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Thought for the Day: The Sabbath and Holiday Sanctification Ceremony with Wine

I remember realizing when I was 12 or so that it wasn't really that hard to always be right; just don't say anything if you aren't sure.  Of course, as I have gotten older (no, not matured), I realized that is an unacceptable solution; keep my mouth shut when I have an unfounded opinion!?  Therefore I have backed off to Plan B; never being wrong.  That's much easier, because I just need to add enough qualifiers.

As far as I can determine right now, having given the topic a full seven minutes of almost all available attention (while riding my bicycle this morning in traffic), the bracha of "borei pri ha'gafen" is unique because it is sometimes a birkas ha'ne'he'nin, sometimes a birkas ha'mitzvah, and sometimes sort of kind of both.  "What difference does it make?", you ask; "Huge!", I answer (always true, since huge is by definition comparative and I can always find something relative to which this will appear huge).  The most important (by definition, because there is a point I want to make) "nafka mina" (practical difference) is whether or not you can motzi someone else without participating yourself.

The way being motzi another Jew with a birkas ha'mitzvah works is "kol yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh"/we are all guarantors for each other; if one Jew has not fulfilled a mitzvah, then every Jew still "owes" on that mitzvah This is completely analogously to the way a guarantor for a loan works; if you are a co-signer, then lender can come after you for the full amount.  That means that I can make the bracha for you -- even though I have already performed the mitzvah and have no intention of performing it again.  A birkas ha'ne'he'nin, on the other hand, works by "shomei'ah k'onah"/hearing is the same as saying.  If we both plan to eat an apple, I can make the bracha for both of us.  I said it, so I can eat; you heard it so you have effectively said it, and you can also eat.  If, though, I am in the middle of my apple and make a borei pri ha'eitz for you, then we are both in trouble.  I would be in trouble for making a bracha l'vatala (or at least a bracha sh'ein tzricha); you would be in trouble for eating without making a bracha.

So... the evening Shabbos and Yom Tov kiddush is a birkas ha'mitzvah, which Chazal decreed should be made over wine.  Hence, the borei pri ha'gafen is being used as a birkas ha'mitzvah.  During the day, however, Chazal decreed ceremony like the night time kiddush; namely, that one should start the meal with a special birkas ha'ne'he'nin.  The "borei pri ha'gafen" is used for that.  That is why you can make kiddush for even late arriving guests on Friday night, but not on Shabbos day.  On Friday night you are motzi them and they are yotzi with "kol yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh".  During the day, though, the issue is no more than "shomei'ah k'onah"; if you tried to "make kiddush" for late comers, you would be guilty of a bracha l'vatala (or sh'ein tzricha) and they would not only be drinking wine without having made a bracha, but they would also be eating without having made kiddush.

How about if you want to make early kiddush for someone in the hospital Friday night, but don't want to actually accept Shabbos because you want to drive home and make kiddush for your own family?  That's a really interesting question.


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