Image: Grapes, grape leaves, and a pitcher of red liquid. (Photo via Torange.biz, some rights reserved.)
My seder table every year is really crowded: there’s the seder plate itself, the haggadahs, the individual place settings, the wine glasses, the two kinds of wine (Manischewitz and not-Manischewitz), along with little plastic frogs for the kids and all sorts of other paraphernalia. It’s a lot of stuff!
However, there are two other things that must be on every seder table, One is a pitcher or carafe or bottle of grape juice, and the other is a pitcher of water. And yet often when I’ve been a guest at seder, neither of those was in evidence until I asked.
In the haggadah, we read “Let all who are hungry come and eat!” And yet when we leave off the grape juice, or when we have it in the kitchen as an afterthought in the plastic Kedem bottle, we are putting some of our guests at a disadvantage, and possibly embarrassing them.
Some people don’t drink wine. Some are friends of Bill W. – they are addicted to alcohol, and they absolutely must not drink wine. Some (like me) are on medications that make alcohol dangerous. For those guests it is really important for the grape juice to be out on the table, easily available, and if possible, staged as attractively as the wine.
I can tell you from personal experience that it’s very tempting to say to a host, “Oh, sure, I’ll just have a little wine” if it looks like getting the grape juice is going to be a lot of trouble. I can also tell you that I feel like a bit of a second-class citizen when my grape juice comes out of a plastic bottle with a torn label, when everyone else is drinking out of a pretty bottle.
Oh, and no, apple juice isn’t just as good. This is the blessing for the glasses of wine:
Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of Time-and-Space, who created the fruit of the vine.
It doesn’t have to be fermented, but it does have to have grown on a vine, for the blessing to be correct. Other vine-grown alternatives are tomatoes, melons, and kiwi fruit.
So why the water? All of your guests will feel better if they have the option of water to drink between cups of wine. Also, some of your guests may wish to water down the wine a bit, so that they can stay sober enough to enjoy the seder and drive home after.
So please, add water and grape juice to your overcrowded seder table. Your guests will thank you!