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Shemitah Wine Guidelines for the Seder Night – Pesach: the Expanded Version

Shemitah Wine Guidelines for the Seder Night – Pesach: the Expanded Version

The Yerushalmi asks if we can use shemitah wine for the 4 cups, concluding that we may. Why is this a question? Plus: may we use shemitah wine for the second cup, even though we generally spill out 16 drops?

Nissan 5783 / Rabbi Moshe Bloom

Possibilities for the Yerushalmi Questioning Whether it is Permissible to Use Shemitah Wine for the Four Cups

The Yerushalmi (Pesachim 10:1) questions whether it is possible to fulfill the obligation of drinking four cups of wine for the seder with shemitah wine, but ultimately concludes that it is possible. The Talmudic commentators deliberate why this would be forbidden and if so, why it is permitted, offering several explanations. There are difficulties with most explanations.

Pnei Moshe, Rabbi Moshe MiShklov

The Yerushalmi is referring to shemitah wine after bi'ur time (since bi'ur time for wine is erev Pesach), for which bi'ur was not performed and thus is forbidden to benefit from it. The conclusion of the Yerushalmi that it is permitted is since drinking the four cups is a mitzvah and "mitzvot were not commanded for enjoyment." Thus, it would be permitted to use it for the four cups.
The difficulty with this explanation is that it is forbidden to drink a beverage that is forbidden to benefit from even for a mitzvah; furthermore, the Ran writes that since there is physical enjoyment in this case, the principle of "mitzvot were not commanded for enjoyment" does not apply.

Korban Ha'eidah

Shemitah produce is ownerless and thus does not completely belong to anyone. Just as matzah needs to fully belong to the one eating it ("lachem", mishelachem), meaning that matzah must belong to the person and not be loaned or stolen, perhaps the wine of the four cups needs to belong to the person and not be ownerless. The conclusion is that at this point is does belong to the person, so it is permissible to drink it.

The difficulty with this explanation is that the Torah clearly states: "And the [produce] of the land's Sabbatical is for you to eat". This implies that despite its ownerless status, it does belong to the person; furthermore, it is possible to fulfill the obligation of using an etrog for the four species with a shemitah etrog, even though the etrog must belong to the person ("lachem").

Har Tzvi, Machazeh Avrahamm (Rabbi Avraham Steinberg) and Chazon Nachum (Rabbi Nachum Weidenfeld)

It is a mitzvah to drink shemitah wine, and drinking the four cups is also a mitzvah. Perhaps it would be forbidden to fulfill two mitzvot simultaneously, since "mitzvot should not be bundled together (אין עושים מצוות חבילות חבילות"."). The Yerushalmi concludes that this is not problematic: either drinking the four cups is obligatory while drinking shemitah wine is an optional mitzvah; alternatively, the mitzvah of drinking four cups is performed with ones' throat while the mitzvah of consuming shemitah produce is fulfilled with one's intestines, thus the time each mitzvah is performed is different and not simultaneous. (Ratz Katzvi 1:15).

The difficulty with this is that it is permissible for Kohanim to eat matzah from challah or terumah; the principle of not bundling mitzvot together does not apply there.

Har Tzvi

Just like impure terumah oil is may not be burned on Yom Tov (shemen sereifah), and not even used to kindle a stove to prepare food, since benefit from it is secondary the biblical mitzvah of burning the terumah; here, too, perhaps in this case the person's enjoyment is secondary to the mitzvah of the four cups. This would be considered non-standard drinking and thus constitute hefsed, wasting shemitah produce. The conclusion is that this is not a problem.

Difficulty: it’s the burning of terumah involves destruction, which is forbidden; however, here we are discussing drinking shemitah produce and drinking four cups of wine. This is the same act and is not problematic.


The Yerushalmi is referring to undiluted wine (yayin chai), which people do not generally drink. Drinking undiluted wine is considered drinking in an unconventional fashion and thus considered hefsed. In this case, it would be a mitzvah performed by means of transgressing an averiah, so perhaps one would not be able to fulfill the obligation of drinking four cups. The conclusion is that this is not problematic.

The difficulty here is that the Gemara does not state that it is referring to undiluted wine; furthermore, the Gemara states explicitly that one would not be able to observe the mitzvah of drinking four cups on non-shemitah undiluted wine (Pesachim 108).

Or Samech

It is only permissible to make kiddush on wine that can be poured as a wine libation on the altar. shemitah wine may not be used for this purpose. The Yerushalmi concludes that it is permissible to say kiddush on this wine since it would only be disqualified if for libations if rancid or had a bad smell; here there only reason to disqualify it would be its shemitah status, and this would not disqualify it for kiddush (the wine itself is good).

The difficulty with this resolution is that the Yerushalmi asked specifically about the four cups, not about kiddush in general on Shabbat (or the 1st cup only, also considered kiddush wine).

Or Lezion (Shevi'it 3:15:5)

Bi'ur time is erev Pesach, so by drinking the wine on seder night one fulfills the mitzvah of bi'ur, so the concern is "bundling mitzvot together." However, this is not a problem.

Rabbi Eliyahu Schlesinger (Responsa Sho'alin Vedorshin 3:12)

Perhaps by fulfilling the mitzvah of drinking four cups of wine with shemitah produce it is considered paying a debt (to G-d, as it were) through shemitah produce.

Another possibility: Perhaps because shemitah wine is not properly processed (due to the prohibition of performing certain actions with shemitah produce), it cannot be used for the four cups.

Rabbi Asher Weiss

Generally, people do not enjoy drinking the four cups: regular people do not normally drink so much in one meal, the cup is supposed to be drained rapidly, and even people who do not enjoy drinking, or for those whom it is detrimental to their health are obligated in drinking the wine. For this reason, the Yerushalmi deliberated whether lechatchilah it is permissible to use shemitah wine for the four cups: if someone drinks due to the obligation only, perhaps this is forbidden. Ultimately, though, the Yerushalmi concludes that it is permissible and considered conventional drinking, even if one does not enjoy the wine or even experiences discomfort as a result.


Ultimately, since the Yerushalmi's conclusion is that this is permissible, supporting shemitah-observant farmers is certainly relevant and even a mitzvah (according to some opinions).  Moreover, one of the characteristics of our freedom on Pesach is our independence and ability to grow the produce that we need. What expresses this more than our seder table featuring the wine of liberty grown by our own farmers in the Holy Land?!



The Second Cup


The Remah (Darchei Moshe on the Tur OC 473:7) quotes that Maharil, noting the custom to remove a drops of wine from the cup with one's finger when mentioning "blood, fire, and pillars of smoke" (dam, eish vetimron ashan); the ten plagues, and the mnemonic of דצ"ך עד"ש באח"ב. This amounts to 16 drops of wine. He cites the Maharil, who provides the rationale "from all these may He save us, and may they come upon our enemies, since these cups are for the success of Israel." That is, the wine removed from the cup symbolizes the plagues that we do not want, while the remaining wine is symbolic for the People of Israel. It follows that one should not drink these drops of wine. (See Revavot Efraim II 137, who provides another rationale: our joy is incomplete since the Egyptians were killed; if we drink these drops of wine it will appear that we are glad that they were killed.)

Rabbi Kook

Rabbi Kook (Shabbat Ha'aretz, Kuntress Acharon 22; cited by Rabbi Tucazinsky, Sefer Hashemitah p. 33) writes that one should avoid using shemitah wine for the second cup since we customarily spill out 16 drops of wine onto the plate (see above). This is considered hefsed, wasting shemitah produce. Rabbi Yosef Lieberman (Mishnat Yosef 2:40) rules accordingly.

Rabbi Kanievsky

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky writes that one should drink the wine after spilling it from the cup (while the Kaf Hachayim rules that in principle one should avoid drinking this wine, this refers only to regular wine; in this case, however, where there is a halachic imperative to drink the wine, it is permitted and necessary). Alternatively, it is permissible to give this wine to a non-Jew to drink.

Rabbi Elyashiv

It was observed that Rabbi Elyashiv would use shemitah wine for the second cup and would avoid spilling out the drops of wine. Apparently this is because spilling out the drops is a custom while wasting shemitah produce is a halachic prohibition.

Rabbi Abba Shaul

Note that Rabbi Abba Shaul (Or Lezion) permits extinguishing the havdalah candle in shemitah wine since this is the regular use all year. It seems he would also allow spilling out a few drops for the second cup.

We need not worry that wine might be spilled over the course of the seder. The hefsed prohibition applies only if produce is deliberately wasted, not if done accidentally.


It is meritorious to drink shemitah wine or grape juice, which expresses both physical and spiritual liberty.
For the second cup we have several options: (1) drink the spilled wine (2) don't spill wine; (3) use non-shemitah wine for this cup only.
Spills: While we should do our best to ensure that wine isn't spilled during the Seder, if spilled we need not gather it from the table or floor.


For additional material on the topic (in Hebrew), see a lecture by Olamot and the accompanying source sheets, as well as question addressed to Rabbi Kanievsky. See also Rabbi Efrati and Rabbi Asher Weiss.



Additional Sources

Maharil (Minhagim) Seder Hahagadah 27b)

The Mahari (Moreno Harav Rabbi Yaakov) Segal said: when one mentions in the hagadah "blood, fire, and pillars of smoke," with one's finger, one should remove wine from the cup once upon the recitation of each word. The same is true when reciting דצ"ך עד"ש באח"ב, as a whole [as mnemonics] and individual [when enumerating each plague], a total of 16 times, corresponding to the 16 faces of G-d’s sword  (mentioned by the Kabbalistic work, Rokeach). There are also other rationales to this custom. Similarly, the Maharash writes that when one states "blood, frogs, etc.", one should remove a drop of wine for each cup. He states that this was the custom of the Ra'avaya. It seems that the rationale is that "from all these may He save us, and may they come upon our enemies, since these cups are for the success of Israel."


Responsa by Rabbi Kanievsky, edited by Rabbi Matityahu Gabi

Question: Is it permissible to remove drops of shemitah wine into water when saying the ten plagues, as this wastes the wine?

Answer: One should drink it afterwards.

Sources on this topic:

שו”ת משנת יוסף ח”ב ס”מ חי”א ס’ פ”ב ובשו”ת ציץ אליעזר ח”ו ס’ ל”ג, ובס’ חוט שני פסח פי”ז סק”י ובס’ דרך אמונה פ”ה משמיטה ויובל צה”ל ס”ק י”ט, ובשו”ת רבבות אפרים ח”ב ס’ קל”ז ובס’ השמיטה פ”ז הערה 4 ובס’ הליכות שלמה פסח פ”ט ס’ ל”ה ובס’ אשרי האיש ח”ג עמ’ ת”ב ובשו”ת משנה הלכות חי”ט סו”ס רמ”ח, ובס’ מועדי ישראל פסח ס’ פ”ג ובספרו אמונת ישראל ח”א ס’ כ”ג, ובס’ הנהגות רבינו עמ’ רט”ו שהגריש”א זצ”ל לא שפך בשביעית עי”ש, ובספר גם אני אודך תשובות הגרח”ש סגל, חלק ג’ סימן ע”ז עיין שם, ומה שהשיב מרן בספר גיבורי כח עמ’ רל”ד, ומש”כ בקונ’ ימי השביעית עמ’ ע”ח, ובספר פרדס יוסף החדש, לידידי הגאון רבי גמליאל הכהן רבינוביץ שליט”א, על הגדה של פסח (אות צ’). 

Question: Some explain the deliberation of the Yerushalmi in Reish Arvei Pesachim if it is possible to fulfill the obligation of the four cups with shemitah wine that we cannot bundle mitzvot together, since there is a positive injunction to consume shemitah produce, but then why would [the Yerushalmi] question the issue of Kiddush [with shemitah wine.]

Answer: This is the whole question. See what is written on this topic: Beit Mattityahu I 2:15.