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Bentching with a kos (recite Grace after Meals with a cup of wine) was clearly a popular thing to do in the times of the gemara. Additionally many Ashkenazi rishonim (Rosh, Ri, and many other Tosafists) felt is was obligatory with the Tur (OC 182) requiring one to skip a meal if he didn't have wine to bentch with.

Now it seems clear that we paskin like Rambam and Rif who hold it is not required, but the Rama (OC 182:1) adds based on the Ran, that even those who feel it is not obligatory, feel it is a mitzva min hamuvchar (a choiciest way of performing the mitzva) to do so.

My question is, why don't people do this more nowadays, considering the relatively low price of wine/grape juice and the clear encouragement in the sources for this custom?

[The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 182:3) brings a similar idea:]

דבר ברור הוא שאפילו למאן דסבירא ליה דאינה טעונה כוס, מכל מקום הידור מצוה הוא לברך על הכוס. ובש"ס משמע שהם כולם היו מברכים על הכוס, מפני שיין היה אצלם בזול. ולכן בהמדינות שיין מצוי ובזול – וודאי ראוי לכל ירא ה' לברך על הכוס, ובפרט כשיש זימון. ובמדינתינו אי אפשר מפני שאין לנו יין, וגם היין שאנו עושים מצימוקים הוא ביוקר, ואף גם שכר ביוקר, ואין ידינו משגת ליקח לכל סעודה כוס של ברכה. אך העשירים ששותים שכר בכל סעודה – וודאי דלהם נאה לברך על הכוס. והשומע יתברך מן השמים.‏

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    I can't speak for any particular minhag but I am always particular to bentch with a kos on Shabbos and Yom Tov as it also resolves the question of whether or not bentching is a valid brocha achrona for kiddush. – yoel Dec 4 '11 at 8:13
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    Rav Yaakov Peres Shelita (Orhot HaRab Ukhilato 3:3:49) quotes the Peri Megadim (Hashoel Im Hanishal Ot 10) writes when Maran (Mechaber) writes two opinions both starting Yesh Omrim he holds like the last. With that in mind, the Shulhan Aruch here writes three opinions and the third says to not even use wine at all. Thus, according to the opinion of Peri Megadim's explanation of the Kelalim of Maran, it seems according to Sephardic customs it's not an obligation. HOWEVER, the Rama writes it is a Miswa min Hamuvchar to do so. – Hacham Gabriel Dec 9 '11 at 4:40
  • I'm going to guess that it's related to the fact that many communities had many poor people who could not afford wine at every single meal. – avi Dec 9 '11 at 10:48
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    @DoubleAA And since when have people in NY returned to a halacha that wasn't followed in Europe? :P The general population only became "wealthy" in America after the 1950s. – avi Dec 10 '11 at 15:36
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    most people don't really drink wine much, so that might be part of the reason. in talmudic times, wine was their main (important) drink. – Ariel K Dec 15 '11 at 15:28
2

Note that the Be'er Heitev in סימן קפב - דין כוס ברכת המזון brings an Arizal that without a Mezuman one should not use a kos for benching.

באר היטב (א) ביחיד. והאר''י ז''ל כתב שהיחיד לא יברך על הכוס עיין יד אהרן:‏

So there's a basis for not using a Kos - and possibly people don't realize/remember that it doesn't always apply. (As in: I know for a fact that Big Tzadikim didn't use a Kos, so why should I?)

Also: The Remo (ibid 2) says that according to Kabala one doesn't hold the Kos unless there's a Mezumen; it remains standing on the table. (So again I never saw Big Tzadikim holding a Kos - obviously, it's not needed.)

וְיֵשׁ מְדַקְדְּקִין כְּשֶׁמְּבָרְכִין בְּיָחִיד עַל הַיַּיִן שֶׁלֹּא לֶאֱחֹז הַכּוֹס בְּיָדָם, רַק מַנִּיחִין אוֹתוֹ עַל הַשֻּׁלְחָן לִפְנֵיהֶם, וְנָכוֹן מִנְהָג זֶה עַל דֶּרֶךְ הַקַּבָּלָה‏


(To which the Be'er Heitev comments that he already said that as per the Arizal one doesn't use a Kos at all in this case.)

ע''ד הקבלה. כבר כתבתי בשם האר''י שא''צ כוס כלל ועיין יד אהרן:‏

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    The Rama is saying even though Kabbala discourages a Kos when alone, you should use one anyway, just some don't hold it. He doesn't think you should follow the Ari/Zohar (and of course neither did Tosfot, Kolbo, Rosh, Tur, Maharshal, etc. who hold it's obligatory when alone). As the Bach writes "אין לנו לנהוג מנהגינו ע"ד הקבלה כל שהוא נגד מסקנת התלמוד" – Double AA Oct 17 '17 at 13:11
  • @DoubleAA - correct, but people see "great Rabbis" that do not seem to use a Kos, because they aren't watching carefully. – Danny Schoemann Oct 17 '17 at 13:13
  • Sensible or not, it almost only makes sense to speculate that an obscure Kabbalistic concern stamped out a previously popular and well endorsed practiced. What else could suddenly do that to an age old Jewish practice? – Double AA Aug 9 '18 at 20:20
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The Aruch HaShulchan says that since wine and other drinks were expensive and they only drank water, they did not Bentch on a Kos.

HaRav Moshe Feinstein Zatzal says that since for hundreds of years due to the lack of wine Jews relied on the Poskim that say you do not need a Kos -- therefore even today when wine is readily available we retain the Halacha that you do not need a Kos. But he says some have started Bentching on a Kos, and they are doing a good thing.

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    A friend of mine was in a group that asked R' Chaim Kanievsky the above question. I don't know if he answered in Hebrew or Yiddish, but he only looked up from his sefer long enough to say 'it's too expensive'. He seems to hold it is too much expense even today. Though this may be influenced by the dire poverty prevalent in Bnei Brak. – YDK Dec 15 '11 at 15:45
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    +1 for the Igros. You are only supporting my question. I state clearly in the question that it is clear there is no obligation. But the AH and RMF both say that it is a mitzva min hamuvchar to do so when possible. Since nowadays in many places Grape Juice is not much more expensive than Orange Juice (and certainly cheaper than Starbucks) why don't more people bentch on a kos? According to my calculations, for $50 a year you could bentch on a kos 4 to 6 times per week! – Double AA Dec 15 '11 at 16:23
  • If you read what the Igros Moshe wrote and I translated - He clearly says that even today when wine is readily available, it makes it as if the Halacha is that you do not need a Kos. – Gershon Gold Dec 15 '11 at 16:26
  • I read it and I thank you again for the source as I hadn't seen it before. He indeed says (like I said) that you don't need a kos. But he also said (like I said) that there is a "Maalah" to doing so even now. I never questioned the lack of requirement, only the lax attitude toward this "Maalah." – Double AA Dec 15 '11 at 17:23
  • Do you think this answers the question? – Double AA Jun 17 '13 at 19:47

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