Talmudic Discussion on Upon What Can You Make Kiddush?

Where does saying kiddush come from?

תנו רבנן זכור את יום השבת לקדשו זוכרהו על היין

אין לי אלא ביום בלילה מנין

תלמוד לומר זכור את יום השבת לקדשו

The Sages taught: “Remember the day of Shabbat to sanctify it” (Exodus 20:7): Make mention of it over wine.

This indicates that it's only during the day, where is it that it should be done at night?

The verse states: “Remember the day of Shabbat to sanctify it.”

In this first text, we read of a rabbinic expounding on Exodus 20.7 where they see the need to not simply sanctify Shabbat, but to do so over wine.

תנו רבנן אין מקדשין אלא על היין ואין מברכין אלא על היין

The Sages taught: One recites kiddush only over wine, and one recites blessings only over wine.

In this text, we see another tannaitic (early rabbinic) text argue for kiddush to be done exclusively over wine.

תנו רבנן אין מקדשין על השכר

משום רבי אלעזר בר רבי שמעון אמרו מקדשין

The Rabbis taught: One does not recite kiddush over beer.

From the name of Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, they said: "One recites kiddush over beer."

In this tannaitic (early rabbinic) text, we see an argument against the use of beer by the majority of the sages, yet one lone rabbi taking the position that one can make kiddush over beer. It's not clear what the logic behind either side's arguments are here.

לוי שדר ליה לרבי שיכרא בר תליסר מגני טעמיה הוה בסים טובא אמר כגון זה ראוי לקדש עליו ולומר עליו כל שירות ותושבחות שבעולם בליליא צעריה אמר מיסרן ומפייס

Levi sent Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi a beer of thirteen soakings (thirteen batches of dates had been soaked in water until it had thoroughly absorbed the taste of the dates). He tasted it and it was especially pleasant. He said: "Like this is fit to recite kiddush over and to say upon it all the songs and praises in the world."

At night, it caused him pain. He said: "It pains and soothes."

This incident is utterly fascinating, as we see Rabbi reconsider the exclusivity of wine for kiddush and allow room for beer or other such intoxicating non-wine beverages to be used for kiddush, on the grounds of taste. From this incident, it would seem that the early rabbis made the elevation of wine over all other beverages for kiddush on account of its superiority in taste. However, here, Rabbi seems to be shocked that such a non-wine beverage could be so good, perhaps better than many wines, even! If it weren't for his digestive troubles at night, would he have unequivocally advocated for the use of such fine non-wine alcoholic beverages?

בעא מיניה רב חסדא מרב הונא מהו לקדושי אשיכרא

אמר השתא ומה פירזומא ותאיני ואסני דבעאי מיניה מרב ורב מרבי חייא ורבי חייא מרבי ולא פשט ליה שיכרא מיבעיא

Rav Ḥisda raised a dilemma before Rav Huna: Can one recite kiddush over date beer?

He said:"Now, if barley beer, fig beer, and berries beer, that was asked of Rav and Rav asked of Rabbi Ḥiyya, and Rabbi Ḥiyya of Rabbi and he did not resolve it for him, is it necessary to say for date beer?"

Here, we see a couple of generations later, Rav Hisda inquiring of Rav Huna regarding date beer, it seems the similar questions were asked going back a few generations about other intoxicating non-wine beverages all the way back to Rabbi (whom we saw in the previous text), although Rabbi wasn't able to answer definitively on those beverages. What is curious about that is what we saw of Rabbi in the previous text: his desideratum concerns the quality and taste of the beverage: if these other beverages were not clear as to their fitness for kiddush, perhaps that's what pushed Rabbi in the direction of excitedly permitting such fine date-beer, since he wasn't used to such high-quality beverages. It's a little unclear, however, as to the conclusion of Rav Huna's that he does not seem to want to permit date-beer's permissibility for kiddush, yet it is clear that, despite the earlier beraita that a minority tannaitic position permits making kiddush over beer, the notion still persists into the amoraic period that kiddush over beer is a possibility, even if it is a contested position. It seems Rav Huna sees the date-beer as inferior to the other beers mentioned, so he is not so keen on permitting its use for kiddush.

רב אשכחיה רב הונא דקדיש אשיכרא אמר ליה שרי אבא למיקני איסתירי משיכרא

Rav was found by Rav Huna reciting kiddush over beer. He said to him: "Abba has started to acquire coins with beer."

Here, we see Rav Huna seeing Rav making kiddush over beer and, as we see from the previous text, Rav Huna does not seem keen on the permissibility of kiddush over beer, so he's not fond of his elder doing so. He comments that perhaps Rav has been making money off of beer, since why else would he be doing so?

This text is fascinating in a two-fold manner: 1) Rav Huna doesn't like the idea of the permissibility of date-beer for kiddush and we see him struggling to hold back against his senior colleague doing so. 2) Rav did not definitively answer the question for the other beers as to the permissibility of using it for kiddush, yet we see him making kiddush on date-beer, so he seems good with it.

אמר להו רב חסדא הכי אמר רב כשם שאין מקדשין עליו כך אין מבדילין עליו איתמר נמי אמר רב תחליפא בר אבימי אמר שמואל כשם שאין מקדשין עליו כך אין מבדילין עליו

Rav Ḥisda said to them that Rav said as follows: Just as one may not recite kiddush over date beer, so one may not recite havdala over it.

It was also stated that Rav Taḥalifa bar Avimi said that Shmuel said: Just as one may not recite kiddush over date beer, so one may not recite havdala over it.

This text is a bit curious, as we see both Rav and Shmuel being quoted as saying to use beer for neither kiddush nor havdallah. Yet, we just saw Rav using beer for kiddush in the previous text! This is certainly a conundrum.

ואמר רבא תיהוי שקיותיה שיכרא מאן דמקדש אשיכרא

And Rava said: "One who recites kiddush over beer, his drink should be beer."

Rava was really into his wine and was highly disinterested in beer (especially as we see his interaction with his student (and beer baron of the Bavli), Rav Papa on Berakhot 44b), so it is not surprising to see him almost putting down those who make kiddush on beer instead of wine. As we see in a bunch of other places in the Talmud, Rava is really into his wine and it almost breaks his heart to see anyone making kiddush over beer, when one can do it over his preferred beverage of wine. Yet, while Rava seems to denigrate those making kiddush over beer, he almost condemns those who make kiddush over beer to continue doing so. It's not that they're doing anything religiously wrong, but that if they're going to choose to make kiddush over beer, it better be their drink. It's especially interesting considering that Rav Papa, his student was very into beer, and Rava may have had Rav Papa in mind as an example for this statement, as Rav Papa was very into beer (and got rich off of beer-making), so it would make sense for Rava to say that one shouldn't make kiddush on an inferior beverage than what they're used to drinking.