We have already learned that yayin nesekh – wine that was poured out to honor a pagan deity – is forbidden to a Jew, and that furthermore, it is forbidden to derive any benefit from such wine and contact with the wine creates a situation of severe ritual impurity. Ordinary non-Jewish wine that has not been poured out to honor avodah zarah is called stam yeinam. It, too, is forbidden, although the level of ritual defilement attached to it is lower.
The Mishnah on today’s daf (=page), which is the first Mishnah in the fifth perek (=chapter) of Masechet Avodah Zarah, discusses the situation of a worker who is hired to move around barrels of yayin nesekh. According to the Mishnah, someone who is hired as a day laborer and in the course of the day does many different tasks, and is also asked to move the barrels of wine, can benefit from his wages without concern. If, however, he was hired specifically to move the barrels of wine, his wages are forbidden.
The Gemara asks whether the same rules apply to stam yeinam, which is forbidden in a manner similar to yayin nesekh, or, perhaps, since the laws of ritual defilement are different, the rules of stam yeinam will differ here. In response the Gemara relates the story of an individual who leased his boat for the purpose of transporting stam yeinam, and was paid in wheat. When he asked Rav Hisda whether the wheat could be used, Rav Hisda required that he burn the wheat and bury its ashes, lest someone else inadvertently make use of it, even for fertilizer. Clearly, benefiting from stam yeinam is also viewed as a serious prohibition.
The Rashba points out that even with regard to prohibition, there are differences between stam yeinam and yayin nesekh. One clear example is the fact that although stam yeinam can become batel – it can be viewed as nullified when mixed with a majority of kosher wine – yayin nesekh will remain forbidden, even in a mixture. Nevertheless, since while it is in its pure state, stam yeinam is equivalent to yayin nesekh, the Gemara’s comparison is a reasonable one.