03. Kiddush over Wine

https://ph.yhb.org.il/en/01-06-03/

The Sages instituted the recitation of kiddush over wine because it is the most dignified beverage, as it provides both nourishment and good cheer. They similarly instituted that a berakha be recited over a cup of wine at other joyful mitzvot, such as betrothal, weddings (when seven blessings – Sheva Berakhot – are recited), and brit mila. The special status of wine is also expressed in the fact that a special berakha was instituted for it. Before drinking most beverages, we recite the general berakha of She-hakol, and after finishing the drink we recite the short berakha aĥarona, Borei Nefashot. When it comes to wine, however, we recite Ha-gafen before drinking and Al Ha-gefen afterward. Another law gives expression to the special status of wine. Although its berakha is different from that of other drinks, reciting Ha-gafen over wine exempts the person drinking from making berakhot over any other drinks.

Ideally, in order to glorify the mitzva, kiddush should be made over a fine wine, one the person making kiddush really enjoys. If wine is unavailable, one should make kiddush over bread on Friday night and over an alcoholic beverage such as beer or vodka on Shabbat day. If no such drink is available, he may make kiddush over bread during the day as well.[2]

The recitation of kiddush over wine has profound significance. Generally, holiness comes to expression in the spiritual world in a somber and serious fashion, while in the material world, the evil inclinations toward lust, arrogance, and mockery are more evident. Therefore, gentile spiritual leaders often distance themselves from joy and jubilation, as they are likely to entice one toward despicable physical desires. This is not the case for Jews. We sanctify Shabbat with wine to express the holiness of Shabbat, which reveals itself in both the spiritual and material worlds. Joy and jubilation, when properly directed, can be our true partners in revealing holiness in the world. This is the point of Shabbat – to reveal holiness through Torah study as well as festive meals, through prayer as well as kiddush over wine. This accords with the statement of the Sages: “One who recites kiddush over wine on Friday night is granted long life in this world and in the World to Come” (Pirkei De-Rabbi Eliezer 19).


[2]. The poskim disagree about whether one may make kiddush over ĥamar medina. Ĥamar medina, the “wine of the country,” is a respectable alcoholic beverage like liquor (see 8:4 below). According to Ri, when wine is unavailable one may make kiddush on ĥamar medina, while according to Rambam one should not. Similarly, there is a disagreement about using bread. Most poskim maintain that in the absence of wine one may make kiddush over bread, since, as the backbone of the meal, it is connected to the mitzvot of Shabbat. However, according to Rabbeinu Tam, even if there is no wine, one may not make kiddush over bread. The ruling of SA 272:9 (based on Rosh) is that one who has no wine should make kiddush on Friday night over bread, following the majority of poskim. However, on Shabbat morning, it is preferable to make kiddush over beer. Since there is no special berakha for the daytime kiddush, if one makes kiddush over bread it will not be clear that he is making kiddush at all, since he may well eat bread every day. Therefore it is better to use beer, and to recite “ha-motzi” over the bread afterward. In Europe, where wine was very expensive, many were lenient and made kiddush by day over beer. Only for the Torah-based kiddush of Friday night did they insist upon using wine (MB 272:29). Nowadays, however, when wine is readily available, one must make kiddush on wine both by night and by day. If one does make kiddush over bread, he must eat one olive’s bulk (kezayit) as part of kiddush and another kezayit as part of the meal (SSK 54:21).
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