Kiddush on Liquor

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Although wine is always to be preferred[1] over all other drinks upon which to recite kiddush or havdalla, it is not always the only option. While it is true that the nighttime kiddush may only be recited upon wine, or in an emergency, upon bread,[2] the daytime kiddush may be recited upon beer, scotch, and other liquor type drinks should one prefer their taste.[3] There were, in fact, a number of our sages who did so.[4] The halacha is more lenient with regards to the daytime kiddush as it is rabbinical in nature, while the Friday night kiddush is Biblical in nature.[5]

The reason that a number of alternate beverages may be used for sacramental purposes is because they fall under the category of what is referred to as “chamar medina”, which translates as “a national drink”. Drinks which fall under the category of chamar medina are generally defined as distinctive beverages worthy of being served to guests.[6] It must also be a beverage that one drinks simply to enjoy its taste and even when not thirsty.[7] Among the more common drinks classified as chamar medina are: beer,[8] whiskey,[9] liquor, cognac,[10] tea, coffee,[11] and fruit juice.[12] One may also use chamar medina for havdalla,[13] as well as for the four cups of “wine” at the Pesach seder,[14] when absolutely necessary. Under extenuating circumstances, there is also a view that for the daytime kiddush one may even use a beverage which does not truly qualify as a chamar medina.[15]

While a superficial review of the laws of kiddush would lead one to conclude that one who recites kiddush upon whiskey and the like should be required to quickly drink a revi’it (approximately 4 oz.), just as is the case with wine, there are authorities who insist that this is not necessarily so. These authorities reason that such a relatively large quantity is not required when using whiskey for kiddush because it is simply not the normal manner or quantity in which one normally drinks such beverages.[16] These highly alcoholic beverages are normally enjoyed 1-2 oz. at a time and served in what are known as “shot glasses”. Since this is the normal manner in which these drinks are consumed, one would be permitted to recite the Shabbat day kiddush upon them in this way.[17] In fact, one who treats a shot of whiskey as if it were a kiddush-sized serving of wine may be required to recite a “borei nefashot” after drinking even this small amount.[18]

Nevertheless, there are other authorities who only permit reciting kiddush upon whiskey type drinks on condition that one consumes the same quantity of the beverage as is customary with wine. According to this view, when making kiddush on whiskey, it would not be adequate to merely use a “shot glass”, but rather one must ensure that it is a glass that holds at least 4 oz of fluid. So too, one would be required to consume a minimum of a complete “cheekful” of the drink.[19]

Some suggest that the practice of reciting kiddush over a shot of alcohol evolved due to the scarcity and expense of wine in certain parts of Europe.[20] Since the situation has changed, many authorities assert that we should revert to the practice of making kiddush exclusively upon wine.[21] Nevertheless, the custom of using chamar medina for kiddush is a strong one, not likely to ever disappear.

See here for R’ Gil’s perspective: http://torahmusings.com/2009/10/kiddush-on-liquor/


1 Mishna Berura 272:30, Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 272:13, Rema O.C. 182:2, Aruch Hashulchan 182:4, 272:14

2 O.C. 272:9;Rema. However, when even bread is unavailable one may use chamar medina for the Friday night kiddush, as well. Kaf Hachaim 272:50

3 Mishna Berura 272:27

4 Pesachim 107a

5 Mishna Berura 289:3

6 Igrot Moshe 2:75

7 Igrot Moshe 2:75. For more opinions on which drinks can be classified as chamar medina see: Magen Avraham 182:, 272:6, Halachot Ketanot 1:9, Rivevot Ephraim 7:103, Teshuvot V’hanhagot 4:77

8 O.C. 272:9, Be’er Heitev 296:7, Mishna Berura 296:12, Ohr L’tzion 2:20:19

9 Magen Avraham 272:6, Mishna Berura 296:12, Be’er Moshe 6:54

10 Minchat Yitzchak 10:22

11 Tzitz Eliezer 14:42

12 Aruch Hashulchan 272:14

13 O.C. 296:2

14 Mishna Berura 472:37

15 Nachalat Shiva 2:35

16 See Taz O.C. 190 & 210:1

17 Maharsham 1:175, Minchat Yitzchak 10:22

18 Har Tzvi O.C. 159

19 Mishna Berura 272:30

20 Mishna Berura 272:29

21 Shevet Halevi 5:32

 

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com

34 comments

  1. If I’m not mistaken, R’ Chaim Volozhiner was strongly against the minhag to make kiddusha rabba on liquor – he held that liquor is an ochel, not a mashkeh. (Because, like soup, it doesn’t quench thirst) There are several other poskim who hold this way as well. You’re normally quite comprehensive – I’m surprised you left this whole wrinkle out.

  2. Yehuda-

    Interesting. Never heard it. But does wine quench thirst more than soup?

    Please send more details if you find any.

    Ari Enkin

  3. “one who recites kiddush upon whiskey and the like should be required to quickly drink a revi’it (approximately 4 oz.), just as is the case with wine”

    R’ Enkin –why a revi’it and not a ‘malei lugmav’? We are talking about drinking, not the size of the glass. please clarify as I must be missing something. thank you

  4. Shmuel–

    Good catch! I should have wrote it as you said.

    Ari Enkin

  5. Let me start by praising Rabbi Ari Enkin for producing another excellent Torah article.

    Regardless of the Halachic technicalities relevant to this issue, I would stop kiddush on liquor if I were able to, because I believe it is a bad spiritual influence and also because some Jews have health problems that make drinking liquor on an empty stomach almost suidicidal. Real men drink grape juice for kiddush.

    Last but not least, I would like to see Torah Musings release an article about the growing problem of nivul peh. Thank you.

  6. Rabbi Enkin,

    A very nice summary of the issues surrund kiddusch on beverages other than wine. The issue of kiddush on scotch has always bothered me. Fortunately it seems to be less common here in Israel, but seems to be the norm in parts of North America.

    In addition to the issues that you raised there is also a question of Brachot – if there is HaGefen and Mezonot on the table, how can you start a meal with Shehakol?

    Also, if there is wine on the table (or elsewhere in the house) can one still rely on Chma Medina?

    With regard to the Shiur, would the Taz hold that you need a full shot-glass to make kiddush, or could you use the amount that would fill a shot glass in a larger cup (e.g. a 20 mg in a regular plastic drinking cup).

    Also, in Israel would Scotch still be considered Chama Mediana? People here don’t drink scotch or hard liquor as much as they do in North America. I have attended many smachot here where there was no hard liquor served. Even if there are people who are lenient with scotch for kiddush in the US, not sure that it would apply in Israel.

  7. Rav Michael Sedly, shalom!

    RE: if there is HaGefen and Mezonot on the table, how can you start a meal with Shehakol?

    Indeed, I have seen in sefarim that the mezonot should be covered in such a case.

    Re: if there is wine on the table (or elsewhere in the house) can one still rely on Chma Medina?

    The original heter to use chamar medina was because people didnt have wine or couldnt afford it. So, indeed, if you have wine it should truly be used. Nevertheless, the poskim do permit those “who prefer” the chamar medina to use it even when one has wine. Perhaps a kula-within-a-kula. Its not completely clear.

    RE: With regard to the Shiur, would the Taz hold that you need a full shot-glass to make kiddush, or could you use the amount that would fill a shot glass in a larger cup (e.g. a 20 mg in a regular plastic drinking cup).

    Everyone seems to agree that whatever size cup you use — it must be filled to the top.

    RE: Also, in Israel would Scotch still be considered Chama Mediana? People here don’t drink scotch or hard liquor as much as they do in North America.

    Youre hanging out in the wrong crowds. 😉

    Ari Enkin

  8. Mezonot comes before HaGafen, so starting with scotch or wine would make no difference, the problem is the same. Though the whole Kedima would seem to be irrelevant here because Kiddush has to come first, the reason we need to cover Challah is Bushaso, not a Kedima issue.
    Regarding the ammount, I always thought there was no Machlokes with Kiddush directly, rather simply an extraction of the Macholkes of the Taz and MA regarding a shot glass of liquor, and whether it requires a Borei Nefashos. i.e. whatever the shiur is for borei nefashos will also be the shiur for kiddush. (the article seems to make a reverse argument)

  9. Dov-

    The sefarim speak about kedima too, not just boshaso.

    I believe that issue about shot glasses and kiddush is completely independent and unrelated to the issue of borei nefashos. The simply coincidentally connect regarding what to do about a bracha achrona.

    Ari Enkin

  10. I believe Dov is correct, that the Taz speaks only about bracha acharona on a small amount of whiskey, and the later acharonim like the Maharsham extend his reasoning to kiddush as well. The entire kula by kiddush is dependant on the Taz’s psak in bracha acharona.

  11. There can be no issue of Kedima. Kedima is only when i want to eat two foods and the question is which to start with. Kiddush must come before the meal, so there is no question that there is no chiyuv to be makdim the bread or mezonos. The issue is why dont we make Kiddush on Challah? And to alleviate the embarrassment that it is not chosen for kiddush we cover it. (along with the reason that it should be like the Man which was covered, and it should be clear that the meal is coming for Shabbat, especially in earlier times when they would bring the table with the food after kiddush)
    Regarding the Shiur, the Har Tzvi clearly ties the two together. It also seems logical, the shiur of Revi’is is simply the amount which is considered Shtiah. If for Bracha Achrona liquor has the same din as other liquids why would kiddush be different? But once the Taz says that for liquor Shtiah is less than Revi’is, it follows for kiddush the same din would apply.

  12. Besides if Kedima would be an issue, it would be an issue with wine as well.

  13. 1) I’ve always objected to beer being considered a chamar medina. In American culture, beer is a low culture drink by and large. It’s what crazy football fans have and what’s drunk in your average bar. Most beer commercials (not usually very tznius) would lead me to think that beer is the last drink in the world that should be considered appropriate for kiddush.

    2) The arguments against Coke being a chamar medinah should be reconsidered. It certainly is “America’s drink” and is “classic.” (Again, commercials are illustrative.) I know Rav Moshe is not in favior of using Coke, but I think the issue should be reconsidered.

  14. R Enkin,
    I think you have done the readers of this blog a tremendous disservice by posting this article. The rationales given for the permissibility to use chamar medina when wine is matzuy are extremely weak. Even Rav Vozner who you cite only says it “bderech efshar.” A prominent YU rosh yeshiva told me that if i am eating at someones house who makes kiddush on shnopps, I should make kiddush on the challa I receve after hamotzi!

    For people to think that they have received a informed summary from this article is incorrect.

    Edited by moderator

  15. R Enkin,
    Based on Dov and Sass’s comments will you remove the citation to the taz?

  16. Shmelks–

    The Taz should not be removed. I made a slight change in the footnote so that readers not be led to believe that the Taz was commenting on Kiddush. That was not my intention.

    I have been called a sloppy footnoter. I guess I cant deny it.

    Ari Enkin

  17. Shmelks,
    The Taz is an important part of the discussion, in that he is the posek who requires a bracha acharona on less than a reviis of whiskey.
    So the citation to Taz should not be removed, rather it should be emended to indicate that it is not Taz who allows kiddush on a small amount of whiskey, but the later poskim based on the Taz.

  18. Oh come on. you really think people care whether it says “see” or not?

  19. I would say that the Borei Nefashos issue should really be addressed before the kiddush issue, not as an afterthought from Har Tzvi. So the Taz should really appear in footnote 18, not footnote 16, but footnote 18 addressing Borei Nefashos should in fact precede footnote 16.

  20. R’Aryeh-

    Fascinating! Thanks!

    Ari Enkin

  21. Baruch,

    FYI, there are already prominent poskim who consider soda as חמר מדינה. See revivos ephraim vol. 3 # 539 that Rav Ruderman, Rav Gustman, and Rav Bloch from Telz all permitted it. ( but not Rav Kotler).

    Also, Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen writes in The Radiance of Shabbos that he heard from Rav Sheinberg that soda could be used.

  22. MiMedinat HaYam

    regarding scotch as “chamar medina” (sacrilege to even consider it, but) the paramaters for chamar medina are pretty loose. almost anything is acceptable, except water. the issue of soda / coke, etc is simply a water beverage issue (though even RMF considers tea a chamar medina (dont understand why, it definitely is a water beverage, like coke.) )

    JR — any diff between either kiddush and / or havdalah on soda?

    please remove the chivas bottle from the top of the posting a: its a distgusting drink — real people drink real scotch, not this sugar water. and B: chivas is boycotting yesha, and we shouldnt be publicizing them.

    baruch — beer commercials not tzniyut — neither are all whiskey (and whisky) and car commercials. dont drive a car anymore.

  23. Steve Brizel

    I also heard from RHS the view of R Chaim Volozhiner re making Kiddush on Shnaps as stated by Yehudah.

  24. In his Melumdei Milchama, R. Nachum Rabinowitz also rules that soft drink (soda) is a chamar medina. The contrary argument is that it is just sweetened water.

  25. shachar haamim

    “A prominent YU rosh yeshiva told me that if i am eating at someones house who makes kiddush on shnopps, I should make kiddush on the challa I receve after hamotzi! ”

    Yosef – please pass on the message to this RY that as an alumnus of the yeshiva I am embarassed that a rosh yeshiva would be teaching talmidim to engage in acts which are malbin pnei chaveroh brabim, offensive to the hosts and probably violate who knows how many more mitzvot bein adom lechaveiro.

    I wouldn’t do it to the bochur who was acting on such RY’s instructiosn but if theis RY were a guest in my house and did that after I recited kiddush on whiskey or liquer (which I always do on shabbat morning at home) I would ask him politely to apologize to myself and my wife, and maybe even ask him to leave as well (unless I though that would result in the destruction of the beis hamikdash or something like that…)

  26. While the RY advice does seem extreme, its not insensitive. There is no formulation for Kiddusha Rabba, just the Bracha over the food. So if your intent when making your Hamotzie is to “make Kiddush” your host doesn’t have to know.

  27. There are poskim (e.g. Rabbi C. P. Scheinberg, A”H)who consider soda to be chamar medina and would allow kiddush to be made Shabbat morning on soda. While not all poskim agree, all poskim are not comfortable with using liquor.

    Furthermore, if you hold that liquor (less than a revi’it) is not prohibited to use for kiddush, but you are machmir as the Mishna Berura advises, then you can be yotzei by someone making kiddish on the one ounce of liquor, if that is his custom.

    This sometimes occurs when no wine or grape juice is available at a kiddush and someone makes kiddush on liquor. This would allow you to eat at the kiddush.

    If you hold like the GR”A, you can always go home and make kiddush on wine at your regular meal.

  28. shachar haamim-
    i thought it was obvious that the RY’s advice was to do so in such a way that would not be noticeable, to make hamotzi quietly on the challa and have in mind to be yotzei kiddush since nothing else is requierd to be said.

  29. some better choices for liquor picture here.

  30. As I follow-up to my post that soda may be considered as chamar medina by some prominent poskim. See:

    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=20287&st=&pgnum=89

    where Rav Elyashiv, Rav Waldernberg (Tztiz Eliezer) and Rav Scheinberg, zichronom livracha, considered soda as Chamar Medina.

  31. shachar haamim

    “shachar haamim-
    i thought it was obvious that the RY’s advice was to do so in such a way that would not be noticeable, to make hamotzi quietly on the challa and have in mind to be yotzei kiddush since nothing else is requierd to be said.”

    That wasn’t obvious to me AT ALL. I understood what you wrote as suggesting that he recite the entire kiddush liturgy.
    If he is saying that you should just say homotzie and have in mind that it is kiddush and not make any comments to the host about it – he can have in mind whatever he wants. הנסתרות לה’ אלוקינו

  32. Jr and SO,

    Thank you for the info about soda. Didn’t know that.

    Mimidinat Hayam,

    Kiddush is supposed to honor the meal and Shabbos. Cars are not. I believe you’re comment on whiskey commercials is also wrong. Whiskey commecials (and advertisements) are usually more tzinius and high class than beer commercials.

  33. You can make kiddush in the day on bread? Since when?

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