Question: One Motza’ei Shabbat when we were on vacation in the summer, we were not able to procure Besamim (a fragrant object) and a candle. Is it permissible to recite the order of Havdala without Besamim and a candle?
Answer: This law is discussed by the Gemara (Berachot 53a): “Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: One need not search for a candle on Motza’ei Shabbat the way one search for other Mitzvot.” This means that if one does not have a candle for Havdala, one need not go and look for a candle; rather, one may recite Havdala immediately without reciting the blessing on the candle.
The Gemara therefore clearly dictates the law regarding the Havdala candles. We must still discuss the law regarding Besamim. May one recite Havdala without reciting the blessing on the fragrant object?
The Rashba in his commentary quotes the Ra’avad who comments on the Gemara regarding not having to search for a candle on Motza’ei Shabbat, “This is certainly the case regarding searching for Besamim, for this is only for one’s own personal benefit.” This means that the Ra’avad maintained that if the Gemara states that one need not search for fire on Motza’ei Shabbat and the blessing of “Me’orei Ha’esh” is completely a blessing of praise to Hashem, certainly one need not search for Besamim if one does not have it on Motza’ei Shabbat, for this is a blessing for one’s own enjoyment. If a blessing praising Hashem is not compulsory on Motza’ei Shabbat, certainly the blessing upon Besamim on Motza’ei Shabbat is not compulsory for one who does not have it.
On the other hand, the Meiri writes that it seems to him that only with regards to fire did our Sages not obligate one to go and search for it in order to make a blessing on it; however, one must search for Besamim to recite a blessing on during Havdala since the Besamim is taken in honor of Shabbat as it is well-known that the reason why we recite the blessing on Besamim on Motza’ei Shabbat is because upon the conclusion of Shabbat, the extra soul every Jew receives on Shabbat departs and in order to comfort the regular soul, we smell fragrant objects. Thus, writes the Meiri, even one who does not have Besamim must go and actively search for Besamim to recite the blessing on during Havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat.
Therefore, this issue is subject to a disagreement between the Ra’avad and Meiri. Halachically speaking, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 297) rules that one need not actively search for either a candle or Besamim on Motza’ei Shabbat, in accordance with the Ra’avad’s opinion.
Thus, if one does not have Besamim or a candle on Motza’ei Shabbat, one should recite Havdala without these items and one need not go out and actively search for a candle or Besamim to recite a blessing on. Nevertheless, one should preferably take care to have Besamim and a candle for Motza’ei Shabbat. Once, after spending Shabbat with Maran zt”l, there was no Besamim for Havdala. He then requested a lemon and he recited the blessing of “Ha’Noten Re’ach Tov Ba’Perot” on it. Another time, he recited the blessing on a bottle of perfume. We see how Maran zt”l would not give up easily on the blessing of Besamim on Motza’ei Shabbat.