The Prohibition of Gentile Wine and Jewish Wine That Has Been Touched by a Gentile
The Torah forbids the wine of gentiles that has been offered as a libation
to idolatry. It is not only forbidden to consume it, it is even forbidden to
derive any financial benefit from it. This prohibition applies even to wine
that has been merely designated for use as an idolatrous libation.
Rabbinical law extends the Torah prohibition to any wine of a gentile (“stam
yenam”) and, even further, to the wine of a Jew that has been touched
by an idolatrous gentile. Even the touch of a gentile infant prohibits wine
from being consumed. In the case of wine touched by a gentile who is not
idolatrous, the poskim are divided. Some hold that it is permitted at least
to derive financial benefit from the wine while others maintain that even
this is forbidden.
The Rabbis extended the Torah prohibition, as they themselves explained,
in order to discourage intermarriage. But the Rabbis did not intend to limit
the application of the prohibition by their explanation, for they revealed
only one of the many considerations that moved them to make the prohibition.
Therefore, the prohibition applies even when, according to their own
explanation, it would seem to be irrelevant.
If wine that may not be consumed, but which may be sold or otherwise used
as a source of financial benefit, becomes mixed with wine which is
permitted, the mixture may be consumed if, for every part of prohibited wine
in the mixture, there are sixty parts of permissible wine. Rabbi Yosef Karo
(the Mechaber) and Rabbi Moshe Isserlis (the Rama) are divided
on the law in a case of “stam yenam,” from which no financial
benefit may be derived, that becomes mixed with wine which is permitted.
According to the Mechaber, it is forbidden to drink the wine, but the
mixture may be sold to a gentile, with the value of the prohibited wine in
the mixture being discarded. According to the Rama, the mixture may
even be consumed if, for every part of “stam yenam,” there are
sixty parts of permissible wine in the mixture.
This law does not apply to mixtures of “stam yenam” when there
are sixty parts of water in the mixture. (Water only!) But: It is forbidden
to mix “stam yenam” with water for the purpose of rendering it
permissible This is because of the principle of “Ayn m’vatlim issur
l’chatchila,” one may not deliberately mix forbidden foods with
permitted foods for the purpose of removing the prohibition. The laws of
mixtures apply only to mixtures that occur inadvertently.
It is permitted to add water to wine so that the contact of a non-Jew will
not prohibit it.
Wine in a closed, sealed bottle is not prohibited by the contact of a
gentile, even if it does not have a double seal. Even a glass bottle, in
which the wine can be seen, may be carried by a gentile from place to place
if it is closed and sealed. The wine remains permissible so long as it is
clear that the gentile did not open the bottle. Closed bottles of wine, even
if they are not sealed, and even if they are only partially filled, may be
handled by a non-Jewish housekeeper in the course of cleaning. They remain
permissible so long as it is clear that the bottles were not opened.
If the wine bottle is merely corked, so that it can be readily opened and
closed, the wine bottles can be handled by a gentile if he is under the
supervision of a Jew. The Jew need not be present all the time. He can come
and go. Since the gentile thinks that the Jew might show up any time, he
would not remove the cork for fear of being accused of stealing. If the
bottle is uncorked, more stringent supervision is required.
If a gentile touches an open bottle of wine, the wine remains permissible
so long as he has not carried the bottle or placed his hand inside of it.