ד׳ במרחשון ה׳תשע״א (October 12, 2010)

Avodah Zarah 59a-b – The consequences of offering Jewish wine to non-Jewish gods

We have learned that a non-Jew who touches wine – and certainly one who libates it in honor of a pagan deity – will make it forbidden for the Jew to benefit from it. What if the non-Jew does this on purpose? Rav Ashi rules that in such a case although it cannot be sold to another non-Jew, nevertheless, he can demand that the non-Jew who poured the wine must pay him for it, as though he had burned it. That is to say, he is not paying to purchase the wine, rather he must pay for the damage that he did.

 

Rav Ashi explains that his source for this ruling is the following baraita:

If an idolater offered wine of a Jew as a libation, not in the presence of an idol, it is prohibited; but Rabbi Yehudah ben Bava and Rabbi Yehudah ben Betayra permit it for two reasons: first, because wine can be rendered yayin nesekh only in the presence of an idol, and secondly because the owner can say to him, “You have no right to make my wine prohibited through no fault of my own.”

 

The commentators try to explain how this baraita supports Rav Ashi’s ruling, given that neither of the two opinions that appear in it seem to lead to his conclusion. According to the first tanna the wine is forbidden entirely, while according to the second opinion it can be sold to a different non-Jew, as well.

 

The Re’ah explains that Rav Ashi is following the second ruling of the Mishnah, since the reasons offered by Rabbi Yehudah ben Bava and Rabbi Yehudah ben Betayra would permit it to be sold to another non-Jew only on a Torah level. In theory, should forbid such a sale, although they permit it to the individual who caused the problem. The Ramban argues that Rav Ashi’s ruling follows the opinion of the first tanna, according to whom the libation was a true act of idol worship and the wine is totally forbidden – which is why the owner can demand payment from the non-Jew for damages. Had the wine been permitted to be sold, the non-Jew could have argued that he did not truly do damage to the Jew, since he could sell the wine.