Drinking the wine of a non-Jew

  • Yosef
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In many of the world’s religions, wine can take a central role in the worship of their deities (An example of this is the catholic ritual of transubstantiation, an act where catholics drink red wine believing it to be the blood of Jesus). The Torah forbade the consumption of any wine used to serve idols and the Jewish sages extended this decree to the consumption of wine that had been produced or handled by non-Jews.

Many Muslims are confused that a Jew is permitted to drink wine as the Quran teaches Muslims that intoxicants are “abominations of Satan’s handiwork” and that drinking them is strictly forbidden. In Judaism only the use of alcohol as an intoxicant in daily life is prohibited; however, Judaism teaches that using small amounts as part of a religious service elevates wine to something that sanctifies; “wine gladdens the human heart” (Psalms 104:15)

As wine is also used by pagans in their religious rituals, Jews are forbidden to drink wine handled by any non-Jew as precaution. It is within the detail of this law that we find a surprising testament to the Jewish belief that Muslims practice a perfect monotheism; for centuries the leading rabbis of each generation have permitted the consumption of wine handled by Muslims (a privilege they didn’t extend to Christianity)

There is no unity [of G-d] like the unity found in Islam; therefore, one who forbids wine which they have handled, turns holy into profane by regarding worshippers of G-d as worshippers of idols, G-d forbid.

– Rabbi Joseph Messas, Mayim Hayyim, Yoreh Deah, no. 66, p. 159

The Ishmaelites [Muslims] are not idol worshippers at all, and it [idolatry] has ceased to exist in their mouths and hearts and they attribute the proper Oneness to G-d with no blemish. And if someone will say that the house they worship in is an idolatrous shrine… as their ancestors worshiped idols there—that does not matter. Those who bow towards it today, their hearts are dedicated to heaven [towards the One God]… and the Ishmaelites today, all of them, women and children, have ceased to believe in idolatry and their mistake is… in other things… however in attributing Oneness to G-d — they have no mistake at all.

– Maimonides, Responsa #448.

Ishmaelites [Muslims], cannot abolish idolatry, as they are not idolaters

– Remah (codifier of Ashkenazi traditions), Yoreh De’ah.

the Ishmaelites [Muslims] do not worship idolatry, they cannot abolish it.

– Ritva, Talmud Avodah Zarah 64b

the wine of any Gentile who is not an idolater, such as the Ishmaelites, is forbidden only for consumption but not for benefit; all the Geonim* have so ruled. The wine of those who worship idols, however, is forbidden for benefit.

– Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Ma’achalot Asurot

but regarding the Ishmaelites, that are not idol worshippers at all, their touch [of wine] is permitted…

– Ritva, Talmud Pesachim 57a.

and the Ishmaelites are not idol worshipers….

– Sefer Kolbo

*R. Zemah, Kohen Zedek, Sar Shalom, Nahshon

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Drinking the wine of a non-Jew