Rabbi Meir Orlean
Mr. Weiner formerly owned a kosher food business, but it folded a year ago. He was having a hard time finding a new job. He networked with people he had been in contact with through the years, seeking a job opportunity.
A non-Jewish acquaintance, Mr. Smith, contacted him. “I know of some job openings, if you’re interested,” he said.
“At this point, I’m willing to hear about anything,” said Mr. Weiner. “What kind of work?”
“Some jobs are with factories,” said Mr. Smith, “and some with eateries.”
“Sounds hopeful,” said Mr. Weiner. “Let’s start with the factories. What kind of plants?”
“One is a winery,” said Mr. Smith. “They produce a fine line of fancy wine. I heard that, as a perk, they treat the workers to wine!”
“Is the wine kosher?” asked Mr. Weiner.
“Kosher?!” replied Mr. Smith. “Oh, no! It’s a regular winery. Does that make a difference?”
“It may,” replied Mr. Weiner. “We are quite strict about non-kosher wine.”
“I don’t have much contact with kosher food establishments,” said Mr. Smith. “The other factories also produce non-kosher food.”
“What about the eateries?” asked Mr. Weiner. “What kinds of jobs are there?”
“I know of some restaurants and eateries looking for waiters or people behind the counter,” said Mr. Smith. “There also the food is not kosher.”
“What about the customers there?” asked Mr. Weiner.
“Like in any other non-kosher restaurant, most are not Jewish,” said Mr. Smith, “but some of the customers will likely be Jewish.”
“This is not an easy situation,” said Mr. Weiner. “I’m going to have to check about this.”
Mr. Weiner called Rabbi Dayan. “I have some job opportunities in the food industry, but in non-kosher food establishments,” he said.
Can I take a job in a non-kosher winery, food manufacturing plant, restaurant or eatery?
“The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 62a-b) teaches that just as it is prohibited to benefit from yayin nesech (libation wine), so, too, the Sages prohibited benefiting from its wages,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Moreover, they extended the prohibition also to stam yeinam, wine touched by a non-Jew. Thus, one may not work producing wine touched by non-Jews, and if one did, he may not benefit from the salary and must discard it” (Y.D. 133:1).
However, Rama is lenient and writes that nowadays stam yeinam — although it’s forbidden to drink — is not prohibited to benefit from, post facto, since most non-Jews are not true idolaters and the practice of libation is rare. Accordingly, the salary from such work is also permitted nowadays, post facto. Even so, Shach (Y.D. 134:4) writes that one should initially avoid working or renting his premises for stam yeinam. Therefore, you should not take work in a non-kosher winery.
“What about other factories?” asked Mr. Weiner.
“Working in a non-kosher food factory is much less problematic,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Although the Sages prohibited running a business primarily of non-kosher food lest one eat from it, there is a dispute among the Acharonim whether this applies also to an employee. One can follow the lenient opinion, if necessary, especially in a factory setting where the employees are less likely to eat of the food being produced (Darchei Teshuvah 117:50).
“Working as a waiter or counter person in a non-kosher restaurant or eatery is problematic,” concluded Rabbi Dayan. “First, there is greater concern about accidentally eating the non-kosher food. Furthermore, there is a likelihood of having to serve nonobservant Jewish customers, and a serious concern of lifnei iver or mesayei’a lidei ovrei aveirah (abetting others in sin). There is extensive discussion of the parameters of these restrictions, and some authorities are lenient if the person is not observant or if you are working for pay, but many disagree. Therefore, you should avoid this to the extent possible (Pischei Choshen, Sechirus 7:17).
Ruling: To work in a non-kosher winery is not allowed, but in other non-kosher food factories it is allowed. Work as a waiter or counter person in a non-kosher eatery should preferably be avoided.