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Thought for the Day: When You Forget Havdala At First Cup Seder Night Motzai Shabbos

Everyone loves halacha that isn't l'ma'aseh.  You feel accomplished, but it doesn't require any lifestyle changes.  Eisav, for example, inquired into ma'aser for salt and straw for that reason.  Eisav, of course, was also trying to fool his father Yitzchak Avinu.  Yitzchak, of course, understood Eisav's intentions clearly, but encouraged him in hopes of igniting a spark.  You can lead a yisrael mumar to Torah, but you can't make him drink.

In any case, Siman 473 discusses the first cup of the four cups at the seder.  In that siman, the Shulchan Aruch notes the order of events when the first night of Pesach occurs on motzai Shabbos.  The issue is, of course, that both kiddush and havdalah have to happen with that first cup.  The basic order is YaK'N'HaZ -- Yayin (bracha of borei pri hagafen), Kiddush (right, borei pri hagafen is necessary for the kiddush ceremony, but technically kiddush is the bracha that ends "m'kadesh yisrael v'hazmanim), Neir (borei m'orei ha'eish), Havdala (again, not the ceremony, but the bracha then ends "ha'mavdil bein kodesh l'kodesh" on Yom Tov after Shabbos), Z'man (aka sh'he'chi'yanu).  So far, so good.  Then the the Shulchan Aruch notes what to do if you forget havdala.

I'm pretty sure that since we've had coffee that is good to the last drop, no one has forgotten havdala at the seder; no one who is chayiv in mitvos, anyway. Even so, it touches on some interesting issues; the most important for us ashkenazim is that havdalah requires a cup of wine, but the seder requires exactly four obligatory cups; no more no less.  You can drink more, but only if it is obvious that you are drinking because you are thirsty and not because you are fulfilling a halachik obligation.  Us Type A (ashkenazi, that is) Jews make another borei pri ha'gafen for each cup.  Havdala requires a cup also, so if you forget the bracha of ha'mavdil till after the first cup, you'll need another cup, but since you weren't planning to drink till the second cup and therefore you have taken your mind of drinking, you would now require another borei pri ha'gafen, which now looks like you are adding onto the obligatory four cups, aka arba kohsos (no more, no less), which is bad; very bad.  The Shulchan Aruch therefore decrees that you must wait for the second cup and try your luck again.

There are, however, two bits of advice that could help.  One depends on planning (but if you plan that well, you probably won't forget), the other depends on dumb luck (and is quite cool, actually).  The first is to have in mind that if you forget to do something that you are supposed to do (reclining or saying havdala), then you have intent to drink again.  It's a good idea to do that, actually, and I announce that (to much eye rolling) every year.  No one forgets to recline, though.

The dumb luck advice goes like this:  Suppose you are still in the middle of drinking that first cup when you suddenly remember that you forgot to say havdala.  Says the Kaf haChaim, you can stop drinking, refill your cup, make the bracha of ha'mavdil and finish the cup unreclined.  Since you never took your mind off the drinking, even us Type A Jews do not need to make another borei pri ha'gafen; that, and saying ha'mavdil and drinking unreclined all add up to not giving even the appearance of adding onto the requisite arba kosos.  It almost makes you want to forget havdala just so you can say, nonchalantly, "Oh, this?  It's a Kaf haChaim; you like?"

By the way, YaK'N'HaZ sounds enough like "יעגער האָז"/yeger haz, which means "rabbit hunter" in Yiddish.  (Ok, ok, technically it means a hare who is a hunter, but close enough.)  For that reason there are many hagados from the middle ages that are decorated with rabbit hunting scenes.  That makes me wonder if that's the source for the Energizer Bunny and his evil cousin (the avoda zara rabbit).

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