Ask the Rov: Should I make kiddush on mashke on Simchas Torah?
By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah
Halacha mentions the option of using chamar medina (“the drink of the land”) in certain circumstances as a substitute for wine when making havdala or bentching with a kos. Poskim vary on the precise definition of chamar medina and whether it may be used when wine is available in town (see issue 158).
Regarding kiddush, the Rambam holds that chamar medina cannot be used, and bread is the only alternative to wine.1 On the other extreme, the Rosh holds that even someone who has wine can use chamar medina for kiddush, though wine is still preferred to beautify the mitzva.2 The Alter Rebbe rules that for the night kiddush, in the absence of wine, challah is preferred over chamar medina (for the Rambam’s view), while by day, when kiddush doesn’t have a distinct bracha, chamar medina is preferred to show that it is kiddush. Of course, if wine is available, one must always use wine.3
[There is additional room to be lenient by day. Since after kiddush on chamar medina he will make hamotzi on bread – covering both opinions – the Alter Rebbe allows it for the daytime kiddush when wine is costly, even if one has wine. Although there is a third view that both are invalid for kiddush, one need not be so strict for the daytime kiddush which is less stringent. Still, the Alter Rebbe concludes, kiddush should optimaly always be made over wine.]
Throughout the ages, it was accepted in Chabad to allow Shabbos day kiddush on mashke, especially on Simchas Torah when mashke is more special (as the Alter Rebbe records the practice to make havdala on beer on Motzaei Pesach given its sensation after not having it all Pesach4). While some communities suffice with a shot glass (based on the Taz’s view on the shiur for strong drinks), the Alter Rebbe does not record such a distinction.5
When the Rebbe implemented the famous restriction on mashke — on Shabbos Shemini 5723 — he made clear that kiddush must be made on wine and not mashke. The Rebbe added that when one realizes how revolting mashke is, it will become halachically unsuitable for kiddush.6 Only for Simchas Torah did the Rebbe make an exception, saying, “Even one 75 years old should make kiddush on wine and not mashke, except for Simchas Torah.”7
For those under 40, the Rebbe spoke strongly that they not recite kiddush on mashke at all, going so far to ban them from participating in tahalucha or Merkos Shlichus.8 When the chazzan made kiddush on Simchas Torah over mashke, the Rebbe noted that he was over 40 years old and those younger shouldn’t learn from him.9
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From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash