By Yosef Brecher
Can one use grape juice for kiddush?
The Gemara (Baba Basra 98a) quotes a statement of Rava: “A person may squeeze a cluster of grapes and then recite Kiddush [on the juice that has been extracted].” The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 271:2) quotes this statement as Rav as final halacha. There is much discussion, however, as to what the parameters of this statement are. The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 272:7) writes that a certain type of wine (water mixed with wine sediment) can be used for kiddush “if it is fit to recite the bracha of borei peri hagofen on them”. Clearly, the Shulchan Aruch holds that only a drink considered wine in regards to the bracha of hafgafen is considered to be wine in regards to hilchos kiddush. It would seem that this requirement of the Shulchan Aruch will limit the statement of Rava as well; only grape juice upon whose bracha is borei peri ha’gafen can be used for kiddush. If, however, the juice “squeezed from a cluster of grapes” has the bracha of she’hakol, that juice would not be fit to be used for kiddush.
In order to determine, though, which kind of grape juice requires the same bracha as wine does, we must first explore why wine was singled out by the chazal to be given its own bracha of ha’gafen. The Gemara (Berachos 35b) explains that the reason why wine has its own bracha is because it has two distinct attributes: It is a very filling and satisfying drink and it causes happiness (through intoxication). According to this Gemara, it would seem that freshly squeezed grape juice, which is not intoxicating (as it has not yet fermented), would not qualify to have the distinct bracha of ha’gafen and therefore should not be acceptable for use during kiddush. What, then, was Rava (cited earlier) referring to when he stated “A person may squeeze a cluster of grapes and then recite Kiddush [on the juice he has extracted]”? The Rashbam (Baba Basra 97b) answers this question. He explains that the reason why freshly squeezed grape juice is included in the bracha of ha’gafen is because, “it is destined to become wine”. Since grape juice, if left on its own, will eventually ferment and develop into wine, we view grape juice itself as possessing the unique attributes of wine and therefore assign it the special bracha of ha’gafen. It is for this reason that Rava stated that one can recite kiddush on fresh grape juice. (See Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach (Moriah #65 Yr. 11, 3-4) who confirms the above explanation of Rava’s statement).
Recent grape juice production practices, however, have raised questions about whether grape juice should still command the bracha of ha’gafen. Grape juice today undergoes a process called pasteurization in which the juice is exposed to an elevated temperature for a period of time sufficient to destroy certain microorganisms. Once grape juice has undergone pasteurization, it is no longer possible for that juice to ferment. If the reason we recite ha’gafen on grape juice is because the juice will eventually develop into wine (as explained above), it would seem that the grape juice we drink now would not command the bracha of ha’gafen (since it can no longer develop into wine) and should therefore not be fit for use in kiddush. Indeed, Rav Elyashiv is quoted as ruling that one should not recite ha’gafen (or kiddush) on grape juice that has been pasteurized. Rather he should recite the bracha of she’hakol ni’yeh bid’varo like all other beverages. Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach (ibid.), however, rules that even pasteurized grape juice maintains its status as a borei peri ha’gafen beverage and can therefore still be used for kiddush. Rav Shlomo Zalman explains that since there was a time – before pasteurization – that this juice was fit to develop into wine, such juice retains its ha’gafen status even after it can no longer develop into wine.
The purpose of this column is not to render halachic decisions, but rather to provide readers with a helpful overview of basic hilchos Shabbos. All specific halachic inquiries should be directed to a local halachic authority. General questions about the content being discussed, however, are welcome and can be sent to: email@example.com.
©2013 Yosef Brecher