By Yosef Brecher
What kind of cup can be used for Kiddush, and how should that cup be filled?
The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 271:3) writes that the same halachic requirements that apply to the cup of wine upon which birchas ha’mazon is recited, apply to the cup of wine upon which kiddush is recited. As a result, in order to determine how to fill the cup of wine for Kiddush, we must turn to hilchos birchas hamazon.
The first requirement that we find regarding the cup of wine used in birchas hamazon pertains to the actual cup itself. The Shulchan Aruch writes (O.C. 183:3) that one must be careful to recite birchas hamazon on a cup that is “whole”. The Magen Avrohom (O.C. 271:3) adds that one should not use a cup whose base is damaged. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe O.C. chelek 3, siman 39) writes that it is obvious from the rulings of both the Shulchan Aruch and Magen Avrohom that one must recite birchas ha’mazon – and by extension Kiddush as well – on a cup that is “no’eh” i.e., beautiful. Based on this, Rav Moshe rules that disposable cups are not considered “no’eh” and should therefore not be used for the mitzvah of kiddush. There is a common practice to use two disposable cups that are stacked together. This solution, however, seems problematic. Are two disposable cups stacked together really more beautiful (no’eh) than one disposable cup? It is therefore suggested that one consult a halachic authority before following this practice. It is important to add, though, that Rav Moshe writes that if a disposable cup is the only one available for Kiddush, then “perhaps one can be lenient and use [the disposable cup]”.
A second halacha regarding the cup of wine that is used during birchas ha’mzon pertains to the way in which the cup must be filled. The Rama (O.C. 183:2) writes that when pouring the cup of wine for use during birchas ha’mazon, one should be careful to fill up the cup completely – to the very top. This same halacha, therefore, applies to kiddush. The Mishna Berura (O.C. 183:2 sif katan 9), however, writes that while it is preferable that the cup be filled to its top, it is not an absolute requirement; as long as one recites kiddush on a cup that contains the required amount of wine he has fulfilled the obligation. The Mishna Berura (O.C. 182:32) also writes that if one does not have enough wine to fill the cup to its top, he may artificially raise the wine’s level in the cup by placing pieces of bread inside of it. It would seem that the same ruling would also allow for one to use ice cubes to raise the level of wine inside the kiddush cup.
One should also be careful to fill the kiddush cup with wine that is not pagum, i.e., flawed (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 271:10). Wine is considered pagum if it has been drunk from since being poured from its bottle into a cup. Therefore, if one drinks from a cup prior to reciting kiddush with it, the wine inside the cup is rendered pagum and therefore unfit for use during kiddush. One can “fix” this wine, however, by pouring more wine from the bottle into the cup (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 271:6). It is also important to note that the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 182:7) clearly writes that it is better to use a cup of wine that is pagum than to forgo using a cup of wine at all.
The Magen Avrohom (O.C. 271:24) rules in accordance with the opinion of Tosfos (Pesachim 105b) that a cup being used for a mitzvah (e.g. kiddush) must contain a rivius of wine. The Mishna Berura (O.C. 271 sif katan 68) writes that a rivius is equal to 1 ½ eggs. According to Rabbi Pinchas Bodner (Halachos of K’zayis, page 26), 1 ½ eggs is equal to 2.88 fluid oz. of wine. The Mishna Berura (ibid.) adds, however, that there are those who feel that contemporary eggs are half as small as they were in the past. That would mean that 1 ½ eggs is actually equal 5.76 fluid oz. The Biur Halacha (ibid.) writes that for a mitzvah de’oraysa (i.e. biblical commandment) such as kiddush Friday night, one should assume that eggs are smaller today than they were in the past (but not necessarily half the size), and should therefore have at least 2 (contemporary) eggs (or 3.84 fluid oz.) of wine in his cup.
The purpose of this column is not to render halachic decisions, but rather to provide readers with a helpful overview of basic hilchos Shabbos. All specific halachic inquiries should be directed to a local halachic authority. General questions about the content being discussed, however, are welcome and can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2013 Yosef Brecher