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Question: Looking back at the past Yomim Tovim, I am left with the following question: What is the reason for the unusual practice of the chazzan reciting shehecheyanu on Yom Kippur night?

Elimelech Feldman
Via email



Synopsis: In Orach Chayyim 225, the Mechaber lists situations that require the blessing of shehecheyanu, including acquisition of a new house or new garment, and eating a new fruit. Also, the Mechaber requires the shehecheyanu for yearly obligations during the festivals, such as shofar, sukkah, lulav, Chanukah candles and Megillat Esther. The Talmud as well discusses this obligation in various places (Eruvin, Pesachim, Sukkah, and Shabbos). One can see that these mitzvot center on an object, while Yom Kippur at first glance does not, despite the candles being lit. Reciting Kiddush in the synagogue is customary on Friday nights and festivals, so reciting shehecheyanu on Yom Kippur has merit, as confirmed by Mishna Berurah (Orach Chayyim 619 sk3). The Tur and the Mechaber (Orach Chayyim 619) both note that following Kol Nidrei; the chazzan recites the blessing of shehecheyanu (without a cup of wine), which surely is unusual.

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Answer: The source for our practice of a special recitation of Kiddush, with shehecheyanu, on all the festivals in the synagogue, is inferred from the following verse (Ecclesiastes 11:2), “Ten chelek l’shivah ve’gam l’she’monah … – Distribute portions to seven or even to eight…” The inference is that these are the days when we recite the blessing of shehecheyanu – “Who has sustained us” – and this is usually done over a cup of wine. “Shivah” refers to the seven days of Passover [as the Gemara explains, if one did not recite this blessing on the first day, one may recite even until the last day], while “Shemonah” refers to the eight days of Sukkot [similar to Passover], and “vegam” comes to include Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The Gemara finds difficulty with the inclusion of Yom Kippur. How is one to drink of the cup of wine at such a Kiddush recital, when one is biblically required to fast? The Gemara offers the solution that one makes the Kiddush [early] and then drink. The difficulty is that through his recitation of the Kiddush he has already accepted the Yom Tov and all its restrictions. The Gemara then offers a simple solution: Let the cup be given to a young child to drink. The Gemara rejects to that solution because we fear that we will cause the child to become accustomed to doing so and thus bring him to other violations in the future.

Rashi (s.v “d’asi l’misrach”) explains that our worry is not just a matter of chinuch related to his minor years but that there is the fear that he will continue to drink on Yom Kippur even after he reaches adulthood. In truth, what is the concern here? Is he not aware that all adults must fast and the only reason he is requested to drink the wine is because he is yet a minor? Rashba (Novella, ad loc.) offers that indeed he will understand that all adults fast on Yom Kippur but might come to assume that the Kiddush wine over which “shehecheyanu” is recited is an exception.

While this logic seems strange, from Rashash (Novella, ad loc.) we see that there is an obvious requirement for the one who recites the Kiddush to taste, for if not, why make the blessing in the first place? Thus, we may infer that the child seeing that the adult recites the Kiddush with the Shehecheyanu will assume that the adult must have tasted the wine as always, even on Yom Kippur.

We see instances where we do give wine to a child to drink, as the Gemara states clearly that if a child tastes, that would satisfy the requirement that the wine be tasted. An example is wine that is given to a child at Havdala on Motza’ei Tisha B’Av when adults are not allowed to drink wine. The wine of Kiddush recited in the synagogue other times in the year, which is actually referred to by our Gemara, is yet another instance of giving the child wine to taste.

Tosafot (ad loc., s.v. “Dilma asi l’misrach”) note that our worry is only for regularly recurring situations such as the case of our Gemara. However, if a brit fell on Tisha B’Av or on Yom Kippur when adults may not drink the wine, we would, indeed, give the cup to a child to taste following the recital of the blessings on the wine. Tosafot also note that it once happened that a chuppah – a wedding ceremony – took place on Asara B’Tevet and the wine was given to a child to taste. Included in that same Tosafot is the commentary of Tosafot Shantz, who report that once in the town where Rabbenu Yaakov b. Yakar was rav, a brit fell on Sunday, which was the Tenth of Av, whereby all Tish’a B’Av restrictions are postponed to that day. He nevertheless instructed those involved recite Mincha early and to wash and eat because it is considered their Yom Tov celebration. Tosafot note as well that they did not recite shehecheyanu [following the Ashkenaz tradition] because of the pain that is inflicted on the infant.

Rashba (ad loc.) disagrees with the Tosafot view, and even when it is a non-recurring event such as a brit, we never request of a child to drink on our behalf on a fast day such as Yom Kippur or Tisha B’Av [obviously the child is fed food in the course of the day but that is for his own welfare]. He offers another solution: In place of wine, let the blessing of borei minei besamim be recited over hadassim or other fragrant spices.

Thus arises the dispute in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayyim 621:3) in regard to a brit on Yom Kippur, with the Mechaber ruling like the Rashba that one should not bless over wine and the Rema ruling like the Tosafot (citing Kol Bo) that nevertheless, our custom is to bless over wine and give from the wine to a child – the newly circumcised infant. If this is the solution, what is Rashba’s objection? Magen Avraham (ad loc. 621:sk 3) explains that in Rashba’s view, the tasting by an infant is not sufficient since he has not reached the age of chinuch, rendering the blessing one uttered in vain. Rema obviously disagrees with this logic and would allow it.

It therefore remains clear that insofar as reciting Kiddush over wine on Yom Kippur, all are in agreement to forbid drinking; thus, the only solution is for the chazzan to recite only the blessing of shehecheyanu. But what about Kiddush – the sanctification of the day? For that we have no other solution but to rely on the kedushat hayom recitation in the Tefillah.


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.