Recitation of Birkat HaMazon using a Cup of Wine

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August 15 2006
Last week's issue discussed the mitzvah of Birkat HaMazon and the differences between the biblical obligation and the rabbinic obligation. This week's issue will discuss the role of wine in Birkat HaMazon.

Is There a Requirement to Use Wine?
The Gemara, Pesachim 105b, and 117b, attempts to prove that one must recite Birkat HaMazon while holding a cup of wine. In one of the passages (105b), the proof is not countered and in the other the proof is countered. There are three opinions that emerge from the Rishonim based on the apparent discrepancy. First, Rashbam (cited in Tosafot, Pesachim 105b, s.v. Sh'ma Minah Beracha) is of the opinion that one must always recite Birkat HaMazon with a cup of wine, even if one is not reciting Birkat HaMazon with a zimun. Second, Tosafot note that common practice is that one only uses a cup of wine for Birkat HaMazon if there is a zimun. Third, Rambam, Hilchot Berachot 7:15, rules that there is no requirement to recite Birkat HaMazon using a cup of wine.

Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 182:1, cites all three opinions and does not rule conclusively on the matter. Mishna Berurah 182:4, notes that common practice is to follow the opinion of Rambam and forgo the requirement to recite Birkat HaMazon using a cup of wine. However, he adds that even Rambam agrees that it is preferable to use a cup of wine (see Hilchot Berachot 7:14). Nevertheless, Mishna Berurah notes that without a zimun, one can certainly recite Birkat HaMazon without a cup of wine. Aruch HaShulchan, Orach Chaim 182:1, also notes that common practice is to refrain from using a cup of wine for Birkat HaMazon. He adds that there are those who are meticulous to use a cup of wine for Birkat HaMazon on Shabbat and Yom Tov.

Perhaps a motivating factor in the practice to use a cup of wine on Shabbat and Yom Tov is the ability of the cup of wine after Birkat HaMazon to resolve a berachot related dilemma. According to Ramban, Milchamot HaShem, Pesachim 24a, s.v. U'L'inyan, if one drinks wine before the meal (such as the wine for Kiddush), it is not covered by Birkat HaMazon and one is required to recite a separate beracha of "Al HaGefen" on the Kiddush wine. Mishna Berurah, Biur Halacha 274:4, s.v. Yayin, rules that although Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 174:4, states that one is not required to recite Al HaGefen on the Kiddush wine, one should try to show deference to the opinion of Ramban. However, Mishna Berurah concludes that there is no perfect solution to show deference to Ramban's opinion.

The practice of reciting Birkat HaMazon using a cup of wine on Shabbat and Yom Tov allows one to fulfill the opinion of Ramban. Ramban himself writes that if one drinks wine after Birkat HaMazon, the beracha of Al HaGefen recited on that wine will cover the wine from before the meal as well. By reciting Birkat HaMazon using a cup of wine, one can recite Al HaGefen and have in mind to cover the Kiddush wine as well.

Using a Cup of Wine at Seudah Shlishit
Rambam, Hilchot Shabbat 29:12, states that if one is eating a meal that continues until the conclusion of Shabbat, he may recite Birkat HaMazon using a cup of wine and then use that same cup of wine for Havdalah. Maggid Mishneh ad loc., adds that one should not use the same cup of wine for Birkat HaMazon and Havdalah unless one only has one cup of wine. Otherwise, one should use one cup for Birkat HaMazon and another for Havdalah. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 299:4, codifies Maggid Mishneh's ruling.

It is implicit from Shulchan Aruch's ruling that if one uses a separate cup of wine for Birkat HaMazon one should drink that cup of wine prior to Havdalah. Although one is not permitted to drink wine at this time, the cup of wine for Birkat HaMazon is considered part of the preceding meal and it is therefore permissible to drink the cup of wine. However, Magen Avraham 299:7, notes that the permissibility to drink the wine before Havdalah only applies to those who are normally meticulous to use a cup of wine for Birkat HaMazon. Those who don't normally use a cup of wine for Birkat HaMazon should not drink the wine prior to reciting Havdalah. Mishna Berurah 299:14, codifies the ruling of Magen Avraham, but adds that one may drink the wine during the bein hashmashot period based on a combination of factors (see Sha'ar HaTziun 299:24). R. Yehoshua Y. Neuwirth, Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 59:16, notes that even in a situation where one is not going to drink the wine of Birkat HaMazon, it should still be preferable to use two cups of wine. Nevertheless, he states that common practice is to use only one cup of wine. The cup used for Birkat HaMazon is used for Havdalah and then drunk.

The Role of the Wine at Sheva Berachot
Many are accustomed to witnessing a "ceremony" at the end of Sheva Berachot where different cups of wine are mixed together. As we shall see, this "ceremony" is not as complex as it seems. The starting point for this discussion is the Gemara, Pesachim 102b, which states that if one eats a meal late in the day on Friday afternoon, one should not recite Birkat HaMazon on the same cup that is used for Kiddush because of the principle of ain osin mitzvot chavilot chavilot (mitzvot should not be bundled together). Tosafot, ad loc., s.v. She'ain, note that for this reason, many people use two cups for the Sheva Berachot at the end of Birkat HaMazon. One cup is for Birkat HaMazon and one cup is for the Sheva Berachot. Tosafot then quote the opinion of Rabbeinu Meshulam who maintains that it is permissible to use the same cup for Birkat HaMazon and Sheva Berachot. It is not a violation of the principle of ain osin mitzvot chavilot chavilot because Birkat HaMazon and Sheva Berachot are inherently connected. Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 62:9, rules in accordance with the opinion of Rabbeinu Meshulam. Rama, ad loc., notes that common practice is to use two cups for the Birkat HaMazon/Sheva Berachot proceedings.

Tosafot note that even if one assumes that two cups are necessary, it is sufficient to recite one Borei P'ri HaGafen on the cup used for Birkat HaMazon and those who are drinking from the Sheva Berachot cup can fulfill their beracha by listening. As such, all that is necessary is that the leader of Birkat HaMazon recites Borei P'ri HaGafen and then the bride and groom may drink from the cup used for Sheva Berachot. Nevertheless, R. Ya'akov Chaim Sofer, Kaf HaChaim 190:1, notes that the minhag in Yerushalayim is that the cups are mixed together after the recitation of Borei P'ri HaGafen (before anyone drinks) so that everyone who drinks can drink the wine of both cups. This minhag now seems to be ubiquitous.

Drinking the Wine from Sheva Berachot of Seudah Shlishit
Suppose there is a seudah shlishit meal in honor of a bride and groom and the Sheva Berachot do not take place until after Shabbat is over. Should the parties involved drink the wine before recitation of Havdalah and if so, should both cups be drunk or just one of them? There are three logical approaches to this issue. First, one can argue that it is prohibited to drink before Havdalah and therefore, neither cup should be drunk. Second, one can argue that the cup that is used for Birkat HaMazon should not be drunk as discussed previously. However, the cup for Sheva Berachot should be drunk by the bride and groom because wine is required for Sheva Berachot. Third, one can argue that both cups should be drunk. The Sheva Berachot cup should be drunk because there is a requirement to recite Sheva Berachot using a cup of wine. The cup for Birkat HaMazon should be drunk because wine is always used for Birkat HaMazon of a Sheva Berachot and it is tantamount to being obligatory. The first approach is taken by R. Yitzchak Z. Soloveitchik (cited in Mo'adim UZmanim 3:146). The second approach is taken by R. Moshe Feinstein, Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 4:69. The third approach is taken by R. Eliezer Waldenberg, Tzitz Eliezer 10:45.


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