Talmud Tips

For the week ending 29 April 2017 / 3 Iyyar 5777

Bava Batra 95 - 101

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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Which Wine is Better — Red or White?

“If you offered such to your supervisor, would he be pleased and would he show favor to you?” (Prophet Malachi 1:8)

This verse is cited on our daf as the reason why certain types of wines are unfit to be used as nesachim — wine libations that were poured into the Altar as part of certain communal services in the Beit Hamikdash. We are taught that anything unfit as a gift to a human ruler is considered unfit as an offering to Heaven.

Examples of an unfit wine are one with a bad odor, or wine that was left uncovered, thereby presenting a concern that a snake may have put its venom into it.

Another wine disqualified for use in nesachim is white wine. This is based on a passage in Proverbs (23:31), where King Solomon offers advice for avoid the danger of intoxication, “Look not upon the wine when it is red.” This implies that red wine is generally of better quality than white wine, and is more likely to have a greater intoxicating impact. This makes it more suitable as nesachim.

This is one of the reasons why red wine is preferred for the four cups of the Pesach Seder unless white wine of better quality is available. (Other reasons can be found in “Red Wine” by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman at ohr.edu/holidays/pesach/laws_and_customs/5123)

  • Bava Batra 97b

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