Can one make Kiddush over non-wine drinks?

The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 272:9) notes that in places in which wine is hard to come by, there are three opinions regarding Kiddush. The first opinion is that one may make Kiddush on beer or any other beverage, as long as it is not water. The Rambam’s opinion is that Kiddush should not be recited at all without wine. Finally, the Rosh says that on Friday night, one should recite Kiddush over the Hallah rather than an alcoholic beverage, but on Shabbat day, one should recite Kiddush over beer or another alcoholic beverage. The Kiddush of the day is considered a Rabbinic obligation, and it therefore has a less stringent status. The Shulhan Aruch appears to side with the third opinion. 

The Mishna Berura (M.B., O.H. 272:29) says that in certain European lands, in which wine is very expensive, and that most people are accustomed to drink other alcoholic beverages, the custom is to be lenient and make Kiddush of Shabbat day over beer, whiskey, etc. Nevertheless, Rabbi Yehuda Ayash (Mateh Yehuda, § 289:5) writes that if wine is available but is expensive, one is not allowed to make Kiddush on any other type of beverage. This is also the opinion of the Kaf Hahaim (K.H., O.H.289:55) and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Hazon Ovadia, vol. II, pg. 124). 

In a locale in which there truly is not wine available, the first beverage of choice to over which to recite Kiddush is beer because it is much easier for one to drink the requisite Revi’it of beer than it is a stronger spirit. 

Rabbi Ya’akov Hagiz (Halachot Ketanot, vol. II, § 9) writes that in the absence of wine, one must use an intoxicating beverage. Therefore, coffee or tea would not be appropriate for Kiddush, even during the day. Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Or Lezion, vol. II, ch. 20, § 19), on the other hand, rules that in extenuating circumstances, one may use coffee for the Kiddush of Shabbat day. Rabbi Baruch Toledano (Kitzur Shulhan Aruch, 272:19) says that on Shabbat day, it is preferable to have a Revi’it of beer for Kiddush than only a small amount of wine. 

Regarding one who cannot tolerate a lot of wine, or because of diabetes, cannot drink grape juice, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv rulse that freshly squeezed orange juice is considered acceptable. This would be the preferred option for the the four cups of wine by the Pesah Seder. 

Summary:  If wine is not available one should make Kiddush on Shabbat night over Challah and on Shabbat day, over beer or some other alcoholic beverage. One must use wine for Kiddush even if it is expensive.

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