QUESTION: Is it permitted to buy a non-kosher bottle of wine in order to give it to a non-Jew as a gift?
DISCUSSION: This should be avoided. Wine that was produced without the supervision of an observant Jew is called stam yeinam which is forbidden to drink. Whether or not it is permitted to “derive benefit” (i.e., to profit monetarily, to gain from it or enjoy it in any possible way) from stam yeinam nowadays, when wine is no longer commonly used for avodah zarah worship, is a subject of debate among the Rishonim. The Rama (1), who quotes both views, rules that it is best to be stringent unless a substantial financial loss is involved.(2) It is therefore inappropriate to buy non-kosher wine for gift giving, since one is “deriving benefit” from stam yeinam.
Moreover, even one who received a non-kosher bottle of wine for a present may not give that wine as a gift to a non-Jew, since he will then be “deriving benefit” from stam yeinam, which according to the stringent view cited above is prohibited. If a substantial financial loss is at stake, one should consult a rav.(3)
QUESTION: Is it permitted to buy an assortment of non-kosher meats or fish in order to give it to a non-Jew as a gift?
DISCUSSION: This is strictly forbidden, since it is forbidden to profit from most(4) Biblically forbidden non-kosher(5) food items. Since, as we explained earlier, one “profits” by giving a gift to an employee or an associate, the poskim(6) agree that buying a Biblically forbidden non- kosher item in order to give it to a non-Jew is prohibited.
But if one received an assortment of meats or fish as a present, he may give that assortment to a non-Jew as a gift. This is because unlike the case with stam yeinam, it is permitted to “profit” from a non-kosher food item that came into one’s possession “by chance”, unintentionally; this is not considered “doing business” with non-kosher items.(7)
QUESTION: Is it permitted to buy an assortment of non-kosher cheeses in order to give it to a non-Jew as a gift?
DISCUSSION: This is allowed, because it is permitted to do business with Rabbinically forbidden non-kosher food items. Since the requirement that cheese be supervised is Rabbinical in origin, one may do business with unsupervised cheese. It is, therefore, permitted to be bought and given to a non-Jew as a gift.(8)
1 Y.D. 123:1.
2 Note that the Levushei Serad, quoted (partly) in Pischei Teshuvah 123:1 and (completely) in Darkei Teshuvah 123:3, totally permits deriving benefit from stam yeinam nowadays. According to him, even a G-d fearing person does not have to be stringent. Note, though, that his discussion focuses on Jews whose livelihood depends on dealing with stam yeinam – unlike our case which is limited to gift-giving.
3 See Chochmas Adam 75:14, Maharam Shick Y.D. 150, and Darkei Teshuvah 123:3.
4 Some notable exceptions are: Non-kosher fats of a kosher animal; blood of a kosher animal; Eiver min ha-chai (a limb of a kosher animal which was severed while the animal was alive); wormy fruits. All these foods are Biblically non-kosher and may not be consumed, yet one may do business with them.
5 “Non-kosher” includes both treifos (rendered non-kosher due to terminal illness) and neveilos (rendered non-kosher at the time of slaughter).
6 Shach Y.D. 117:3; Pri Chadash 117:3; Darkei Teshuvah 117:29; Kaf ha- Chayim 117:28.
7 Rama Y.D. 117:1. An exception would be if the non-kosher item contains a cooked meat and milk mixture, since one may not “derive any benefit” from basar b’chalav.
8 Y.D. 117:1 and Darkei Teshuvah 60. If, however, the non-supervised cheese is known to contain Biblically prohibited non-kosher items, then one may not be the cheese in order to give it to a non-Jew.
Rabbi Neustadt is Rav of Young Israel in Cleveland Heights. He may be reached at 216-321-4635 or at [email protected]