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Thought for the Day: Keeping Non-Mevushal Wine Kosher

What makes wine kosher?  With everything else the kashrus of a food item has to do with its ingredients -- use permitted ingredients, you get permitted food; right?  (At least at the d'oraisa level.  There are ways to make food forbidden at the rabbinic level: cooked by a goy any time, or cooked by a Jew on Shabbos, for example.)  Meat sort or breaks that rule.  After all, the meat started off as a living animal, which is forbidden -- d'oraisa to both Jews and goyim -- because of "eiver min ha'chai"/flesh from a living animal.  The meat is transformed from forbidden to dinner by shichita for a Jew and by death for a goy.  (Those are two different times; not our topic.)   None the less, the general rule of "kosher in, kosher out" is pretty good.

Every good rule has an exception, and this is no exception: take any kosher food and dedicate it for use in idolatrous worship -- POOF -- forbidden.  In truth, anything -- animal, vegetable, or mineral -- could be dedicated idolatrous worship, but that's not a reason to forbid the whole category.  In fact, the mishna in Avoda Zara says that HaShem did not refrain from creating the sun and moon just because fools would turn them into objects of worship.

However, Chazal recognized the deep connection between wine, religious ceremonies, and inappropriate fraternizing, so wine went into a special category.  Therefore, take kosher grapes and squeeze the bejeebers out of them; kosher.  But if a goy touches or pours that liquid; forbidden.  In fact, there is even one opinion (Nachum HaBavli, brought by the Debrecener Rav) that forbids wine if a goy even looked at it; but that is not the normative halacha.  (Some people are makpid on Nachum HaBavli, though, and they only buy wine in cases that was produced in a winery with all Shomer Shabbos workers and sealed up before it left the site.)

Obviously, if you have dinner with goyim, your best bet is not to have wine.  However, suppose you have non-Jewish cleaning lady.  I have heard that unsupervised cleaning help might sometimes pour themselves a bit of motivation, so to speak.  If they pour from the whiskey, then you have only lost a shot or two.  If they pour from the wine, however, that whole bottle is now forbidden.  So what do you do if you have wine left unsealed in the fridge?  R' Moshe says if you see that the level has not changed, you are good to go.  That is, you don't have to worry they might have poured a glass or two and replaced the missing volume with water.  I think he gave both suggestions because if I only remember, I might be worried that I don't remember exactly where it was.  If I mark it, I might be worried the help with see the mark and figure they darn well better refill with water to the mark.  You don't have to worry for either of those.

One more fly in the ointment... as far as these halachos go, a Jew who flagrantly and publically violates Shabbos is the same as a goy.  That is, if your Jewish, but not frum, cleaning lady pours some wine... the bottle is forbidden.  There are obvious implications for having non-frum Jewish guests, as well, since it makes no difference if they are rebelling against G-d, just really have trouble staying away from work for 25 hour a week, or just don't know any better.  An apikorus, even a tinok sh'nishbah, is nebbich an apikorus.

Of course, most of this does not apply to m'vushal wines (including those who are lenient and consider our pasteurized wines to be m'vushal).  The one exception is those who are makpid to not use wine that a goy looked at; wine is wine, m'vushal or not, and it is all forbidden.  However, they do have one leniency: only a goy who is an oveid avoda zara ruins the wine by looking at it.  That includes Christians.  It does not, though, include Muslims.

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