Chaim Ingram


Hello Rabbi.  In our family, we use grape juice for Kiddush as we have young children. Recently we had a guest who requested wine on which to make his own Kiddush which we were happy to supply, but in answer to our query he worried us by saying that grape juice isn’t acceptable for use at Kiddush according to all halachic authorities  Is this true?  Madeline K.

 Dear Madeline,

While R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l  famously questions whether one can make kiddush on reconstituted commercial grape juice (Kedem, etc.) both on account of its high water content and its inability to ferment – and indeed even questions if the b’racha should be HaGafen – the majority of Poskim permit such grape juice for Kiddush on Shabbat and Yom Tov, expressing however a clear preference for wine over grape juice for the Four Cups at the seder as an expression of freedom and joy.

However since this is not intended as a halachic forum, I wish to explore this question with you from an ideational angle.

There is a celebrated gemara (Babylonian Talmud Pesachim 49a) acclaiming the marriage of a Torah scholar to the daughter of a Torah scholar, analogising it to invei ha-gefen b’invei ha-gefen, “grapes of the vine ‘wedded’ to grapes of another vine” which is davar na’eh umitkabel “something lovely and sustainable”. Wine made from the grapes of two different verdant vines is regarded as especially flavourful, the product of one vine enhancing and complementing the other!

I heard a beautiful idea (but sadly cannot recall its source) stemming from this gemara, comparing wine to a marriage. Why is wine used to sanctify a betrothal and a marriage? Because unlike other products which deteriorate with age, wine improves with age!  Similarly the embryonic love that a newly-married couple have for each other should refine and mature as the couple age.

This exquisite metaphor can be extended to other life-cycle events sanctified by wine such as a b’rit mila, a circumcision ceremony at which we exclaim zeh ha-katan, gadol yiheyeh, “this baby is small now, but will grow!” – and, like good wine, he will mature (both anatomically and spiritually!).

And this symbolism has particular relevance to Shabbat which celebrates the spiritual dimension within our lives, a day in which we receive a neshama yeteira, an “additional soul” symbolising that part of us which – unlike our physical body – won’t wear out with age but, on the contrary, will, if nurtured, be honed and refined .

Since the bottled grape juice we use will never become wine, it will deteriorate in the same way as other juices, and the beautiful symbolism described above is lost.

Of course there may be very good reasons why, in a particular family setting, grape juice is a necessity.  Those for whom wine is injurious, thankfully, have an acceptable halachic alternative, i.e. grape juice, to which they can turn.

However, absent these concerns, even where there are young children, I would recommend a low-alcohol wine for use at Kiddush over grape juice for the reasons outlined above.  Kids nurtured on a thimbleful of such wine will hopefully be more protected from developing  “forbidden fruit syndrome” with regard to alcohol,  For sure, wine, while “gladdening the heart of a mortal” (Psalm 104:15) can also, when abused,  precipitate the downfall of the righteous (Genesis 9:20-23). I like to think that the beautiful custom of placing a drop or two of wine on the tongue of the nimol, the tender eight-day-old babe undergoing his first mitsva was developed in part as the very first symbolic stage in the Jewish “normalisation” process in relation to wine!

So, in short, your guest was quite in order to request wine for himself, though I hope he did so discreetly and tactfully so as not to cause embarrassment. On a purely halachic level, there was no reason for him to impugn your use of grape juice.  But feel welcome to consider the meta-halachic points I have mentioned.

May your Shabbat and Yom Tov table continue to be suffused with spirit and spirituality, graced with happy kids and appreciative guests!

About the Author
Rabbi Chaim Ingram is the author of five books on Judaism. He is a senior tutor for the Sydney Beth Din and the non-resident rabbi of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation. He can be reached at