I make my own Havdalah (“separation” the ceremony at termination of Shabbat and holidays). As a woman, is it forbidden for me to drink the wine? If so, what is the reason?
Answer: It is customary that women do not drink from the wine of Havdalah but fulfill their obligation of Havdalah through a man’s Havdalah. Nevertheless if women make their own Havdalah they must drink the wine. The great Mekubal Rabbi Meir ibn Gabbai Z”L writes in his book Tolaat Yaakov, in the section regarding the secret of Motzaei Shabbat, “and you already know what our sages said regarding the secret of the tree of which Adam had sinned with, that it was a grapevine. And they said it teaches us that she (Eve) squeezed grapes and gave him. These are the degenerate wild vine… Compared to this the woman received the periodic blood… Because she intended to separate from Adam through wine, women do not taste the wine of Havdalah”. The Shlah quotes the Tolaat Yaakov, the Tosefet Shabbat quotes the Shlah in short and the Magen Avraham notes to see the reason in the Shlah. Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank ZT”L quotes in his Responsa “Har Tzvi” his relative Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer ZT”L who gives a reason from the aspect of Halacha for the custom of women not drinking from the wine of Havdalah. We are concerned that perhaps the Halacha is like the opinion that women are exempt from Havdalah. And according to this opinion the Amen she says after the blessings of the fire and of the Havdalah are an interruption between the Bore Pri Hagafen that came out of the husband’s mouth to the drinking. Rabbi Frank comments on this that she is still obligated to make Havdalah because of the doubt and an obligation out of doubt is also an obligation, so there is no interruption. It is however important to note that the Aruch Hashulchan says that it is not a law but a general custom which was not accepted by all. Similarly, the Shevet Halevi writes that it is a general stringency that does not overpower something that is from the letter of the law. (תולעת יעקב מהדורת ווארשא תר"ן עמ' ל: "סוד מוצאי שבת", של"ה ח"א דף קב: במסכת שבת סוף פרק תורה אור, ובתו"ש ס"ק ה מביא הטעם בקיצור, מ"ב רצו ס"ק ו ממ"א שם ס"ק ד ומציין לעיין הטעם בשל"ה, ערוה"ש רצו סעיף ה, הר צבי או"ח סו"ס קנד, שבה"ל ח"ד סימן נד אות ז, שש"כ פרק ס סעיף לח).