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(This question is based on an older one which Rabbi Levi Cash posted a few years ago.)

Under Charlemagne in the 8th century and the Carolingian emperors, Jews provided wine for Christian mass. But I wonder whether this was actually allowed or not.

May Jews sell wine to Christians for them to use in their religious ceremonies? Why or why not?

Please cite sources.


(Related: a question which asks what the 8th-century rabbis wrote about the matter at the time.)

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This one's fairly clear-cut.

The Talmud says it's prohibited to sell frankincense in small, retail amounts to pagans that they will use in their pagan worship. However you can sell it in bulk as wholesale, and what the retailer does with it is not your concern. I may not enable a non-Jew to worship idols, but I may enable the enabler. (That's indirect enough.)

It then tells the story of a rabbi who sold firewood to a pagan temple, and was challenged by a colleague about this. He replied that most firewood consumed by that temple would simply be used to heat the building, not in any pagan ritual.

The Shulchan Aruch quotes this law, and then adds -- "and therefore, don't sell water to a church that will use it for baptisms." We see that generally, the rule of "don't sell pagan supplies" was applied to churches as well (well at least Orthodox and Catholic churches -- Protestants is a different question entirely). (Though there may have been leniencies about this as well.)

However, it's then observed that there is a very strong opinion that the only problem is enabling when I am the only supplier around. If instead of buying from me, the pagan could buy from some other frankincense supplier, then I'm not truly "enabling", and it would be permissible.

In todays' markets, it's virtually unheard-of that my refusal to sell a product will actually prevent them from acquiring it from someone else. Hence selling it would be "facilitating", but not "enabling." Most rabbis conclude that "facilitating" is not ideal, but it's allowable.

Thus -- as long as there's some other wine they could buy, I'm not prohibited from selling it to them.

(I once witnessed a Catholic woman enter a candy store and say she needed any sort of candy so long as it was red, it was "for the saints." I asked a rabbi about this -- he said firstly, we don't necessarily know what "for the saints" means; and secondly, we can rely on the opinion that it's allowable if there's some other place in town to buy red candy.)

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    Isn't it different for Christianity since it's shituf? – rosenjcb Dec 21 '14 at 23:53
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    @rosenjcb that would possibly be another reason for leniency. But the Shulchan Aruch on this particular subject doesn't happen to apply that leniency, and it isn't necessary as long as the there-are-other-suppliers argument is available. – Shalom Dec 22 '14 at 1:00
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I just read "The Golem of Prague" by Gershon Winkler, which is based on "Niflaot Maharal: HaGolem MiPrague" published based on the manuscript of the Maharal's student and son in law, Rav Itzhak ben Shimshon HaCohen Katz. There's a story in there about Jews selling wine to Christian priests ... it leads to them hatching a plot to convert the Jewish girl managing the winery, but there's no mention of it having been a prohibited activity. The book does include other explanations of things that are halachic, and also doesn't mention the Maharal objecting. So that's not conclusive, but slightly indicative. If you looked at the original text, perhaps you'd have some better insight.

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    Niflaot Maharal: HaGolem MiPrague was actually written as fiction. Hard to learn Halacha from that. – Double AA Aug 11 '15 at 15:11
  • @DoubleAA but the author was a Rov – Shmuel Brin Aug 11 '15 at 16:03
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    @ShmuelBrin True. Rovs write fiction too sometimes. Chasidus in particular, I understand, has a fare share of people who specialize in telling meaningful fictional stories and parables. – Double AA Aug 11 '15 at 16:05
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    @DoubleAA But perhaps one can assume that when a Rov writes fiction, he keeps in mind all the necessary Halachos. – Shmuel Brin Aug 11 '15 at 16:07
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    The book I have quotes it as being an edited version of an authentic manuscript. I see the OU's site claims otherwise, but don't know if that's conclusive. If you read the biography of the author, you'd see he was quite a Torah personality. Av Beit Din of Batrel Poland at 25, then Dayan in Lublin's Beit Din, then Warsaw. He authored a popular translation of the Zohar, Zohar b'Loshon HaKodesh (S. Goldman Otzar Hasefarim) and more... – gabrielg Aug 13 '15 at 13:34

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