Is Making Kiddush on Schnapps a Problem?

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    By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

    It can be called the Great “Schnapps vs. Wine” Wars.

    “Well, my father, and his father, had this minhag from Europe!”

    “Yes, but the Mishna Brurah, holds that -”

    “I don’t care what the Mishna Brurah says – that was written for those people without a family minhag!”

    These arguments have been heard in shuls since this author was a child and probably long before that too.

    It is Shabbos morning. You desperately need to hear Kiddush in order to eat or drink something or you will nearly pass out. Someone offers to make Kiddush for you and does so – on a small one ounce Schnapps glass of whiskey. What is the halacha?

    THE KIDDUSH OBLIGATIONS

    In the Aseres haDibros – commandment number four we read, “Remember the Shabbos day to keep it holy.”  From here, the Rabbis derived that there is a Torah obligation to sanctify Shabbos with Kiddush.  The Kiddush on Shabbos day (as opposed to the Friday night Kiddush) is a Rabbinic obligation.  On both Kiddush obligations, the Rabbis obligated its recitation upon wine (Psachim 106a) – when available.  On the Friday evening Kiddush, however, if wine is not available – it may be recited upon challah or bread.

    THE LAWS OF SHABBOS DAY KIDDUSH

    Unlike Friday night Kiddush, the Shabbos day Kiddush may not be recited upon Challah or bread.  One may, however, recite the Shabbos morning Kiddush on a reviis of the drink of the land – Chamar medina.  This can be beer or Schnapps.  One must drink at least a maleh lugmav and the bracha recited is shehakol.

    THE FAMOUS RESPONSUM OF THE MAHARSHAM

    The issue was addressed in a Teshuvah of Rabbi Shalom Mordechai Shwadron zt”l, author of the Maharsham (1835-1911). He wrote his view in a letter to Rabbi Yechiel Fefer of Oziran in the Ukraine (Vol. I #175).  It is translated and annotated below.  [Headings have been added to it by the author for purposes of clarity.]

    To that which the Rabbi inquired about the law of the daytime Kiddush whether it needs the required amount of the kos.  He wrote citing Rav Binyomin Wolf, of blessed memory, who cites the RaN in the chapter of Arvei Psachim who wrote that there is a lesser shiur on Shabbos morning.

    THE MAHARSHAM’S INITIAL POSITION FORBIDDING A LESSER AMOUNT

    I have known from then and early of this RaN.  It is obvious to me that the intent of the Ran refers to the nature of the Kiddush itself [and not to the amount necessary for Kiddush].  For if the intent of the Ran was for a lesser quantitative amount, he should have elaborated upon what the requisite amount for the day Kiddush would actually be.  Also, how would the Ran have derived this with no proof from the Talmud?

    It is also against the words of the Tur Shulchan Aruch (OC 271:11) and the Shaarei Teshuvah Siman 289:3 and as the majority of commentaries have written.    See also the Bais Yoseph (YD 265) and the TaZ (YD 265:10) citing the Rashba – that when one makes kiddush one needs to drink a maleh lugmah.  Regarding the cup for Milah, since it is not a requirement found in Shas – one does not need this shiur.  It is clear that the Kiddush of the day, which does have an obligation found in Shas would require a maleh lugmav just like any other Kiddush.

    See also the Mordechai at the end of the third chapter of tractate Eiruvin citing the responsum of the Rivi and the Chidushei Anshei Shaim on Yuma citing R”I who holds that even on the cup of Milah one is required to drink a Maleh Lugmav.  Certainly, this would be the case here.

    THE QUOTES OF THE AV BATEI DINIM OF ROPSHITZ AND KAAMINKA

    But an elderly Talmid Chacham testified before me that he himself stood before the Gaon HaKadosh, the Av Beis Din of Ropshitz, who commanded his students to recite the day Kiddush on Schnapps in a small glass – in the manner that it is consumed, and that there is no need for the shiur of a kos.  Even though he had wine before him on the table, he said he was honoring it with schnapps in order to teach halacha to his students.  I also heard testimony in the name of the the Gaon HaChassid, the Av Beis Din of Kaaminka zt”l who had this custom constantly.

    THE QUOTE OF THE TAZ

    This is in accordance with the TaZ in OC 190 – it is because that is the manner that it is consumed and that satisfies the palate.

    See also the Beis Yoseph in OC 271 citing the Raavya (Psachim 519) that he had a tradition in his hand that it is sufficient in the Kiddush to taste of it and swish it around – it is just that they argued on him.  

    [Editor’s note:  The Raavya’s view in this tradition is that Maaleh lugmav is a larger volume than a revi’is.  He thus understands the word ta’am to mean taste of it – rather than drink of it.  The Beis Yoseph writes that the view of the Ra’avya is not sufficient to set aside the traditional understanding.]

    THE RATIONALE OF THE SPREADING OF SCHNAPPS

    On account of the [fact that the] drinking schnapps has spread so significantly, and it is now the custom of the country to drink before virtually every meal a small shot of whiskey, and it is difficult to drink more than this because it is so sharp – therefore the shiur in regard to Kiddush would also be this amount.  It was also testified before me in the name of the Holy Rabbi of Lublin zt”l.  It is worthy to rely on them in the daytime Kiddush.  It is only in wine and beer that we require the minimum shiur of a kos.

    ANALYZING THE MAHARSHAM’S RESPONSUM

    The Maharsham explains the position of those who recited Kiddush on schnapps as relying on the view of the TaZ regarding a bracha acharonah on schnapps.  Let us analyze this TaZ briefly.

    The Shulchan Aruch (210:1) rules that the bracha acharona on a drink is after one consumes a reviis.  The TaZ writes that regarding schnapps – one does not need a revi’is – since it is the manner to only drink a little bit of it and it is impossible to drink a large volume of it on account of its sharpness.  The shiur then [to recite a bracha acharonah] is the amount that most people drink of it.

    TAZ’S ATTEMPTED PROOF

    The TaZ attempts to prove this position from the words of the Talmid Rabbeinu Yonah who explains the concept of a beryah (such as a whole grape that is less than a kezayis) receiving its own bracha acharona even though it is less than the requisite amount.  The Talmid Rabbeinu Yonah explains that this rule is based upon the manner in which the world consumes it.  So a fruit, where the prevalent custom is to eat it along with its seed, one recites a bracha acharonah upon it even though on account of the seed it does not have the required amount of a kezayis.

    YAAVETZ’S QUESTION ON TAZ

    The Yaavetz in his Mor uKetziyah (Siman 190 at the end of Kuntrus Mezigas HaKos) asks on this TaZ how he could possibly compare the idea of a beryah to a liquid.  The concept of Beryah is a special halacha that applies to whole items.

    THE MISHNAH BRURAH’S POSITION

    The Mishna Brurah (272:29-30) rules that one may use schnapps but he must make sure that the Kiddush is recited upon a reviis of it.  He further writes that if no wine is available, and no one can drink the Rov revi’is, then the Kiddush should be recited on a large cup of schnapps and everyone should partake of a maleh lugmav. In other words, the large cup should be split up among those present. In no manner does the Mishna Brurah distinguish between schnapps and wine.

    OTHERS NOT MENTIONED BY THE MAHARSHAM

    On the other hand, there are other Chassidic Rebbe that were not mentioned by the Maharsham.  The Orchos Chaim (OC 272:6) (cited by Rav Menashe Klein z”l in his Mishna Halachos Vol. XVIII #176) cites from his Rebbe and father-in-law the Imrei Yoseph of Spinka that he himself saw with his own eyes that the Sanzer Rebbe would make Kiddush on schnapps from a small whiskey glass.  However, this statement is rather controversial because others testify that he used a large glass (See the Shma Yisroel Vol. I #23).  This was also said about his son the Shinover.  The Munkatcher Rebbe in his Nimukei Orach Chaim does come out against the use of the smaller amount for schnapps as well.

    ARE WE RELYING ON THE TAZ OR THE SPREAD OF THE USE OF SCHNAPPS?

    It is this author’s view that even those that do make Kiddush on schnapps, do not rely on the Taz’s view that schnapps requires a bracha acharona on the one ounce whiskey cups.  The proof is that rarely have seen someone recite a bracha acharona on only a one ounce whixkey cup.  Indeed, when the question was posed to one such person – the response was, “No, there is a safek bracha here!”

    It is clear that the reliance upon the TaZ is only in regard to his underlying rationale of following the view of how most people consume it – but not in regard that this requires an after bracha per se.   That being the case, it is a considerable stretch to be relying on this TaZ for halachic sanction.

    ANOTHER RAAVYA

    As far as the Raavya goes, there is yet another Raavya that few people know about.  In Psachim 515 he writes that no drink is to be considered Chamar Medina,a drink of the land, unless the stores no longer have wine available all year round.  Since our stores have it all year round – then one would be unable to use whiskey or vodka as a Chamar Medina.  This is also the view of the Mogain Avrohom 272:6 and a number of other Rishonim too.

    CONCLUSION

    Insulting someone is a Torah prohibition.  Indeed, it may involve a number of prohibitions. One such verse is, “velo sonu Ish es amiso – do not afflict your fellow”– (VaYikra 25:17). The Mitzvah is generally called “Onaas Dvarim” or just plain “Onaah.”  The Sfas Emes explains that the main reason behind this Mitzvah is so that we will all have a sense of oneness as a people. Causing another pain was prohibited because it causes division within us as a people.

    Insulting another is also a negation of the Mitzvah of, “v’ahavta larayacha kamocha – loving thy neighbor as yourself.”

    The laws of Kiddush on wine are derabanan in origin.  From a Torah point of view, one would technically be fulfilling the Torah requirement of Kiddush – even if it would be questionable whether one fulfills the additional requirement to perform it on a minimum volume.  When someone offers to make Kiddush and uses schnapps – your refusal is more often than not insulting.  The view of the Raavya combined with the Maharsham and his earlier sources, in this author’s view, would be enough to rely upon in any situation where one may be even slightly insulting another.

    Backing up this concept is a fascinating vignette related by the grandson of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, Rabbi Aharon Goldberg.  Once, in the Shaarei Chessed section of Yerushalayim there was a Kiddush held inaugurating a new shul in the community.  At the shul, there was no wine.  Every recitation of Kiddush was on schnapps.  Rav Goldberg decided to be stringent in accordance with the Mishna Brurah.  When questioned by his grandfather as to why he did not eat, it became clear to his grandson that when others might be insulted one should rely upon the lenient position.

    On the other hand, ideally one should recite the Kiddush on a full revi’is – even if one uses chamar medina.  It is likely that the Av Batei Dinim and others relied upon the small glasses of schnapps in colder climates where wine was not so available. I recall one of my Rebbeim, Rav Dovid Kviat zt”l, explaining to me that in Poland where he grew up – there was virtually no wine at all.  He remembered how his father z”l would carefully get hold of raisins and make raisin wine for Pesach.  Throughout the year, on Erev Shabbosim they recited Kiddush upon the Shabbos Challah.

    The main point, however, is that when we do make Kiddush, we should focus upon the gift that is Shabbos and to appreciate the special relationship that we have with Hashem who gave us the gift of Shabbos.  We should use the Kiddush as an opportunity to further our dveikus with Him.

    The author can be reached at [email protected]


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