Raisin Juice and Wine

While traveling to Egypt, what could Yaakov and his family have used for kiddush and havdalah…

Raisin Juice and Wine

Question: Traveling Kiddush

“Is there a simple way to make wine for kiddush when I travel in the Orient, where there is no kosher wine to be had?”

Answer

Every special event – kiddush, havdalah, weddings, sheva brochos, brisin, pidyon haben, the seder – includes wine. And halachah mentions the special role of wine in celebrating Yom Tov. Our question is whether there is a simple way to produce wine for kiddush and havdalah when you are traveling in a place that has no readily-available kosher wine. I believe I have found a simple solution, other than carrying along small bottles of wine in your luggage.

One option that a friend of mine uses when traveling is to go to a local fruit market or grocery, purchase a couple of pounds of grapes, squeeze them into juice, filter the finished product through a freshly laundered handkerchief, and use some of the juice for kiddush Friday night, some for Shabbos morning and the remainder for havdalah. For reasons beyond the scope of this article, this juice is preferable even to commercially-produced grape juice.

For those of us who do not see ourselves squeezing our own grape juice, halachah presents other options when grape wine is not available. One of the preferred choices is to use a product called yein tzemukim, which literally translates as “raisin wine.” Extensive literature on the subject indicates that raisin wine was often substituted as a practical alternative to grape wine.

Commercial use of raisin juice and wine

While researching this topic, I discovered that the non-Jewish world uses both raisin juice and raisin wine as specialty products. I also discovered that non-alcoholic raisin juice and alcoholic raisin wine are used in very different ways.

Raisin juice is rarely sold retail, although one might find it in a health food or other specialty store. It is used predominantly in the bakery and condiment industries as a sweetener, but since raisins contain significant levels of propionic acid, their juice functions also as a natural, mild preservative. Raisin juice can serve also as both a colorant and a humectant, which means that it helps keep the product moist. Thus, there are many different reasons why raisin juice might be added to a product, particularly since the manufacturer is not required to list on the label that humectants, preservatives, colors or flavors were added.

Raisin wine has an ancient history as an alcoholic beverage. Indeed, raisins contain all the ingredients to make wine that grapes have, except for water, which one can usually supply easily. Since the skins contain the yeasts that naturally convert sugar into alcohol, and approximately 2/3 of the weight of raisins is natural sugar, raisin juice can be fermented easily into alcohol. Production of raisin wine involves soaking the raisins in water with a few other winemaking ingredients and then allowing the product to age. Specialty and boutique raisin wine producers, like grape winemakers, prefer to kill off the natural yeasts and then inoculate with their own yeast to produce a more predictable product, but the other basic ingredients for producing wine are all in the raisins. Quality raisin wines are usually aged for years before they are drunk.

Both raisin wine and raisin juice can be made either by steeping the raisins in water until it absorbs the raisins’ flavor or by cooking the raisins. By the way, both raisin juice and raisin wine produced by non-Jews will involve the prohibition of stam yeinam, a topic I have discussed in other articles.

Is it grapy enough?

Both raisin juice and raisin wine are specialty – almost boutique – products, and therefore quality is usually the main consideration, not price. In contrast, the halachic authorities discussed a situation where, for the most part, people were more concerned with finding an inexpensive way to fulfill the mitzvah of kiddush than they were with product quality. From the extensive literature on the subject, it appears that yein tzemukim was often used as an economical alternative to costly wine. One of the main issues was whether there is enough grape in the final product for it to be considered wine. This means that much of the halachic literature about yein tzemukim discusses a product that is qualitatively different from what is sold today as raisin juice or raisin wine. Nevertheless, there is much germane halachah to be learned here, and its application arises in surprising circumstances, as we will soon see.

Halachic ramifications of yein tzemukim

The halachic authorities discuss yein tzemukim in the following specific contexts:

  1. Which brocha does one recite before and after drinking it?
  2. Can one use it for the mitzvah of kiddush?
  3. May one use it to manufacture non-seder matzoh (matzoh ashirah) for Pesach? (Ashkenazim follow the practice of using matzoh ashirah only for the elderly, ill and children, so it would be germane for them in these matters. Space considerations do not allow us to discuss this particular topic in this article.)
  4. Is it non-kosher if a gentile handles it? I examined this topic in a different article, entitled The Kashrus of Raisin Juice and Wine.
  5. Does pouring it on the mizbeiach fulfill the mitzvah of nisuch hayayin, pouring wine on the altar?

The last question is mentioned briefly in the Gemara, where it states that, lechatchilah, one should not use yein tzemukim for nisuch hayayin, but one who did so has fulfilled the mitzvah. We will soon discuss the first two issues in more detail. But first, let us trace the background of these questions from their initial sources.

Juice from marc

The earliest halachic reference to a raisin juice product is in the Mishnah (Maasros 5:6), which discusses whether one who creates a form of raisin juice, called temed, by soaking the residue of the grape crush (called marc in English) is required to separate maasros from the resultant product. Halachah requires separating maasros (of produce grown in or near Eretz Yisroel) only when the fruit is ready for consumption, which, in the case of wine grapes, means that they have been crushed, aged and filtered. Thus, maasros on wine grapes are usually separated from the completed juice or wine and not taken from the marc, which is a byproduct. The Mishnah’s question is whether the product created by soaking the marc in water and stirring the mixture until it becomes drinkable is considered wine, requiring the separating of maasros.

Wine from sediment

A passage of Gemara (Bava Basra 96b) quotes a dispute concerning when and whether one recites hagafen prior to drinking a different type of temed, in this case made by steeping wine sediment in water. When the yield is no greater than the amount of water initially used to soak the sediment, the brocha is shehakol, because there is insufficient grape product in the beverage. When the yield is four units for every three units of water used initially, then the temed is considered a grape product, and its brocha is hagafen. The Gemara states that when the resultant beverage contained less than four but more than three units per every three units of water used originally, there is a dispute among the tana’im as to which brocha one should recite. The first opinion rules that the percentage of grape product soaked out of the sediment is insignificant and considered nullified in the water. Therefore, the brocha is shehakol. The second opinion considers the grape presence significant in this instance; therefore, the brocha is hagafen. The halachic conclusion follows the first opinion – the brocha on this product is shehakol (Tosafos ad loc. s.v. Ein; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 204:5, 6).

Remember that this passage of Gemara was discussing temed made from soaking wine sediment. Tosafos (ad locum) discusses what is the proper brocha on wine produced by fermenting marc (the residue of the grape crush) and concludes that no distinction should be made between marc temed and sediment temed – unless the finished product contains four units for every three units of water supplied at the beginning, the brocha is shehakol.

Marc brandy

As a curious aside, it appears that Jews were not the only people interested in producing spirits from marc. According to my desktop dictionary, one of the definitions of “marc” is the brandy produced by distilling the residue of grape skins and seeds after the juice has been expressed. If the dictionary has a word for this beverage, we know that a number of people were producing it, and it does not appear that their interest was to produce a beverage serviceable for kiddush. Interestingly, since this product is distilled and not simply fermented, most authorities rule that its brocha is shehakol, even if the resultant product is four units for every original three units of water.

Types of marc

When the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 204:6) discusses the correct brocha to recite prior to drinking temed, it notes that there is a difference between marc produced in a press and marc produced the old fashioned way – by stepping on the grapes to crush them. It notes that the marc obtained from this latter method retains a high percentage of original grape product. Therefore, the correct brocha for the temed produced by soaking this marc in water is hagafen, even when the yield is no greater than the amount of water originally used.

What about kiddush?

Is temed produced from either marc or wine sediment acceptable for kiddush? The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 272:7) rules that when the correct brocha on the temed is hagafen, it may be used for kiddush, and when the correct brocha is shehakol, it cannot.

What constitutes yein tzemukim?

Yein tzemukim is not the same product as marc wine, since raisins contain more grape flavor than marc does (Shu’t Tashbeitz 1:57). For this reason, most authorities rule that one may recite kiddush on yein tzemukim even when there is no increase in volume (Shu’t Tashbeitz 1:57; Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 462; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 272:6). One major authority, the Mishkenos Yaakov (Shu’t Orach Chayim #106), disagrees, contending that one recites hagafen only on juice squeezed out of raisins, but not on the wine or juice created by steeping or cooking them. According to this opinion, raisin wine may be used for kiddush only when the liquid that leaves the raisins is at least one quarter of the final product.

How many raisins?

What is the minimum ratio of raisins to water for the finished product to be considered yein tzemukim? I found four opinions on this question. I am listing them from the most lenient to the most stringent.

  1. The most lenient position I found contends that as long as the product has a grapy taste, the brocha is hagafen and it can be used for kiddush (Tashbeitz, mentioned by Rabbi Akiva Eiger in his comments to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 272:6).
  2. Most opinions hold that the mix must be at least 1/7 raisins by volume – but we then find two widely divergent ways of understanding how we calculate 1/7. The Bechor Shor (comments to Bava Basra 96b) contends that we calculate based on how much the raisins would swell after sitting in the water, which means that the actual ratio is much smaller.
  3. The Yad Efrayim and the Derech Chayim (quoted by Mishnah Berurah 272:16) both contend that the ratio is 1/7 raisins by volume but calculated using the original, dried raisins.
  4. The above-mentioned opinion of the Mishkenos Yaakov that there must be significant juice squeezed out of the raisins. According to this opinion, raisin wine may be used for kiddush only when the liquid that leaves the raisins is at least one quarter of the final product.

How long?

Let us now consider another question: How long must raisins soak for the product to be considered wine?

The Mishnah Berurah (272:15) rules that if you crush the raisins, add water and stir, then after three days you may use the product for kiddush.

If one cooks the mixture of raisin and water, the blending takes place much more quickly, and can produce a halachically acceptable raisin wine immediately (see Chayei Odom 6:7).

Microwave kiddush

Based on the last ruling, I’ll share with you an interesting anecdote. Someone traveling for business who did not want to use challah for kiddush asked me for a suggestion as to what to do. Since he had access to a microwave, we came up with the following solution: He purchased raisins, placed them in a pitcher with water, and microwaved the mixture until it produced a very drinkable juice.

In the locale that he was visiting, insect infestation is a big problem in raisins. To resolve this problem for his raisin juice, he packed along cheesecloth and placed the raisins inside this prior to boiling them. Thus, the flavor of the raisins cooked into the water, but the infestation did not. The use of the cheesecloth had the added advantage of making it very easy to remove the raisins after he had produced the juice. The entire procedure took this very busy businessman only a few seconds to prepare.

Flavored raisin juice

Is there any problem with reciting kiddush on flavored raisin juice or wine? Although this product sounds like a modern creation – the brainchild of some research and development lab – the question was apparently common two hundred years ago. I found the issue discussed by the Tzemach Tzedek, the third rebbe of Lubavitch, in his responsa (Shu’t Orach Chayim #27). After explaining that raisin wine may be used for kiddush, he notes that the standard product available where he lived was seasoned with honey and other spices. He is concerned that this particular flavored product does not qualify as wine, since the flavor may come from the seasonings and not from the grapes. Thus, although raisin wine and yein tzemukim may be used for Kiddush, this is true only as long as its flavor is made by grapes and not some other additive. Even a product labeled “natural grape flavor” may not meet this requirement halachically since “natural grape flavor” does not mean that the flavor comes from grapes, but that the flavor comes from a natural source. If the contribution of the grapes is insufficient, an added boost from a non-grape source does not make this into a beverage on which one can recite hagafen.

Obviously, situations vary and it is not an absolute rule that one cannot use flavored raisin wine for kiddush. However, should kosher, flavored raisin-wine become available, one would be required to ascertain whether the flavor comes from the grapes in the product (in which case the brocha is hagafen and it may be used for kiddush) or from other sources, in which case the brocha is shehakol.

Conclusion

Although many people would prefer to either pack along their wine, locate the nearest Chabad house or make kiddush over bread, I believe the solution, for those who have access to a microwave oven, of packing cheesecloth and purchasing raisins is indeed a solution that some people might find more palatable and convenient.

 

 

Indigestible Matzos, or Performing Mitzvos When Suffering from Food Allergies

clip_image002[1]Question #1: I have acid reflux, and as a result I never drink any alcohol since it gives me severe heartburn. I also have difficulty tolerating grape juice, which does not agree with me. Am I required to drink either wine or grape juice for the four cups at the Seder?

Question #2: My body is intolerant to gluten. Am I required to eat matzoh on Pesach, and if so, how much?”

Question #3: How far must one go to fulfill the mitzvah of maror when the only variety available is straight horseradish?

Consuming matzoh, maror, wine or grape juice is uncomfortable for many people for a variety of reasons. Consumption of these foods exacerbates many medical conditions, such as allergies, diabetes, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and reflux. To what extent must someone afflicted by these conditions extend him/herself to fulfill these mitzvos? Does it make a difference whether the mitzvah is required min haTorah, such as matzoh, or only miderabbanan, such as arba kosos, the mitzvah of drinking the four cups of wine at the Seder. (Similarly, the mitzvah of maror, is required today only miderabbanan since the Torah requires eating maror only when we offer the korban pesach.)

PIKUACH NEFESH

One is never required to perform a positive mitzvah when there is a potential threat to one’s life. Quite the contrary, it is forbidden to carry out any mitzvah whose performance may be life threatening. Therefore, someone who has a potentially life-threatening allergy to grain may not consume matzoh or any other grain product – ever — and this prohibition applies fully on Seder night.

NOT DANGEROUS BUT UNPLEASANT

However, must one observe these mitzvos when the situation is not life threatening, but is painful or affects one’s wellbeing? Must one always fulfill the mitzvah even though doing so is extremely uncomfortable or makes one unwell? As always, our column is not intended to provide psak halacha; that should be left for one’s personal rav. Our goal is to provide halachic background.

RABBI YEHUDAH’S HEADACHE

The Gemara reports that the great Tanna Rabbi Yehudah, who is quoted hundreds of times in the Mishnah and Gemara, suffered from the consumption of wine. The Gemara tells us the following anecdote:

Rabbi Yehudah looked so happy that a Roman woman accused him of being inebriated. He responded that he is a teetotaler, “Trust me that I taste wine only for kiddush, havdalah and the four cups of Pesach. Furthermore, after drinking four cups of wine at the Seder, I have a splitting headache that lasts until Shavuos” (see Nedarim 49b).

This passage implies that one is required to undergo a great deal of discomfort to fulfill even a mitzvah that is rabbinic in origin, and certainly a Torah-required law, such as consuming matzoh on Pesach. Based on this anecdote, the Rashba (Shu”t 1:238) requires someone who avoids wine because he despises its taste or because it harms him (“mazik”) to drink the four cups; this conclusion is quoted definitively in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 472:10). Thus, one might conclude that one must fulfill arba kosos in any non-life-threatening situation even when the consequences are unpleasant.

However, several authorities sanction abstaining from arba kosos under certain extenuating, but not life-threatening, circumstances, even though they also accept the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch! For example, the Aruch HaShulchan (472:14) permits someone who is ill to refrain from consuming the four cups on Seder night and the Mishnah Berurah rules similarly (472:35). They explain that the harm (in Hebrew, mazik) one must undergo to fulfill the mitzvah does not include physical harm, but is limited to discomfort or moderate pain.

DERECH CHEIRUS

In Shaar HaTziyun, the Mishnah Berurah explains why he permits refraining from arba kosos under such circumstances: Becoming bedridden because one consumed arba kosos is not derech cheirus, which I will translate as demonstrating freedom. His reference to derech cheirus alludes to the following Gemara:

One who drinks the wine undiluted has fulfilled the requirement of arba kosos, but he did not fulfill the requirement of demonstrating freedom (Pesachim 108b).

What does this Gemara mean? Why does drinking one’s wine straight not fulfill this mitzvah called demonstrating freedom?

The wine of the Gemara’s era required one to dilute it before drinking. Imbibing it straight was not the normal method of drinking and therefore does not demonstrate the freedom that the Seder emphasizes.

The Mishnah Berurah contends that a mitzvah whose purpose is to demonstrate that we are freemen cannot require becoming bedridden as a result. Although a potential massive headache, such as what affected Rabbi Yehudah, does not exempt one from the mitzvah, becoming bedridden is qualitatively worse. The Aruch HaShulchan rules similarly, although he omits the reasoning of derech cheirus, and simply assumes that the mitzvah could not apply under these circumstances.

(There may be a difference in opinion between the Mishnah Berurah and the Aruch HaShulchan germane to mitzvas maror. The Mishnah Berurah’s reason of derech cheirus applies only to the arba kosos, and therefore he might hold that one must eat maror even if he becomes bedridden as a result. However, the Aruch HaShulchan’s ruling may apply to any rabbinic mitzvah, and thus permit someone who would become ill from eating maror to abstain from performing this mitzvah.)

ALCOHOLIC CONTENT

Let us assume that our patient could drink grape juice without any ill result, but may have some difficulty with wine. Is there a requirement for him/her to drink wine?

The Gemara states that “One may squeeze a cluster of grapes and then immediately recite Kiddush over it” (Bava Basra 97b). Obviously, this grape juice has no alcoholic content, and yet it is acceptable for Kiddush.

However, the Gemara’s ruling that someone who drank the arba kosos without dilution does not fulfill cheirus implies that the Seder mitzvah requires a wine with alcoholic content, and therefore grape juice does not perform this aspect of the mitzvah. Nevertheless, someone who cannot have any alcohol may fulfill the mitzvah of arba kosos with grape juice (Shu”t Shevet HaLevi 9:58).

DILUTING WINE

Is it better for someone to dilute their wine with water rather than drink grape juice?

Some authorities contend that one fulfills this concept of cheirus as long as one can detect alcoholic content, even though the wine is diluted. However, before diluting our wine with water, contact the manufacturer or the hechsher, since some wines are already diluted to the maximum halachically allowable and still recite over it hagafen. The Pri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 204:16) rules that although Chazal diluted their wine significantly (Shabbos 77a), our wine is very weak and should be diluted very moderately. He contends that if one adds more water than wine the bracha becomes shehakol; one can certainly not use this wine for Kiddush or arba kosos. The Aruch HaShulchan (204:14) rules even stricter, that any added water renders our wines into shehakol and invalidates them for Kiddush or arba kosos. I suspect that this was not a dispute, but a reflection of the quality of the wine available; the wine available to the Pri Megadim could be diluted without ruining it as long as there was more wine than water, whereas that available to the Aruch HaShulchan was easily ruined.

On the other hand, diluting wine with grape juice does not jeopardize the bracha, and if the alcohol content is still noticeable still fulfills the concept of cheirus.

ARBA KOSOS SUBSTITUTES

If someone cannot drink four cups of wine or grape juice, should they simply not drink anything for the arba kosos?

The Mishnah Berurah rules that one may substitute chamar medinah, literally, the national “wine.” This follows a ruling of the Rama (483) that someone who has no available wine may fulfill the mitzvah of arba kosos with chamar medinah.

Exactly what chamar medinah includes is beyond the scope of this article. For our purposes, I will simply note that there is much discussion about this matter, some rabbonim holding that tea or coffee qualifies, others contending that it must be alcoholic, and still others maintaining that most places today have no chamar medinah.

SOME PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS

Thus far, we have concluded that someone who will become ill enough to be bedridden may not be obligated in arba kosos, but someone who finds drinking four cups of wine or grape juice uncomfortable and even painful, but does not become bedridden as a result, is required to drink them. However, note that sometimes one may be more lenient and use a smaller cup and drink a smaller proportion of its wine than we would usually permit. These are matters to discuss with one’s rav.

WHAT ABOUT MATZOH?

Our second question above read: “My body is intolerant to gluten. Am I required to eat matzoh on Pesach, and if so, how much?”

Our previous discussion only explained the rules pursuant to drinking the four cups of wine, which is a rabbinic mitzvah. Does any leniency exist to exempt someone from eating matzoh Seder night in non life-threatening situations? Granted, that one is certainly not required or permitted to eat matzoh if doing so may be life threatening, but if the results are simply discomfort, to what degree must one extend oneself to observe a positive mitzvah min hatorah?

The Binyan Shelomoh (#47), a nineteenth century work authored by Rav Shelomoh of Vilna, the city’s halachic authority at the time, discusses this very issue. (Out of deference to the Vilna Gaon, the Jewish community of Vilna appointed no one to the title of rav from the passing of the Gaon until the government required them to do so in the era of Rav Chayim Ozer Grodzenski over a hundred and twenty years later.) In a lengthy responsum, The Binyan Shelomoh establishes how far must someone ill go to eat matzoh when there is nothing life threatening. He based his analysis on the following law:

Chazal prohibited spending more than one fifth of one’s money to fulfill a positive mitzvah (Rambam, Hilchos Arachin 8:13, based on Gemara Kesubos 50a. See also Rambam’s Peirush HaMishnayos Pei’ah 1:1).

The Binyan Shelomoh reasons that since maintaining good health is more important to most people than spending a fifth of one’s money, one is exempt from performing a mitzvah that will impair one’s health even when there is no risk to one’s life. (We find other authorities who derive similar laws from this halacha. See for example, Shu”t Avnei Nezer, Yoreh Deah #321; Shu”t Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer 1:57). The Binyan Shelomoh applies this rule to all mitzvos: One is exempt from observing any mitzvah if fulfilling it will seriously impair one’s health. Furthermore, one could conclude that if fulfilling a mitzvah causes such intense discomfort that one would part with one fifth of one’s financial resources to avoid this pain, one may forgo the mitzvah.

According to the Binyan Shelomoh, if this law is true regarding matzoh, it will certainly hold true regarding arba kosos and maror, which are only rabbinic requirements. Thus, someone who will not be bedridden as a result of consuming arba kosos or maror, but whose health will be severely impaired as a result of this consumption is absolved from fulfilling this mitzvah, as will someone to whom the consumption is so unpleasant that he would gladly part with one fifth of his earthly possessions to avoid this situation.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MATZOH AND WINE

If we assume that the Mishnah Berurah accepts the Binyan Shelomoh’s approach and vice versa, we would reach the following conclusion:

MATZOH:

Someone whose health will be severely impaired is not required to eat matzoh on Pesach, even if no life-threatening emergency results.

ARBA KOSOS:

In addition to the above leniencies regarding matzoh, there is an additional lenience regarding the arba kosos. Someone who will become sick enough that they will become bedridden is absolved from drinking four cups at the Seder, even though it will not result in any permanent health problems. However, it is unclear whether this latter leniency also extends to the rabbinic mitzvah of maror.

NON-WHEAT FLOURS

In the last few years, matzoh for Pesach produced from either spelt or oat flour has become available. For a variety of reasons beyond the scope of this article, only someone who may not eat regular matzoh should eat these matzohs on Pesach. However, someone who is absolved from eating matzoh on Pesach according to the above-mentioned definition, but who can eat either of these varieties of matzoh, should eat them to fulfill the mitzvah on the first night of Pesach. Someone who can tolerate both spelt and oat matzoh should eat spelt.

No discussion of this topic is complete without mention of the following responsum by the great nineteenth century authority, the Maharam Shik (Shu”t #260). Someone for whom eating matzoh or maror is potentially life threatening insisted on eating them at the Seder against the halacha. The Maharam Shik was asked whether this person should recite the bracha al achilas matzoh before eating the matzoh and al achilas maror before eating the maror!

The Maharam Shik responded that he is uncertain whether the patient may recite any bracha at all before eating the matzoh and the maror, even the bracha of hamotzi! His reason is that consuming harmful food is not considered eating, but damaging oneself, and one does not recite a bracha prior to inflicting self-harm! The Maharam then questions his supposition, demonstrating that someone who overeats recites a bracha even though he is clearly damaging himself. He therefore concludes that one does not recite a bracha when eating something that causes immediate damage. However, when eating something where the damage is not immediate, reciting a bracha before eating is required.

Pursuant to the original shaylah whether one recites al achilas matzoh before eating the matzoh, and al achilas maror before eating the maror, the Maharam Shik concludes that one should not recite these brachos in this situation. Since the patient is not permitted to eat matzoh and maror since it is dangerous to his life, he is not performing a mitzvah when eating them, but a sin of ignoring the proper care his body requires, and one does not recite a bracha prior to transgressing.

In conclusion, anyone to whom these shaylos are unfortunately relevant should discuss them with his/her rav. We found that the Shulchan Aruch rules that one is required to fulfill arba kosos even if one will suffer a severe headache as a result, and certainly if one despises the taste. However, should one become bedridden as a result or suffer severe health consequences, there are authorities who permit forgoing drinking wine or grape juice and substituting a different beverage instead that qualifies as chamar medinah. Similarly, there are authorities who permit forgoing consuming matzoh at the Seder if one would suffer severe health consequences as a result even if the situation is not life-threatening.

Although not everyone may be able to fulfill the mitzvos of eating matzoh, maror, and arba kosos, hopefully, all will be able to discuss the miracles that Hashem performed when removing us from Egypt. In the merit of joyously performing the mitzvos of Seder night, may we soon see the return of the Divine Presence to Yerushalayim and the rededication of the Beis HaMikdash, and be zocheh to fulfill all of these mitzvos including the korban pesach!

Only the Choicest of Wine – What’s Best for Kiddush and Arba Kosos?

clip_image002Yankel enters my study, with one of his inquisitive looks on his face.

“Rabbi,” he begins, “I have heard that it is best to use red, non-pasteurized wine at the seder. However, my father-in-law likes Chablis, which is a white wine, and my mother-in-law never drinks any wine. The grape juice she likes is from concentrate, and someone told me that one cannot use it for kiddush. What should I do?”

Knowing that Yankel likes very complete explanations, I prepared myself for a lengthy conversation.

“Let us divide your shaylah into its four constituent parts: Color, cooked (mevushal), alcohol, and concentrate. We’ll discuss each part of the shaylah separately and then we’ll see what is preferable to use.”

RED OR WHITE

The Gemara (Bava Basra 97b) quotes the following discussion: Rav Kahana asked Rava “May one use chamar chivaryin, white wine.” Rava answered him by quoting a pasuk in Mishlei (23:31), “Do not pay attention to how red your wine becomes,” (meaning focus your life on permanent, spiritual values and not on the transient and physical). The pasuk implies that the redder the wine, the better its quality.

This Gemara, which is discussing the requirements of wine for kiddush and other mitzvos, implies that one may not use white wine for kiddush, and indeed this is the way the Ramban rules (ad loc.). However, Rashbam concludes that the Gemara is discussing only whether white wine is kosher for nisuch (libation) on the mizbeiach, but it may be used for kiddush. Others reach the same conclusion that our white wine is acceptable for kiddush, but for a different reason. They contend that the Gemara is not discussing quality white wine, but inferior wine that has no color at all (Tosafos). (White wine is always light-colored or yellowish.) According to this opinion, quality white wine is acceptable even for the mizbeiach.

The halacha is that one should preferably use a red wine unless the white wine is better quality (Rama 472:11; Mishnah Berurah 272:10). At the seder, there is an additional reason to use red wine, because it reminds us of Pharaoh’s slaughter of Bnei Yisroel (Mishnah Berurah 472:38). Therefore, if one chooses to use white wine, some suggest mixing red wine into the white wine to give it a little red color (Piskei Tshuvos 472:10). When mixing the wine, it is preferred to pour the red wine into the cup first and then add the white. If one adds red wine to white wine he will color the white wine, which is prohibited on Shabbos and Yom Tov according to some poskim because of the melacha of tzove’a, dyeing or coloring (see Mishnah Berurah 320:56).

MEVUSHAL (Cooked)

Cooking wine harms it, and cooking grape juice affects its ability to ferment naturally. Indeed, some winemakers never pasteurize the juice from which they produce their wines because heating compromises the taste. For these reasons, halacha views wine that is mevushal as inferior, and this has several ramifications. The prohibition not to use wine touched by a gentile, stam yeinam, does not exist if the wine was mevushal before the gentile handled it (Gemara Avodah Zarah 30a). This is because no self-respecting idolater would consecrate cooked wine to his deity (Rambam, Hilchos Maachalei Asuros 11:9; cf. Rosh, Avodah Zarah 2:12 who explains the halacha somewhat differently).

Similarly, one may not pour cooked wine as a libation for a korban. Some poskim contend that mevushal wine is so inferior that one does not recite hagafen on it but shehakol, and that it is invalid for kiddush and arba kosos (see Tosafos Bava Basra 97a s.v. ileima; Tur Orach Chayim, Chapter 272). Although we recite hagafen on mevushal wine and rule that it is kosher for kiddush and arba kosos (Shulchan Aruch 472:12), one should try to use uncooked wine unless the mevushal wine is superior (Rama 272:8; Mishnah Berurah 472:39).

There is one situation where one must use mevushal wine, and that is when gentiles might handle open bottles of wine. This is why most hechsherim insist that all wine served in restaurants and at catered events be mevushal.

Incidentally, almost all bottlers in North America pasteurize their juice before bottling. Commercial pasteurization of juice products is usually at about 180° Fahrenheit.

BUT I HEARD THAT PASTEURIZATION DOES NOT NECESSARILY EQUAL BISHUL?

The early poskim state that heating wine until it begins to evaporate makes it mevushal (Shach, Yoreh Deah 123:7, quoting Rashba and Ran). How hot is this temperature? Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that 175° Fahrenheit is definitely hot enough to be considered mevushal (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:52; see also 3:31), although some poskim contend that wine must be heated to a much higher temperature (see Darchei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 123:15; Minchas Shlomo 1:25). Because of this dispute, some hechsherim rule that only wine and grape juice that is heated until boiling is considered mevushal, whereas others consider all commercially available grape juice as mevushal.

However, some poskim contend that the laws of mevushal wine do not apply to contemporary pasteurized juice since the processing is made in a way that the wine does not taste inferior (Shu”t Minchas Shlomoh 1:25). Thus, one could use wine made from pasteurized juice or pasteurized juice without any concern, but one should not use wine that was cooked after fermentation which definitely tastes inferior. According to this opinion, a gentile touching pasteurized wine or grape juice will make it prohibited.

At this point in my monologue, Yankel interjected a question:

“I am not sure if I understood you correctly. If grape juice is usually pasteurized, then according to Rav Moshe’s psak, it is all mevushal. And, since one should preferably not use mevushal wine, one should not use grape juice for kiddush or arba kosos?”

“That is correct,” I responded. “Actually, there is also another reason why it is preferable to use wine for arba kosos.”

WINE VS. GRAPE JUICE

One may use freshly pressed grape juice for kiddush, even though it contains no alcohol (Gemara Bava Basra 97b). However, one should preferably not use grape juice for the seder as I will explain.

In the time of the Gemara, wine was so strong that people diluted it with three parts water (per one part wine) before using it for kiddush and other mitzvos. The Gemara teaches that someone who drank the wine without dilution fulfills the mitzvah of drinking four cups of wine, but does not fulfill the mitzvah of cheirus, freedom (Pesachim 108b). This is because the complete mitzvah of arba kosos requires drinking wine with a pleasurable amount of alcohol. This undiluted wine is too strong and not pleasurable. We derive from this Gemara that wine is better for the seder than grape juice, because the alcoholic content of the wine provides the element of cheirus.

However, someone who cannot drink wine may fulfill the mitzvah of arba kosos with grape juice.

Yankel interjected another question. “My mother-in-law never drinks wine the rest of the year. If I tell her that she should drink wine, she will do it because of the mitzvah. How much wine must she drink?”

“She can use a small cup that holds exactly a revi’is of wine with very low alcohol content or even mix wine and grape juice in the cup so that one can barely notice the alcohol and she will fulfill this mitzvah,” I replied. “The poskim dispute how much is a revi’is, with different opinions ranging from three ounces to five ounces. This the minimum amount of wine for each of the four cups. She is required to drink only a little more than half the cup, although it is better if she drinks the entire cup. She should drink the entire last cup in order to recite the bracha acharonah.”

RECONSTITUTED GRAPE JUICE

Reconstituting grape juice involves evaporating at least 80% of the water that is naturally part of the juice, and then later adding water back. (Juice is concentrated and then reconstituted because it saves tremendous amounts of shipping and storage costs, and because the concentrate has a longer shelf life.) It is important to note that the concentrate is not drinkable before adding water.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach has a lengthy tshuvah whether reconstituted grape juice may be used for kiddush and whether its correct bracha is shehakol or hagafen. The basis of his discussion follows:

The correct bracha on all beverages except wine is shehakol. Wine merits a unique bracha because it is special in that it “makes man and Hashem happy” (see Mishnah and Gemara Berachos 35a). Men appreciate the intoxicating properties of wine, and in addition, it is the only liquid that the Torah commands us to pour on the mizbeiach every day. (Water, the only other liquid ever poured on the mizbeiach, is only poured on the mizbeiach during Sukkos.)

Grape juice does not have all of these qualities since it does not contain any alcohol. However, since it can potentially become wine, it merits the special bracha of hagafen and may be used for kiddush.

Rav Shlomo Zalman posed the following question: Do we consider natural grape juice as a mixture of the tasty part of the grape and plain water, or do we make no distinctions and consider grape juice as a mixture of everything inside the grape?

Obviously, everyone will conclude that grape juice is what grows inside the grape. Although natural juice is over ninety percent water, the water that grows inside the grape is considered grape juice, not water. However, water added to concentrate does not metamorphose into juice but remains water. Thus, he rules that the finished product is concentrate mixed with water and not pure grape juice.

“I understand that the water in a cup of reconstituted grape juice should not be counted and therefore you should not use it for kiddush,” Yankel interjected. “But I don’t see why there is a shaylah what bracha to make since you are tasting and drinking natural grape juice?”

“Good question,” I responded. “However, Rav Shlomo Zalman points out that the concentrate may not be considered grape juice since during the processing it becomes undrinkable. Therefore, the juice is no longer a prize beverage that warrants its own unique bracha, nor can it potentially become wine. This is why Rav Shlomo Zalman conjectures that even after the juice is reconstituted, its bracha may be shehakol, not hagafen (Minchas Shlomoh #4). Although some poskim disagree with Rav Shlomo Zalman’s conclusions, it is advisable not to use reconstituted juice for kiddush and arba kosos (Shu”t Minchas Yitzchok 8:14; ViZos HaBeracha pg. 116; Piskei Tshuvos, 272:2).

Yankel had one more question. “I was told that one should not drink a new wine during the seder meal that was not on the table at the beginning of the seder. Is this true, and if so, why?”

“Answering this question requires an introduction,” I responded.

HATOV VEHAMEITIV

When there is one wine on the table and the host serves another variety of wine, Chazal instituted a special bracha called “Hatov vehameitiv.” This bracha demonstrates our appreciation of the increased joy brought about by having varieties of wine (Mishnah Berurah 175:2). (Some authorities explain that the reason for this bracha is the exact opposite. To make sure that the additional wine does not cause too much frivolity, we recite a bracha that reminds us of the destruction of Beitar when the Romans crushed the Bar Kochba rebellion [Kad HaKemach]. Chazal instituted the fourth bracha of bensching, which is also called “Hatov vehameitiv,” when the Jews finally received permission to bury the thousands of people killed. Thus, the bracha on the new wine reminds us of the bracha recited because of that tragedy.)

Someone who brings out a new bottle of wine in the middle of the seder should technically recite the bracha of hatov vehameitiv. However, many poskim contend that reciting an extra bracha on a cup of wine makes it appear that one is adding another cup to the four that Chazal instituted (Maharil, as explained by Mishnah Berurah 175:2). Therefore, they ruled that one should not bring out a new variety of wine during the seder meal.

Yankel prepared to leave. “So which wine is choicest?” I asked him.

“One should drink a red wine that has never been cooked. However, if a white or cooked wine is better, one should use the better wine. Someone who does not like wine may mix grape juice with wine as long as they can still taste the alcohol, but they should not use reconstituted grape juice.”

“May we all have a Yom Tov of freedom and celebration!”