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Shabbat Parashat Shemini 5773

Ask the Rabbi: Pumping Air from a Wine Bottle on Shabbat

by Rav Daniel Mann

Question: Those of us who appreciate fine wine take steps to protect leftover wine from Shabbat to Shabbat. I use a special pump and bottle top to remove the air that causes oxidation. I can pump after Shabbat (nothing happens for around a week), but I prefer to take care of it immediately so as not to forget. Is it permitted to pump on Shabbat, or is it hachana (forbidden preparation from Shabbat to weekday)?


Answer: Our research indicates that at least some wine experts are more discriminating than you and say that even with the pump, the wine can “survive” only 3-5 days. For them, we imagine there is significant loss to wait until the end of Shabbat. We will start our answer for them.

The Magen Avraham (321:7) discusses meat before kashering whose deadline for washing before the salting is on Shabbat. He posits that, in theory, if it were necessary to prevent loss, one would be allowed to rinse it without hachana being a problem. One of the sources for this concept is the halacha that one may move a non-muktzeh utensil to protect it from breakage or theft, even if he does not need it on Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 308:4).

In practice, the Magen Avraham forbids the rinsing because even after the deadline, one may kasher the meat by broiling. Considering that some people prefer salting to broiling, we see that not any “loss” justifies hachana, thus raising questions about freshness of wine. On the other hand, there is certainly not a requirement of total loss. Even meat that cannot be kashered at all can be sold to a non-Jew, and yet if not for the solution of broiling, rinsing would have been permitted. Those for whom their expensive wine will lose its value if they do not promptly pump the air out may do so on Shabbat. (We also see from the halacha about protection from theft, that preventing possible significant loss suffices).

Let us now deal with your question from the perspective of one like you for whom waiting until after Shabbat is not impactful. A husband may revoke his wife’s oaths on Shabbat only because he cannot do so after Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, OC 341:1). In general, when there is an alternative to avoid loss after Shabbat, one must wait (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 28:91). The concern that you might forget to pump after Shabbat is probably not sufficient, under normal circumstances, to justify doing so on Shabbat (we do not find that concern regarding the oaths).

Yet, there are a few ideas that might justify pumping on Shabbat. The Orchot Shabbat (22:(270)) posits that an action whose only purpose is to prevent loss is totally divorced from concerns of hachana. (He explains that regarding washing the meat, we require alternatives because washing has a positive element to it other than avoiding loss.) Thus, in your case, you could claim that since one pumps only to avoid loss, it does not matter that you could do it after Shabbat.

Another possible leniency is based on a rule championed by Rav S.Z. Auerbach and cited by several contemporary works (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 28:89). Actions that a person does naturally, as a matter of course, without specific thought of doing it now to save time later, are permitted even if their benefits are only after Shabbat. Some examples are taking home one’s tallit and siddur after shul and putting food in the refrigerator (and even the freezer- ibid.; that is a considerable extension). These are considered finishing off the previous usage. While pumping air from a wine bottle seems to me to be a deliberate action with a clear thought process, perhaps for more serious wine consumers, it is as natural as returning the cap to a soda bottle.

In summation, it is permitted to pump the air from a wine bottle on Shabbat for those who consider it a real loss to wait. Other users have what to rely upon if they want to do so on Shabbat instead of waiting. The strength of the leniency may depend on the level of discrimination and the extent to which doing so is a standard, almost trivial action.

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