Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Mr. Weiner was having a hard time finding a new job when a non-Jewish acquaintance, Mr. Smith, contacted him. “I know of some job openings if you’re interested,” he said.

“At this point, I’m willing to hear about anything,” said Mr. Weiner. “What kind of work?”

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“Some jobs are with factories and some with eateries,” he said. “One is actually at a winery where they treat workers to free wine!”

“Is the wine kosher?” asked Mr. Weiner.

“Kosher?!” replied Mr. Smith. “Oh, no! It’s a regular winery.”

“Hmm, that might be problematic for me. What about the eateries?” asked Mr. Weiner. “Are they kosher establishments?”

“No, although I assume some Jews eat there. What I have in mind are a few restaurants and eateries looking for waiters or people who will serve behind a counter,” said Mr. Smith.

“Thank you very much for the recommendations,” Mr. Weiner replied. “I have to speak to a rabbi, though, about whether I can take the jobs.”

Mr. Weiner called Rabbi Dayan who replied as follows once Mr. Weiner shared with him the gist of his conversation:

“The Gemara [Avodah Zarah 62] states that the Sages prohibited benefiting from the wages of yayin nesech and extended this prohibition to stam yeinam (wine touched by a non-Jew) as well. Thus, a person may not produce wine touched by non-Jews and, if he did, he may not benefit from any salary he received as a result.” [Y.D. 133:1]

“The Rema, however, is lenient. He writes that nowadays stam yeinam – although forbidden to drink – is not prohibited to benefit from, post facto, since most non-Jews are not true idolaters and rarely offer wine libations. Accordingly, taking a salary for such work is also permitted nowadays post facto. Even so, the Shach [Y.D. 134:4] writes that a person should initially avoid working on, or renting his premises for, stam yeinam. Therefore, you should not take work in a non-kosher winery.”

“What about other factories?” asked Mr. Weiner.

“Working in a non-kosher food factory is much less problematic,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Although the Sages prohibited running a business primarily of non-kosher food, lest one eat some of it, there is a dispute among Achronim whether a Jewish employee may also not work in such an establishment. One can follow the lenient opinion, if needed, especially in a factory setting where the employees are less likely to eat the food being produced [Darchei Teshuva 117:50]

“Working as a waiter or counterperson in a non-kosher restaurant or eatery is a serious question, though,” concluded Rabbi Dayan. “First, there is greater concern of accidentally eating non-kosher food. Furthermore, one will likely have to serve non-observant Jewish customers, which may be a violation of lifnei iver or mesayei’ah lidei ovrei aveirah (helping others sin).

“There is extensive discussion of the parameters of these restrictions, and some authorities are lenient if the person is not observant or if you are working for pay, but many disagree. Therefore, you should avoid taking such a job to the extent possible.” [Pischei Choshen, Sechirus 7:17]

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Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to subscribe@businesshalacha.com. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail ask@businesshalacha.com.