Volume 35 Number 86
                 Produced: Sun Jan  6 23:44:37 US/Eastern 2002

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Full Reviit of Whiskey for Kiddush
         [Caren and Steve Weisberg]
Grape Juice
         [Elazar M Teitz]
Wine (4)
         [Barak Greenfield, MD, Mark Steiner, Jonathan Baker, Harold


From: Caren and Steve Weisberg <nydecs@...>
Date: Tue, 1 Jan 2002 15:17:16 +0200
Subject: Full Reviit of Whiskey for Kiddush

Well over 20 years ago, Rabbi K. Auman (YI of Flatbush) suggested to me
that at a kiddush where I needed to use whiskey there is a pracical way
to get a full reviit: mix the whiskey with some kind of soda. A highball
(or similar conction) whould be chamar medinah no less than pure

This is offered as a suggestion and not as a comment to anything
particular that has been offered on this subject in this forum.

Steve W. 


From: Elazar M Teitz <remt@...>
Date: Mon, 31 Dec 2001 22:51:49 +0000
Subject: Re:  Grape Juice

Shalom Krischer asks why those who would disqualify pasteurized grape
juice because it cannot become wine will allow yayin m'vushal (boiled
wine), "which Halachically renders them not wine (so that there would
not be a problem with non-Jews . . .)"

Yayin m'vushal, as its name indicates, is wine.  It does not become
prohibited when touched by the non-Jew because boiled wine was not used
for idolatry, and hence the decree did not extend to it, but since it is
still wine, many permit its use for kiddush.

Elazar M. Teitz 


From: Barak Greenfield, MD <DocBJG@...>
Date: Tue, 1 Jan 2002 17:56:39 -0500
Subject: RE: Wine

Mark Steiner <marksa@...> wrote:

> While on the subject of kiddush beverages, I'll share an insight that my
> havrusah and I had this week: kiddush cannot be made on whiskey or other
> drinks Shabbos morning UNLESS there is no wine in the city.  This is
> clear from the rishonim and poskim.  In fact it seems to me that the
> term "hamar medinah" used in this context means in effect a replacement
> for wine, i.e. since the city has no grape wine they use other fermented
> (or other) drinks.  The Mogen Avrohom asks how it could be that the
> universal custom is to make kiddush on schnapps in the morning and even
> gedolim, who have wine in the house, do it.  He gives an amazing answer:
> in reality they are making kiddush on BREAD.  And although the halakha
> is that one cannot make kiddush on bread during the day (only Friday
> night), this is because during the day there is no special blessing to
> be made (kiddush hayom), so there is no way of knowing that somebody is
> making kiddush if he only eats bread.  The schnapps comes to signify
> that the BREAD is meant for kiddush!

The statement by Shulchan Aruch that if no wine is available one may use
hamar medinah, if interpreted to mean that if wine is available, hamar
medinah may not be used (which, granted, is its plain meaning), would
present us with an unusual situation in halacha. It would mean that
something which is completely impermissible for use in kiddush (even
b'diavad [post-facto], apparently) becomes permissible if wine is not
available. Although there are numerous instances in halacha where
certain things are permitted only b'diavad, and we use them only if the
ideal thing is unavailable, this would be the only example I can think
of where something heretofore completely unusable becomes acceptable.

I understand the hamar medinah argument, that the status of other drinks
changes when wine is unavailable, but I doubt this is the case. See
Rambam hilchos shabbos 29:17, where he states that beer is hamar medinah
even if it is only "mostly" drunk in place of wine, without wine having
to be completely unavailable. Of course, Rambam does not permit hamar
medinah for kiddush, only for havdalah, but his definition is
nonetheless relevant. Also see Magid Mishneh on the same halacha, where
he cites unnamed sources permitting hamar medinah for kiddush.

Finally, the solution of the Magen Avraham seems problematic, since if
drinking hamar medinah on shabbos morning is only a "pre-kiddush", and
not kiddush itself, one is thereby drinking before kiddush, which is


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Tue, 01 Jan 2002 09:05:53 +0200
Subject: Re: Wine

    As a result of the discussion on "hamar medinah", and a private
correspondence with Bill Bernstein, for which I'm grateful, I looked
more closely at the Mishna Berurah [MB] to 272, and I'm more astonished
than ever:

In note 24, he DEFINES ("dehayno") the term "hamar medinah" (hamar is an
Aramaic word meaning "wine") as a beverage used in place of wine where
wine is not available.  He states EXPLICITLY that price is no
criterion--even where wine is expensive, if it is "available"
("matzuy"), no other beverage is "hamar medinah" (and therefore cannot
be used for kiddush even Shabbos morning).  If you trace this back, you
will see that this definition is based on an explicit story in the
Gemara, where an amora refused to make HAVDALAH on "shekhar" and went to
bed hungry Sat. night till he ascertained that there was no wine
available in the locality at all ever.  No other definitions of "hamar
medinah" are given in the Talmud.

In note 29, he remarks that in "our" countries "where wine is expensive,
and most of what people drink is other beverages, even great men
[gedolim] don't make the effort [mehader] to make kiddush on wine..." (I
note that in "our" countries, however, it seems that single malt scotch,
which I read in the papers is preferred for kiddush clubs, is much more
expensive than the average upscale kosher wine.)

In note 30, he remarks "If he likes to drink whiskey he can drink it for
kiddush in the morning even in the first instance [lekhathila}, because
in "our" country it is hamar medinah."  He points out, though, that you
have to use a full size kiddush cup and drink the same amount that you
would if drinking wine, ignoring here substantial practice to the
contrary in other countries than Lithuania.

    Now these notes seem to be in blatant contradiction with one
another.  According to note 24 (which is based ultimately on the same
rishonim I alluded to, and nobody disagrees, except for minor
disagreements about what "available" means--for example, there is a
discussion about a Nazarite, whether for him wine is considered
"nonavailble") whiskey COULD not be hamar medinah at all in any country
where wine exists even if it is expensive.  Also, in note 29, he makes
price the criterion for choosing whiskey, where in note 30 it is taste.
Of course, there is really no contradiction; the MB simply excerpted (as
is his style) three different sources which are not in agreement.  Or to
put it another way, note 24 reflects "theory" and notes 29 and 30,
practice.  In other words, the conflict I wrote about previously is
simply imported into the MB with no effort made to reconcile it.  The
Magen Avraham's solution: that somebody who makes kiddush in the morning
on whiskey etc., is really making kiddush on the bread that follows is
simply ignored by the MB, which is his way, probably, of saying that he
cannot accept the solution of the MA as being too far-fetched.  (Not
only are their the strange conlusions that one could not make kiddush on
whiskey without eating "bread" immediately afterward and of course that
one need not use a large cup for the whiskey, but Bill Bernstein
(privately) also raised an acute problem: are we not according to the MA
drinking before kiddush?  I'm sure that the MA could take case of
himself, so I won't attempt to defend him here.)  Because as a rule, the
MB does NOT ignore the views of the mighty Magen Avraham, whom
(ironically) he cites as the source for note 24!  (I.e. in effect he
cites the problem without giving his solution.)

All of this I wouldn't have noticed in a million years had it not been
for the decision of my havrusah and I to learn, for a change, a
"practical" gemara and work through the laws using rishonim, the Tur,
etc.  My conclusion: even to understand a work like the MB, you have to
know shas--even though the MB was written for people who have to keep
the laws of the Torah even before they know shas.

Something similar happened to the Rambam's Mishneh Torah.  Written
optimistically to allow ordinary Jews to know how to live without
learning the Talmud, the sefer today became just one learned opinion
among many (i.e. a book of psak), and, ironically, a favorite text for
Talmudic pilpul in yeshivot today, the exact opposite of the author's
intent.  The MB tried to avoid the fate of the Rambam by including a
large number of opinions and following what he found to be the
consensus, so that nobody would have to rely on his authority.  But in
fact today the whole world DOES rely on his authority, and his sefer has
now become one of the fundamental texts of halakha like the Shulhan
Arukh itself, displacing (it seems to me) such other once popular texts
like the Arukh Hashulhan.  (The reasons for this deserve a separate
inqury by themselves.)  As such it, too, has become an object of
Talmudic pilpul, instead of replacing the pilpul!  At least, this is my

Mark Steiner

From: Jonathan Baker <jjbaker@...>
Date: Mon, 31 Dec 2001 22:51:17 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Wine

Mark Steiner wrote:

> (f) Stam Yaynam is forbidden for another reason aside from (c): fear of
> drinking parties, meeting non-Jewish women, intermarrying.  [For this reason,
> some hold that though a Jewish Sabbath desecrator is defined as a Gentile,
> this may not apply to his wine, because there is no prohibition on marrying
> his children.]

> (g) The Rema, in order to "save" the Prussian Jews (who drank stam
> yaynam) from hellfire, conjectured that Rabbenu Tam's view means in
> effect that the ONLY reason not to drink stam yaynam is (f).
> Comparing this to other such enactments (Gentile oil, bread, etc.)
> which in fact lapsed, he conjectured (after affusive apologies that
> he's only writing this to save the souls of the Prussian Jews and
> prays that he won't be damned himself for writing it) that there is no
> remaining prohibition on stam yaynam at all.

Note that the Rema writes it as a *fantasy* rationale, positing that the
Moravian Jews had been told this by an ignorant rabbi, so he made up a
rationale that an ignorant rabbi might have used.  He specifically says,
repeatedly, that this rationale has no basis in fact, but is a fantasy
to take the Moravian Jews out of the class of invalid witnesses.  Thus
he does *not* permit anyone to drink the wine of Moravian Jews, but does
allow others to *rely* on Moravians to say "this is wine we would drink,
that is wine you would drink."

> (h) This teshuva mysteriously disappeared from the collected responsa of the
> Rema till it was reprinted in the most recent editions.

I read it in a reprint of a 19th-century Shut HaRema.  There is,
however, some doubt as to whether he wrote it, or it was written by a
student of the Rema.

> (i) The Conservative movement in the U. S. found out about the teshuva
> anyhow (the censors forgot to renumber the responsa and it was obvious
> that something was omitted), and abrogated the prohibition on all
> kinds of treyf wines, obviously not (even) the Rema's intention, to
> say nothing of those (vast majority) who reject his conjecture and
> stay with the normative opinion (lenient enough) of Rabbenu Tam,
> unvarnished.

I've read both the teshuva from the Rema and the Conservative wine
responsum, and although the author of the C responsum quotes the Rema's
teshuvah, the Rema's reasoning (which he states at the outset is a
fantasy rationalization, not a rationale which has a real halachic
standing) does not play a real part in permitting much US wine.

The author permits on the basis that most US commercial wine is fully
automated in processing from pressing to bottling, without human
contact.  A vintner (Craig Winchell, GAN EDEN Wines) has told me that
that assumption has no basis in fact, except perhaps for the very
largest wineries (e.g., Gallo), and therefore, one would still need a
hechsher organization to tell us which wines are actually automated.

It's not entirely clear why the author quoted the Rema; perhaps it was
to give some kind of imprimatur to the exercise of constructing fantasy
rationales for what he knows people will do anyway (drink non-kosher US
wine).  Alternatively, he brings it to show the Orthodox that even if
they don't accept his reasoning permitting the wine, they can use the
teshuva of the Rema to allow a Conservative Jew to say "this wine we can
drink, this wine you can drink."

   - jon baker    <jjbaker@...>     <http://www.panix.com/~jjbaker> -

From: Harold Greenberg <harold.greenberg@...>
Date: Tue, 01 Jan 2002 08:08:05 +0200
Subject: Wine

Mark Steiner says-

>the use of Jewish wine (and I heard also matza, unfortunately) for

There is a story that during World War 2, when the US Army was fighting
in Europe to destroy the Nazis (may their name be erased), the Jewish
chaplain had a large supply of matza left over after Pesach.  At the
same time, the Catholic chaplain had no wafers for communion, so the
rabbi gave the matzos to the priest for mass.

Yes, I know - Catholic theory is that the wine and wafer turns into the
blood and body of their messiah.

I still think that it is a beautiful story.

Zvi Greenberg
Eilat, Israel


End of Volume 35 Issue 86