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Many places have government imposed alcohol monopolies and private retailers of alcoholic beverages are forbidden.

As alcohol, especially (red) wine, has a central place in Jewish practice and as such regulations therefore would prevent Jewish practice1, one may be tempted to say that dina d'malchusa dina ("the law of the land is the law") does not apply.

I have observed2 orthodox kehillos (congregations) that have their own alcohol stores, thus circumventing the governmental restrictions.

But here is the catch: Besides the multitude of alcoholic drinks that do not require certification, many of the monopolies do in fact carry impressive lines of kosher products with easy ways to find them. Examples:
British Columbia: 21 products; 21000 Jews
Manitoba: 23 products; 13000 Jews
Ontario: 77 products; 212000 Jews
Pennsylvania: 135 products; 293000 Jews
Quebec: 78 products; 95000 Jews
Sweden: 16 products, 20000 Jews

Even areas with very few Jews have at least something to offer:
The Faroe Islands: at least3 1 product; no known Jews
Finland: 7 products, 1500 Jews
Norway: 3 products; 1700 Jews
Novo Scotia: 2 products; 3700 Jews

My questions

I have lived in Sweden, Minnesota, and Quebec a total of 10 years, but never heard of any religious exemptions there.

In a place that does not grant religious exemption, what hetter (halachic permission) is there to sell restricted alcohol?

If there is no such hetter, is it then permitted for an observant Jew4 to buy from such outlets?


1. Well, at least according to those that do not accept grape juice as an allowable substitute.
2. To avoid legal and halachic implications, I will not be more specific.
3. No kosher label or keyword to search for.
4. This is not a request for a p'sak (ruling), as I do not drink alcohol.

  • Related: law.stackexchange.com/questions/7648/… – Adám Mar 7 '16 at 22:31
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    As an example, the law in Pennsylvania explicitly allowed religious institutions to open a liquor store for "sacramental" purposes. Thus, the received a license from the state to sell wine for the purpose of kiddush. This was similar to the exemption granted to the Catholic church for their use of wine. This is from memory when I visited my in-laws in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. I am leaving this a comment for now as I do not have an explicit citation. – sabbahillel Mar 7 '16 at 22:32
  • @Nᴮᶻ Regarding your most recent revision, I made this meta post. – Daniel Mar 8 '16 at 1:47
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    @sabbahillel see § 11.82.b here. I live in Pittsburgh and get my wine at Kosher Mart; the state store carries Manischevitz. I used to have to fill out a form with every purchase giving my name, address, and congregation, but that stopped several years ago -- not sure why. – Monica Cellio Mar 8 '16 at 3:19
  • @MonicaCellio As I recall the law was changed. When we used to visit my in-laws in the 5730's and 40's we had to get our wine that way. I think from Pinskers (??) – sabbahillel Mar 8 '16 at 16:21
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UPDATE The question was edited to add the idea that in places without a "religious exemption" is there a heter to purchase from a shul.

Before one can discuss that, one would need to determine that the shul involved is indeed violating the law both as written and as practiced in that jurisdiction. While this would seem to be a "dina d'malchusa dina" and a "Chillul Hashem" issue, One would first need to answer questions that would determine if the question applies. As a result, one first must determine that there is indeed no "religious exemption" for any religion and what the practice is for other religions. Then one can see if this is a "religious persecution" situation or not.

The answer for that situation is that usually there would be a discussion which would involve the "sacramental wine" used by the Catholic Church in its religious rituals. These laws would seem to be written in such a way as to include the synagogue.

Since the question involves specific locations (such as Quebec) , the answer would be to ask the rav of a specific shul that seems to sell wine exactly what the situation is (and what are the applicable laws) in that location.

I have come across locations in which the shul is (as an example) allowed to stock wine bought at the "State Store" for repurchase of its congregants (as a service to those congregants).

As I said each location is different and would have to be looked into. One cannot give a general answer because each case can be different.

Also note the citation below in which the defacto behavior of the locality has "always been" to assume a "religious exemption" exists and the courts have accepted this even if a specific exemption was not written into the law. If this was done in practice, then it is best to keep quiet and not bring the subject up. After all, if it becomes known, it could cause a fuss and "the Jews" would be blamed both for "evading the law" and for removing the "religious exemption" that the non-Jews have "always" enjoyed.


Original Answer

When I visited Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, there was a religious exemption for sale of wine for "sacramental purposes" as long as the store was connected to a synagogue or church.

Thanks to @MonicaCellio for the reference to SACRAMENTAL WINE LICENSEES

§ 11.82. Sale and delivery.

(a) Sales of sacramental wine may be made only to an ordained priest, clergyman or rabbi in charge of a congregation, for use in the cathedral, church, synagogue or temple.

(b) Sales of sacramental wine may be made only to an ordained priest, clergyman or rabbi in charge of a congregation, for the uses of sustaining members of the congregation or members of the faith who attend religious services where religious rites require the use of sacramental wine in the home.

(c) The priest, clergyman or rabbi purchasing the wine shall furnish to the licensee the name and address of the member or family and the quantity of wine to be delivered. A sale or delivery may not occur until the names and addresses have been certified to the licensee.

(d) The sales are limited to 40 liters annually per family.

(e) Deliveries shall be made by the licensee, directly to the home address, as certified by the purchasing priest, clergyman or rabbi.

Source

The provisions of this § 11.82 adopted October 10, 1952; amended September 29, 1978, effective September 30, 1978, 8 Pa.B. 2689. Immediately preceding text appears at serial page (4213).

Alcohol laws of the United States discusses exemptions for underage drinking for religious purposes.

Religion and Prohibition

During Prohibition there were exemptions for sacramental wine and other religious uses of alcohol. The Eighteenth Amendment, which took effect in 1920, doesn't say anything about those exemptions. It just says that the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors within the United States is banned. It was federal legislation that exempted religious uses from the laws.

  • I don't think your update answers the question any more than the original answer did. – Daniel Mar 8 '16 at 17:31
  • @Daniel I answered that one must determine the exact case and is this a case of shmad or not. Until that is done, there is no generic answer. – sabbahillel Mar 8 '16 at 17:49

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