Halacha Date: 14 Av 5778 July 26 2018
Answer: In the previous Halacha we have explained that one may not eat anything once Shabbat has concluded until one recites Havdala on a cup of wine after which one may eat whatever one wishes. We have also explained that if one had already begun eating Seuda Shelishit and then the time of Shabbat’s conclusion has arrived (either sunset or halachic nightfall, as we have explained in the above Halacha), one need not pause one’s meal, pray Arvit, and recite Havdala on a cup of wine, for ending a meal being held in honor of Shabbat in this way is disrespectful of the Shabbat and the Poskim refer to this as “similar to chasing away the king.” Thus, if one is seated and eating a bread meal, one should not end the meal merely because Shabbat has concluded.
We must now discuss the question regarding whether or not one may drink water after sunset or after Shabbat has actually concluded. Is this permissible or is drinking forbidden just as eating in this regard and one may not drink anything until Havdala?
The Gemara (Pesachim 105a) recounts that Rav Huna once saw a great scholar drinking water before Havdala once Shabbat had already ended. He asked this man if he was not concerned about what Rabbi Akiva said that anyone who tastes anything before Havdala shall die of Askara? (As we have explained in the previous Halacha) The Gemara answers that this individual maintained that the Halacha followed the students of Rav Ashe who ruled that one need not be concerned about this matter when drinking water. Only eating is forbidden, but drinking water is not forbidden at all. The Rambam and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 299) rule that there is no prohibition to drink water before Havdala.
Based on this, according to the letter of the law, there is room to allow drinking water before Havdala as this is the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch whose rulings we have accepted. Nevertheless, there is an opinion of the Geonim in one of their responses that is even forbidden to drink water before Havdala and that the Halacha does not follow the opinion of the students of Rav Ashe. The Sefer Peri Etz Chaim and the Mekubalim likewise write that it is forbidden to drink water before Havdala.
Halachically speaking, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that although according to the letter of the law one may act leniently and drink water before Havdala, nevertheless, because this issue is a very serious one, one should try to act stringently and not drink even water before Havdala and one shall surely be blessed.