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NESEK:

Wine consecrated to use in idolatrous worship and therefore absolutely forbidden to a Jew. In a broader sense "nesek," or "yayin nesek," denotes wine made and used by Gentiles as well as wine made by and for Jews but which has been touched by a Gentile. There are, therefore, three kinds of wine which are subject to special regulations. Wine consecrated to the worship of idols, like everything else associated with idolatry, is regarded as absolutely defiling and as rendering persons and vessels unclean; if a quantity of such wine no larger than an olive be kept in the tent of an Israelite or be carried by him, it is sufficient to render him unclean. It is prohibited therefore even to carry or handle such wine in the capacity of a porter ('Ab. Zarah 30b; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 132-133). On mixing such wine with lawful wine, and on the consequences of such an act, see Yoreh De'ah, 134.

The ordinary wine of the heathen is generally termed "setam yenam." This also is forbidden, even when it is not known to have been consecrated to idolatry, in order to avoid even the suspicion of contact with actual nesek, although according to others it was prohibited with the purpose of preventing any social relations with Gentiles which might lead to intermarriage ('Ab. Zarah 36b; comp. Tos. Yom-Ṭob on 'Ab. Zarah ii. 3). This wine, in the quantity of a quarter of a "log," renders unclean any food or drink with which it has been brought in contact ('Ab. Zarah 31a; Yoreh De'ah, 123, 1; 133, 1). These regulations, however, have almost entirely lost their importance in countries where there is no idolatrous population, and wine made by a non-Jew who is not an idolater is prohibited only as a beverage (ib.). Those who are ill, even when not dangerously so, are permitted to drink wine belonging to non-Jews, and even those who while in perfect health drink such wine—as many did in the sixteenth century in France and as is now commonly done in nearly all countries—are not to be considered as neglecting any ritual requirement, and consequently are not to be suspected in regard to other commandments or invalidated as witnesses (Moses Isserles, Responsa, No. 124).

Wine made by and belonging to a Jew but kept in an idolater's house, or such wine touched by an idolater, may be used for any purpose except for drinking ('Ab. Zarah 31a; Yoreh De'ah, 124, 1, Isserles' gloss); it is true that in theory the touch of an idolater renders it unfit for any use whatever, but as customs changed and idolaters no longer offered wine to their idols, a more liberal interpretation was followed in practise (Isserles, l.c.). According to the stricter law, the touch of a Gentile who is not an idolater will make the wine unfit to drink if it is contained in an uncorked bottle and he touches and shakes it purposely, but if he touches the wine unintentionally it may be drunk (Yoreh De'ah, 124, 7). Christians and Mohammedans not being idolaters, every touch on their part is regarded as unintentional ("Mordekai," cited by Isserles in his gloss to Yoreh De'ah).

Bibliography:
  • Shulhan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 123-137, and the commentaries ad loc.
W. B. J. Z. L.
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