י״ד במרחשון ה׳תשע״א (October 22, 2010)

Avodah Zarah 69a-b – Must we be concerned about non-Jews touching Jewish wine?

The Mishnah on today’s daf (=page) describes a number of cases where barrels of wine are left in a place where a non-Jew has access to them and the Jew who is in charge of the wine leaves. For example:

  • if the barrels were being moved by a Jew and a non-Jew together, or
  • if they were left on a boat or a wagon while being transported, or
  • if they were left in a store,

in all such cases, the Tanna Kamma (=first) believes that under ordinary circumstances the wine would be permitted, but if the Jewish person indicated that he would be going away then the wine will be forbidden if there was time to puncture the stopper (the megufah) and to close the hole so that the filling would dry and be unnoticeable. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says that the wine would be forbidden only if there had been enough time to remove the stopper entirely and then replace it with a new stopper that could dry and be unnoticeable.

 

Rashi and the Rambam explain that the Jew did not specify where he was going, so we must measure the time that he was away and determine whether the non-Jew could have tampered with the stopper. The Ra’avad understands the case to be when the Jew tells the non-Jew where he will be going, and if the distance is long enough to allow tampering with the stopper, the wine is forbidden. According to this view, if the non-Jew had no idea how long the Jew would be away, the wine would remain permitted.

 

The megufah, or stopper, on a barrel was a piece of clay used to cover the narrow opening from where the wine was poured. This megufah was essentially a utensil in its own right, but when the barrel was being moved, or when it was going to be put into storage for an extended period of time, then the megufah would be secured with mud in order to close the barrel entirely. When the wine barrel was opened, the mud covering would be broken and the megufah would be removed.