Avodah Zarah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five



This mishnah discusses a Jew who leaves a non-Jew sitting as a guest at his table.  The question is what wine can we assume the non-Jew touched, and is therefore prohibited. 


Mishnah Five

1)                     If [a Jew] was eating with [a non-Jew] at a table and set some flasks upon the table and others upon a side-table and leaving them there went out, what is upon the table is prohibited and what is upon the side-table is permitted.

a)                                 And should he have said to him, “mix [some of the wine with water] and drink,” even what is upon the side-table is prohibited.  

2)                     Opened casks are prohibited, and the closed ones are permitted [except when he was absent a length of time] sufficient for [the non-Jew] to open it,  put a new stopper on and [the new stopper] to become dry.



Section one:  When the Jew leaves the non-Jew alone at the table with an open flask of wine, it is of course assumed that the non-Jew will drink from the wine, thereby making it forbidden.  However, since it is not customary for guests to drink from the “side-table”, the wine there is not forbidden.  This side-table is evidently somewhat like the shelf behind the bar in our time.  If you leave your guest with a bottle on a table it is acceptable for him to drink from the bottle.  It is much less acceptable for him to go behind the bar and take out his own drink. 

If, however, the Jew told the non-Jew that he could mix some wine with water (this is how wine was always drunk during the time of the mishnah), then of course we must assume that the non-Jew will take also what is on the side-table.  Although he did not specifically tell him to take from the wine on the side-table, it is as if he had done so.  It is like someone today saying, “help yourself” to his friend sitting at his bar.  Therefore all of the wine is forbidden.

Section two:  If the Jew leaves the non-Jew with open casks of wine in the house, they are forbidden.  The closed casks are permitted, as long as the Jew was not absent long enough for the non-Jew to open the cask, make a new stopper and then let the stopper dry. 


Questions for Further Thought

·                      Section two:  According to whose opinion from the previous mishnah is this section taught?  Why might that be so?