Sunday, December 21, 2008

Waiter in a Non-Jewish Restaurant

Subscribe to the Daily Daf Yomi Summary here

(From Meoros Daf HaYomi)

Our Gemara (Kiddushin 69) quotes the words of Nechemiya ben Chachalya, who is referred to in Ezra (2:63) as “Hatirshasa.” His job was to attend to King Nebuchadnezzar and to serve him his wine. Based on the Talmud Yerushalmi, Rashi (s.v. Hatirshasa) explains that part of Nechemiya’s task was to taste the wine before serving it as a security measure to prove that he was not trying to poison the king. As such, chachamim granted Nechemiya a special dispensation [heter] to drink [shasa] wine made by non-Jews, and therefore was given the name “Hatirshasa.”

Source of the prohibition against non-Jewish wine: Since Nebuchadnezzar was not an idol-worshipper, his wine was not considered libation wine, which is forbidden by the Torah (Avoda Zara 29b). Still, the Sages had to grant Nechemiya explicit permission to drink his wine because when Daniel was exiled to the Babylonian king’s palace, he pledged not to defile himself by drinking the king’s wine, even if it was not used for libation offerings (Daniel 1:8). This decree was enacted once again for Klal Yisrael by the talmidim of Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel (Shabbos 17b), who prohibited drinking non-Jews’ wine, even in a Jewish home (see Beis Yosef, Y.D. 123, Os 1; see also Encyclopedia Talmudis, “Yayin shel goyim” p. 335).

A man who made his living as a waiter asked the Radvaz (Part IV §22) whether he would be allowed to work in a non-Jewish restaurant and serve wine there. The Radvaz replied that although Nechemiya ben Chachalaya served wine to Nebuchadnezzar, this should not be used as an example, for he had no alternative. Had he tried to disobey the king’s standing orders, he would have placed his life in danger. But a Jew may not engage in this profession of his own volition, and he should be rebuked and, if possible, prevented from doing so. Furthermore, said the Radvaz, a Jew should not set foot at non-Jewish parties to prevent him from learning their ways.

The Kol Eliyahu (Responsa II §27) adds that if a waiter is involved in warming or preparing the food, he is liable to come to taste it and to transgress a Torah prohibition.