Giving Gifts During The Non-Jewish Holiday Season
QUESTION: Is it permitted to buy a non-kosher bottle of wine in
order to give it to a non-Jew as a gift?
DISCUSSION: This should be avoided. Wine that was produced without
the supervision of an observant Jew is called stam yeinam which is
forbidden to drink. Whether or not it is permitted to "derive benefit"
(i.e., to profit monetarily, to gain from it or enjoy it in any possible
way) from stam yeinam nowadays, when wine is no longer commonly used for
avodah zarah worship, is a subject of debate among the Rishonim. The Rama
(1), who quotes both views, rules that it is best to be stringent unless a
substantial financial loss is involved.(2) It is therefore inappropriate
to buy non-kosher wine for gift giving, since one is "deriving benefit"
from stam yeinam.
Moreover, even one who received a non-kosher bottle of wine for a present
may not give that wine as a gift to a non-Jew, since he will then
be "deriving benefit" from stam yeinam, which according to the stringent
view cited above is prohibited. If a substantial financial loss is at
stake, one should consult a rav.(3)
QUESTION: Is it permitted to buy an assortment of non-kosher meats
or fish in order to give it to a non-Jew as a gift?
DISCUSSION: This is strictly forbidden, since it is forbidden to
profit from most(4) Biblically forbidden non-kosher(5) food items. Since,
as we explained earlier, one "profits" by giving a gift to an employee or
an associate, the poskim(6) agree that buying a Biblically forbidden non-
kosher item in order to give it to a non-Jew is prohibited.
But if one received an assortment of meats or fish as a present, he may
give that assortment to a non-Jew as a gift. This is because unlike the
case with stam yeinam, it is permitted to "profit" from a non-kosher food
item that came into one's possession "by chance", unintentionally; this is
not considered "doing business" with non-kosher items.(7)
QUESTION: Is it permitted to buy an assortment of non-kosher
cheeses in order to give it to a non-Jew as a gift?
DISCUSSION: This is allowed, because it is permitted to do business
with Rabbinically forbidden non-kosher food items. Since the requirement
that cheese be supervised is Rabbinical in origin, one may do business
with unsupervised cheese. It is, therefore, permitted to be bought and
given to a non-Jew as a gift.(8)
1 Y.D. 123:1.
2 Note that the Levushei Serad, quoted (partly) in Pischei Teshuvah 123:1
and (completely) in Darkei Teshuvah 123:3, totally permits deriving
benefit from stam yeinam nowadays. According to him, even a G-d fearing
person does not have to be stringent. Note, though, that his discussion
focuses on Jews whose livelihood depends on dealing with stam yeinam -
unlike our case which is limited to gift-giving.
3 See Chochmas Adam 75:14, Maharam Shick Y.D. 150, and Darkei Teshuvah
4 Some notable exceptions are: Non-kosher fats of a kosher animal; blood
of a kosher animal; Eiver min ha-chai (a limb of a kosher animal which was
severed while the animal was alive); wormy fruits. All these foods are
Biblically non-kosher and may not be consumed, yet one may do business
5 "Non-kosher" includes both treifos (rendered non-kosher due to terminal
illness) and neveilos (rendered non-kosher at the time of slaughter).
6 Shach Y.D. 117:3; Pri Chadash 117:3; Darkei Teshuvah 117:29; Kaf ha-
7 Rama Y.D. 117:1. An exception would be if the non-kosher item contains a
cooked meat and milk mixture, since one may not "derive any benefit" from
8 Y.D. 117:1 and Darkei Teshuvah 60. If, however, the non-supervised
cheese is known to contain Biblically prohibited non-kosher items, then
one may not be the cheese in order to give it to a non-Jew.
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