Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Wine of the Country

It seems to be a stable tradition across denominations to make Kiddush and Havdalah (if said) on a glass of wine. But - what if you don't have wine to make Kiddush of Havdalah on - is it permissible to recite these passages over other beverages?

First off, regarding the Friday night (and Yom Tov night) Kiddush, if one does not have wine, it is preferable to make Kiddush over the Challah, as opposed to substituting another drink. Additonally, the simple reading of the Shulchan Aruch (272:7) tells us that red wine is preferable, although the Mishna Berurah (272: s.k.10) says that a preferred white wine takes precedence over a lesser-preferred red wine. That being said, what about using other beverages for Shabbos morning Kiddush and Havdalah?

The Rambam says explicitly that other drinks can be used for Havdalah but not for Kiddush, assuming the drink is "Chamar Medinah", or literally, "wine of the state/country". The Rosh adds that Chamar Medinah can also be used for Kiddush, and it seems that the prevailing minhag is to permit use of Chamar Medinah drinks. It should be noted, however, that according to most opinions, if one has wine, it is preferable over all drinks (MA, 272:6; see, however, the Chayei Adam, Hilchos Shabbos, 6:18 and Mishna Berurah that say if Schnopps is preferable to you, it may take precedence over the wine l'chatchila).

The Rashbam (Pesachim 107a, s.v. Chamar) says that water cannot be ever considered Chamar Medinah and the Shulchan Aruch codifies this when discussing both the laws pertaining to Havdalah and Kiddush. As I see it, the question that needs to be answered is WHY the Rashbam said that water can never be considered Chamar Medinah. Based on different answers from a variety of Achronim and contemporaries, we have a wide range of drinks that could be permitted - depending on who you ask:

  • It seems that according to the Chida (cited in MB, 296:10) water cannot be used because Chamar Medinah requires an alcoholic beverage, similar to wine. This is the opinion of R’ Ovadya Yosef and R’ Yosef Dov Soloveitchik.
  • However, the Aruch haShulchan (272:14) says that many gedolim made Havdalah over tea or milk in certain circumstances. Thus, the AHS seems not to require an alcoholic beverage, and Tzitz Eliezer permits relying on this leniency when necessary. While the logic for this isn’t explicit, perhaps it is in line with….
  • R’ Moshe Feinstein, who adds to the Mishna Berurah’s criteria (who says Chamar Medinah is a beverage that is prevalent in the locale and would be served to esteemed guests) that in addition to being served to esteemed guests, it must be a drink that isn’t served to quench one’s thirst. Clearly this is in line with the Shulchan Aruch who says that water can never be considered Chamar Medinah, as water is usually drank to quench thirst. Accordingly, he permits tea, coffee, and milk, in extenuating circumstances. Clearly R’ Moshe would permit beer and whisky on the grounds that it isn’t served to quench thirst.

However, there is room for discussion within R’ Moshe’s definition, as one could argue certain drinks are served to quench thirst, while others may say that those same drinks are not used to quench thirst. The following is a list (some of which have been previously mentioned) of drinks that are permitted according to various authorities – I would imagine that they permit them on the grounds that, like R’ Moshe says, they are not used to quench thirst:

  • Milk (AHS, 272:14, Igros Moshe OC II #75, Tzitz Eliezer 14:42, Yechaveh Daas #35; however, see MB 296:6 who says that in Germany it should not used)
  • Orange Juice (in speeches from R’ Moshe and Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg; however the Debetziner Rav, R' Moshe Stern disagrees)
  • Apple Juice (in speech from Rav CP Scheinberg)
  • Soda (in speech from Rav CP Scheinberg; however, see Igros Moshe OC II #75 who disagrees)
  • Tea (AHS 272:14, Igros Moshe OC II #75, Tzitz Eliezer VIII # 17 and XIV #42, Rav CP Sheinberg; see however, the Ketzos haShulchan 96 and Badei haShulchan #8 who disagree)
  • Coffee (same as for tea)

As a final note, beer and whisky are considered Chamar Medinah according to everyone. However, it should be noted that the MB isn’t a huge fan of making on whisky as according to many, you need to drink a shiur revi’is, something which is hard to do (and nauseating to think about) with liquor. Some, however, are lenient relying on the Taz and the Maharsham who say that the shiur revi'is is different by liquor than by other drinks - and therefore permit making Kiddush on a shot glass. At the end of the day, though, according to most, if you have wine you are required to use it over any of the aforementioned beverages.


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