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Shabbat Parashat Sukkot| 5771

Ask the Rabbi: Drinking on Chole Hamo'ed

Question: I have heard that one should drink wine on Chol Hamo’ed, but not all religious people do so. I enjoy drinking wine occasionally but it doesn’t particularly “speak to me.” Should I be careful to drink it on Chol Hamo’ed, and, if so, how often and how much?


Answer: There is an obligation of simcha (enjoyment) on the holidays, including all of Chol Hamo’ed (Sukka 48a; Rambam, Yom Tov 6:17). The classical way to reach that simcha was to partake in the special festival korbanot called shalmei simcha (ibid.). The question is what happens nowadays when there are no korbanot.

The Rambam (ibid.:17-18) says that in addition or, perhaps, in place of korbanot, simcha  is reached through different physical things for different types of people, including treats for children, clothes for women, and meat and wine for men. The Beit Yosef (ibid.) is troubled with the Rambam’s mention of meat, as the gemara (Pesachim 109a) says that specifically wine takes the place of shalmei simcha. In any case, the Rambam seems to understand the consumption of wine as a way to fulfill a Torah-level obligation of simcha (Sha’agat Aryeh 65). Tosafot (Mo’ed Katan 14b) differs, saying that nowadays, in the absence of korbanot, simcha on the holidays is only rabbinic.

Either way, there seems to be some obligation to drink wine throughout the chag, and we agree that not all observant men are careful to do so. Actually, a gemara (Sukka 8a) seems to assume that not everyone has wine. In discussing the possibility of making a Shehecheyanu throughout the chag if one did not do so on Yom Tov, the gemara (Sukka 47b) is skeptical whether, if wine were necessary for the beracha, it would be readily available. As Rashi (ad loc.) explains: “wine is not found for all people on Chol Hamo’ed.” The Mishneh Halachot (VII, 78) tries to say that one is obligated to have wine, but it is nevertheless not readily found, (not a simple reading of the gemara). The Nishmat Adam’s (II, 104:1) claim that one has a choice between wine and meat also would answer the question.

The Shulchan Aruch does not mention an independent obligation to partake of wine on Chol Hamo’ed, but says in regard to Yom Tov, that the meal is based around wine (Orach Chayim 529:1). Yet, as the Magen Avraham (530:1) points out, on Chol Hamo’ed there is not an absolute obligation to have a full meal (for which reason if one forgets to say Ya’aleh V’Yavo in Birkat Hamazone he does not repeat - Orach Chayim 188:7).

A logical compromise, implied by the Sha’agat Aryeh (ibid.) and spelled out by the Moadim U’Zmanim (VII, 119), is as follows. While the mitzva from the Torah to have simcha on Yom Tov was accomplished in the Beit Hamikdash with the shalmei simcha, nowadays we must look for other options. The gemara (Pesachim 109a) brought a proof that wine is considered something that is good at making one happy. The Rambam found basis for meat being an important component of simcha as well. However, these are subjective components, but there are other alternatives, which for some people are much more appropriate. The gemara already says that, to generalize, it is appropriate to give clothes to women and sweets to children. However, even for adult males, other foods or experiences may effectively be an alternative to wine. If one does not enjoy wine, then alternatives are certainly called for.

It is a good practice for one who enjoys wine to drink daily a revi’it (3-4 oz.) together with a Chol Hamo’ed meal in order to certainly fulfill the mitzva and perhaps fulfill it in the optimal way (Rav Moshe Feinstein, cited in Zichron Shlomo (Zucker), pg. 33; see also Chol Hamo’ed K’hilchato 1:12). Grape juice is not a replacement, as a mild level of intoxication is part of the simcha element (based on Rashi, Bava Metzia 66b). Some say that any alcoholic beverage is sufficient for simcha (see Piskei Teshuvot 529:9). However, one who does not drink wine but does other things to make each day festive, need not feel guilty.



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