Yayin Sh'aino Meshumar
Domestic Help with Wines at Home
Rabbi Yitzchok Hisiger continues his discussion with Rav Moshe Heinemann, Rabbinic Administrator of the Star-K and Rov of Agudas Yisroel of Baltimore, regarding potential kashrus issues that can arise when non-Jewish domestic help is employed in the home.
Rabbi Yitzchok Hisiger: Another common scenario people generally are concerned about when dealing with domestic help, are open bottles of wine. What do people need to know about that?
Rav Moshe Heinemann: If a non-Jew touches wine – meaning that he puts his hand into the barrel and touches the actual wine – it becomes not kosher unless the wine was previously cooked.
I was at a wine factory in Eretz Yisroel and told them that any wines they send us must be cooked. The winemaker said, “No way. I’m not going to cook my wine!”
I asked him why and he said that cooking wine causes it to lose its flavor. Actually, that is the reason why there is no problem of yayin nesech with cooked wines. In olden times, idol worshippers poured out wine as part of their service to their gods, which is why the chachamim prohibited any wine touched by a non-Jew. However, they would not use cooked wine for their idol worship because it is considered inferior. That’s why it is permitted.
I told the winemaker that he only had to cook it for five seconds, and he agreed to that. When you cook wine, the alcohol and the aroma go out with the steam. That’s what he was worried about. But if he only had to cook it for five seconds, he wasn’t worried.
Rabbi Hisiger: So, if you have wine around domestic help, you should make sure that it is mevushal?
Rav Heinemann: Yes.
Rabbi Hisiger: Is grape juice the same?
Rav Heinemann: Yes. It’s exactly the same.
It used to be that if you didn’t pasteurize wine, it would start to turn into vinegar, and if you didn’t pasteurize grape juice, it would start to ferment. Today that no longer happens because they put sulfites into the wine and grape juice, which acts as a preservative.
Hashem made grapes to be made into wine. How do I know that? If you look at grapes, you can see that they look cloudy, and this cloudy substance comes off on your fingers. That is yeast. When they squeeze the grapes, they leave some of the skin in the juice to make wine because the yeast turns the sugar in the juice into alcohol. If left out, the air will turn the alcohol into vinegar. The way they used to stop that from happening was by making it air tight. Today, they use sulfites for that, so they don’t have to cook it anymore.
So, you should look at the bottle to make sure it says mevushal. If it says that, you know that it was cooked.
If the wine is not mevushal and a non-Jew picks up a bottle with the cap on and doesn’t open it, even though they moved it around, as long as you are there, it does not become treif. If you’re not there, it is treif because you have to be worried that they may have spilled some out. But if you are there and see that they only moved it around, or if you saw it on a screen from a camera that is there, it isn’t a problem.
If the bottle is uncovered and the non-Jew moved it around, it is a problem even if they didn’t put their hand into the bottle. As soon as the wine shakes around, it becomes treif.
Rabbi Hisiger: If you have an open non-mevushal bottle of wine in your fridge, is there any way to wrap it to make sure it wasn’t tampered with and to alleviate the problem that way?
Rav Heinemann: If you tell the help that they’re not allowed to go into the fridge and someone is yotzie v’nichnas, the wine would be permitted because you can assume that they didn’t open the fridge.
If they do have a right to open the fridge, which they probably would have, if they are taking care of an elderly person and preparing their food, one can put a piece of tape over the cover of the bottle. It is even better if you write something on top and see that it is still intact like you left it. You also can wrap it in two bags and make sure it is the same as you left it.
You also could have a camera facing the fridge to keep watch and see that the non-Jew didn’t open any bottles.
Otherwise, you should make sure you don’t have any wine around that is not mevushal.