May We Use Grape Juice for the Arba Kosot? – Part Three by Rabbi Chaim Jachter


In the past two issues, we have concluded that most Poskim permit using grape juice for Kiddush and that most Poskim believe that the Berachah for reconstituted grape juice (made from concentrate) is Borei Pri HaGefen.  This week we shall focus on whether we may use grape juice for the Arba Kosot.  We will base our discussion of this issue on a responsum written by Rav Menachem Genack which appears in his Sefer entitled Gan Shoshanim (2:66-71).


The question of whether one may use grape juice for the Arba Kosot was not dealt with in the Halachic literature until the twentieth century.  Although the Gemara (Bava Batra 97b and see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 272:2) rule that one may use freshly-squeezed grape juice for Kiddush (as we have discussed in an earlier issue), the Poskim did not discuss the question of Arba Kosot until recent decades.  The reason for this appears to be that grape juice was simply unavailable at Pesach time in previous generations.  After harvesting in the autumn, grapes would either be made into wine or spoil during storage.  Only in the modern age has mankind learned how to preserve grape juice to last and facilitate its availability year round.  This is an important point to bear in mind as we discuss this issue.

The Opinions

 Modern day Poskim have presented differing views regarding this topic.  Rav Moshe Feinstein (cited by his son Rav David Feinstein in Hagadot Kol Dodi chapter 3 section 8) and Rav Zvi Pesach Frank (Mikraei Kodesh, Pesach 2:section 35) believe that grape juice is unacceptable for Arba Kosot.  Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (cited by Rav Genack and Rav Hershel Schachter, Nefesh Ha-Rav p.185) believes that one who does not enjoy wine should use grape juice for the Arba Kosot.  The Seder HaAruch (p.112) cites Rav Chaim Kanievsky, who relates that the Chazon Ish used grape juice for the Arba Kosot.  Similarly, Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvot VeHanhagot Orach Chaim 2:243) relates that Rav Dov Berish Weidenfeld (the Tchebiner Rav, a leading mid-twentieth century authority) used grape juice for the Arba Kosot.

The Basis of the Arguments

Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Feinstein base their arguments on the same source.  The Gemara (Pesachim 108b) states that one who uses undiluted wine (wine was customarily diluted with water in a three-to-one ratio of water to wine during Talmudic times) for the Arba Kosot fulfills his obligation to drink wine, but not his obligation to commemorate and celebrate his freedom (“Cheirut”).  Rashbam (ad.loc. s.v. Yedei) explains that the one who uses undiluted wine has failed to fulfill the Mitzva of Arba Kosot in the fullest sense, because “only diluted wine is prestigious (Chashuv).”  The Rashbam (who lived in France during the twelfth century) adds that only the wine in Talmudic times required dilution since it was exceptionally potent.

We see from this Gemara that wine used for Arba Kosot must be “Chashuv”.  Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that grape juice is simply not Chashuv.  If, however, drinking wine will seriously damage one’s health, even Rav Feinstein would seem to agree that grape juice would suffice (see Teshuvot Igrot Moshe O.C. 1:172, Rav Dov Brisman’s Teshuvot Shalmei Chovah 1:71, and TABC’s Bikkurei Sukkah section fifty).  

Rav Soloveitchik, on the other hand, argues that for someone who does not enjoy drinking wine, grape juice is Chashuv and wine is, in turn, not Chashuv.  Moreover, he notes that the Rambam (Hilchot Chametz UMatzah 7:9) explains that we require wine for the Arba Kosot to be diluted “in order that the drinking of the wine should be pleasant, all according to the wine and the taste of the consumer.”  We see from the Rambam that the beverage consumed for the Arba Kosot should be pleasant for the consumer.  Therefore, concludes Rav Soloveitichik, if one does not enjoy wine, he should use grape juice for the Arba Kosot, as that will be a pleasant drink according to his taste.   

Rav Feinstein’s Proof

Rav Feinstein cites the Talmud Yerushalmi (Pesachim Chapter 10) as proof for his opinion.  The Yerushalmi relates that Rav Yona drank the four cups at the Seder and had a headache until Shavuot.  It is also recounted in this source that Rav Yehuda the son of Rav Hai drank the four cups of wine at the Seder and had a headache until Sukkot.  Rav Feinstein infers from this passage that grape juice is unacceptable for the Arba Kosot.  Had grape juice been acceptable, these rabbis would have drunk grape juice in order to avoid experiencing a headache for such an inordinate amount of time.

Rav David Willig related (in a shiur delivered at Yeshiva University in 1979) that when this argument was presented to Rav Soloveitchik, the Rav responded that “obviously” grape juice was not available to the rabbis mentioned in the Talmud Yerushalmi.  

It turns out that Rav Soloveitchik’s intuition was indeed correct.  Rav Genack confirmed with Mr. Feivish Herzog of Kedem wines (one of the “fathers” of the American kosher wine industry who, in addition to being a Torah scholar, has many decades of experience with wine-making) that in pre-modern times grape juice was unavailable during Pesach time, as we mentioned at the beginning of our discussion.  When Rav Genack presented this point to Rav David Feinstein, the latter conceded that one cannot deduce from the passage in the Yerushalmi that grape juice is unacceptable for the Arba Kosot.  Nonetheless, we should clarify that Rav Moshe’s ruling still stands, because he believes that grape juice is not a Chashuv drink (the passage in the Yerushalmi simply does not constitute a proof to his assertion).

Rav Zvi Pesach Frank’s Argument

Rav Zvi Pesach argues that grape juice is unacceptable because it is non-alcoholic and thus cannot be “MeSameiach” (make one happy).  The Rashbam (Pesachim 108b s.v. Yedei Yayin) indicates that a key aspect of the Arba Kosot is to bring about Simcha.  The Sefer HaMichtam (at the beginning of the tenth chapter of Pesachim) also presents the Mitzvah of Arba Kosot as a Mitzvah instituted by Chazal with the intention to promote rejoicing.  Tosafot (Pesachim 108b s.v. Yedei Yayin) and the Ran (23b in the pages of the Rif to Pesachim s.v. Mah) note this point as well.

Rav Zvi Pesach seeks to demonstrate that grape juice does not promote Simcha from the fact that the Gemara (Taanit 30a) permits drinking freshly pressed wine at the Tisha BeAv eve “Seudah HaMafseket” (one is generally not allowed to have anything that will promote happiness at this meal).  Moreover, Rashi (Bava Metzia 66b s.v. LePakuchei) seems to indicate that wine’s special character is derived from the fact that it brings Simcha through its alcoholic content.

 One could respond to these arguments in a number of ways.  My Talmid (and cousin) Yehuda Kranzler cites his grandfather, Rav Yisroel Feldman ZT”L of Milwaukee, who suggests that if one puts a few drops of wine in the grape juice, it would be valid even according to Rav Frank.  Even though the wine is technically speaking “Bateil” (nullified- wine is nullified in six times its volume, see Rama O.C. 204:5 and Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 124:5), it is still somewhat intoxicating and will cause a certain degree of Simcha.  I have heard (third-hand) that this was the practice of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.  Second, Rashi (Taanit 30a s.v. Yayin) explains that freshly squeezed wine may be used at the Seudah Hamafseket, because it is “new, sweet, inferior to aged wine, causes stomach disorders, and is harmful.”  Today’s grape juice is therefore hardly comparable to the Talmud’s freshly squeezed wine in regard to its potential for Simcha.  Indeed, grape juice is perceived by many as special and consumed only on special occasions such as Shabbat and Yom Tov.

In addition, Rav Genack presents an intriguing proof that grape juice does in fact promote Simcha.  He notes that the Gemara (Bava Batra 97a) states that freshly squeezed grape juice is acceptable if offered as Nesachim on the Mizbeiach (Temple wine libations).  He also notes that Sefer Shofetim (9:13) describes wine as making both Hashem and people happy.  Rashi (ibid.) explains that the Leviim recite their song in the Beit HaMikdash only at the time that the wine is poured on the Mizbeiach (see Berachot 35a).  Rav Genack reasons that if grape juice is acceptable for Nesachim whose purpose is in part for Simcha (see Rashi Menachot 20a s.v. Aderabbah), then it should also satisfy the Simcha aspect of the Arba Kosot.  

Rav Soloveitchik’s Practice

Rav Soloveitchik used grape juice for the last three cups at his Seder because he did not enjoy wine.  However, he used wine for the first cup because it was his practice to follow the opinion of the Rambam (Hilchot Shabbat 29:14) that cooked wine is unacceptable for Kiddush because cooked wine would not be accepted for use for Nesachim on the Mizbeiach in the Beit Hamikdash (as we explained in an earlier issue).  One cannot extrapolate from the fact that the Gemara permits grape juice for Kiddush, because our grape juice is cooked and not “fresh off the press” as described in the Gemara (as we explained earlier).  Rav Genack discusses (in his responsum) the basis to distinguish between the Arba Kosot where cooked wine is acceptable and Kiddush where cooked wine is unacceptable according to the Rambam.

Common practice (as we noted), however, is to regard “cooked wine”, generally speaking, as acceptable for Kiddush.  It is also worthwhile to note the possibility raised by Rav Soloveitchik that even if one wishes to be strict for the Rambam’s opinion regarding cooked wine for Kiddush, perhaps the participants at the Seder (other than the one who recites Kiddush) can use cooked wine for their first cup (see Nefesh Harav p. 185).  It should be noted that Rav Soloveitchik also followed the Rambam’s opinion that one should not use wine for Kiddush that has had sugar added to it.


The question as to whether one who does not like wine may use grape juice for the Arba Kosot is debated by twentieth century Halachic authorities.  This question remains unresolved, as neither side seems to have brought conclusive proof to its position.  Moreover, one cannot simply choose to be strict and use wine for the Arba Kosot, as Rav Soloveitchik believes that one who does not like wine specifically should have grape juice.  One must therefore consult his Rav for a ruling on this matter.

Yayin Mevushal and Non-Observant Seder Guests By Rabbi Chaim Jachter

May We Use Grape Juice for the Arba Kosot? – Part Two: The Berachah on Grape Juice from Concentrate by Rabbi Chaim Jachter