The baraita continues to discuss what types of wine are subject to the laws of uncovered liquids.
It also begins to discuss dishes into which wine has been placed. Will snakes drink even from them?
Babylonian kutah is a dairy dish containing a dairy base, with additions of grain and wine.
Snakes seem to be afraid of the sound of dripping water.
When a fig is picked a little hole is left where it was attached to the tree. R. Hiyya b. Ashi says that one need not suspect that the snake drank from there. But the Talmud’s comment implies that the snake may indeed have drank from there if left uncovered. Nevertheless, one may eat the fig because God protects people.
We continue to discuss snake poison!
R. Safra classifies the types of snake poison based on the age of the snake.
R. Safra’s classification of snake venom seems to contradict a baraita that teaches that snakes grow stronger as they age. The Talmud resolves this by saying that while they go stronger, their venom grows weaker. That is why it floats to the top.
The point of knowing that the venom sneaks to the bottom is that nine people can safely drink from a barrel of liquid or eat from a melon and live, and the tenth can die.
This is the last piece about uncovered wine!
The baraita outlines what one may not use uncovered water for. The first opinion and the “others” (an anonymous group of rabbis) argue about whether one can put it on backs of hands, feet or upper part of face. There are no “openings” in these places, but the first opinion holds that one can still not do so.
The two baraitot contradict each other—one allows giving uncovered water to animals and one does not. The answer is that the baraita that forbids one to give such water to one’s neighbor’s animal is that it refers to a cat! If one wants to give such water to one’s own cat, it is allowed because this only weakens the cat. But one should not give the water to another’s cat because it might weaken the cat and when his neighbor wants to sell it, it will be in a weakened state.
While I think the particular example is a bit strange (were people really selling cats? What does anyone need a cat for?), the principle that emerges from this source is important. One must be extra cautious when it comes to other people’s property, more cautious than one is with one’s own property.
Today’s mishnah turns to the subject of wine owned or possessed by non-Jews. May Jews derive benefit from such wine? May they drink it? This is a topic that will be dealt with briefly here, and then with great intensity later in the tractate.
R. Judah b. Batera classifies three different types of wine. The first is wine that has actually been libated. Such wine is considered to be a by-product of idol worship. It is forbidden to derive any benefit from this wine. And it causes impurity. Wine that belongs to non-Jews is not considered to have been involved in idolatry. But it is still forbidden to derive benefit from it, and of course to drink it. Its defiling properties are lesser—it only defiles food and drink.
If the wine belongs to a Jew, but the non-Jew was holding on to the wine, then the Jew may derive benefit from the wine, but he may not drink the wine.
Note that there seem to be two issues combined here. The first is contact with items used in idolatrous ritual. This would apply either to wine that had actually been libated, or to wine that might have been libated. The second issue is preventing contact with non-Jews. Wine simply owned by a non-Jew does not need to be treated as an idolatrous product. But if the goal of this halakhah is to prevent fraternization, then prohibiting any contact would make some sense.