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Simchas Yom Tov

Rabbi Yisroel Langer, cRc Dayan


The Torah commands ושמחת בחגך (Devorim 16:14) that we should rejoice on our festivals.  The Gemorah (Pesachim 109A) tells us that to fulfill this mitzvah, one must partake of the meat of the korban shlomim that was brought on the festival.  After the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, we are no longer able to fulfill the mitzvah of l‘djc ,jnau in this fashion.  Therefore, we must resort to other means in order to bring about a state of inner happiness.  The Gemorah (ibid) says that men should drink wine and women should purchase new clothing for Yom Tov.  The Shulchan Aruch (529:2) based on the Rambam adds that children should have nuts and candies purchased for them.  If we do so, we have fulfilled the mitzvah of l‘djc ,jnau 1.  This mitzvah of Simchos Yom Tov is applicable to Chol Hamoed as well (Ramban Laws of Yom Tov 6:17: Mishnah Brurah 529:2:16).


Question: Must one drink wine to perform the mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov, or can he fulfill the mitzvah in another fashion?

Answer: The Yeraim (126) holds that one can fulfill the mitzvah of l‘djc ,jnau by eating or doing anything that brings one to a joyous state.  Wine is just an example that the Gemorah gives.  The Rambam (Yom Tov 6:18) however, says that men must drink wine and eat meat,2 for to be in a true state of joy, these foods are necessary.  The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 529:1) paskins that one must drink wine3, but omits that it is necessary to eat meat as there was no mention in the Gemorah regarding thus4.  The Mishna Brurah (529:1:11 and Beiur Halacha there) paskins that although one is not obligated to eat meat on Yom Tov, there is a mitzvah to do so.


Question: May one who wishes to perform the mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov by eating meat do so by partaking of poultry?

Answer:  The Gemorah in Chagigah (8A) says that the posuk of l‘djc ,jnau excludes eating meat from a bird offering to perform the mitzvah, since it does not bring a person to true simcha.  The Rambam (Chagigah 2:10) brings this Gemorah as Halacha.  Therefore the poskim  (HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l quoted in Teshuvos Rivivos Efraim 1:350, Emes l’Yaakov O.C. 529) say that one should not substitute poultry for meat when attempting to fulfill this mitzvah.5 & 6


Question: May one fulfill his obligation to drink wine by drinking grape juice instead?

Answer:  HaGaon R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l (ibid) and HaGaon R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l  (Maadanei Shlomo p.13) rule that grape juice is equivalent to wine in all areas of Halacha and one could fulfill his obligation of Simchas Yom Tov with grape juice.  However, most poskim (HaGaon R’ Moshe Feinstein zt”l, HaGaon Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l, Debritziner Rav zt”l, as quoted in Sefer Zichron Shlomo Beiurim 1:1) say that although one can fulfill the mitzvah of kiddush with grape juice, since it is not intoxicating, he cannot fulfill the mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov with it.  Likewise, R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, shlita, (Shvus Yitzchak Pesach, Ch. 10-11) holds that one can not perform the mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov with grape juice.  Moreover, he questions whether one may make kiddush on grape juice at all, or even whether one makes a ‘borei pri hagafen’ on it. Rav Elyashiv, shlita holds this opinion despite the halacha in Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 272:2) which states that one may make kiddush on non-fermented wine.  Rav Elyashiv, shlita maintains that our grape juice is different from that mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch, since it can not ferment (see Minchas Shlomo Teshuva 4).


Question: How much wine must a person drink in order to fulfill the mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov?

Answer: The Nimukei Hagriv (529:2) and Rav Elyashiv, shlita (ibid) hold that one must drink a reviis of wine to fulfill his obligation of Simchas Yom Tov7. Even according to the poskim who say that grape juice may not be used, wine can be diluted with grape juice so long as the wine can still be tasted (Shvus Yitzchak, ibid). One who detests wine to the point where he has no pleasure from it at all, has no mitzvah to drink it (R’Eliyashev, ibid; Zichron Shlomo Beiurim 1:3). Some poskim rule that one should have wine every day of Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed since there is a mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov on Chol Hamoed as well. (HaGaon R’ Moshe Feinstein zt”l, Zichron Shlomo; R’ Elyashiv, ibid) However, women need not buy new clothing for every day of Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed since one new garment brings simcha for the entire Yom Tov (R’ Elyashiv ibid).


In whatever fashion we fulfill the mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov, we must remember to help out those who are less fortunate than we are.  If we fail to do so, the Rambam says, our simcha is no longer in the realm of Simchas Yom Tov, but rather a selfish simcha – a simcha for the stomach.



1 According to the Rambam (Yom Tov 6:18) we fulfill a mitzvah d’oraisah.  According to  Tosfos (Moed Koton 14b) it’s d’rabbonon, the mitzvah d’orasisah is only to eat from the Korban Shlomim.  According to the Ran and Ritva (Succah 42b) even during the time of the Beis HaMikdash, one could fulfill the mitzvah d’oraisah with any meat.  To partake of the meat of the korban is the ultimate way of performing the mitzvah.

2The Chayei Adam (Nishmas Adam 104:1) explains the opinion of the Rambam, that one can fulfill his mitzvah with either meat or wine.  See Maharshal (Yom Shel Shlomo Beitza 2:5) that requires the eating of both to fulfill the mitzvah.

3 See Mishna Brurah (521:1:11) that the wine for kiddush is not sufficient.  To fulfill the mitzvah one must have wine during the meal.

4 See Magen Avraham (249:6) that cites a Gemorah in Sanhedrin (70A) as a source for the requirement of eating meat even in our times.

5 According to R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l, ibid) even one who doesn’t enjoy meat should make an effort to eat it on Yom Tov.

6 The Yad Ephraim (Y.D. 1:1) is of the opinion that one could fulfill his mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov with poultry.  It seems, however, that the later poskim do not concur with this ruling.

7 See Gemorah in Pesachim (108b) that seems to indicate that only a cheekful is needed (see Sefer Zichron Shlomo p.3 note 12)

Published in Parsha Encounters, Haazinu 5763