Using Grape Juice At The Seder

The poskim discuss whether one may use grape juice for the Four Cups. Those that oppose the use of grape juise do so for the following three reasons:

1) The Gemara (Pesachim 108b) states, “Rav Yehuda says that [the wine used for the Four Cups] should have the taste and appearance of wine.” The Rashbam explains that when Rav Yehuda required that it have “the taste of wine”, he was referring to the alcoholic taste of wine. Accordingly, grape juice, which does not cause intoxication would not qualify as most preferable.

2) According to some authorites, including the Mordechai and Harav Chaim Shabsai, one must drink ,”יין המשמח” wine that brings joy. The poskim explain that the property of wine that causes it to “bring joy” is the alcohol. Therefore, argues Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l one should not use grape juice for the Four Cups since it does not “bring joy”. (See Mekraei Kodesh Pesach vol. 2 page 130)

3) The Gemara (Pesachim 108b) states that one who drinks wine [of the time of the Gemara] without diluting it fulfills the mitzvah of drinking wine, but does not fulfill the requirement of “חירות”, the drink of free men. The opinion of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l is that one who drinks grape juice fulfills the requirement for the Four Cups, but does not fulfill the preferred requirement of חירות. As Harav David Feinstein shlit”a writes (Kol Dodi 3:4), “Also, the principle of ‘demonstrating freedom’ in our performance of the Seder ritual plainly remains unfulfilled with such wine. Moreover, it is for this reason that the Gemara faults undiluted wine in Talmudic times when it was customary to dilute wine with water, the Gemara faults undiluted wine for this reason. Since ‘demonstrating freedom’ means fulfilling the mitzvah in its most preferable manner (Rashi and Rashbam), my father and master, (Rav Moshe Feinstein) zt”l, ruled that one does not fulfill the principle of ‘demonstrating freedom’ with grape juice.

Harav Shlomo Zalman Braun zt”l, however, disagrees with the assertion of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. He writes that the common custom is to drink grape juice for the Four Cups. He adds that one demonstrates freedom by drinking the wine drink that is the most pleasant to you. If one prefers grape juice over wine, then he should drink grape juice as that is what a free man would do. On the contrary, drinking wine when it is unpleasant is, in his opinion, is not a fulfillment of the preferred requirement of חירות (Shearim Metzuyanim Behalacha 118:1)

Harav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l likewise believes that one who does not enjoy wine should use grape juice for the Four Cups. He expalins that drinking undiluted wine is uncommon and unpleasant (due to the high alcohol content) and it is for this reason that one does not fulfill the requirement of דרך חירות. However, drinking grape juice is quite pleasant and would therefore qualify as דרך חירות. Moreover, he notes that the Rambam explains that we require wine for the Four Cups to be diluted “in order that the drinking of the wine should be pleasant, all according to the wine and the taste of the consumer.” We see from the Rambam that the beverage consumed for the Four Cups should be pleasant for the consumer. Therefore, concludes Rav Soloveitichik, if one does not enjoy wine, he should use grape juice for the Four Cups, as that will be a pleasant drink according to his taste. (Oral ruling cited by Rabbi Menachem Genack shlit”a Mesorah 12) Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Hebrew Haggadah page 96) was also of the opinion that one may use grape juice for the Four Cups.

Similarly, Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlit”a (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 2:243) relates that Rav Dov Berish Weidenfeld zt”l (the Tchebiner Rav), the Brisker Rav and the Chazon Ish all used grape juice for the Four Cups. Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a (Pesach vol. 2 Chapter 71:6) also writes that according to the Tzelemer Rav, grape juice is acceptable even l’chatchilah [as a first option]. For practical Halacha, a rav should be consulted.191


Preparing The Charoses For The Seder

1. The Mishna (Pesachim 114a) presents a disagreement between the Sages and Rav Elazar ben Tzadok as to whether Charoses constitutes a mitzvah. The Sages argue that it does not, while Rav Elazar ben Tzadok argues that it does. The Gemara explains both of the opinions recorded in the Mishna. It explains that the Sages believe that Charoses merely serves to blunt the bitter taste of the Marror. The Gemara subsequently presents two explanations of Rav Elazar ben Tzadok’s opinion. One explanation is that the thick texture and cloudy color of the Charoses serve to recall the mortar that the Jewish slaves used for making bricks in Egypt. A second explanation is that the Charoses serves to remind us of the “Tapuchim” (apple trees- see Halacha 3 below) in Egypt. Rashi and Rashbam explain that the Jewish women in Egypt would painlessly and quietly give birth beneath the apple trees so that the Egyptians would not discover that a Jewish male was born. We follow the view of Rav Elazar Ben Tzadok.

2. The Rishonim (Tosafos, Tur etc.) write that Charoses is made from fruits mentioned in Tanach symbolizing the Jewish people (apples, figs, dates, walnuts, almonds and pomegranates, with some adding grapes and pears). The Ari z”l would eat Charoses comprised of grapes, figs, dates, nuts, apples, pomegranets and pears. The Ari z”l did mention that the common custom amongst Ashkenazim was to make Charoses comprised of nuts, apples and pears.(See Kol Bo and Kaf Hachaim 473:99)

3. It should be noted that Tosafos (Taanis 29b) explains that the Biblical word “Tapuach” refers to a citrus fruit, like an esrog or an orange. This view of Tosafos was also cited by Harav Yosef Dov Soloveichick zt”l. (Nefesh Harav 209) It is for this reason that Rav Hershel Schachter shlit”a (in a shiur) maintains that if one wants to be accurate, he should use oranges (or other citrus fruits) for the charoses. Harav Avraham Blumenkrantz zt”l adds that in many Sefardic homes apples are not used at all for the Charoses. And that those who do use apples for the Charoses should also include some citrus fruit or juice.

4. The Gemara in Pesachim continues and teaches that we should add spices to the Charoses to remind us of the straw in Egypt. The Rama (473:5) writes that the custom is to add cinnamon and ginger. The Baal Hatania explains that these spices resemble straw because even after they are grated and ground they are in strandlike form, similar to straw.

5. Although the common custom is to use powdered cinnamon and ground ginger, it would seem that using powdered cinnamon and ground ginger would not be a proper fulfillment of this custom, as they are no longer strandlike. Harav David Feinstein shlit”a (Hagaddah Kol Dodi page 66) writes, “Semi-ground, long-shaped spices such as cinnamon and ginger should alos be added, since they symbolize the straw that the Israelites had to work with. As of this writing, unground cinnamon or ginger is not widely available in America, so people season the charoses with ground cinnamon. But this is needless because ground spices do not symbolize straw. I am surprised that we neglect to enhance our mitzvah performance by obtaining this ingredient. In Mishnaic times the peddlers of Jerusalem would call out, ‘Come and get your spices for the mitzvah!’ (Pesachim 116a). As of this writing, however, these spices in their unground form have become available and can be used for charoses.”

6. The fruit should be chopped up and ground before Yom Tov. If one forgot to prepare it before Yom Tov one may prepare it on Yom Tov. (Mishnah Berurah 473:47)

7. As cited above, the fruit is chopped up and ground in a thick mixture, in order to resemble the mortar that the Jewish slaves made in Egypt. However, if it were to remain thick one would not be able to dip the Marror in the Charoses. It is for that reason that we add red wine to the Charoses in order to thin it out. The red wine content of the charoses also serves to recall the first of the ten plagues – the plague of blood. (Mishnah Berurah 473:48)

8. The Chayei Adam and Chok Yaakov write that one should bring the Charoses to the table while it is thick and right before one is ready to dip in it the Marror one adds the wine.

 9. When Pesach falls on Shabbos the wine should be added before Shabbos. If one forgot to add the wine before Shabbos, the wine may be added on Shabbos in an abnormal way. Therefore, the wine should first be placed into the vessel and then the Charoses is added. He should not mix it with a spoon or other utensil, but should mix it by using his finger or by shaking the vessel. (Chayei Adam ibid.)

10. Similarly, if Pesach falls on Shabbos, the Charoses should be ground or chopped before Shabbos. If one forgot to prepare it before Shabbos, he should cut up the fruit into large pieces just before the Seder. (Halachos of Pesach by Rav Shimon Eider zt”l)

2 Halachos A Day

Over a month ago bezras Hashem I began a new program called 2 Halachos a Day where I send out a daily email including 2 halachos on various topics.  There is no charge for this program and b”h hundreds of people have already signed up. If you would like to receive these daily email please contact and write “sign me up.”


Thank you,

Avi Zakutinsky

Proper Respect For Sefarim (Assorted Halachos)

  1. A sefer should be handed from one person to the other; it may not be thrown or tossed around. (Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:5)
  2. When taking a Sefer and any item of Kedusha one is to take it with his right hand. (Pri Megadim A.A 206:6) A lefty should use his left hand. (Beer Moshe 2:3:18)
  3. A sefer should not be placed face down (meaning with the sefer open facing the ground). If it is found in this position it must be turned face up. (Rama Y.D. 282:%)
  4. Similarly, a sefer should not be stood upside down (so that the letters on the spine are upside down). If it is found in this position, it must be stood right side up. (Aruch Hashulchan 282:11)
  5. It is prohibited to place anything, except Chidushei Torah, inside a sefer or on top of a sefer (Pischei Teshuva Y.D. 282:17 and Igros Moshe 4:72)
  6. Rav Moshe permits placing blank paper intended for chiddushei Torah in a sefer. (Igros Moshe ibid.) However, the sefer Torah Leshma (306, supposedly written by the Ben Ish Chai) forbids placing blank paper in the sefer since there is a chance that one will forget and not use the paper for his chiddushei Torah.
  7. Many people have a custom of placing their beard hair, that came out while learning, into a sefer. The Sefer Torah Leshma (306, supposedly authored by the Ben Ish Chai) writes that this practice is not allowed since one may not place anything in seforim. A similar ruling was expressed by the Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 153:17) However, it is reported (Sefer Zecher Tzadik Levracha page 34 and Kerem Shlomo 1:5) that the Zohar owned by the Baal Shem Tov contained his hair and, clearly, if it would be forbidden he would have removed it. In addition, the Sefer Likutei Maharich reports that this seems to be a custom by many and surely there is a kabbalistic reason for it. For practical halacha, a rav should be consulted.
  8. It is proper to kiss one’s sefer before and after using it and it is also a segulah to have good memory.(Kaf Hachaim 155:12, Ohr Tzadikim 22:17, Shemiras Haguf V’Hanefesh page 774)
  9. It is prohibited to use a sefer as a bookmark by placing it inside another sefer. (Pischei Teshuva Y.D. 282:17)
  10. The poskim discuss whether one may fold a page-corner of a sefer so that it serves as a bookmark. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l permits it (Teshuva printed in Avnei Yashfei vol. 1 203). This is also the view of Harav Shach zt”l and Harav Elyashiv zt”l (Ginzei Hakodesh 3:8). Harav Binyamin Zilber zt”l (Beis Baruch 31:186) questions this. He does recommend that the page should be folded on the margin; not on the spot where there are words printed.
  11. The Gemara rules that one may place Chumashim on top of Neviim (works of the prophets) or Kesuvim (other Biblical works), but that Neviim or Kesuvim should not be placed on top of Chumashim (Megillah 27a; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 282:19) One may also not place a Gemara on top of Neviim or Kesuvim. (Beis Lechem Yehuda Y.D. 283)
  12. The Aruch Hashulchan (293:6) maintains that this halachah pertains only to chumashim and neviim which are on a scroll, not to printed and bound chumashim and nach’im. All printed seforim may be placed on each other without a specific order. For practical halacha, a rav should be consulted.