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


In preparation for Pesach, we wish to address whether we are permitted to use grape juice for the Arba Kosot at the Seder.  In order to properly discuss this issue, we first must first examine the question of whether grape juice is acceptable for Kiddush.  We must also review the question as to whether grape juice made from concentrate is acceptable for Kiddush.  We base much of the following three articles on a seminar conducted by the Orthodox Union at the Young Israel of Flatbush a number of years ago that addressed many issues regarding the Halachot of grape juice and wine.

Bava Batra 97a

The question as to whether one may use grape juice for Kiddush would appear to be simply resolved by a passage in Bava Batra 97b that states, “One may squeeze a cluster of grapes [before Shabbat] and recite Kiddush on it.”  The Gemara even explicitly states that it is permissible Lechatchilah to use this product for Kiddush (also see Nazir 38b and Tosafot ad. loc. s.v. Achal).  The question, though, is a bit more complicated, because grape juice that is commercially available in our times is often cooked or at least pasteurized.  We must consider two classic issues before proceeding to the contemporary issue of using grape juice for Kiddush.  We must review the debate as to whether one recites Borei Pri HaGefen on cooked wine (Yayin Mevushal) and whether Kiddush may be recited on such wine.

The Berachah on Yayin Mevushal

We recite Shehakol on most juices because Chazal (Berachot 38a) consider them to constitute “mere sweat” (Zeiah BeAlma) and undeserving of a more specific Berachah.  Wine, on the other hand, merits its special Berachah of Borei Pri HaGefen because its status has been upgraded (Ishtani LeIluya; see Berachot 35b).

Rashi and the Rash (cited in Tosafot Bava Batra 97a s.v. Ilaima) believe that one should recite Shehakol upon Yayin Mevushal, cooked wine, since cooking downgrades its quality and reverses the wine’s original status upgrade.  For Rashi and the Rash, Yayin Mevushal is of equal status to orange or pineapple juice and thus merits only a Berachah of Shehakol.  (Berachot 38b serves as somewhat of a basis for their assertion.)

Tosafot (ibid.) and most other Rishonim (cited in the Beit Yosef Orach Chaim 272 s.v. VeAl Yayin Mevushal and the Encyclopedia Talmudit 4:457-458) rule that we recite Borei Pri HaGefen even on Yayin Mevushal.  Tosafot cite the Talmud Yerushalmi (Pesachim 10:1) that permits Yayin Mevushal for the Arba Kosot as support for their contention.  The Rosh (Bava Batra 6:10 and cited in the Beit Yosef ad. loc.) explains that Yayin Mevushal retains its upgraded status.  This is especially true today, when only wine connoisseurs can discern the difference in quality between uncooked wine and Yayin Mevushal, which is heated only a very brief time (see Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s Teshuvot Minchat Shlomo 1:25).

The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 202:1) rules unequivocally that one recites Borei Pri HaGefen upon Yayin Mevushal.  A dissenting opinion is not even cited, demonstrating that Tosafot’s opinion has been accepted as normative regarding this issue (as noted by the Mishna Berurah 272:23).

Kiddush on Yayin Mevushal

The aforementioned Tosafot and Rosh also permit reciting Kiddush upon Yayin Mevushal.  The Rambam (Hilchot Shabbat 29:14), however, disagrees, based on the Gemara’s (Bava Batra 97a) requirement that wine used for Kiddush be suitable for use as Nesachim on the Mizbeiach (libations on the Temple altar).  The Maggid Mishneh (commenting on the Rambam ad. loc.) clarifies that although the Rambam agrees that we recite Borei Pri HaGefen on Yayin Mevushal, he believes that it is disqualified for Kiddush since Yayin Mevushal is unfit for Nesachim (Menachot 87a).  He also notes that the Rambam is following the path of the Geonim’s strict ruling regarding this issue.

Tosafot base their ruling once again on the Talmud Yerushalmi that permits Yayin Mevushal for the Arba Kosot for, after all, the first of these Kosot is Kiddush.  The Rosh notes that the Gemara excludes wine that is unfit for the Mizbeiach from use for Kiddush only if the wine is of poor quality, such as if it has a bad smell.  The Rosh further explains that Yayin Mevushal is excluded from Nesachim only because it is been changed from its original form.

The Beit Yosef (ad. loc.) records that the majority of Rishonim agree with Tosafot and the Rosh that Yayin Mevushal is acceptable for Kiddush (the Terumat HaDeshen 30 states explicitly that the majority of Rishonim rule leniently about this matter).  In fact, he cites the Agur, who records that the practice in Ashkenaz and of all its eminent rabbinic leaders is to use Yayin Mevushal for Kiddush if no other wine of comparable quality is available.

The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 272:8) presents the lenient opinion as the primary view and cites the Rambam’s strict view merely as “there are those who say that one should not recite Kiddush upon it.”  The Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 272:9) observes that the Shulchan Aruch presents the lenient opinion as the normative view.  The Rama, in turn, cites the aforementioned Agur who records that the practice is to use Yayin Mevushal if no other wine of comparable quality is available.

The Mishna Berurah (272:23) infers from the Rama, though, that if there is a non-Mevushal wine available, one should choose the non-Mevushal wine in order to accommodate the strict opinion on this matter.  The Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchatah (57:19) records the contemporary practice to specifically choose Yayin Mevushal for Kiddush due to concern that a Nochri or a non-observant Jew might touch it (which  would render it prohibited to drink due to Kashrut regulations).

He notes (footnote 95), however, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s opinion (ad. loc.) that our wines and grape juice, which are heated only briefly and whose taste is affected only marginally (in the perception of most people), are not classified as Yayin Mevushal.  Rav Shlomo Zalman is entirely convinced regarding this matter to the extent that he says that one may rely on his opinion even in a lenient direction.  Thus, according to Rav Shlomo Zalman, pasteurized wines and grape juice are acceptable for Kiddush even according to the Rambam, but become forbidden if touched by a Nochri or a non-observant Jew.  Rav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv is cited (see Rav Ovadia Yosef’s Teshuvot Yabia Omer 8:15) as agreeing with Rav Shlomo Zalman’s ruling on this matter, at least in the direction of stringency.

Rav Hershel Schachter stated (in the aforementioned Orthodox Union conference) that the Poskim in America have traditionally ruled leniently about this matter and that the prevailing custom in this country is to follow the lenient view.  Rav Moshe Feinstein’s lenient ruling (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe Yoreh Deah 3:31) is a prime example of the approach of the great American Poskim regarding this issue.  Indeed, Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer ad. loc.) rules leniently in accordance with what he writes is the prevailing practice in Israel to regard even pasteurized wine or grape juice as Mevushal.  According to this approach, if all else is equal, one should use non-Mevushal wine for Kiddush.  Experience teaches (in my opinion), however, that one should consider following the practice recorded in the Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchatah in order to avoid Kashrut problems.

Is Grape Juice Acceptable for Kiddush?

Although the aforementioned Gemara explicitly permits using freshly squeezed grape juice for Kiddush, some Rabbanim (Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, Kitvei HaRav Henkin 2:28 in his first letter on the subject and Rav Moshe Shternbuch, Moadim UZemanim 3:255 footnote one) express reservations about doing so.  They are concerned about a potential distinction between freshly squeezed grape juice and today’s commercially available grape juice.  They note that freshly squeezed grape juice retains the potential to ferment (as noted by the Rashbam to Bava Batra 97b s.v. Yayin Koseis).  They write, however, that commercially available grape juice does not have this potential.

There are two possible responses to this concern.  First, Rav Zvi Pesach Frank (Teshuvot Har Zvi O.C. 1:158; he writes in 1926 to Rav Yitzchak Horowitz, a Rav in Hartford, Connecticut who issued a fiery ruling during the American Prohibition era forbidding the use of grape juice for Kiddush) writes that just as the Shulchan Aruch rules that Yayin Mevushal retains its original character as wine despite being cooked, so too grape juice retains its original character of wine despite its inability to ferment.  Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Teshuvot Minchat Shlomo 1:4) articulates an identical approach and rules that grape juice is acceptable for Kiddush.

The second response, as noted by Rav Henkin in his second letter on the subject, is that grape juice does in reality have the potential to ferment.  Indeed, Mr. Feivish Herzog (one of the fathers of the contemporary Kosher wine industry who is a Torah scholar with decades of experience in wine production) recounted at the aforementioned Orthodox Union conference that he told Rav Henkin that he need only remove the cover of a grape juice bottle, leave it exposed at room temperature, and add a little sugar (and some yeast if he wanted) and it would become “beautiful wine”.


In addition to Rav Zvi Pesach and Rav Shlomo Zalman who permit using grape juice for Kiddush, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, Rav Moshe Feinstein (cited by Rav Zevulun Charlop in Beit Yitzchak 35:297-314), Rav Ovadia Yosef, Rav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv (cited in Yalkut Yosef 4:285) and Rav Gedalia Felder (Teshuvot Sheilat Yeshurun number five) also permit using grape juice for Kiddush.  Even Rav Shternbach writes that it has become common practice to use grape juice for Kiddush.  Nonetheless, Rav Frank, Rav Henkin, and Rav Felder all note that the Magen Avraham (codified by the Mishna Berurah 272:5 and Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 272:1) rules that it is preferable (Mitzvah Min HaMuvchar) to use aged wine for Kiddush (support for the Magen Avraham may be found in the Behag in Hilchot Kiddush and other Geonim and Rishonim cited in Rav Felder’s responsum).  Rav Soloveitchik (cited by Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Menachem Genack) also believes that it is preferable to avoid using Yayin Mevushal for Kiddush in order to accommodate the Rambam’s stringent opinion.

Thus, one who enjoy wine should use it for Kiddush, but it seems that those who do not may rely on the prevailing custom to follow the many great twentieth century Poskim who permit using grape juice for Kiddush.

Next week, we shall (IY”H and B”N) examine Rav S.Z. Auerbach’s controversial ruling that one should not recite Borei Pri HaGefen on reconstituted grape juice, which will lead us into our pre-Pesach review of the debate about using grape juice for the Arba Kosot.

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

Why is Megillat Ester Written in Such a Secular Style? by Rabbi Chaim Jachter