This year, 5777, Purim will fall out on Motza’ei Shabbat (besides for in Jerusalem where Purim is celebrated on the following day). The question arises: When does one recite Havdala on a cup of wine, before the reading of the Megillah or after? Similarly, should one wait until after the time of “Rabbeinu Tam” to read the Megillah?
Answer: When Purim falls out on Motza’ei Shabbat, the congregation recites “Vihi No’am” until “Ve’Ata Kadosh” at which point the Megillah is read. However, Havdala should not be recited upon a cup of wine before the reading of the Megillah, for we wish to delay the ending of Shabbat through Havdala as much as possible. This is indeed the opinion of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch as well as the Rama that the Megillah should be read first and only following this is Havdala recited upon a cup of wine.
Nevertheless, regarding the blessing of “Boreh Me’orei Ha’esh”, the Kol Bo writes that one should recite this blessing before Megillah reading, for this blessing was instituted as a result of the creation of fire in the world. Since at the time one is reading the Megillah, one benefits from the light of the fire that Hashem created, it is only fitting to recite the blessing of “Boreh Me’orei Ha’esh” on the light of the fire and only then read the Megillah. Rabbeinu Avraham Av Bet Din, author of Sefer Ha’Eshkol, writes similarly: “One who reads the Megillah using candlelight and fills his eyes with the light and benefits from the light from the beginning of the Megillah reading until the end and only afterwards recites ‘Boreh Me’orei Ha’esh’ is not correct in doing so.” His words are clearly in accordance with the opinion of the Kol Bo that one should first recite the blessing of “Boreh Me’orei Ha’esh” and only then read the Megillah. Many Poskim rule likewise, including Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l in his Chazon Ovadia, that “Boreh Me’orei Ha’esh” should be recited before Megillah reading.
We have already discussed in the past the importance of abstaining from performing works forbidden on Shabbat on Motza’ei Shabbat until the time of “Rabbeinu Tam” which is seventy-two seasonal minutes after sunset, since according to many Poskim, among them Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, Shabbat does not end until this time. Although according to the Geonim Shabbat indeed ends earlier than this, like the times printed in most calendars, nevertheless, it is proper for any G-d- fearing person to wait for the end of Shabbat according to Rabbeinu Tam, for performing forbidden works on Shabbat is a Torah prohibition punishable by stoning. One should therefore make a conscious effort to be stringent regarding this matter.
However, on Motza’ei Shabbat of Purim, it is not necessary to make the entire congregation wait until the time of Rabbeinu Tam to hear Megillah reading, for Megillah reading itself is not a forbidden work that should be abstained from until the time of Rabbeinu Tam. Therefore, it is correct to read the Megillah for the congregation immediately following the Amida of the Arvit prayer. Since, as we have mentioned above, the “Boreh Me’orei Ha’esh” blessing must be recited before Megillah reading, it is proper to ask one of the young boys in the synagogue to light the Havdala candle so that the congregation can consequently recite the blessing upon it.
Indeed, the custom of Maran zt”l was that on every Motza’ei Shabbat, he would recite Havdala in his synagogue before the time of Rabbeinu Tam and a young boy would light the Havdala candle for him which Maran would use to recite the “Boreh Me’orei Ha’esh” blessing on.
Summary: The Megillah should be read immediately upon the conclusion of Shabbat and one should not wait for the time of Rabbeinu Tam to read the Megillah. Havdala upon a cup of wine should be recited only after the Megillah has been read, after the “Alenu Le’Shabeach” prayer. Nevertheless, one should recite the blessing of “Boreh Me’orei Ha’esh” before reading the Megillah; however, since the time of Rabbeinu Tam will not yet have arrived, a young boy should light the Havdala candle for the congregation to bless on. Upon reciting Havdala following the Arvit prayer, the “Boreh Me’orei Ha’esh” blessing should be omitted since the congregation has already recited it previously. If there are those present during Havdala who were not in the synagogue when the “Boreh Me’orei Ha’esh” blessing was recited, the individual reciting Havdala should be silent and these individuals should recite this blessing on their own, after which the one reciting Havdala should continue as usual.