By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow
A kosher bottle of wine is being sold with a label that states in Hebrew “Lo Mevushal.” However, in English it states “Mevushal” (see accompanying photo). How can wine be both mevushal and non-mevushal simultaneously?
Most likely the label is a result of a printer’s error. However, that would scarcely form the basis for an article. Therefore, we will suggest that in fact the label means exactly what it says. (For the true status, please contact the company.)
There is a rabbinic prohibition against consuming the wine of gentiles. By extension, this also applies to wine poured or touched by gentiles.
There are two basic reasons for this prohibition. The first is that the wine may have been used as part of a ceremony that pays homage to an idol. The second is that the consumption of such wine may lead to inappropriate relationships and behavior.
The Gemara records (Avodah Zara30a) that Shmuel was consuming wine in the presence of Avleit. Avleit was a gentile scholar. Avleit made sure that he did not touch the wine bottle. He knew that if he did so, then Shmuel would no longer drink the wine. Shmuel told him that his touching of the bottle is of no concern because the wine is cooked, mevushal.
There is a clear leniency from the Gemara that when wine is cooked, it is free from all of the restrictions that normally accompany kosher wine. Mevushal wine may be poured and handled by a gentile. Many American kashrus agencies rely on the pasteurization of wine and grape juice to consider them cooked. This is based on the ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein, z’l, on this matter. Therefore, they certify and label pasteurized wine and grape juice as mevushal.
Rabbi Eli Gersten, in Daf HaKashrus, noted that many gedolim rejected this leniency. He cited three opposing opinions and their reasons.
“Rav Elyashiv, z’l (Even Yisrael journal 5751), argues that cooked wine was only permitted because in former times it was uncommon to cook wine. However, today, pasteurization of wine is so commonplace as to be considered the norm, so we can no longer consider this process an uncommon occurrence.
“Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, z’l (Minchas Shlomo I:25), ruled that pasteurized wine cannot be considered mevushal unless the cooking causes a noticeable change in the taste, color, or aroma of the wine. The process commonly employed today, known as flash pasteurization, is performed in a manner that very quickly heats and then cools the wine, such that even experts debate whether it causes any appreciable effect on the characteristics of the wine. As such it should not qualify as mevushal.
“Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul, z’l (Ohr L’Tzion II:20;19), argues that for wine to be considered mevushal, it must become lessened through the cooking. Because today’s method of pasteurization is performed inside pipes that are part of a sealed system, the wine is in no way lessened through the cooking.”
As a result, what might be considered mevushal in the United States following the lenient opinion of Rav Moshe, z’l, may not be considered mevushal for a chareidi following the opinions of some of the gedolei Eretz Yisrael. Hence, having a product labeled “Mevushal” in English but “Lo Mevushal” in Hebrew makes sense if the wine in the bottle was pasteurized. It would be considered mevushal according to the OU, but maybe not for the Badatz Yerushalayim.
It is interesting to note that Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlita, is quoted as being strict against relying on pasteurization to consider wine cooked. (Kovetz Halachos, Laws of Pesach). Therefore, if one follows his view, one cannot leave an unsealed bottle of Kedem grape juice unattended with non-Jewish help.
However, his view also produces a leniency. The Shulchan Aruch writes that initially one should use non-mevushal wine for Kiddush and the four cups. According to Rav Kamenetsky, and the gedolim cited above, one may treat Kedem grape juice and pasteurized wine as not mevushal.
As an aside, the issue of non-Shabbos observers handling uncooked wine is well-known. Less well-known is the clear ruling of Rav Binyomin Forst, shlita. He writes in The Kosher Kitchen: “However, the prohibition of wine touched by a Shabbos violator pertains to wine actually touched by him. If a Shabbos violator merely lifts a bottle and pours wine, the wine is permitted. In addition, there is a question whether a Shabbos violator who was not raised in a religious environment prohibits wine that he touched.”
Therefore, while it is preferable to serve yayin mevushal to such guests, one need not be concerned that the bottle of uncooked wine becomes prohibited when such a guest pours from the bottle. This is not the case with a gentile. A gentile pouring from a bottle of uncooked wine would cause the entire bottle to become prohibited.
If any reader has clarity about the true meaning of the contradictory label, please contact the author.
Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com.