of any generation that a woman should say "atah chonantanu" in shacharis every Sunday morning.  Certainly if there was any basis at all, someone would have mentioned it!  Halacha is not only a matter of logical application of basic principles.  Halacha can only be decided in the context poskim throughout our history.


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