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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah

Folio 58a

[Later on]1  R. Huna son of R. Nahman visited Mahuza, and Raba said to his attendant, R. Eliakim,' 'Bolt the doors so that nobody shall enter to disturb us.'2  [R. Huna son of R. Nahman] entered the room and asked him, 'In such circumstances3  how is the law?' — He replied, 'It is forbidden even for use.' [R. Huna exclaimed], 'But the Master4  it was who declared that such splashing does not render wine nesek!' [Raba replied], 'I was referring [to the contents of the cask] apart from the value of that wine [which had been in the bucket]; I said nothing with reference to the value of that wine.'5  Raba continued, 'When I came to Pumbeditha,6  Nahmani7  overwhelmed me with precedents and teachings to the effect that it is prohibited. As to precedents, there was a similar occurrence in Nehardea where Samuel prohibited it, and another in Tiberias where R. Johanan prohibited it; and when I replied to him that [they gave that decision because in those towns the inhabitants] were not students of Torah,8  he retorted, "[The inhabitants of] Tiberias and Nehardea are not students of Torah and those of Mahoza are students of Torah! As to a teaching, there is that of a heathen inspector of weights who tapped [a cask of wine] with a tube and drew off [some wine], or he tasted some of it in a glass and returned [the remainder] to the cask — this actually happened and [the Rabbis] declared it forbidden.9  Is it not be supposed that [the decision applied] to its use for any purpose?10  — No, only to its being drunk [by Israelites]." [Abaye asked,] "If that is so, let it teach: 'He may sell it,' in the same way that it teaches in the sequel: If a heathen oppressor extends his hand into a cask, thinking that it contained oil, but it chanced to contain wine — this actually happened and [the Rabbis] said that it may be sold!"' This is a refutation of Raba! It is a refutation.11

R. Johanan b. Arza12  and R. Jose b. Nehorai were once sitting and drinking wine, when a man entered to whom they said, 'Come, pour out for us.' After he had poured it into their glass, the fact was disclosed that he was a heathen. One of them prohibited it to be used for any purpose, while the other permitted it even for drinking. R. Joshua b. Levi said: He who prohibited it acted rightly and he who permitted it acted rightly. He who prohibited it

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. By which time Raba had retracted his decision, v. below, n. 6. cf. however, p. 290, n. 2.
  2. I.e., when R. Huna paid him a visit.
  3. When a heathen splashed his hand in the wine without any intention of idolatry.
  4. Viz., Raba himself.
  5. Which had been touched by the heathen, its value must be cast into the sea, since a Jew may derive no benefit from it. In this way Raba attempted to extricate himself from his difficult position (v. however, p. 290, n. 2).
  6. [This occurred before R. Huna's visit to Raba. V. p. 290, n. 2.]
  7. I.e., Abaye, whose grandfather's name was Nahmani which was occasionally applied to him.
  8. And where the people are unlearned, the law must be interpreted in a stricter sense because of their liability to err.
  9. Tosef, A.Z. VIII.
  10. This refutes Raba.
  11. [Tosaf. on the basis of a variant reading has a different version. R. Nahman happened to be in Mahuza when he was visited by Raba, his former disciple, who asked him his opinion. When R. Nahman declared himself against the use of the wine, Raba recalled a former decision of his in a similar case that splashing does not render nesek. To this R. Nahman replied that his ruling related only to the contents of the wine in the cask etc. The merit of this version is that it clears Raba from a charge of prevarication and further obviates the necessity of placing Raba's visit in Pumbeditha mentioned later in the text before the discussion he had with his visitor in Mahuza.]
  12. Another reading is: Arwa.
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‘Abodah Zarah 58b

[acted on this supposition: The heathen] must have said to himself, 'Would it occur to such Rabbis as these to drink beer? It must surely be wine!' and he rendered it nesek. He who permitted it acted rightly [on this supposition: The heathen] must have said to himself, 'Would it occur to such Rabbis as these to drink wine and ask me to pour out for them? It must be beer they are drinking!'1  and he did not render it nesek. But he could have seen [whether it was wine or beer]! — It was night. But he could have smelt! — It was new.2  But he must have touched it [when he drew the liquor from the cask] with a measure, so it is a case where a heathen touched [wine] unintentionally3  and it is prohibited! — No; it is necessary [to understand it as a case] where he merely poured out,4  and so it is a circumstance of unintentional action,5  and the Rabbis did not decree against a circumstance of unintentional action.

R. Assi asked R. Johanan: How is it when wine is mixed6  by a heathen? — He said to him: Use the verb mazag!7  [R. Assi] replied: I used the Scriptural word as in, She hath killed her beasts, she hath mingled [masekah] her wine.8  He said to him: The language of the Torah is distinct and so is the language of the Sages.9  How is it, then, [if a heathen mixes it with water]? — [R. Johanan] answered: It is prohibited10  on the principle, 'Keep off, we say to a Nazirite; go round the vineyard and come not near it!'11

R. Jeremiah once visited Sakhutha12  and there saw heathens mixing the wine and Israelites drinking it. He prohibited it to them on the principle, 'Keep off, we say to a Nazirite; go round the vineyard and come not near it!' It has likewise been stated: R. Johanan said — another version is, R. Assi said in the name of R. Johanan: Wine mixed by a heathen is prohibited on the principle, 'Keep off, we say to a Nazirite; go round the vineyard and come not near it.'

R. Simeon b. Lakish once came to Bozrah13  and there saw the Israelites eating untithed fruits and he prohibited them. He saw water which had been worshipped by idolaters being drunk by Israelites and he prohibited it. He came before R. Johanan [and related to him what he had done]; and the latter said to him, 'While your cloak is still upon you, return;14  Bezer15  is not Bozrah; and water belonging to the public cannot become prohibited!'16  R. Johanan here followed his own opinion;

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. The law of nesek does not apply to beer.
  2. When fresh the smell is not so distinctive.
  3. Since he was unaware that it was wine.
  4. And did not touch the wine.
  5. The man being unaware that it was wine he was to pour out.
  6. Wine was usually diluted with water before it was drunk.
  7. This is the usual verb for 'to dilute wine with water', whereas R. Assi used masak.
  8. Prov. IX, 2.
  9. His point is that in the language of the Rabbis mazag has the signification to mix wine with water; but masak, while having that meaning in Biblical Hebrew, means in Rabbinic Hebrew to mix strong wine with weaker wine.
  10. For drinking but not for other use, and it is prohibited although he had not touched it.
  11. As a precautionary measure to avoid the possibility of breaking the law which forbids the fruit of the vine to a Nazirite.
  12. According to Jastrow the Aramaic equivalent of Mizpah. Neubauer prefers the alternative reading 'Sabtha' which may be Sebaste. [Obermeyer, op. cit., p. 185, identifies it with Sabat, in the district of Mahuza.]
  13. An Edomite city (Isa. XXXIV, 6).
  14. I.e., without delay go back and rescind your prohibition.
  15. One of the cities of refuge (Deut. IV, 43). As a Palestinian city untithed fruits were disallowed there but not in a town like Bozrah, which was outside the confines of the Holy land.
  16. If it had been worshipped.
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