Question: [Thursday, 6th Nissan, 5782]
I was present by a Sephardic Havdala on Motzei Shabbos and was told that I need to sit in order to be Yotzei Havdalah. I responded to the individual that we are accustomed for the listeners to stand for Havdala and he said that this only applies if the person making Havdala will be saying it while standing, however according to Sephardic custom in which it is said sitting, then also the people listening to it must sit.
This is inaccurate. It is not necessary for you to sit during Havdala even if the person saying it does so in a sitting position. Even in such a case, you are Yotzei Havdalah even if you hear it while standing.
Explanation: There is a dispute amongst the Rishonim and Poskim regarding whether Havdala should be said in a standing or sitting position. The Michaber rules that is to be said in a sitting position in order to achieve Kevius while the Rama rules that it is to be said in a standing position out of respect for the King, and so is also the ruling of Admur in various areas of his Shulchan Aruch, that Havdala is to be said while standing. The general practice of Ashkenazi Jewry is like the position of the Rama, to stand while reciting Havdala, while the general practice of Sephardic Jewry is like the Michaber, to sit while reciting Havdala. There are however some exceptions, as stated in the Aruch Hashulchan that there were some Gedolei Yisrael [of Ashkenaz] who would recite it while sitting, and so is the ruling of the Gr”a. There are also some exceptions on the Sephardic side, as the Ben Ish Chaiy rules that have Havdala is to be said while standing. Whatever the case, each community is to follow the custom. Now let us tackle the issue that was raised above, as to what one is to do when hearing Havdala from a person who says it in a sitting position; may he remain standing as is his general custom, or in such a case we say that he must sit? The argument which would require him to sit in such a case is that the entire concept of sitting by Havdala is so it be in a form of Kevius, as one cannot be Yotzei a blessing from another unless the group is Kavua together, which is defined as sitting together. Thus, if the listener remains standing, he does not fulfill his obligation being that he has excluded himself from the Kevius. In truth however, those who are accustomed to stand during Havdala argue on this entire premises and rule that Kevius is only required by blessing said over a food for the sake of benefit and pleasure, and not when it is said over a mitzvah for the sake of being Motzi others. Hence, those who follow the Ashkenazi custom of standing for Havdala, may do so even if the person saying Havdala is Sephardi and is accustomed to sit, as according to his custom, he may fulfill his obligation even without Kevius. Accordingly, the above information that was told to the individual that since the person saying it is sitting he must also sit in order to fulfill his obligation, is not accurate.
Sources: Poskim who hold that it is to be said in a standing position: Admur 296:15; 473:9; Rama 296:6 based on the Igur and Agguda; Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeitzei 21; See Admur 213:5; 298:20; Poskim who hold that it is to be said in a sitting position: Michaber 296:6; Kaf Hachaim 296:39-41; Yechaveh Daas 4:26; This ruling is based on Tosafus and Moredchaiy which rule one is to sit in order so the blessing over the wine have a Kevius. [Kaf Hachaim 296:39-41; M”B 296:27] Gra in Shulchan Aruch ibid and in Maaseh Rav 150; Aruch Hashulchan 296:17 writes there are Gedolei Yisrael which recite it sitting. Kaf Hachaim [Falagi] 31:38 rules that based on kabala one is to sit while saying Havdalah. See regarding the general necessity of sitting for the sake of Kevius when being Yotzei a blessing from another over a food: Admur 213:1; Michaber 213:1; Tur 174; Rashi Brachos 43a; Tosafus Chulin 106b; See regarding that by a Mitzvah, such as Havdalah, Kevius is not necessary to be Yotzei: Admur 213:1 regarding Kiddush and Havdala; 213:5 regarding Haeish and Besamim; M”A 213:1; 273:13; Alef Lamagen 625:74; Kaf Hachaim 213:3