182.    The law of the cup used for grace after meals and that it should not be blemished (7 paragraphs)


Note: The Rama is in brackets [  ]


1.  There are those who say that grace after meals (Bir-chas Ha-ma-zone[1]) must be accompanied with a cup of wine[2] even when said privately.  In the event one has no such drink to make a blessing one, one is even required to hold himself back and postpone eating one meal in the event where he may obtain it if he waits.  Therefore, is two are eating together they are both required to have their own individual cup of wine.  There are others who say that a cup of wine is not needed unless three men eat together.  Further authorities claim that even with three men, no cup of wine is required at all.  [None-the-less, it is a greater Mitzvah to say the blessing with a cup of wine.]


2.  The beverage for Birchas Hamazone must be wine and not any other beverage, even if one normally uses these beverages for meals.  If wine can’t be found in that place then use liquor, beer or any other beverages considered important in your province; excluding water.  [Since is customary in our provinces to say the blessing on liquor or beer one need not protest over using such a beverage.  This is due to the fact that there are authorities that say no beverage is required at all.  Additionally, the main beverage of distinction in our province is beer and we even drink it with our meals.  Even though wine is found in our cities, none-the-less, we do not consider it as such, since it is expensive.  Therefore, it is unrealistic to buy wine for each meal to say the blessing.   However, it is a greater Mitzvah to accompany the blessing with wine.  There are those authorities maintain that when an individual makes Birchas Hamazone with a drink, he should not hold it in his hand.  Rather, the cup should be left on the table before them.  This is a good custom based on the Kabbalah.] 


3.  One needs a drink with out a blemish.  For example, if one previously drank the beverage, it is considered blemished.  However, if one poured out some of the contents into one’s hand or into a vessel, it is not considered blemished.  Even if one drank from the bottle or from the small barrel, it is considered a blemish[3].  But, if one previously drank from a large wood barrel, one need not be concerned.  There are those who say that even if blemished water is mixed with the beverage, it is forbidden to make a blessing on such a drink. 


4.  If several people were dining together and only one had a non-blemished drink; before the leader drinks from his cup, he should pour some out into each of their cups provided that there are empty cups available.[4]  There are those who say that this is not necessary. 


5.  If you poured a cup of blemished drink back into the bottle, the drink used from the bottle is not considered blemished.  This is due to the fact that the large amount of beverage in the bottle makes insignificant the blemished drink. 


6.  One can fix a blemished drink by adding a little bit of fresh drink to it.  And even if one adds water to the cup, it is fixed.


7.  In emergency situations, one may make a blessing on a blemished drink. 




Translated by Jay Dinovitser BA (Biochemistry) 7/2005




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[1] Birchas Hamazone is only said if one eats a meal accompanied by bread.  If one does not eat bread in their meal, different blessings are said that require no cup of wine.  Birchas Hamazone is a positive commandment required in the Torah if one eats a meal with bread and is satisfied.  (“And you shall eat and be satisfied and bless G-d your L-rd concerning the good land which he gave you”) If one is not satisfied, then Birchas Hamazone is a Rabbinical commandment.  The Shulchan Aruch is stating that when one recites Birchas Hamazone, a cup full of wine should be placed before him.  When one finishes, he should recite the blessing on wine, and drink the beverage.

[2] Literally, “cup”.  The Mishna Brura says that most of the blessings in Birchas Hamazone that the Rabbis instituted were meant to be accompanied with a cup of wine, since this is a manner of respect and praise to G-d. 

[3] Lit. “jug”  For example, if one drank directly from the bottle of wine used to fill the cup, even though the drink in the cup itself was not drunk from, it is still considered a blemish. 

[4] This paragraph was translated based on the Mishna Brura’s explanation, since the literal text is not as clear.