The Laws of a Jew Who is Non-Shabbat Observant Regarding Wine

In the previous Halachot we have discussed the enactment of our Sages that all non-Jewish wine or wine touched by a non-Jew is forbidden for consumption. There are instances where the wine will be forbidden to benefit from as well as we have discussed.

A Non-Observant Jew
Let us now discuss the law of wine belonging to or touched by a Jew who does not observe Shabbat.

Indeed, the law of a Jew who desecrates the Shabbat is equal to that of a non-Jew regarding several issues. Such a person is called a “wayward Jew.”

Nevertheless, the Poskim discuss two kinds of “wayward Jews”: The first is a Jew who disregards one or more of the Mitzvot of the Torah in order to rebel against Hashem. This is fairly uncommon in our times (although it does exist).

The second, more common kind is a Jew who desecrates Shabbat because he wishes to fulfill his individual desires. Even so, this Jew retains the same law as a non-Jew regarding wine, for Shabbat desecration is more severe than other sins, for one who desecrates Shabbat shows that he does not believe in Hashem’s creation of the world. Although such a Jew retains his sanctity since “a Jew who has sinned is nevertheless a Jew,” nevertheless, until he repents for his sinful ways, this Jew retains the law of a non-Jew regarding wine.

Nevertheless, the above only applies when the individual desecrates Shabbat by performing works forbidden by Torah law, such as driving a car on Shabbat which entails several Torah prohibitions, including ignition and the like. Likewise, this Jew must desecrate the Shabbat in front of at least ten other Jews in order to retain the law of a non-Jew regarding wine. However, if the individual desecrates Shabbat privately, he is not considered a “wayward Jew” in this regard. Unfortunately, most non-Shabbat observant Jew nowadays do so publicly by driving their cars around heavily populated areas on Shabbat.

Based on the above, if a Jew who is not Shabbat observant pours a cup of wine for another Jew, the wine is forbidden for consumption similar to the law regarding wine poured by a non-Jew. Thus, those who go out to eat in restaurants must make sure that a Jewish waiter who is non-Shabbat observant Jew does not pour them wine, for this will render the wine in the glass forbidden for consumption. Nevertheless, if the waiter did not pour the wine and merely opened the bottle, the wine in the bottle does not become forbidden for consumption. Similarly, if such a waiter did pour the wine, only the wine in the glass is forbidden for consumption but the wine remaining in the bottle is permitted.

Non-Shabbat Observant Jews Nowadays
Hagaon Harav Ben Zion Lichtman writes in his Responsa Benei Zion that although a Jew who desecrates Shabbat prohibits wine by touching it, nevertheless, those Jews nowadays who pray Shabbat prayers, recite Kiddush, and then proceed to desecrate Shabbat by performing works forbidden by Torah and rabbinic law do not prohibit wine by touching it. This is because the whole reason why a Jew who desecrates Shabbat retains the same law as a non-Jew is because by desecrating Shabbat, he appears to be in denial of the fact that Hashem created the world and is subsequently tantamount to transgressing the entire Torah. However, one who recites Kiddush and explicitly recites the words “And the heavens and the earth were completed etc.” cannot be considered a heretic and does not forbid wine by touching it. Although many Poskim agree to this opinion, some disagree. Halachically speaking, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”lwrites that one who relies on this opinion has on whom to rely.

Summary: Wine touched by a Jew who desecrates the Shabbat publicly is forbidden as though it were touched by a non-Jew. It is for this reason that kosher wine manufacturers take care that the entire process of the wine production is carried out by Shabbat observant Jews. If a non-Shabbat observant Jew pours wine into a glass, the wine in the glass is forbidden for consumption. However, the wine remaining in the bottle is nevertheless permitted for consumption. Some say that if the non-Shabbat observant Jew recites Shabbat prayers and Kiddush, he does not retain the law of a non-Jew and he does not prohibit wine by touching it. Others disagree. One who acts leniently in this regard has on whom to rely.

In the following Halacha, we shall, G-d-willing, discuss this matter further.