Wine

One of my sons came home from Yeshiva with an explanation about wine that I had never heard before. I know that I cannot drink wine if it is opened by a non-Jew. But he was taught to take it a step further, that if someone who is Jewish but who is not shomer mitzvot – ie someone who is not Sabbath observant or Kashrut observant – opens or touches the wine in some way, then that wine becomes “Stam Yaynom” – wine that an observant Jew is forbidden to drink.

Is this a chumra or is it halacha? Can anyone enlighten me? What about mevushal wine? Where does that come in? (their Rebbi told them to be careful, especially if they were at a seder where there would be non-religious people).

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  1. tikunolam says:

    Geez, first I was told I wasn’t Jewish this week, now if I open a wine bottle my brother won’t drink from it. What’s next? I can’t go into observant Jews’ homes? They can’t be my friends? They can’t talk to me lest I have some cooties that will make them lose their place in Olam Habba? It just doesn’t end.

    • HSaboMilner says:

      Tik – you (and your cooties) are always welcome in our house. Just so you know. And that whole not Jewish fiasco – you know exactly how I felt about the whole thing.

      this wine thing sounds like a chumra to me – but the boys don’t learn it that way. So I just wanted clarification.

  2. Jess says:

    I’ve never heard that before! but I have heard that a non-Jew cannot even touch the bottle of wine. (I would assume it is only once the bottle has been opened) Not that I agree with either scenario!

  3. I am with tikunolam and sometimes face the same bigotry. I am so against that. A Jew is a Jew.

  4. RunnyKnows2 says:

    The hatred and utter nonsense spewed on some jblogs (not yours – of course) has made me consider turning to idol worship. If I could only get my hands on some of that Jewish wine to use in my idolatrous practice and then sneak it back in the bottle for some unsuspecting frummy to drink.
    Then I will return to my other evil plan and take over the world!!!

    • HSaboMilner says:

      i try to include everyone here. I try not to judge. I try to accept people for who they are, not the label that others stick on them. But I also strive for the truth and for understanding. I also wish to raise my boys with the right ideals and values.

      I do not have enough learning to know where these chumras come from, or if they are just other people pushing exclusionary agendas.

      Why can we not just all get along?! sigh

    • sheldan says:

      LOL (I think).

  5. mrsmelissasg says:

    i know that the masgiach at our shul will only allow wine to be opened by people who are shomer. my husband has been pulled from davening before to open wine and i have been caught walking into the building to help out… i can ask the masgiach where it comes from if you’d like.

  6. Mike Miller says:

    The halacha [not chumra] is very clear that anyone who violates an prohibition l’hachis [to spite G-d] has the same status as a non-Jew regarding wine. That is, any open, non-mevushal wine they touch may not be drunk.

    Someone who sins because of an uncontrolled desire [l'teiavon] is not in this category, except for shabbos, where even l’teiavon is a problem.

    While this may not be a popular halacha, it is by no means a modern chareidi invention; it’s just as hateful and bigoted as the shulchan oruch and rama [of course, that might not mean much to some...]

    However, the achronim put other conditions on this; e.g., if the person would be embarrassed to violate shabbos in front of someone else, they’re not considered to be in this category.

    Needless to say, this is not one of those halachos that one should announce publically at their seder; much better to purchase mevushal wine and avoid the issue. This is, however, the reason that most kashrus agencies require the mashgiach to open and pour wine [often even mevushal, so as not to confuse people].

    A closed, sealed bottle of wine presents no problems [which is why wine may be purchased from any store].

    Interestingly, most of the winemakers who produce kosher wine are not Jewish, and therefore have a full time mashgiach who also is the only one who does much of the work on the wine during the preparation!

  7. shualah elisheva says:

    i learned the hard way – and all it takes is one time being told your hands have made the wine non.drinkable. now i only purchase mevushal wine for group consumption, which is frustrating, because my favorite kosher wine is [to my knowledge] not mevushal.

    just to be safe, i would suggest always using a mevushal variety.

  8. At our seder which always has irreligious people there, we are careful to only use mevushal wine, even though non-mevushal is preferred for seder night. It is halacha, not chumrah, and the rebbeim in your sons school actually got it right this time around.

    in general, i would suggest you ask a rabbi for halachic questions or halachic explanations, rather than ask those in blogosphere who while may be well-intentioned (or not) often do not have the background to pasken

  9. Gavi says:

    For what it’s worth, yeshiva is actually teaching halacha this time (rare, I know). Any non-mevushal wine can only be opened or poured by a shomer shabbos Jew.

    That being said, I second the comment of harryer-than-them-all: “build a relationship a competent posek” is advice I give to lots of people. I know that “aseh lecha rav” has worked well for me, so I try to pass on that idea…

  10. lady lock and load says:

    Don’t worry Hadassah, the wine in our house is mevushal ;).

  11. jean says:

    Interesting question, even if it means I’m not “good” enough to open the wine. Just to throw another shank’s bone of contention in, I found this– what do you think?

    “A Mevushal wine retains its religious purity no matter who opens or pours it or drinks it. Modern technology allows the rules of fine wine production to merge satisfactorily with religious laws.”

    You can read on at at http://www.kosher-wine.com/history.shtml

    Or is this a difference between Ashkenazim and Sephardim? Curious.

  12. jean says:

    Oh wait — I thought I was reading “non-mevushal. doh!

  13. sheldan says:

    Just because someone SAYS something that is stricter than many people observe doesn’t mean that it is required. If it were true that a non-Shomer Shabbat person made the wine unfit, I think a lot of people would not be able to drink wine!

    I think this is a chumra that if one chooses to observe is not binding on anyone else.

  14. mekubal says:

    Yes that is the halacha.

    This halacha, like a fair many, may seem to be shocking when you first encounter them. However, that shock and the halachot that generate said shock would probably be best kept out of the public sphere. All that it really serves to do is generate a greater level of sinat chinam. Those who are fully observant are typically aware of this halacha. Those that are not will simply be offended by it, as the comments on this thread indicate. It serves no constructive purpose to air this in the public sphere, and it seems to only cause harm to Klal Yisrael.

    • mekubal says:

      PS I saw that you were looking for the actual sources. It starts in the Gemarra in several places, the first that Hulin 5a(i believe it is side a). It is brought down as stam halacha in the Shulchan Aruch YD, 124:8

  15. This halakhah of the non-observant Jew dates back to when a non-observant Jew was living in 5th-century Babylonia or 16th-century Poland, when everyone was religious, and the non-observant fellow was a conscious and deliberate sinner. Such people also had the law of moridin v’lo ma’alin, “lower them into a pit and don’t lift them back out”. Since Shabbat symbolizes the creation of the world by G-d, Shabbat violation signified atheism, and back then, if you didn’t believe in G-d, you’d probably murder or steal any moment. Rabbi Menahem ha-Meiri of 13th-century Provence, France, is famous for saying that morally decent Christians and Muslims are our “brothers in Torah and mitzvot” (yes, he said it!), but even he was ready to scathingly condemn atheists, because he assumed that no atheist could be morally decent and honorable. Even Benjamin Franklin didn’t trust atheists to observe basic moral norms, and he says that without belief in Divine reward and punishment, there’s no reason for a person to be morally decent. This is an 18th-century American non-Jew we’re talking about!! So no wonder that halakhah dealt harshly with non-observant Jews!!!

    But in 18th-century Germany, Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger (the Arukh la-Ner and the teacher of Rav S. R. Hirsch) theorized that nowadays, non-observant Jews are tinoqot she-nishbu, akin to a Jew taken captive by a gentile as a child. Thus, he cannot be blamed for his errors. Already long ago, Rambam, in Hilkhot Mamrim, said Karaites are not to blame for their sins, because they are merely following their parents’ errors. In fact, the Shulhan Arukh says that even though Karaites violate Shabbat by our standards, we are not to treat them as Shabbat violators, because from their own perspective, they keep Shabbat. In other words: if a person thinks he is keeping Shabbat – even if he really isn’t in fact, by our standards – then he is a “religious” person, and we don’t fear that he’ll murder or steal any moment. As far as the Karaite or the Reform Jew is concerned, he is keeping Shabbat properly, and he isn’t trying to proclaim, “Behold, I am breaking Shabbat to show everyone how deviant and immoral I am!!!”. Other German Neo-Orthodox (like today’s Modern Orthodox) rabbis, such as Rabbis S. R. Hirsch and D. Z. Hoffman, held similarly.

    The Hazon Ish, for his part, said that the laws discriminating against non-observant Jews only applied back when miracles occurred all the time, and everyone knew Orthodox Judaism was true. I’m personally not true miracles were ever as common as the Hazon Ish thinks they were, but his basic point is the same as that of Rabbis Ettlinger, Hirsch, and Hoffman. The point is that it all depends on the non-observant Jew’s own state of mind. The Shulhan Arukh discriminates against non-observant Jews only because it assumes that if you break Shabbat, you’ll break the rest of the Ten Commandments too, so to speak. If you violate the Torah’s law against Shabbat, you’ll violate the Torah’s law against murder or theft. But today, most people don’t think like this. The Karaites didn’t think like this either, so they were exempted.

    For a summary of all this, see Rabbi Marc D. Angel’s article, Religious Zionism and the Non-Orthodox. If you want an exhaustive treatment, I recommend the book Eyes to See by Rabbi Yom Tov Schwarz. Actually, you should read that book anyway. The author was born in pre-Holocaust Poland, and his book is all about the moral failings he sees in the contemporary Orthodox community, compared to what he saw in prewar Poland. Only a few pages into the book, he declares authoritatively that all the bad things the Talmud says about non-Jews applied only to ancient heathens and not to today’s non-Jews, and at one point in the book, he proclaims that Abraham Lincoln was a tzadiq for what he did for the blacks. Truly, this book of his is beautiful. His treatment of non-observant Jews spans three entire chapters, I believe, some 60 or so pages, and basically, he has only good things to say about them. Remember, this is a Haredi rabbi who learned in Eastern-European yeshivot before the Holocaust.

    According to all this, your wine is fine even with non-observant Jews.

    However, non-Jews are discriminated against in this area not only because the Talmud assumed they were all immoral heathens who murdered for fun, but also, because we assumed they worshiped other gods and would consecrate our wine to foreign deities if given half a chance. Even if they are ignorant and don’t mean any harm, idolatry is idolatry. Even if you’re the most polite and kind-hearted idolater, we still cannot join you in worshiping idols, with all due respect and love. If we are afraid of non-Jews doing this, then why not be afraid that non-observant Jews will do this? If so, then you must be careful with your wine around non-observant Jews.

    Mevushal wine, however, is boiled, and is not subject to concern. It used to be that boiling wine made it taste like garbage, and no self-respecting pagan would insult his god with it. But nowadays, our mevushalwine is boiled at low pressure and heat, so that the boiling doesn’t affect the flavor. So the reason don’t apply anymore, but we just keep the same outdated halakhah, and say that mevushal wine protects against pagan consecration. We keep the same laws regarding pagan consecration, even though they really shouldn’t apply anymore.

    Also, Rabbi Marc Angel (the rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish-Portuguese (Sephardi) congregation in NYC) has told me that he saw in a teshuva of the Rambam’s that no pagan would ever consecrate wine with honey in it. He told me that if you put the tiniest little insignificant smidge of honey into your wine, even the most miniscule and infinitesimal amount, that it will “protect” it against pagan contamination, even if you cannot taste the honey.

    • mekubal says:

      But the Hazon Ish upheld the ban on a non-observant Jew handling wine. See his biurim on YD 124.

      • Thank you. I haven’t thoroughly studied this issue, so I tried to leave both possibilities open in my above analysis. You’ve clarified matters, and showed that the second possibility (the stringent one) is quite likely the preeminent one. Thank you.

  16. Y Kohn says:

    Being offended is not a reason not to explain. We are living in modern times, so explaining is the only option in a time of blogs and internet.

    Non Jewish Wine is a Rabbinical ban, the reason is to avoid socializing of Jews and Non-Jews so as to make inter-marriage less likely. This ban is as old as Rabbinic Judaism.

    The ban has an exception of mevushal as being of lesser quality. Even if today some mevushal wines are very good and indistinguishable from non mevushal, we are not allowed to widen a ban, even if circumstances (and reasons – for that matter) change.

    What is hard to accept by our non religious brethren is that for many halachos a non shomer shabbos person has the STATUS of a non Jew.

    For example a non shomer shabbos person can’t be a witness under a chupa. This concept has been used by great Rabbis not to require a Get for an aguna who was married under Reform and because all who attended the wedding ceremony were verified to have been non shomer shabbes. The marriage was annulled as if it never happened.

    So Reb Moshe Feinstein invalidated the marriage! As if to say all those who witnessed the event were non Jewish. And he freed that particular aguna.

    As for wine it is a common mistake made by many ‘frum’ and ‘chareidi’ people, and that may have included your son’s rebbi.

    Only a mechalel shabbat befarhesya, has this status, it only applies to a person who was observed to desecrate the shabbat in front of 10 frum Jews in spite of their presence, and many poskim say that only if a person smokes in front of a Rabbi with chutzpa has that status 10 is not enough. So most poskim are very lenient when it comes to wine (since it is only a Rabbinic ban) as who should have the strict status of a non Jew.

    The Rabbanut in Israel is quite lenient on this matter and include Jews as acceptable in wine production, even those who don’t keep Shabbat because they never had a chance to learn Torah, so they are considered victims of circumstance. Plus the over whelming majority of Israelis will refrain from desecrating the Shabbat in front of a Rabbi.

    When Carmel wines tried to widen its appeal and acceptance among Charedim the Rabbi who had a more strict definition on who has the status of a goy, gave a blanket ban on veteran Carmel employees who were not keeping Shabbat.

    This created a fire storm, some of them, victims of the holocaust said “I was a Jew for Hitler but not for this Rabbi??”

    But the Rabbi never invited himself, it was Carmel who was seeking a stricter Hechsher. Home this explains it a bit.

    • Thank you for that information.

      I forgot to distinguish between stam yeinam (“their plain wine”), the prohibition lest one have close social relations and intermarry, and yayn nesekh (“wine poured to an idol”), the prohibition lest the gentile dedicated the wine to an idol.

      It’s a good point you make, that the prohibition, regarding a Jew, applies only to someone who brazenly violates Shabbat publicly. This of course implies that he is b’meizid, deliberate, and not b’shogeg, accidental or ignorant. A tinoq she-nishba, such as the contemporary non-Orthodox Jew, falls into the class of b’shogeg, and he is not subject to all the penalties.

      And thank you for telling us what the Israeli Rabbinate holds.

  17. oy, so complicated
    Best to say, at this moment keeping halacha. May it be forever more.

  18. YC says:

    I was taught there are achronim on both sides of this issue. Tov LeHachmir

  19. Lion of Zion says:

    YC:

    “Tov LeHachmir”

    why?

    • mekubal says:

      Considering that the Tur and then the Shulchan Aruch writes it as Stam Halacha. The Rema feels no need to clarify. The Shakh and the Taz don’t disagree on a single point. The Pri Magidim and Be’er Hetiv only argue on what is required for the trusting when the person has said that he has done teshuva, same with the Chavat Da’at.

      Everyone says they know of some Acharon who says differently but there has yet to be one quoted by name.

      So ultimately the reason is that you have a very hard uphill climb to overcome all of the Achronim from previous generations have supported. At that point is is not Humra it is a stam halakha.

  20. Y Kohn says:

    Mekubal

    You are right we need to cite sources, and I will (I happen to be Charedi myself, so I will only cite those who are mainstay and acceptable to all Charedi poskim)

    Thank Hashem for Hebrewbooks.org

    Here is the link (scroll to the bottom of the page)

    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=3377&st=&pgnum=35

    For those who would like some of it in English

    He cites Rav Yehuda Ossad (one of the founders of Hungarian Orthodoxy) and Avnei Tzedek who was Satmar Rebbe’s father’s father. Also Binyan Tziyon (Ettlinger) and one the Greatest the Maharsham, that in today’s age when most of those who don’t keep Shabbos are just plain ignorant, we should be lenient in this matter.

    We must be stringent only if a person is ‘knowledgeable’ of the laws of Shabbos and with chutzpa does it in front of 10 frum Jews then he will make wine assur by ‘touching’.
    So most poskim take a very lenient view as I cited.

    The Rebbe of Munkatch take a more stringent view. (as do many super frum people)

    This sefer in the link was written by the now famous Rabbi Braun of Brooklyn and this version of the Kitzur has been reprinted dozens of times by Feldhiem. It has been a best seller ever it was first printed and is cited in dozens of Seforim.

    • mekubal says:

      Most of these poskim are obscure and simply don’t have the weight to overturn the tradition. The Maharsham does not say that we should be lenient, he said that for those who are there is what to rely upon. To put that in practicalities if you are at someone’s home and they are lenient, you need not make a scene over it by ever after refusing the wine.

      In halachic literature the phrase “Yesh Lismokh” is always a sign of a b’dieved. The Kitzur Shulhan Arukh, as you have just pointed out lists this as halakha. The Aurkh HaShulhan as well, Rav Moshe Feinstein, R’ Ovadia Yosef(known for being lenient in Kashrut, if you want some pesah examples I am equipped to give them to you) seriously, if you were to write a Teshuva for permitting this, and hand it to any respectable Rav, based only on the sources you provided, they would think it was Purim Torah. No major Posek today holds this way, and the Kitzur Shulhan Aurkh was only able to bring down four dissenting opinions… that should tell you something.

  21. Y Kohn says:

    And click on the next page you will see my claim that the person must violate the Shabbos in front of Rav or Leader.

  22. If not drinking the wine would cause embarrassment to the person who opened it, then its more important to drink the wine.

  23. (The above was meant in the context of a bottle of wine being opened by a non-shomer shabbat Jew)

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