Who’s The Boss?
‘One Hired A Laborer To Assist Him In Yayin Nesech’
(Avodah Zarah 62a)
Yayin nesech – wine of a heathen used for idolatrous purposes – is forbidden to a Jew. Even benefit from it is forbidden. Our mishnah teaches that one is forbidden to derive benefit from any wages earned by doing business with yayin nesech, even as an employee. Rashi (s.v. “ha’socher”) explains that the case under discussion concerns a Jew hired by a heathen to either pour idolatrous wine from a cask to another vessel or to transport it.
A Gentile Or A Jew
Rabbi Shlomo Kluger (Avodas Avodah, to our daf) wonders why Rashi writes that a heathen hired the Jew as the same halacha should apply if the employer was Jewish.
He answers by citing the halacha that a sale of items from which one is forbidden to benefit – such as orlah fruit – is deemed a mekach ta’os (a mistaken sale) and the money is refunded to the buyer since the item is worthless. However, the Rosh (Kiddushin 82, siman 31) asserts that if the buyer is aware of the nature of the product, the money need not be refunded. Why? Because if he knew that the item was worthless and couldn’t legally buy it, and yet nevertheless “paid” for it, we assume he gave the money as a gift.
Similarly Rabbi Kluger suggests that a Jewish employer who hires a worker to process yayin nesech (or any item from which benefit is prohibited) must be giving him his “wages” as a gift considering that the wine is worthless.