Avodah Zarah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three

 

Introduction

This mishnah discusses a Jew who was carrying wine from one place to another with a non-Jew. The question is, are we suspicious that the non-Jew touched the wine, and that it is therefore forbidden.

 

Mishnah Three

1)                     If a non-Jew was transporting jars of wine together with a Jew from place to place, and it was presumed that [the wine] was under guard, it is permitted.

a)                                 But if [the Jew] informed him that he was going away [and he was absent a length of time] sufficient for the other to bore a hole [in a jar], stop it up and [the sealing clay] to become dry, [the wine is prohibited].

b)                                 Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says: [a length of time] sufficient for him to open a cask,  put a new stopper on and [the new stopper] to become dry.

 

Explanation

If, while transporting the wine with the non-Jew the non-Jew assumes that the Jew was always watching the wine, the wine is permitted.  As long as the non-Jew suspects that the Jew might catch him opening up the wine and drinking from it, the non-Jew will not do so.  The Jew might even leave the wine with the non-Jew for a while, as long as the Jew does not tell him that he is doing so. 

If the Jew leaves the non-Jew and tells him that he is doing so, then the non-Jew knows that he has a certain period of time in which he might be able to drink the wine without being caught.  There are two opinions in the mishnah about how long this period of time must be. According to the first opinion, the non-Jew must have enough time to make a hole in the stopper of the jug (the stopper was made and sealed with clay), and then fill the hole back in, and the new seal to dry, so that the Jew will not be able to tell that it was opened when he returns.  If the Jew did not tell the non-Jew that he would be away for this period of time, the wine is permitted.  The second opinion is that of Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel.  He assumes that if the non-Jew merely makes a hole in the stopper and then reseals it, the Jew will see the damage.  The only way the non-Jew will avoid getting caught is if he removes the whole stopper, and then closes the jug with a new stopper and then the sealing on this new stopper dries.  If the Jew does not stay away for the period of time it takes to do all of this, the wine is permitted. 

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