Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik
by R. Aharon Ziegler
The Rambam distinguishes between the different Brachot which are recited over a cup, [Al Ha’Kos.] Regarding Kiddush, Birkat HaMazon, and Birkat Nissuin (Sheva Brachot), Rambam rules that the Brachot must be specifically recited over a cup of wine. (Hilchot Brachot 7:15, Hilchot Shabbat 29:17, and Hilchot Ishut 10:4). However, regarding Havdalah and Birkat Eirusin,(Hilchot Shabbat ibid. and Hilchot Ishut 3:24) Rambam rules that the Bracha may be recited over a cup of wine or chamar Medinah [the local beverage]. Why should there be a difference?
Rav Soloveitchik suggested that the distinction stems from the different functions of these Brachot. In the case of Havdalah and Birkat Eirusin, the Brachot do not relate to a meal; all that is necessary is a kos-shel-Bracha, a blessing recited over a significant beverage. But in the case of Kiddushin, Birkat Nissuin and Birkat HaMazon, the Brachot create an elevated meal, a Se’udah sanctified by praise of GD; for this function, to create a Se’udah Al HaYayin, we require the Bracha to be made over a cup of wine.
This also explains why regarding Kiddush, Birkat Nissuin and Birkat HaMazon, the Rambam stipulates that the one making the Bracha must himself drink from the wine, in contrast to Havdalah and Birkat Eirusin. To elevate the entire meal, the one reciting the Bracha must drink of the wine in order to connect the Bracha with the Se’udah.