The Gemara in Gittin 70a says:

Mar 'Ukba said: If a man drinks white tilia, he will be subject to debility.

R`Hisda said: There are sixty kinds of wine; the best of all is red fragrant wine, the worst is white tilia.

I assumed we don't know precisely which kind of white wine is being referred to, because I could not find any reference to it anywhere apart from the Gemara. As such, should we avoid white wine altogether?

  • 1
    Maybe we don't even know how white is white, and we should avoid all wine.
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 15:27
  • @DoubleAA Any white wine we have might conceivably be tilia, so we should be concerned about it. However, there's a lot of wine is definitely not white.
    – Ypnypn
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 17:47
  • @Ypnypn I have 2 Q's prior to my researching further: 1 - From what I found, "tillia" is a type of "lime" tree somewhat common in Australia. When the term "wine" is used here, does that mean it is only from grapes? E.g. - saki is a "wine" made from rice. 2 - Assuming "tilia" used in the Gemarah is a type of grape. It refers specifically to white tilia. How do you infer this means that white wines not from tilia were prohibited? If you don't even know what "tilia" is, why do you say, "Any white wine we have might conceivably be tilia"? Perhaps, the gemarah's "tillia" isn't around, now.
    – DanF
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 19:35
  • @DanF 1 - I don't know. I would have said yes, but your research seems to indicate otherwise. If so, then all grape wine would be fine. 2 - Perhaps it's not around. Perhaps it still is. Why take the risk?
    – Ypnypn
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 19:41
  • @DoubleAA Your opinion - Rash"i defines טיליא - יין רע . OK, we know that Rash"i made wine, so, perhaps, he had some expertise, here. Is there any assumption we should make that the term יין implies that this is made from grapes?
    – DanF
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 19:46

1 Answer 1


Here's what I located regarding the tilia tree. It is a type of birchwood or elm tree or sometimes called a linden tree. The article says that

A coppice of T. cordata in Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire is estimated to be 2,000 years old.[6] In the courtyard of the Imperial Castle at Nuremberg is a Tilia which, by tradition recounted in 1900, was planted by the Empress Cunigunde, the wife of Henry II of Germany circa 1000. The Tilia of Neuenstadt am Kocher in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, was estimated at 1000 years old when it fell

The Gamarah does not specifically state that "tilia" is "wine". It looks like you got this idea from Rash"i who defines this as "bad wine".

As Rash"i was a wine-maker, I certainly would trust his judgement regarding what is bad wine. However, I would safely assume that the term "wine" does not necessarily mean a product made from grapes. Saki, for example is a wine made from rice.

Considering that according to the article, the tillia tree existed during the time of the Gemara, it may be possible that the Gemara was referring to wine made from this plant.

As you know. most white wines today are made from grapes. If, in fact, the Gemarah's definition of "tilia" is, in fact, this tree (again, bear in mind that the Gemarah itself does not use the term yayin, even if we were to assume that in the Gemarah, yayin does mean exclusively a grape-made product. Rash"i, lived many years later than that, and, it is possible that he had a different usage of the term yayin.) is what the Gemarah meant, I think it's safe to assume that we have no concern that our wines are from the tilia tree.

  • 1
    Very interesting research, but there seems to be an assumption that this tilia tree is what is being referred to by the Gemara. Wikipedia gives the etymology of the word "tilia" which is used in several Indo-European languages and is traced all the way back to proto-Indo-European. Why do you think that this is meaning in the Gemara? Does טיליא refer to that tree in Aramaic (it would probably be a borrowing, then) or does it means an entirely different plant in Semitic languages?
    – Mike
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 22:30
  • @Mike "Does טיליא refer to that tree in Aramaic (it would probably be a borrowing, then)" - Hard to know, exactly. It very well could be a borrowed word. In my answer, I'm leaving 2 options. Either it is that tree exactly or it is some other non-grape "wine". My main point is that the Gemarah does not use the term yayin in describing this item; it is Rash"i that does this. That leaves the (I think large) possibility that this is not grape-based, and, therefore, regardless of what specific tree / herb it was, it doesn't compare to today's white wines to have any concern.
    – DanF
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 13:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .