"We are closer to G-d when we are asking the questions, than when we think we have the answers" Heschel

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Using grape juice for the four cups

FNQ - holiday special

Though it may be preferable, there is no obligation for everyone present to drink from the wine over which kiddush is made on a regular shabbos or yom tov. For this reason those who don't enjoy drinking grape derivatives can fulfill their obligation of kiddush while avoiding the need to drink a beverage they don't enjoy. However, the night of the seder is unique in that each person is obligated to drink 4 cups of wine as part of the seder to fulfill a the rabbinic mitzvah of daled kosot (4 cups of wine). The question that I would like to address in this post is whether an alco-phobe can fulfill his or her obligation using grape juice.

Before we address the specific issue of whether grape juice can be used for the 4 cups we have to discuss the more general issue of whether grape juice can even be used for a regular kiddush.

The first issue is whether the bracha on grape juice is shehakol (and thus not a real grape drink) or hagafen.  The reason the bracha may be shehakol is because in the process of making grape juice today it is cooked. The gemara says that the bracha over a food normally eaten raw that is then cooked is shehakol. Based on this Rashi says that the bracha over grape juice which is cooked is shehakol.  If this were true than all of our grape juice would be disqualified for use at kiddush.  Rashi's view is not accepted due to the fact that most believe that with regards to grape juice the cooking process in no way ruins the product and the bracha remains hagafen.

The second issue is how to understand the rule in the Gemara that wine for kiddush must be fit for use on the Temple altar. The Rambam understands this rule literally and based on this says that both cooked wines and wines with sugar added are unfit for kiddush since they are unfit for use on the altar. Once again this Rambam is not accepted by mainstream halacha. Most poskim assume that the limitation of the Gemara is for wine which is blemished or not fit for normal consumption and doesn't apply to cooked or sweetened wines.

The third issue discussed concerning grape juice is that some commentators understand that while the actual beverage over which kiddush is made does not have to be alcoholic it must have the potential to become alcoholic. It follow that our grape juice which has been processed and can no longer ferment would be disqualified. Here as well this view is rejected and our grape juice has been saved yet again.  Having solved these issue the use of grape juice for kiddush has significant halachic support.

Finally we can address the particular issue of using grape juice for the 4 cups. Unfortunately for alcho-phobes the use of grape juice for the four cups is a little more questionable.  The reason for this is because the Gemara states that there is an additional need to fulfill a requirement of cheirut (freedom) while drinking the 4 cups. Based on this idea Rav Moshe Feinstein has the most stringent ruling that you cannot fulfill the obligation of the 4 cups with grape juice. He quotes a gemara in support of his view which describes one of the amoraim who made himself sick by drinking wine in order to fulfill this mitzvah.  Most other poskim rule that although it is preferable to use wine one can certainly still fulfill their obligation with grape juice. Rav Soloveitchik thought that if one prefers grape juice that it is better to drink it over wine because doing so is a greater expression of freedom.  I came across a very impressive list of great scholars who fulfilled this obligation with grape juice in the sefer Piskei Teshvout volume 5, siman 472 footnote 45.  See also Halichot Shlomo on Pesach chapter 9 footnote 77 for the custom of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.

To sum up with a short list of the best way to fulfill the mitzvah of the 4 cups from best to worst. (Taken from Halachos of Pesach, Rav Shimon Eider page 225)
  1. wine
  2. wine with grape juice added
  3. wine with water added
  4. grape juice
  5. grape juice with water added
  6. raisin wine (chamar medina)
It is also important to keep in mind that it is also preferable to use wine even for one cup and grape juice for the rest.

Chag Sameach – טוב לב משתה תמיד

(Much of the information for this post was taken from a shiur given by Rav Tzvi Sobolofsky Rosh Yeshiva in Yeshiva University)

Binyamin – always looking for a good question

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