Shiur #28 The Blessing of Borei Peri Ha-Gafen and Using Cooked Wine and Grape Juice for Kiddush

  • Rav David Brofsky

This week,we will discuss the blessing of Borei Peri Ha-Gafen, the blessing recited before drinking wine.


The mishna (Berakhot 35a) teaches that although one recites the blessing Borei Peri Ha-Etz before eating fruit, before drinking wine, which is produced from grapes, one says the blessing Borei Peri Ha-Gafen:


What blessings are said over fruit? Over fruit of the tree one says Borei Peri Ha-Etz (Who creates the fruit of the tree), except for wine, over which one says Borei Peri Ha-Gafen (who creates the fruit of the vine).


This is indeed somewhat perplexing, as the gemara (Berakhot 38a) teaches that although one recites the blessing of Borei Peri Ha-Etz before eating crushed fruit, before drinking their juices, one says She-Hakol, as the liquid is considered to be “ze’ah be-alma” (mere moisture).


The gemara (Berakhot 35b) asks why wine is different than other fruit juices and concludes:


Why is a difference made for wine? Shall I say that because [the raw material of] it is improved therefore the blessing is different? But in the case of oil also, [the raw material of] is improved, yet the blessing is not different, as R. Yehuda has laid down in the name of Shmuel, and so R. Yitzchak stated in the name of R. Yochanan, that the blessing said over olive oil is Borei Peri Ha-Etz... The fact is that wine does both – it sustains and makes glad.


The gemara notes that although both wine and olive oil (under certain circumstances; see continuation of Berakhot 35b) retain their original blessing, unlike other fruit juices, wine is deserving of its own blessings, as it “sustains and makes glad” (zayin ve-same’ach).


Wine emerges as a unique drink, upon which the Rabbis instituted a blessing in a single form, after being produced from grapes. Are there ways in which wine may “lose” its special status, and then merit a different, “lower-level” blessing”?


Cooked Wine – The Proper Blessing and Kiddush


The Rishonim debate whether cooked wine is considered to have been changed so that its proper blessing would be She-Hakol. Rashi (Teshuvot Rashi 88; see also Tosafot, Bava Batra 97a, s.v. ileima, and Rif, Teshuvot 295) rules that when cooked, the proper blessing to be said before drinking wine is She-Hakol. Tosafot (ibid.) and the Rosh (Bava Batra 6:10) disagree and rule that the berakha remains Borei Peri Ha-Gafen.


The Rishonim offer different reasons why the blessing over cooked wine may be different than that recited over regular wine. Rashi, for example, explains that the wine has been “changed for the worse,” and therefore the blessing is changed. The Shibbolei Ha-Leket (145) cites Rabbeinu Yitzchak, who suggests that cooked wine may not even be categorized as wine!


The Shulchan Arukh (OC 202:2) rules that one says Borei Peri Ha-Gafen before drinking cooked wine. This is, of course, especially relevant nowadays, as many wines and grape juices are pasteurized, which may be considered to be a cooking process.


The Rishonim debate whether one can use cooked wine for Kiddush. The Rambam (Hilkhot Shabbat 29:14) rules that one may not. This ruling is based upon a gemara (Bava Batra 97a) that teaches that only wine that can be used for the libations on the mizbe’ach may be used for Kiddush. Elsewhere (Menachot 86b), the mishna states that cooked wine cannot be used on the mizbe’ach. Tosafot (ibid.), however, rules that one may use cooked wine for Kiddush and the Arba Kosot.


The Shulchan Arukh (OC 272:8) cites both views regarding reciting Kiddush on cooked wine. However, based upon his ruling concerning the proper berakha for cooked wine, it seems that the Shulchan Arukh concedes that one may recite Kiddush even over cooked wine. The Rema agrees, and even adds that if the better wine is cooked, it is preferable to use the better wine for Kiddush.


In a fascinating responsum, R. Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Da’at 2:35) suggests that had R. Yosef Karo seen the Teshuvat Ha-Rif cited above, he most likely would have ruled in accordance with the Rif and Rambam, two of the three pillars upon which halakhic decisions are based. Therefore, theoretically, there may be room for Sephardim to be stringent and not recite Kiddush over cooked wine. However, R. Yosef concludes that Sephardim may le-chatchila recite Kiddush over cooked wine. This conclusion is based in part upon the opinion of R. Shimon Ben Tzemach (Tashbetz 1:85), who suggests that the process of cooking only disqualifies wife when it is worsened. If, however, the wine remains of the same quality or is even improved, then certainly one may recite Kiddush over such wine.   


Some people, especially outside of Israel, prefer using cooked wine in order to avoid the prohibition of stam yeinam (wine handled by a non-Jew). Incidentally, the Shemirat Shabbat Ke-Hilkhata (chapter 57, note 95) records the opinion of R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, who maintains that pasteurization is not considered to be “bishul” regarding the laws of stam yeinam. He insists that the wine is cooked for a short time and its impact is minimal. R. Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (cited in Yabi’a Omer 8:15) concurs. Most American poskim, including R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe YD 3:31), disagree, and it is customary to view pasteurized wine as “mevushal.”


Pasteurized Grape Juice


Although the Talmud (Bava Batra 97b) records that “A man may press out a cluster of grapes and proclaim over it the Kiddush of the day,” implying that one may use grape juice for Kiddush and that its blessing is Borei Peri Ha-Gafen, the contemporary poskim discuss whether this applies to pasteurized grape juice. Some (see, for example, R. Moshe Shternbuch, Mo’adim U-Zemanim 3:255 note 1) suggest that pasteurized grape juice may no longer be able to ferment, and therefore may no longer be considered to be “zayin ve-same’ach.


Many Acharonim disagree and permit the use of pasteurized grape juice, including R. Tzvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi OC 1:158), R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchat Yitzchak 4), R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, R. Moshe Feinstein, and R. Ovadia Yosef. Of course, we should keep in mind that the Magen Avraham, cited by the Acharonim as well (Mishna Berura 272:5), notes a preference for “aged” wine. When possible, there may be a preference for wine that is not cooked, in accordance with the position of the Rambam cited above.


            R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchat Shelomo 4) discusses this question, and suggests that since pasteurized grape juice has no potential to ferment and become alcohol, it cannot be used for Kiddush. He insists that the proper blessing may still be Borei Peri Ha-Gafen, but one should preferably not recite Kiddush over this juice. R. Yitzchak Weiss, in his Minchat Yitzchak (8:14), disagrees and maintains that one may recite Borei P'ri HaGafen on pasteurized grape juice.  


Grape Juice Made from Concentrate


Although most authorities, as cited above, maintain that one says Borei Peri Ha-Gafen before drinking grape juice and that grape juice may be used for Kiddush, some challenge whether this is true regarding reconstituted grape juice.


R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (ibid.) argues that it is not at all clear that one should say Borei Peri Ha-Gafen before drinking grape juice from concentrate, as its form is much different than the original juice and it has no ability to ferment and become wine (seeRashbam, Bava Batra 97b, s.v. yayin koses). He concludes that one may justify the practice of saying Borei Peri Ha-Gafen over reconstituted grape juice, but he insists that it is not fit to be used for Kiddush. Once dehydrated, the grape juice become unfit for consumption, and therefore can no longer be used for Kiddush even after reconstitution. (The status of reconstitution is itself an interesting halakhic question; most authorities believe that when food is reconstituted, it retains its original status. See, for example, Chazon Ish YD 41:4. The requirements for Kiddush, however, may differ from the standards for kashrut and berakhot.)


It seems that most contemporary poskim disagree (see, for example, R. Gedalya Felder, Yesodei Yeshurun 3:219-221, Minchat Yitzchak 7:61; see also R. Yisroel Belsky’s support for using reconstituted grape juice for Kiddush). It is customary to use grape juice, both natural and reconstituted, for Kiddush.


R. Chaim Jachter presents these issues in a clear and comprehensive manner here and here. For further reading, this article discusses Rabbinic responses to the nationwide ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages in America, known as the Prohibition, between 1920-1933.