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Avodah Zarah, 31


QUESTION: The Gemara discusses a case in which a person buys or rents a house in the courtyard of a Nochri, and he wants to leave his wine there. Rebbi Eliezer and the Rabanan argue whether such wine -- which is left in the possession of a Nochri -- requires one seal or two seals in order to prevent it from becoming forbidden as Stam Yayin (wine touched or owned by a Nochri that was not known to have been used for Avodah Zarah). Rebbi Eliezer says that if the Jew has the key to the house in which the wine is located, or if there is one seal on the wine, then it is permitted. The Rabanan argue and say that the wine needs two seals. The Gemara quotes Rav (or Zeiri) who states that the Halachah follows the view of Rebbi Eliezer.

The ruling of Rebbi Eliezer seems to contradict a number of rulings elsewhere in the Gemara. The Gemara earlier (29b) quotes Rav Ashi who states that vinegar and Yayin Mevushal do *not* need two seals in order to remain permitted. This implies that regular wine *does* need two seals. Rava in our Gemara discusses exactly what constitutes a seal within a seal. Why does Rava involve himself in a matter which is not relevant? Furthermore, Rav himself says later (39a) that wine is something which is forbidden when it has only one seal! How can we reconcile these Gemaras with the ruling of Rebbi Eliezer?

(a) TOSFOS (DH d'Amar) quotes RABEINU TAM who answers that the Halachah indeed follows the view of Rebbi Eliezer. All of the Gemaras quoted above that seem to contradict this are not discussing wine left with a Nochri. They deal with wine deposited with a *Jew* who is suspected of pouring wine for Avodah Zarah. Since he is a fellow Jew, he is more comfortable with his brethren and he thinks that they will definitely believe him when he says that he did not tamper with the single seal of the wine. To ensure that this does not happen, the Chachamim required a double seal for wine left with this kind of Jew.

Tosfos finds this approach difficult, because those Gemaras make no mention of a Jew who is suspected of idolatry. On the contrary, all of those Gemaras seem to be discussing Nochrim!

(b) Tosfos explains that there is a difference between one who sends wine to his friend using a courier who is a Nochri, and one who entrusts his wine with a Nochri for safekeeping with intention to take his wine back with the seal intact. When someone sends wine with a courier, the courier knows that the intended recipient does not necessarily know exactly what the seal is supposed to look like. Hence, he has no inhibitions about opening the single seal, pouring some wine to Avodah Zarah, and fixing the seal. However, if he knows that the owner himself will recognize that the seal was tampered with, then he will be scared that his act of pouring the wine to his idol will be discovered. In this case, one seal is enough.

Tosfos proves this from the wording of the Gemara. Rebbi Eliezer states his ruling with regard to someone who deposits his wine with a Nochri. Usually, a deposit is retrieved by the owner after a period of time has passed. On the other hand, Rav Ashi is discussing vinegar and Yayin Mevushal that was "b'Yad Akum," in the hands of a Nochri. This implies that the wine was sent from one Jew to another via a courier who is a Nochri. RASHI (39b, DH Asurim) explains that the case of Rav also involves sending the wine with a Nochri messenger. This is why those cases require two seals for regular wine.

(c) The RAN gives another explanation. The Ran writes that according to the text of his Gemara, Rebbi Eliezer requires the Jew to have the key to the house *and* that the wine should have a seal; *both* conditions are necessary. This is also the text of the RACH, RIF, BEHAG, and other Rishonim. Although the Ran at first gives credence to Rashi's text and quotes Tosfos' second explanation, he also gives an explanation based on this text. Rebbi Eliezer agrees that wine needs two seals. However, he maintains that if the Jew has a key to the area where the wine is being kept, this is also considered like a seal, even though it is not an actual seal on the body of the wine barrel. The Rabanan argue that one needs two seals on the wine barrel itself, and a key is not a seal at all. The ROSH and RAMBAN also give this explanation according to the Rif and the Behag.

HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 118:1) first records the opinion that one must have two seals for wine, and then he records the second explanation of Tosfos. The REMA says that b'Di'eved one may rely on Rabeinu Tam's opinion. The TAZ (YD 118:4) comments that nowadays everyone agrees that one seal is enough, since the Nochrim do not pour wine for Avodah Zarah like they used to do. This opinion is found in the OR ZARU'A in the name of the RASHBAM (#160, DH Nod), and in the ME'IRI in the name of some of the ACHARONEI HA'RABANIM. The ARUCH HA'SHULCHAN (YD 118:13), MINCHAS YITZCHAK (32:32), and others also rule like the Taz. (Y. Montrose)


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