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Most poskim permit grape juice for Kiddush and that the beracha on reconstituted grape juice2 is Hagefen. There is, however, significant debate concerning grape juice use for the Arba Kosot.1 We base our discussion of this issue on a responsum written by Rav Menachem Genack (Gan Shoshanim 2:66-71).



The Opinions

Although the Gemara (Bava Batra 97b, and see Shulchan Aruch O.C. 272:2) permits freshly squeezed grape juice for Kiddush, the poskim did not discuss the question of Arba Kosot until the twentieth century. The reason is that grape juice was unavailable at Pesach time in previous generations. After harvesting in the autumn, grapes would either be made into wine or spoil in storage. Only in the modern age is grape juice preserved and available year-round.

Modern-day poskim differ regarding this topic.

Rav Moshe Feinstein (cited by Rav David Feinstein, Hagadat Kol Dodi, 3:8), Rav Zvi Pesach Frank (Mikraei Kodesh, Pesach 2: section 35), and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (cited by Rav Asher Weiss, Teshuvot Minchat Asher 3:37) believe that grape juice is unacceptable for the Arba Kosot.

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (cited by Rav Genack, and Rav Hershel Schachter, Nefesh HaRav 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 O.C. 2:243) describes that Rav Dov Berish Weidenfeld (the Tchebiner Rav, a leading mid-twentieth century authority) used grape juice for the Arba Kosot. Rav David Yosef (Halacha Berurah 16:370) records that his father, Rav Ovadia Yosef, used grape juice for the Arba Kosot. Finally, Rav Asher Weiss (Teshuvot Minchat Asher 3:37) permits grape juice for the Arba Kosot.


The Basis of the Argument

Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Feinstein base their arguments on the same source. The Gemara (Pesachim 108b) states that one who uses undiluted wine3 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 fails to fulfill the mitzvah 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 that the wine for Arba Kosot must be considered chashuv. Rav Moshe Feinstein, in turn, rules that grape juice is not chashuv. However, if drinking wine damages one’s health, even Rav Feinstein would agree that grape juice would suffice (see Teshuvot Igrot Moshe O.C. 1:172, Rav Dov Brisman’s Teshuvot Shalmei Chovah 1:71, and my Bikkurei Sukkah, section fifty).

On the other hand, Rav Soloveitchik argues that for someone who does not enjoy drinking wine, grape juice is chashuv, and wine is not chashuv. Moreover, he notes that the Rambam (Hilchot Chametz UMatzah 7:9) explains that we require diluting wine for the Arba Kosot “so that the drinking of the wine should be pleasant, all according to the wine and the taste of the consumer.” The Rambam shows that the beverage consumed for the Arba Kosot should be pleasant for the consumer. Therefore, Rav Soloveitchik concludes, 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 also recounts that Rav Yehuda ben 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 to avoid such severe headaches.

Rav David Willig related4 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.

Rav Soloveitchik’s intuition was correct. Rav Genack confirmed with Mr. Feivish Herzog that grape juice was unavailable during Pesach time in pre-modern times. When Rav Genack presented this point to Rav David Feinstein, the latter conceded that one could not deduce from the passage in the Yerushalmi that grape juice is unacceptable for the Arba Kosot. Nonetheless, we should clarify that Rav Moshe Feinstein’s ruling still stands, because he believes that grape juice is not a chashuv drink (but the passage in the Yerushalmi does not prove his assertion).


Proof for Rav Soloveitchik

Rav Asher Weiss presents strong evidence for Rav Soloveitchik’s position. He cites the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (472:27), who writes that all wines acceptable for Kiddush may be used for the Arba Kosot. Rav Weiss thinks the Shulchan Aruch implicitly agrees. In the context of Kiddush (O.C. chapter 272), the Shulchan Aruch presents in detail the wines acceptable for Kiddush. By contrast, the discussion of wine for Arba Kosot (O.C. chapter 472) is quite brief. Rav Weiss believes it is because the Shulchan Aruch relies on his detailed discussion in hilchot Kiddush since their laws are identical.


Rav Zvi Pesach Frank’s Argument

Rav Frank argues that grape juice is unacceptable because it is non-alcoholic and thus cannot be me’sameiach (make one happy). The Rashbam (Pesachim 108b, s.v. Yedei Yayin) indicates that a key aspect of the Arba Kosot is to bring simcha. The Sefer HaMichtam (the beginning of Pesachim chapter 10) also presents the mitzvah of Arba Kosot as a mitzvah instituted by Chazal 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) agree.

Rav Frank demonstrates that grape juice does not promote simcha based on the Gemara’s (Taanit 30a) permitting freshly pressed wine at the seudah hamafseket5 of Tisha B’Av eve. Moreover, Rashi (Bava Metzia 66b s.v. LePakuchei) indicates that wine’s special character stems from its alcoholic content generating simcha.

One could respond to these arguments in several ways. First, my talmid (and cousin) Dr. Yehuda Kranzler cites his grandfather, Rav Yisroel Feldman, zt”l, of Milwaukee, who suggests that adding a few drops of wine to the grape juice renders it valid even according to Rav Frank.6 Even though the wine is technically bateil (nullified),7 it is still intoxicating and creates some simcha. Second, (as noted by Rav Asher Weiss,) Rashi (Taanit 30a s.v. Yayin) explains that freshly squeezed wine is permitted at the seudah hamafseket because it is “new, sweet, inferior to aged wine, causes stomach disorders, and is harmful.” Accordingly, today’s grape juice is far superior to the Talmud’s freshly squeezed wine regarding its potential for simcha. Grape juice is even consumed by many only on special occasions like Shabbat and chagim.

Rav Genack presents intriguing proof that grape juice promotes 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 Shoftim (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 when wine is poured on the Mizbeiach (see Berachot 35a). Rav Genack reasons that if grape juice is acceptable for nesachim, whose purpose is partly for simcha (see Rashi Menachot 20a s.v. Aderabbah), it should also satisfy the simcha aspect of the Arba Kosot.

Finally, Rav Asher Weiss conclusively rejects Rav Frank’s argument noting that raisin wine is acceptable for Arba Kosot (Mishna Berurah 473:37) even though it is non-alcoholic.


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 he followed the Rambam’s opinion (Hilchot Shabbat 29:14) that cooked wine is unacceptable for Kiddush.8

The common practice accepts “cooked wine” for Kiddush. In addition, Rav Soloveitchik suggests that even according to the Rambam, 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). Finally, Rav Soloveitchik followed the Rambam’s opinion that one should not use wine with added sugar for Kiddush, since it is unacceptable for nesachim.



This question of someone who does not enjoy wine using grape juice for the Arba Kosot remains unresolved since neither side conclusively proves its position. Moreover, one cannot simply choose to be strict and use wine for the Arba Kosot, since Rav Soloveitchik believes that one who does not like wine should use grape juice. Therefore, one must consult his rav for a ruling.9




  1. This discussion is a chapter from my recently released work “Gray Matter 5,” which is available for sale on Amazon and
  2. Reconstituted grape juice is the kind that is mass produced and sold, the kind you find in the supermarket.
  3. Wine was customarily diluted with water in a three-to-one ratio of water to wine during Talmudic times.
  4. In a shiur delivered at Yeshiva University in 1979.
  5. We are not permitted anything that promotes happiness at this meal.
  6. I heard this was the practice of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.
  7. Wine is nullified in six times its volume (Rama O.C. 204:5 and Shulchan Aruch Y. D. 124:5).
  8. Rav Genack discusses the basis to distinguish between the arba kosot, where cooked wine is acceptable, and kiddush, where cooked wine is unacceptable according to the Rambam.
  9. One’s Rav might believe that Rav Asher Weiss’ evidence and arguments resolve the dispute in Rav Soloveitchik’s favor.

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Rabbi Haim Jachter is a prominent rabbi who serves as the rabbi at Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck, and is a popular Torah teacher at the Torah Academy of Bergen County. He also serves as a Dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth and has acquired an international reputation of excellence in the area of Get administration. He has authored sixteen books on issues ranging from contemporary Halacha, Tanach, Aggada, and Jewish Thought all available on Amazon.