Grape Juice at the Pesach Seder

By Rabbi Chaim Chazzan

 

Is it permissible to use grape juice for the arba kosos at the Seder?

 

We first must first examine whether grape juice is acceptable for kiddush, and then discuss grape juice from concentrate. The Gemara[1] says “One may squeeze a cluster of grapes [before Shabbos] and recite kiddush on it,” stating clearly that grape juice is permissible. However, poskim[2] note that whereas freshly squeezed, grape juice retains the potential to ferment and become wine today’s commercially available grape juice has been treated so that it does not have this potential. Others responded that today’s grape juice does have the potential to ferment under certain conditions.[3]

The vast majority of poskim[4] hold that grape juice is acceptable for kiddush, although wine is preferable, and the common practice reflects this ruling.

Concerning reconstituted grape juice (which involves evaporating the water from the juice, leaving a highly concentrated form, and when ready to bottle a quantity of water four times the amount of the grape juice concentrate is added to reconstitute it), there is an opinion[5] that the bracha is not borei pri hagofen and it cannot be, used for Kiddush since it is considered grape juice-flavored water not grape juice. However others disagree, and common practice follows the lenient opinion.

Referring to the arba kosos, the Gemara[6] states that one who uses undiluted wine (since in the times of the Gemora wine was too strong and was usually diluted) fulfills his obligation of drinking the cups, but not the obligation to commemorate and celebrate freedom (“cheirus”). We see that there is an additional obligation of cheirus required for arba kosos.[7]

Some poskim[8] including Rav Moshe Feinstein) rule that grape juice) is also not a symbol of freedom, and is therefore unacceptable for arba kosos. The Yerushalmi[9] relates that amora Rav Yona would drink the arba kosos and suffer a headache until Shavuos and Rav Yehuda would suffer until Sukkos. Had grape juice been acceptable, these amoro’im would have drunk grape juice to avoid the headache for such an inordinate amount of time.

However, many poskim[10] permit grape juice for arba kosos since for one who prefers grape juice that is cheirus, and according to some it is even preferable for someone who does not enjoy wine. The Yerushalmi cannot serve as a proof since in previous generations grape juice was simply unavailable at Pesach time. After harvesting in the autumn, grapes would either be made into wine or spoil during storage. Only in the modern age has it become possible to preserve grape juice to last year round[11]. The prevalent custom is to be lenient.

Reprinted with permission from  Lmaan Yishmeu – a project of Mercaz Anash. To see more articles visit Mercazanash.com


[1] ב”ב צז, ע”ב.

[2] ראה בכ”ז בדבר יהושע ח”א סי’ יא, וח”ה סי’ ה, באר משה ח”ו סי’ נג, כתבי רב הנקין ח”ב, סכ”ח, מועדים וזמנים ח”ג, סרנ”ה, ועוד

[3] ראה בכ”ז בשו”ת ויען יוסף ח”א סי’ קיא, חיי הלוי ח”א סי’ לח

[4] ראה בכ”ז בשו”ת הר צבי ח”א סי’ קנח, מנח”י ח”ח סי’ יד, ישועת משה ח”א סי’ ל, שבט הלוי ח”ט סי’ נח, יחוה דעת ח”ב סי’ לה, ועוד. וכן נהגו כמה מגדולי הפוסקים בפועל כמובא בספרי המלקטים

[5] ראה מנחת שלמה ח”א סי’ ד, ועוד כמובא בפסקי תשובות סי’ רד ס”ק ח.

[6] פסחים קח ע”ב.

[7] פסחים קח ע”ב.

[8] הובא בשמו בהגדת בנו הגר”ד ‘קול דודי’ סי’ ג. מקראי קודש פסח ח”ב סי’ לה.

[9] פסחים פ”י

[10] שו”ת משנה הלכות ח”י סי’ פז [ויש לתקן הציון בפסקי תשובות סי’ תעב הע’ 44], ועוד, וראה נט”ג ח”ב פרק עא הע’ ט, שכן נהגו כמה מגודלי הפוסקים ושלמעשה נתפשט להקל

[11] ראה בספר גן שושנים (גנק) ח”ב סכ”ו

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