Going Kosher – Kosher wine – Chapter 15

The Prohibition

1) Grape wine is a unique beverage in that it is used for sacramental purposes not only in Judaism but in idolatrous religions as well. For this reason the Torah prohibits the use of any grape wine that has been offered as a sacrament to idolatry.[1] Not only drinking this wine, but deriving any benefit from it, such as selling it etc., is also forbidden.[2]

2) This prohibition includes grape juice and raisin wine, as well as regular grape wine.[3] Accordingly, if the grape juice was squeezed from the grapes by non-Jews, it is forbidden even if it was boiled later. However, if the juice was produced by boiling the grapes, it is not forbidden.[4]

3) The Rabbis extended the prohibition to include any non-Jewish wine, even if it is not clear that it has been offered to a false god.[5] Furthermore, even Jewish kosher wine which has been handled by a non-Jew is forbidden.[6]

4) The prohibition against non-Jewish wine is, therefore, stricter than the prohibition against eating food cooked by a non-Jew or bread baked by a non-Jew. This is because, not only can it eventuate in intermarriage[7], but even more so, it borders on idolatry, G-d forbid.[8]

5) According to some opinions, since today it is uncommon that non-Jews offer wine to their idols, therefore, though it is forbidden to drink it, nonetheless, it is permitted to derive benefit from it, such as selling it etc. However, the accepted ruling is that one should only rely on this leniency in a case of great monetary loss.[9]

Boiled Wine

1) Kosher wine that has been boiled no longer falls into the category of wine which is forbidden to be handled by a non-Jew.[10] This is because it is uncommon to boil wine[11] since it depreciates the quality of the wine. In addition it causes evaporation, thus lessening its volume.[12] Such wine would not be used as a sacrament in idolatrous religions.

2) Even though today boiling wine is no longer uncommon because many kosher wines are produced in this manner, nonetheless, since the sages[13] permitted it,[14] it is advisable to use boiled wine in any situation where the possibility of handling by non-Jews may exist.

3) The policy of all kashrus organizations is that any wine or grape juice served by kosher restaurants, caterers or banquet halls, should only be boiled wine. This type of wine is called ‘‘מבושל’‘– “Mevushal”. If wine is Mevushal this word will usually be displayed on the label. Wines that are not Mevushal will either not have any indication on the label at all or the words, “Non-Mevushal” will be displayed.

4) Likewise, in a home, especially one that has non-Jewish domestic help working there, it is advisable to use only Mevushal wine, thus avoiding any problems that may arise from non-Jewish help handling the wine. Remember that this rule also applies to grape juice or raisin wine.

5) Non-Mevushal wine is generally regarded as being of a higher quality than Mevushal wine. If you wish to use it, it is very important to adhere to the following precautions:

a) Be cautious that it will not be handled by the non-Jewish domestic help once it is unsealed and uncorked. (As long as the container is corked and sealed, there is no problem of a non-Jew handling it. However, merely reinserting the cork back into the bottle is not a sufficient seal, especially since the cork is usually only partially reinserted into the bottle and may be readily reopened.)

b) Complete the contents of the entire bottle rather than leave any unused portion which could be handled by the non-Jewish domestic help.

c) If there are open containers of non-Mevushal wine which one wants to save for later consumption, they may be stored in a locked cabinet or any other secure place that is inaccessible to the non-Jew.

Pasteurized Wine

1) Some Halachic authorities are of the opinion that even though pasteurization takes place at a lower temperature than the boiling point, it is sufficient for making kosher wine fit for consumption when handled by a non-Jew.[15] However, this is not universally accepted and there are opinions that require reaching the boiling point.[16]  Inquire of your rabbi for his opinion.

What Constitutes Handling by a Non-Jew?

1) In order for wine, grape juice or raisin wine to be rendered non-kosher through handling by a non-Jew the following qualifications must be met:

a) It must be an open container of wine. If a non-Jew handles a sealed bottle of wine, he has no effect on its kosher status.[17] Generally, the bottle should be closed with a double seal.[18] However, there are Halachic authorities that state that since today non-Jews do not use wine for idolatrous purposes, one seal is sufficient.[19] Inquire of your rabbi.

b) As stated above, to be regarded as having been handled by a non-Jew, it must be non-Mevushal wine.

c) The Non-Jew must handle it intentionally and with the knowledge that it is wine. If he handles it unintentionally, such as accidentally knocking into it or without knowing what it is, the wine remains kosher.[20]

d) The non-Jew must “handle” the wine either manually or by means of an instrument, such as a spoon. (What is meant by “handling” here is that the wine must be moved, lifted, shaken or stirred etc. According to Ashkenazic authorities, merely touching the wine bottle does not render its contents to be non-kosher.[21] According to Sephardic authorities, if it is merely touched, the wine may not be consumed. However, benefit may be derived from it, such as through selling it etc.[22])

The Blessing for Wine

1) As stated above, grape wine or juice is a unique and special beverage because it is used for sacramental purposes, such as for Kiddush and Havdalah. This being the case, it also has a special blessing unique to it. The blessing for wine or grape juice is:


ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם בורא פרי הגפן

Blessed are you HaShem, our G-d, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.

(However, it should be noted that upon consuming grapes, the blessing בורא פרי העץ – Creator of the fruit of the tree, should be recited, just as it is when consuming any other tree fruit.)

2) Likewise, because of its unique status, a special after-blessing is recited after consuming wine, unless (generally speaking) it was consumed during the course of a meal involving bread. The after blessing for wine or grape juice is:

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם על הגפן ועל פרי הגפן ועל תנובת השדה ועל ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה שרצית והנחלת לאבותינו לאכול מפריה ולשבוע מטובה רחם נא ה’ אלקינו על ישראל עמך ועל ירושלם עירך ועל ציון משכן כבודך ועל מזבחך ועל היכלך ובנה ירושלם עיר הקדש במהרה בימינו והעלנו לתוכה ושמחנו בה ונברכך בקדשה ובטהרה כי אתה ה’ טוב ומטיב לכל ונודה לך על הארץ  ועל פרי הגפן. ברוך אתה ה’ על הארץ ועל פרי הגפן.

 Blessed are you HaShem, our G-d,King of the universe, concerning the vine and the fruit of the vine and the produce of the field and the pleasant and good land that you willingly gave as an inheritance to our forefathers, to eat of its fruits and to be satiated of its goodness. Please HaShem, our G-d, speedily have mercy upon your people Israel and upon Jerusalem, your city, and upon Zion, the abode of you glory and upon your alter and upon your palace. Speedily, in our days, rebuild the holy city of Jerusalem and bring us into it and cause us to rejoice in it, so that we may bless you in holiness and purity, for you HaShem are good and you do goodness to all. We will acknowledge you for the land and for the fruit of the vine. Blessed are you HaShem, for the land and for the fruit of the vine.

[1] רמב”ם הל’ מאכלות אסורות יא:א.

[2] שמות לד:טו, דברים לב:לח.

[3] שו”ע יו”ד קכג:יז.

[4] אג”מ יו”ד נ.

[5] רמב”ם הל’ מאכלות אסורות יא:ג.

[6]וראה רמב”ם הל’ מאכלות אסורות יא:ד.  שו”ע יו”ד קכג:א.

[7] טור בשם הרא”ש יו”ד קכג.

[8] חכמ”א עה.

[9] רמ”א יו”ד קכג:א, ש”ך יו”ד קכד:א.

[10] שו”ע יו”ד קכג:ג.

[11] ט”ז יו”ד קכג:ג.

[12] ש”ך יו”ד קכג:ז, חכמ”א עה:י.

[13] ע”ז כט:ב – ל:א.

[14] מנחת יצחק ז:סא.

[15] אג”מ יו”ד ב:נב, שבט הלוי ב:נא.

[16] מנחת שלמה א:כה, אור לציון ב:כ, קובץ תשובות עה, תשובות והנהגות ב:תא.

[17] שו”ע יו”ד קיח.

[18] שו”ע יו”ד שם.

[19] ט”ז יו”ד קיח:ד, ערוה”ש קיח:יג.

[20]  שו”ע יו”ד קכד:י, ט”ז יו”ד קכד:יט.

[21] רמ”א יו”ד קכד:יח, וש”ך שם.

[22] שו”ע יו”ד קכד:יא, בן איש חי בלק י.

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