Sunday, 18 February 2018

Avodah Zara 33: Storing and Selling Liquid, Absorption and Earthenware

The rabbis discuss the risks surrounding doing business with a Gentile who is either on his/her way to serve idols or who is returning from serving idols.  Perhaps s/he will not in fact honour an idol.  Or if the Gentile is going to a fair, idolatry may not be part of that trip.  The rabbis consider whether one might sell or buy wine or other items.  The age of the product might indicate whether or not the Gentile is going or has been to serve an idol.

We learn about different ways that wine was stored and transferred.  The rabbis speak at length about whether wine is stored in a leather pouch or a bottle.  They speak of the residue of wine which soaks into the sides of a pouch and cannot be removed.  

The rabbis then consider which other cold liquids might be stored in a Gentile's leather pouch.  Some rabbis say none.  Others suggest that beer might be permitted.  Earthenware vessels can be washed with water.  But would that washing be enough to return the pouch undamaged?  The rabbis speak of pouches that are filled with dung and whether or not that can be properly cleaned without breaking the pouch.

Who took the first sip, the Gentile or the Jew?  Does this information help us understand the ownership of the container?  The liquid?  Does it matter if the container has been rinsed once? Twice?  Certain types of earthenware are forbidden to use because they come from a ruler who destroyed Jerusalem.

Finally, we hear about Pesach.  If an earthen ware cup is used around the year, can it be used on Pesach?  The rabbis want to know whether or not the matter will absorb its contents.  Anything cracked or broken cannot be used on Pesach.  Anything that absorbs liquid cannot be used on Pesach.  One of the reasons that certain types of earthenware are permitted for use on Pesach is that it does not 'sweat' when it holds cold liquids.   If it does sweat, the rabbis believe that the cup has absorbed liquid and thus it cannot be used on Pesach. 

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