Question: Is one obligated to taste the Kiddush wine?
Answer: The prevalent custom is that after the individual reciting Kiddush tastes some of the wine, he passes around the Kiddush cup to all of the people seated at the table and everyone tastes some wine. Some have the custom, due to hygienic concerns, to pour some wine from the Kiddush cup into every person’s individual cup and everyone tastes some wine from their own cup.
The Brisker Rav’s Opinion
Regarding our question, Hagaon Harav Yitzchak Ze’ev Ha’Levi Soloveichik zt”l (the “Brisker Rav,” a famous Torah genius who lived in Jerusalem several decades ago) would say that that one who hears Kiddush from one’s friend does not fulfill his obligation unless he tastes some wine from the Kiddush cup; if one does not taste any wine at all, one has not fulfilled his obligation to hear Kiddush.
The reason for this is because the primary function of the Shabbat morning Kiddush is to drink the wine (since the Shabbat morning Kiddush consists of only the Ha’Gefen blessing as opposed to the Shabbat night Kiddush); if so, how can the one reciting Kiddush have all those who hear him fulfill their obligation to drink? This is a Mitzvah which must be actively done with one’s own body, such as eating Matzah on Pesach where one cannot say that one person should eat and everyone else fulfills their obligation with his eating!
Based on this, the Brisker Rav would see to it that all those present would taste some of the Kiddush wine.
The Opinion of All Other Poskim
We have mentioned in the previous Halacha that if one hears Kiddush from another, tastes some wine, and then wishes to partake of other beverages, one does not recite the Shehakol blessing on these beverages since the “Boreh Peri Ha’Gefen” blessing recited on the wine exempts all beverages that follow the wine.
We have mentioned the opinion of the Poskim who write that if one who has heard Kiddush being recited but did not taste any wine and wishes to drink other beverages, he must indeed recite a “Shehakol Nihya Bidvaro” blessing on what he drinks. Many great Poskim rule likewise. We can infer clearly from their words then that there is no obligation whatsoever to drink some of the Kiddush wine, for all of these Poskim have written that “if one does not taste some wine from the Kiddush cup, one must recite a Shehakol blessing on the other beverages one wishes to drink” and none of them mention that if one does not taste some wine from the Kiddush cup, one does not fulfill his obligation to hear Kiddush at all.
Regarding what we have said that drinking the wine from the Kiddush cup is a Mitzvah one must perform with one’s own body and if so, how can the one reciting the Kiddush have everyone fulfill their obligation to drink, Hagaon Harav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin zt”l writes (in his Sefer Ha’amek She’ela, Parashat Yitro) that the honor of Shabbat is when the head of the household drinks the wine and all of the other members of the household fulfill the Mitzvah of Kiddush.
Thus, there is no obligation to taste some wine from the Kiddush cup at the conclusion of Kiddush. Even one who has not tasted any wine fulfills his obligation to hear Kiddush.
Nevertheless, Maran Harav zt”l writes (Halichot Olam, Volume 2, page 22) that there is still an extra special Mitzvah for all present to taste some of the Kiddush wine in order to endear the Mitzvah as is the prevalent custom among the entire Jewish nation.
Summary: One who hears Kiddush on Shabbat need not drink some of the Kiddush wine; even one who does not taste any Kiddush wine fulfills his obligation to hear Kiddush. It is nevertheless an extra special Mitzvah to taste some of the Kiddush wine in order to endear the Mitzvah.