משה אברמן
Rav Moshe Aberman
Former Rosh Kollel in Chicago

 

In some of our past articles we have written about reciting kidush and havdalah with wine. What should the halachah be when wine is unavailable or when one may not drink wine. It should be noted that though this problem is not as acute as it was in the past, when many people could, simply, not afford to buy wine, it is still a very relevant question. People who travel may find themselves without any kosher wine while others may not drink wine for medical reasons.

Before we proceed, we must make it very clear that wine is preferable to any other liquid or food for the purpose of kidush or havdalah. Only when wine is not an option may we use other substances. (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 272/13-14 for a discussion on why certain rabbis in the past used beer or other drinks and why that would not apply to us today.) It should also be clear that for the matter of this discussion grape juice is the equivalent of wine and should be given preference over other liquids.

The Gemara in Pesachim (107 a) discusses the use of beer in place of wine. Amongst the commentaries we find varied opinions on how to understand the Gemara’s conclusion. Though the Shulchan Aruch (OC 272/9) brings several opinions, he leans toward the opinion of the Rosh, and the Rama notes that the accepted custom is to follow the opinion of the Rosh. The Rosh distinguishes between the kidush recited at night and that of the morning. At night the kidush contains the Birkat Ha’Kidush which makes a clear statement that kidush is being recited. Therefore, kidush should be recited on the challah as it is a food of importance according to halachah. (One should wash hands then recite the kidush replacing the berachah of Geffen with Hamotzi.) During the day when there is no special berachah of kidush, only a Birkat Nehenim, reciting Hamotzi would not constitute a statement to the uniqueness of the day, since it is what would ordinarily be done before eating bread. Therefore, we commence with a Birkat Hanehenim on a drink, as we would with wine, to note that this day is different from other days.

The liquid used for this kidush should be one that is categorized as Hemar Medina. Hemar Medina is a liquid, which is commonly drunk when one does not want to suffice with water. Rav Moshe Feinstein notes that it should be a drink that is drunk commonly as a social drink regardless of thirst. The liquid most commonly referred to as Hemar Medina is beer. Another grouping of drink that might fall into this category are other forms of liquor. Some poskim raised reservations to the use of liquor since it is not very commonly drunk. For better or for worse today in most of the western world alcoholic beverages are very commonly used. Another reservation raised by some poskim is that since one should ideally drink a majority of a revi’it (depending on different halachic views 45-76 ml. or 1.5 -2.4 oz.) at once and many people may not be able to do so with liquor. (See Mishna Berurah 296 note 9) Still, most poskim today feel that liquor does constitute a Hemar Medina. (If liquor is used the cup should contain at least a revit, 86- 150 ml. and most of it should be drunk by the person who recites the kidush.)

Water may not be used and most authorities are of the opinion that fruit juices and carbonated beverages are categorized in halachah as water. More problematic are drinks such as coffee, tea and milk. Rav Feinstein (Igrot Moshe OC vol.2/75) feels that these beverages should ideally not be used as a replacement for wine but if no other drinks, that constitute Hemar Medina, are available these too may be used. (A similar opinion is found in the Tzitz Eliezer vol.8/16 and vol/ 14/42)

For havdala, bread may not be used in place of wine since havdala is not recited as part of a meal like kidush. The one exception is when Yom Tov falls on Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night) and the havdalah is recited with the kidush as part of the meal. Hemar Medina may be used for havdalah as in the Shabbat morning kidush. (The Shulchan Aruch is clear on this point and does not hesitate as he does in kidush) While Rav Feinstein is more open to the use of coffee, tea and milk, when necessary, for Havdala then he is for kidush, Rav Ovadya Yosef is more strongly opposed to their use for havdalah. In both Yechave Daat (vol/2/38) and Ybia Omer (vol. 3/OC19) he states that coffee, tea, and milk should not be used for havdalah and if used the beracha of havdala is considered a Beracha Levatala, a beracha said in vain. (While in Yabia Omer he is clear on this point, in Yechave Daat he concludes only that it may constitute a Beracha Levatalah.)