Is My Stove Kosher?

Question #1: Is my stove treif?

“I have always used my stove for both milchig and fleishig, which is what I saw my mother do. But why is this permitted? Food spills from both milchig and fleishig onto the stove burners and gets heated there. Doesn’t that make my stove treif?”

Question #2: Kashering their stove

“My parents do not keep kosher. I have my own pots that I use when I visit their house, but how do I kasher the stove each time I visit them?”

Question #3: Induction stoves

“How do I kasher the induction stove in the house I just moved into?”

Introduction

There are some allusions to the laws of kashrus in this week’s parshah, Devorim. This provides an opportunity to discuss one of the least understood areas germane to a frum household – the status of the stove.

Should I be discriminating?

Although our dairy and meat equipment are always kept separated, in most households, the same stovetop burners are used to cook both milchig and fleishig foods. Most people place a pot of meat on the same burner that earlier in the day may have been cooking something dairy. Why does this not pose a kashrus problem, since we know that food spills onto the stove grates and its flavor burns into the stove? Why doesn’t this make all of our pots treif?

Separate but not equal

At the same time, we will not use a chometzdik stove for Pesach without either kashering it, covering the grates carefully with aluminum foil, or both. If I may use the same stove for both milchig and fleishig, why must I kasher my chometzdik stove for Pesach? Am I being inconsistent?

The induction stove

In addition, our article will discuss a new type of stove now available on the market. The induction stove, marketed as a very energy efficient and safe model, contains its own halachic questions. I will explain shortly how this type of stove operates and then address its unique halachic issues.

In order to understand the halachic background to this issue, we need to explain the issues thoroughly. As always, the goal of our article is not to render piskei halachah, which is the role of each individual’s rav or posek. The purpose of this article is to provide some understanding of the topic at hand.

Introduction #1: Vessel to vessel

When the Torah prohibited eating meat cooked in milk, it also prohibited eating food that contains the flavors of both meat and dairy. For example, if one cooked meat and then milk in the same pot on the same day, meat flavor goes into the dairy product, thus creating a prohibited mix of meat and milk (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 93:1). Similarly, the Torah prohibited meat cooked in a pot or on a grill in a way that it will absorb flavor from dairy that was previously cooked in the same pot or on the same grill. For this reason, using a grill that today barbecued meat to make a grilled-cheese sandwich is prohibited min hatorah, since this is halachically equivalent to cooking meat and dairy together.

Not only are we prohibited from eating non-kosher foods, but we are also prohibited from eating food that includes a small taste or flavor of non-kosher foods, such as, when they contain a residue of the non-kosher substance that imparts an enjoyable flavor.

The halachic issue here is whether taste passes from one vessel into another vessel when they touch one another directly, and there is no food or liquid between them. In other words, we know that flavor of food cooked in a pot will transfer into other food cooked in that pot. However, perhaps the flavor transfers only into food that comes in direct contact with the pot. Is there transfer of taste when two pots touch, but there is no food or liquid at the points of contact through which the flavor can pass? Are we concerned that flavor might transfer into the stove grate and then into the food being cooked on top of that grate?

According to some early authorities, flavor does not pass between two vessels, whereas other authorities hold that it does (Hagahos Shaarei Dura [51:3; 56:1], quoting the author of the Terumas Hadeshen). Both opinions are mentioned by the Rema in his Darchei Moshe commentary on the Tur, Yoreh Deah 92:9.

Here are two practical examples that the Rema discusses there:

  1. Someone placed a covered milchig frying pan containing dairy ingredients on top of a stove. He then placed a fleishig pot in which meat is cooking directly on the covered pan cooking dairy. According to the lenient opinion, that of the Issur Vaheter (31:17), the pots and the food all remain kosher, because although the pan is cooking real dairy and the pot is cooking meat, no absorption of flavor passes from one vessel to the other. In other words, in this case, none of the dairy flavor transfers from the milchig pan to the fleishig pot resting on top of it, and no meat flavor transfers from the fleishig pot to the milchig pan on which it is resting.

However, there is a stricter opinion, that of the Hagahos Shaarei Dura, who contends that even if the area between the pot and the pan cover is completely clean and dry, the food and the vessels are now non-kosher, because we do view that there was transfer of flavor from the milchig pan to the fleishig pot, and vice versa.

  1. Two pots are cooking on the stove, one containing meat and the other dairy, and they touch one another. According to the lenient opinion, the food and the vessels remain kosher, since no food taste will transfer between the outside of the two pots (Mordechai, Chullin #691), whereas, according to the strict opinion, everything is now non-kosher: the food must be disposed of and the pots requires kashering.

How do we rule?

The Rema (Yoreh Deah 92:8) rules that in both of these instances the food may be eaten, and both pots remain kosher. However, he rules that one should be careful not to allow this to happen. Thus, we see that the Rema follows the opinion of the Mordechai that absorption does not pass from one vessel to another, unless there is food or liquid connecting them, although he contends that this is permitted only after the fact, bedei’evid.

Another application – the stovetop

According to this ruling, placing a kosher pot on top of a treif, but clean and dry, stovetop does not render the pot or its contents non-kosher, even if the stovetop absorbed non-kosher food earlier in the same day. This is because, although the stove is non-kosher, no non-kosher absorption transfers from the stove, which is dry, into the pot, unless there is either food or liquid on top of the stove.

Why are we not concerned that there is food or liquid that spilled on the stove which could allow transfer of taste from the non-kosher stove into the food and then into the pot resting on top of the stove? Later authorities explain that, since stovetops get very hot, one can presume that any liquid that lands on them will evaporate almost immediately. In addition, the hot stovetop will burn food that splatters on them beyond edibility. Therefore, one need not be concerned about liquid or food that splatters on the stovetop (see Mishnah Berurah 451:34; Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:124, Yoreh Deah 1:59). We will return to this part of the discussion shortly. But first, we will discover that the Rema, himself, in a ruling on a related topic, seems to contradict himself!

Why is this night of Pesach different?

When discussing the laws of koshering for Pesach, the Rema (Orach Chayim 451:4) rules that a chometzdik stovetop must be kashered with libun, which means that one must use direct heat to burn off the prohibited residue that has absorbed into it. The question is why this should be necessary. Assuming that the stovetop is clean and dry, no chometz that has absorbed into the stove will transfer to the Pesach pots that are placed upon it.

Among the acharonim, we find three approaches to explain why the Rema rules that one must kasher the stovetop for Pesach. The Mishnah Berurah (451:34) and Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:124 and Yoreh Deah 1:59) rule that this is a special ruling germane to the laws of Pesach — we act more strictly regarding the laws of Pesach than the halachah otherwise requires. According to this approach, there is no halachic requirement to kasher a treif stovetop before using it, nor is there any halachic problem with using the same stove burners for both milchig and fleishig.

Other authorities disagree, contending that although the Rema ruled that when the two pots, one containing meat and the other dairy, touch, absorption does not transfer directly from one vessel to another, this ruling is true only after the fact, but that one may not rely on this ruling lechatchilah. The result of this approach is that we are not permitted to use a non-kosher stovetop without kashering it – although if someone did use it, bedei’evid, the food and the pots are permitted. It is then very obvious why the Rema ruled that one must kasher a chometzdik stove before using it for Pesach. It is not a chumrah for Pesach; it is halachically required. Thus, we find that the Chachmas Odom (74:4) rules that someone who purchased from a gentile a tripod meant for cooking on top is required to kasher it with libun, because food spills onto it. In a similar approach, the Ksav Sofer concludes that anyone who is G-d-fearing should be careful not to use the same part of the stove for cooking both milchig and fleishig, but he should have separate designated facilities (Shu”t Ksav Sofer, Yoreh Deah #54).

According to this approach, one may not use a treif stove without kashering it, and one should preferably not use the same stove burners for both milchig and fleishig. Rather, one should designate that when cooking milchigs one uses only, say, the left burners on the stove, and when cooking fleishig, one uses the right burners.

A third approach is that a small amount of flavor does seep through from one vessel to another. This small amount is nullified and, therefore, not a kashrus concern germane to other prohibitions. However, we are strict and do not permit even a minute amount of chometz on Pesach, and for this reason the Rema is stricter regarding Pesach than he is in regard to milchig and fleishig. (See Igros Moshe who mentions this approach, but rejects it.)

Thus, we have three clearly dissenting approaches, one contending that one is required to kosher a treif stove grate or stovetop before using it, and the other two contending that one is not required to do so. This dispute will result in a major question regarding question #2: “My parents do not keep kosher. I have my own pots that I use when I visit their house, but how do I kasher the stove each time I visit them?”

According to the more lenient approach we have mentioned, the stove may be used without any kashering at all, which will make matters easier for our questioner. The other approach may not be so lenient, although it is possible that they would agree: Since it is permitted, bedei’evid, this establishes a basis to permit use of the stove under extenuating circumstances, such as the case at hand, without kashering it first. This decision I leave to the consulted rav or posek.

Induction stoves

At this point, let us examine the third question with which we opened our article:

“How do I kasher the induction stove in the house I just moved into?”

Firstly, what is an induction stove?

Considered the most energy-efficient and safest household stove, the induction stove contains no open flame. Instead, a coil of copper wire is located underneath the cooking pot, which must be made of iron or steel for the stove to work. Electric current flows through the coil, which produces a magnetic field, which in turn creates an electric current in the pot. Current flowing in the metal pot produces resistive heating in the pot, which cooks the food. Heat is created exclusively in the pot or pan; there is no flame or hot electric coil.

The surface below the cooking vessel is no hotter than the vessel; only the pot or pan generates heat. The stovetop is made of material which is a poor heat conductor, often glass, so that only a relatively small amount of heat is transferred from the pot to the cooking surface, usually not enough so that after the cooking vessel is removed it would burn someone seriously.

Because induction heats the cooking vessel itself, the possibility of burn injury is significantly less than with other methods; the surface of the cooking top is heated only from contact with the vessel. Since there are no flames or red-hot electric heating elements as found in traditional cooking equipment, an induction stove is ideal.

From a halachic perspective, there are several ways that an induction stove should be treated differently from a conventional stove. Since the cooking surface is not directly heated, spilled food does not burn on the surface. This means that food from spills will absorb into the cooking surface, rather than becoming burnt up. In addition, one cannot cover the cooktop with aluminum foil or anything else. The foil may melt and cause permanent damage or cracking of the top.

On the other hand, the induction stove does not change the concept, accepted by most authorities, that taste does not transfer from one vessel to another without food or beverage between them.

So, now we need to analyze the three halachic questions mentioned above, but specifically directed to the induction stovetop.

  1. Is one required to kasher an induction stovetop when it was previously used for non-kosher?
  2. May one use an induction stove interchangeably for meat and dairy products?
  3. How would one kasher an induction stove for Pesach use?

A treif inducer

Above we cited the dispute among halachic authorities whether one is required to kasher a stovetop that was used for non-kosher. According to some authorities, one is technically not required to kasher a stovetop, since the halachah is that taste does not transfer from one vessel to another. This line of reasoning should apply equally to an induction stove. However, the other reason to be lenient, that the food matter is constantly burning off a regular stovetop, does not apply to the induction stove. For this reason, a rav may feel that one is required to kasher an induction stove, which may be practically impossible, as I will explain in the next paragraph.

When a vessel or other item absorbs food directly over the flame, the halachah requires that kashering such an item requires libun, direct application of heat. In the case of an induction stovetop, this would be impossible. The stovetop, most often made of glass, usually cannot withstand the heat that would be necessary to kasher. The halachah is that one is not permitted to kasher an item that might crack or break while being kashered, because of concern that the process will not be performed properly.

On the other hand, someone could argue that since the induction stovetop becomes hot only because of the pot resting on it, that it does not require libun, but that it is considered equivalent halachically to something onto which hot foods are poured. These items require only iruy, pouring boiling water onto them, to kasher them, something that can certainly be done to an induction cooktop.

From milchig to fleishig:

Again, I mentioned above the dispute among authorities whether one may use a stovetop for both milchig and fleishig. Certainly, the prevalent practice is to use the same stovetop for both, and rely on the fact that since the surface is clean and dry, no absorption of residual food taste in the cooktop transfers to the pots or pans placed on it. This line of reasoning can also be applied to the induction stove. I would caution someone who has an induction stove to be careful to wipe off spills when they occur, since the spillage does not burn off, as it does with a conventional stove.

For Pesach use:

As we learned above, the Rema required kashering a stovetop for Pesach with libun. An alternative way to prepare a stovetop for Pesach is by covering it completely with aluminum foil, or the like, which now prevents chometzdik absorption in the grates from transferring to the Pesach pots.

However, neither of these kashering procedures can be done with an induction stovetop. The cooktop may crack if direct heat is applied, and it cannot be covered. Thus, the only heter that might apply would be to pour boiling water onto the surface and rely on this being a sufficient kashering procedure. Someone with this shaylah should discuss it with his posek.

Conclusion

Based on the above information, we can gain a greater appreciation of how complicated even a relatively common shaylah might be. We certainly have a greater incentive to understand all the aspects of maintaining a proper kosher household. We should always hope and pray that the food we eat fulfills all the halachos that the Torah commands us.

 

This Is the Way We Salt Our Meat

In parshas Korach, the kodoshim part given to the kohanim is referred to as a “covenant of salt,” thus providing an opportunity to explain:

This Is the Way We Salt Our Meat

Question

“When I shopped in Israel, I noticed that all the chickens were split open. I like to roast my chicken whole and stuff the inside, but you can’t do this once the chicken is split open. When I asked the butcher for an explanation, he told me that all the mehadrin hechsherim split the chicken open before koshering. What does a split chicken have anything to do with kashrus?

Introduction to Meat Preparation

In several places, the Torah proscribes eating blood. Blood is the transporter of nutrients to the entire body, and therefore blood must flow through all parts on an animal. If so, how can we possibly extract the prohibited blood from meat and still have edible meat?

The Gemara and the halachic authorities provide the guidelines how to properly remove the forbidden blood from the allowed meat. The process begins during the butchering, when one is required to remove certain veins to guarantee that the blood is properly removed (Chullin 93a; Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 65:1).

After these veins are removed, there are two methods of extracting the blood from the meat. One is by soaking and salting the meat, which is what we will discuss in this article. In practical terms, the first approach, usually referred to as kashering meat, involves soaking the meat for thirty minutes, shaking off the excess water, salting the meat thoroughly on all sides, and then placing it for an hour in a way that the blood can drain freely. A bird should be placed with its open cavity downward so that the liquid drains off as it is koshering, and similarly, a piece of meat with a cavity, such as an unboned brisket, should be placed with its cavity draining downward. One may stack meat that one is koshering as high as one wants, as long as the liquid can drain off the meat properly. After the salting is complete, the meat is rinsed thoroughly in order to wash away all the blood and salt. The poskim instruct that one should rinse the meat three times (Rama, Yoreh Deah 69:7).

Until fairly recently, every Jewish daughter and housewife soaked and salted meat as part of regular meal preparation. Today, the koshering of meat is usually performed either in the meat processing plant or by the butcher. Still every housewife should know how to kasher meat before it becomes a forgotten skill, reserved only for the specialist!

Case in point: A talmid of mine is doing kiruv in a community that does not have a lot of kashrus amenities, but happens to be near a kosher abattoir. Because of necessity, he and his wife are now proficient in the practical aspects of koshering their own meat, a skill that they were fortunate to learn.

Another case in point:

I know a very fine Jew who, following guidance of gedolei Yisrael, accepted a kabbalah before he married that he would eat meat only that was koshered at home. Someone wanted to invite him for a sheva berachos and serve him what she prepared for all her guests, but was unable to do so because she never learned how to kasher meat. (Instead, she prepared him fish.)

For these reasons, when I taught in Beis Yaakov, I made sure that the girls knew how to kasher meat, although, frankly, I was quite appalled to find out how little they knew about the process. In those days, most of their mothers still knew how to kasher meat, but today, even the mothers and teachers of Beis Yaakov students no longer necessarily know how.

On the other hand, I am reminded of the time some Iranian talmidim of Ner Yisrael spent Pesach at a university in Oklahoma to be mekareiv Jewish students. Although the students, natives of Shiraz, Tehran and other Iranian cities, were no longer observant, they all assisted in the koshering of the chickens for the Seder. Every one of them remembered exactly how to kasher meat!

Why do we Soak our Meat?

Before addressing the question that I shared in the beginning of our article, we need to understand more thoroughly the process of koshering meat. The Gemara (Chullin 113a) teaches:

“Shmuel said: The meat does not rid itself of its blood unless it is well salted and well rinsed.” The Gemara subsequently explains that the meat must be rinsed both before the salting and afterwards. We well understand why we must rinse away the salt after koshering the meat, since it is now full of forbidden blood. But why does one need to rinse the meat before koshering the meat? And why emphasize that it must be “well rinsed”?

There are actually many different explanations for this law. Here are some approaches mentioned by the Rishonim, as explained by the master of practical kashrus, the Pri Megadim (in his introduction to the laws of salting meat, Second Ikar, s.v. VaAtah):

(1) Soften the Meat

Soaking the meat softens it so that the salt can now remove the blood. If the meat is not saturated thoroughly with water, the salt will not successfully extract the blood from the hard meat, and the meat remains prohibited (Ran). According to this reason, the Gemara’s instruction that the meat is “well rinsed” requires not simply rinsing the surface of the meat, but submerging the meat. The later authorities interpret that one should soak the entire meat for a half hour to guarantee that it is soft enough for the salt to extract the blood (see Darchei Moshe 69:1, as explained by Gr”a, 69:4).

The authorities dispute whether one is required to submerge the entire piece of meat. Some contend that if part of the meat remained above the water, it will become softened by the water absorption of the lower part of the meat (Pischei Teshuvah 69:5). Others maintain that the upper part will not soften this way and one must submerge the piece of meat entirely (Yad Yehudah, Peirush HaAruch end of 69:10; Darkei Teshuvah 69:20).

(2) Remove the Surface Blood

A second approach why the meat must be rinsed well before salting contends that one must rinse blood off the surface of the meat because otherwise this blood will impede the ability of the salt to remove the blood that is inside the meat (Mordechai). This approach, as well as all the others that the Pri Megadim quotes, does not require submerging the meat, but merely rinsing the surface well. However, according to this approach, if the meat was submerged for half an hour and then afterwards someone sliced into the meat, one must rerinse the area that was now cut. Failure to rerinse the newly cut area will result in the salt not removing the blood properly (Pri Megadim)

Case in point:

Once, when I was inspecting a butcher shop, I observed that after the meat was completely soaked, the mashgiach noticed that one piece had not been properly butchered – the butcher had failed to remove a vein that one is required to remove. The mashgiach took out his knife and sliced away the offending vein. Was the butcher now required to soak the meat for an additional half hour or was it sufficient to rinse the meat before kashering it?

The answer is that one must rinse the newly sliced area well to remove any blood, but one is not required to soak the meat for an additional half an hour since the meat is now nice and soft and its blood will drain out freely.

(3) The Blood will Absorb into the Meat

A third opinion contends that one must rinse the meat before salting it because salting meat when there is blood on its surface will cause the blood to absorb into the meat. Like the second approach, this opinion also believes that the reason meat is rinsed before salting is to remove the blood on the surface. However, this opinion holds that not rinsing blood off the surface entails a more serious concern. If blood remains on the surface of the meat when it is salted, this blood will absorb into the meat and prohibit it. Therefore, if someone salted the meat without rinsing it off, the meat is now prohibited, and resoaking and resalting it will not make it kosher. According to the other reasons we have mentioned, one who failed to soak or rinse the meat before salting it may rinse off the salt, soak (or rinse) the meat properly and then salt it.

The Shulchan Aruch (69:2) rules that if one salts meat without rinsing it first, he may rinse off the salt and resalt the meat. The Rama rules that one should not use the meat unless it is a case of major financial loss.

(4) Moisten the Surface

Another Rishon, the Rosh, contends that the reason why one must rinse the meat before salting it is because the salt does not remove the blood properly unless the meat surface is moist (Rosh). Although this approach may appear similar to the Ran’s approach that I mentioned first, the Ran contends that the entire piece of meat must be soaked in order to soften it so that its blood will be readily extracted, whereas the Rosh requires only that the surface be moist at the time of the salting. Therefore, the Rosh does not require that the meat be soaked at all, certainly not for half an hour. On the other hand, if the meat soaked for a half-hour and then was dried or sliced, the Rosh would require one to moisten the dry surface so that the salt will work. In this last case, the Ran would not require re-rinsing the surface since the meat already soaked for half an hour.

In practical halacha, we lechatchilah prepare meat according to all opinions, and for this reason we soak all meat for half an hour before salting. We then drain off some of the water before salting so that the meat is moist but not dripping (Rama 69:1). If the meat is too wet, the salt will not do its job.

How thick must I salt the meat?

The Gemara states that one must salt the meat well, just as it mentions that one must wash it well. What does this mean that I must salt it well?

Some authorities require that the meat be covered with salt, whereas others rule that it is satisfactory to salt it sufficiently that one would not be able to eat the meat without rinsing it off.

The Rishonim debate whether salting meat well means that it must be salted on all sides, or whether it is sufficient to salt the meat on one side. There are actually three different opinions on the matter:

  • The meat needs to be salted on only one side, and this satisfactorily removes the blood (Tur’s interpretation of Rashba).
  • One should preferably salt the meat on both sides, but if one failed to do so, the meat is kosher (Beis Yosef’s interpretation of Rashba).
  • If the meat is not salted on opposite sides, one will not remove all the blood and the meat is prohibited for consumption (Rama).

The Shulchan Aruch concludes that one should preferably salt the meat on both sides, but if one failed to do so, the meat is kosher. However, the Rama rules that under normal circumstances one should consider the meat non-kosher. Under extenuating circumstances, or in case of great loss, the meat is kosher (Taz).

Stacking the Meat

According to all opinions, if one stacks two pieces of meat, one atop another, and salts only one of the pieces, the blood was not removed from unsalted piece. Even if one contends that salting meat on one side of a piece will draw out all the blood in that piece, it does not draw out the blood from a different piece that the salted piece is lying on.

Similarly, if one is koshering two organs, such as the heart and the lung, salting one piece does not draw the blood out of the other piece. This is true even if the two organs are still connected together (see Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav end of 15).

Salting a bird only on the outside is similar to salting a piece of meat on only one side, because there is an open cavity in the middle. For this reason, one is required to salt a bird on the inside of the open cavity also and cannot simply salt the outside of the bird.

Splitting a Bird

At this point, we have enough information to address our opening question:

“When I shopped in Israel, I noticed that all the chickens were split open. I like to roast my chicken whole and stuff the inside, but you can’t do this once the chicken is split open. When I asked the butcher for an explanation, he told me that all the mehadrin hechsherim split the chicken open before koshering. What does a split chicken have anything to do with kashrus?”

How does one kasher a chicken or any other bird? If one salts the outside of the chicken, one has salted the bird on only one side, since the inside cavity was not salted. The Shulchan Aruch answers that one places salt on the inside cavity of the chicken.

The Pri Megadim records a dispute among earlier authorities whether one is required to cut through the breast bone of a bird before koshering it. The Shulchan Aruch rules that one is not required to cut through the breast bone of a bird before koshering it, but can rely on placing salt inside the cavity. The Beis Hillel adds that cutting through the breast bone of the bird to make the cavity most accessible is not even considered a chumrah that one should try to observe. However, the Beis Lechem Yehudah rules that one is required to cut through the breast bone before koshering. His reasoning is that one who does not cut through the bone must rely on pushing salt into the cavity and that people tend to not push the salt sufficiently deep into the cavity. The Pri Megadim agrees with the Beis Lechem Yehudah, and mentions that he required his family members to cut through the breast bone to open the cavity before salting poultry, because it is impossible to salt properly all the places in the internal cavity without splitting the chicken open. (Although the Pri Megadim uses the term “split in half,” I presume that he means to open the chicken’s cavity. There seems no reason to require one to cut the entire chicken into two pieces.) Furthermore, several of the internal organs – including the lungs, kidneys, and spleen — are often not salted properly when salting without splitting open the cavity. It is for this reason that mehadrin shechitos in Eretz Yisrael all cut through the bone before salting the chickens, although one can note from the Pri Megadim’s own comments that this was not standard practice.

Most hechsherim in the United States follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch and Beis Hillel and do not insist on splitting the chicken open before salting it. One hechsher I know requires that the kidneys be removed and discarded before sale because of the concern raised by the Pri Megadim that they cannot be salted properly without opening the chicken. (In our large scale manufacturing today, the lungs, heart and spleen are always removed anyway, and usually not sold for food.)

By the way, we can also understand some of the reasons why someone would take on a personal chumrah to eat meat or chicken only if it was koshered at home. Among the reasons that he would be makpid is better control of the koshering, guaranteeing that the chickens are split before they are salted, and making certain that the chickens are placed with their cavities down.

Conclusion

At this point, I would like to return to our opening explanation, when I mentioned the mitzvah of salting korbanos that are burnt on the mizbeiach. As I alluded to above, although both items are salted in a similar manner, the purpose is very different. The salting of our meat is to remove the blood, this blood and salt is then washed away, whereas the salted offerings are burnt completely with their salt. Several commentaries note that salt represents that which exists forever, and can therefore represent the mitzvos of the Torah, which are never changed. In addition, the salt used for the korbanos must be purchased from public funds, from the machatzis hashekel collection, demonstrating that this responsibility to observe the mitzvos forever is communal and collective (Rav Hirsch).

How do we kasher?

Question #1: Underwent a Grilling

Shmuel, planning a bein hazemanim camping trip, asks:

“Is it possible to kasher a treif grill?”

Question #2: Planetary Kashrus

Dawn e-mails me the following question:

“Whenever I call my rabbi about a household kitchen mixup, he asks me whether the offending vessel was used for either dairy or meat in the last twenty-four hours. Twenty-four hours is the approximate time it takes for the earth to rotate on its axis, so that every part of the planet, except for the areas near the poles, experiences day and night during that time. How does that affect whether my pot is kosher?”

Question #3: Roommate Ruckus

Chaya, who already knows that she needs to change her living arrangements as soon as practical, calls: “In a fit of anger, my roommate deliberately made one of my pots non-kosher. May I eat the food that I cooked before I found out that she treifed up the pot?”

Introduction:

After the Bnei Yisroel’s spectacular and miraculous victory over the nation of Midyan, they were issued instructions regarding the booty that they had just acquired: Concerning the gold and the silver; the copper, the iron, the tin and the lead: any item that was used in fire needs to be placed in fire to become pure – yet, it must also be purified in mikveh water. And that which was not used in fire must pass through water (Bamidbar 31:22-23).

This posuk introduces the concept of kashering vessels. The Torah assumes that when a utensil is used to cook food, some of the food is absorbed into the walls of the pot, and this residue continues to impart flavor. Therefore, equipment that was used to prepare non-kosher food must be kashered before it can be used. To the Bnei Yisroel in the desert, this meant that the spit or gridiron grates recently “acquired” from the Midyanites had to be kashered. For the contemporary Jew, this means that the built-in grill in the backyard of his newly purchased suburban home must be made properly kosher before he uses it.

Ke’bol’o kach polto

How does one remove the remaining residue? The instructions the halacha provides create a hierarchy of kashering, called ke’bol’o kach polto – the same way a vessel absorbed non-kosher substance is the method used to kasher it. Utensils that were placed in the fire itself must be kashered by heating them in fire. Thus, a spit, grill, or similar appliance, which absorbs food directly through fire, requires kashering by burning in fire, libun. Those utensils used to cook in water or other liquid must be kashered by boiling them in water. Therefore, a pot or similar cooking equipment may be kashered by bringing the vessel to a boil, a process called hag’alah. Hag’alah will remove completely what was absorbed by cooking, but will not remove everything that was absorbed through grilling (Taz, Yoreh Deah 121:7; see Pri Megadim, Orach Chayim 452:4 in Mishbetzos Zahav).

Libun versus hag’alah

Most late authorities understand that the dissimilarity between libun and hag’alah is because the two methods of kashering operate in different ways. Libun removes the non-kosher residue by burning it, similar to the way we destroy the last remnants of our chometz before Pesach. The spit or grill may now be used for your kosher barbecue, because the residual flavor from the non-kosher meat has now been completely consumed. (Note, however, that several rishonim appear to understand this topic differently.)

On the other hand, hag’alah, boiling, kashers by removing the residue rather than destroying it in situ. Whatever taste of non-kosher food remained in the pot has now been dissolved and nullified in the water (Shach, Yoreh Deah 121:17, quoting Re’ah; see also Pri Megadim, Orach Chayim 452:4 in Mishbetzos Zahav; Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:60).

Therefore, libun could be used on an item requiring hag’alah, since it will satisfactorily burn up any residue. However, an appliance that requires libun cannot be kashered with hag’alah, since this does not remove completely whatever was absorbed when the non-kosher food was broiled.

Thus, the answer to Shmuel’s question whether one can kosher a treif grill is affirmative. The halacha is that one heats the grill until it glows or sparks, which is called in halacha ‘libun chamur.’

Nosein taam lifgam

To explain the background to the rest of our opening questions, we need to address a different aspect of this halacha. The Gemara quotes a dispute between tana’im, the Torah scholars of the era of the Mishnah, regarding the following question:

Often, the flavor that a food provides is nosein taam lifgam — which means that the non-kosher food provides a less than appetizing flavor into the kosher food. Is something that is nosein taam lifgam prohibited? Rabbi Meir contends that, since the Torah requires that the Bnei Yisroel kasher whatever equipment they acquired from the Midyanites, all flavor is prohibited, whether or not it is appetizing.

Rabbi Shimon disagrees, contending that the Torah prohibited only the appetizing flavor of non-kosher substances. In his opinion, the Torah did not prohibit using equipment that was once used for non-kosher when the flavor imparted does not enhance the finished product. Such a taste is called pogum (Avodah Zarah 67b).

Don’t cry over spilled vinegar

Following this latter opinion, the Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 65b) rules that if non-kosher wine vinegar spilled into hot beans, one may eat the beans even though one can taste the vinegar! This is because your favorite cookbook does not suggest adding vinegar to the beans you are cooking, and for a very good reason – the taste of cooked beans is not enhanced by vinegar.

How do we rule?

The Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 65b) rules that nosein taam lifgam is permitted, and this is also the conclusion of the Gemara in several places (Avodah Zarah 36a, 38b, 39b, 65b). A less than appetizing flavor is not included in what the Torah prohibits. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 103:1-2) also rules this way, writing the following: “Any item that imparts a pogum taste does not prohibit its admixture, even if the item itself is very tasty, but it adds an ill taste to the food in which it is now mixed. This ill taste does not require that it be completely spoiled until one is disgusted to eat it. Even if the added substance creates only a slight distaste, the mixture is permitted. However, there is an opinion that this is permitted only if one mixed a small amount of prohibited food into an amount of food greater than it. But if the prohibited substance is greater, or even if the two are mixed fifty-fifty, we do not say that nosein taam lifgam is permitted, unless the food is completely spoiled and no longer fit for human consumption.”

Why is it pogum?

Why would good food impart distaste to other food? There are several ways this could happen. One is that the tastes of the two food items do not enhance one another. Although the Mishnah and Gemara choose other examples of this, think of the child who decided to squeeze a pickle into his apple sauce. Pickles taste good and apple sauce tastes good, but the combination…

Milk and orange juice

Many years ago, I happened to be at a meeting of prominent rabbonim in which one of the distinguished attendees raised the following question: How could one drink orange juice together with a fleishig meal? The same bottling equipment used to fill the containers of orange juice could be used to fill containers of milk!

A different prominent rav responded by asking the questioner when was the last time he had added milk to his orange juice? When the entire audience grimaced at the thought, the rav noted that this is exactly what the halacha calls nosein taam lifgam. Milk does not enhance the flavor of orange juice, and, therefore, even if a container of orange juice was filled using equipment that previously had bottled milk, the finished product is perfectly kosher and pareve.

Same day

Here is another application of nosein taam lifgam that is very common. The Gemara states that the absorbed residual flavor remaining in a pot provides a good taste only during the day the food was prepared, which is called ben yomo. Afterwards, this taste spoils and becomes nosein taam lifgam. Residual flavor in a pot the day after it was absorbed is called eino ben yomo. On this basis, food prepared in a non-kosher pot when it is eino ben yomo is kosher (Avodah Zarah 75b; Rambam, Hilchos Maachalos Asuros 17:2; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 103:5; 122:6). We will discuss shortly why we are not permitted to use this pot.

Meat and milk

The rule mentioned above also applies to a mixture of dairy and meat. Mixing dairy and meat together usually provides a good flavor, and it is therefore prohibited. However, if the fleishig pot that cooked the milk was not used the same day for meat, and milk was cooked in it, the meat flavor imparted to the dairy product is nosein taam lifgam. Although the pot must be kashered, since it now contains both milk and meat residue, the milk cooked in it remains kosher.

Stories from the Talmud

The Mishnah rules that it is permitted to purchase vegetable oil or honey from a non-Jew (Avodah Zarah 35b, 39b). The Gemara asks why this is so – should we not be concerned that these foods were prepared in the gentile’s non-kosher vessel? If so, we should be concerned that the oil or the honey have absorbed non-kosher flavor.

To this question, the Gemara answers that we may assume that the non-kosher flavor in the pot will be nosein taam lifgam in the oil or honey (Avodah Zarah 36a, 39b). The rishonim explain that the reason the oil and the honey are both permitted is because the possibility exists that when the non-kosher pot was used to heat the oil or the honey, it may not have been a ben yomo. Furthermore, the possibility exists that the non-kosher food previously cooked in the vessel gave the oil or honey a less appetizing flavor (Tosafos, Avodah Zarah, 38b s.v. Iy; Shu”t Harivash #28). Therefore, there is a sefeik sefeika, meaning that there is more than one reason why something may be permitted, such that sufficient reason exists to permit it.

What is the same day?

What does the Gemara mean when it says that residue from cooking of a previous day no longer tastes good? Is there a timetable whereby we know how long it takes for the residue in the vessel to spoil? As Dawn noted in her question above, “Twenty-four hours is the approximate time it takes for the earth to rotate on its axis, so that every part of the planet, except for the areas near the poles, experiences day and night during that time. How does that affect whether my pot is kosher?”

The answer is that there is a dispute among rishonim how much time it takes for the residue to spoil. According to some opinions, spoilage happens overnight, but does not require 24 hours (for example, Rashi, Avodah Zarah 67b). According to this opinion, because of nosein taam lifgam, min haTorah a pot used for meat one day may be used for dairy the following morning.

Other rishonim contend that nosein taam lifgam occurs when the vessel or the pot was not used to cook or warm food for 24 consecutive hours since the food was prepared (Tur, Yoreh Deah 103). The Shulchan Aruch follows the latter opinion (Yoreh Deah, 103).

It dawns on Dawn

With this background, we can now answer Dawn’s question:

“Whenever I call my rabbi about a household kitchen mixup, he asks me whether the offending vessel was used for either dairy or meat in the last 24 hours… How does that affect whether my pot is kosher?”

The answer is that once twenty-four hours have passed since the last use of this pot, the flavor that is absorbed is nosein taam lifgam and does not prohibit the food that is prepared subsequently in the pot.

Exception

There is one major exception – in which a food item that would otherwise be considered pogeim, now adds a positive taste, and therefore the food prepared is prohibited. A pungent item, davar charif, absorbs and transmits flavor in ways that more bland items do not. When a davar charif herb or spice is prepared, the pungency of the food transforms the nosein taam lifgam absorbed in the vessel into a good-tasting product. For this reason, the Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 35b) prohibits using a slice of a highly pungent food item called chiltis obtained from a non-Jew, since it may have been sliced with a gentile’s non-kosher knife. The sefeik sefeika mentioned above regarding vegetable oil and honey does not apply, since the pungency of chiltis enhances the taste of the non-kosher residue.

What is chiltis?

Rashi explains it to be laser. The Latin name for this very strongly-tasting herb is laserpitium, which was also sometimes called silphion or silphium.

I have seen other commentaries identify chiltis with a different ancient herb called assa foetida, also called “devil’s dung,” because of its extremely powerful odor. Neither silphium nor assa foetida are commonly used in flavoring today, because the modern palate prefers the tastes of other spices.  Nevertheless, many spices and herbs are considered devarim charifim, but we will leave that discussion for a different time.

Non-kosher pots

We concluded above that if someone cooked food in a pot that had been used more than 24 hours ago to cook non-kosher food, the food that is now cooked remains kosher.  At this point, one could ask the following question: If we determine that a pot has not been used for the last 24 hours, should we not be able to use it to cook kosher food, even if we know it was used to ccok non-kosher food previously?  After all, once 24 hours has passed, whatever non-kosher food was absorbed becomes nosein taam lifgam.

The answer is that Chazal forbade using this pot because of a concern that one may make a mistake and use it within 24 hours of it being used for non-kosher. The Gemara calls this gezeirah kedeirah eino ben yomo mishum kedeirah ben yomo, a decree on a pot last used a day earlier because it will lead to using a pot that is ben yomo (Avodah Zarah 76a).

Intentional misuse

What is the halacha if someone knew that Chazal prohibited using an eino ben yomo treif pot, but decided to cook in it, anyway? Is the food that he produced not kosher?

Let me explain the question. In many situations, if a non-kosher substance became mixed into kosher food, the finished product may be used because of a halachic principle called bitul, which means that the non-kosher product was nullified or neutralized.

On the other hand, there is a halachic principle that ein mevatlin issur lechatchilah, one is not permitted to take a non-kosher substance and nullify it. Bitul is a concept that is applied only after-the-fact, be’dei’evid.

What if someone used an eino ben yomo treif pot without kashering it? Is the food prohibited because of the principle of ein mevatlin issur lechatchilah? Similarly, we can ask regarding someone who intentionally used an eino ben yomo dairy pot to cook meat or an eino ben yomo meat pot for dairy. The pot certainly will now require kashering. The question is whether the food is permitted.

The question is: When Chazal prohibited use of an eino ben yomo, did they only prohibit using the pot, or did they rule that the residue in the pot is considered a prohibited substance. If they ruled the former, then food prepared in such a pot is permitted. If they ruled the latter, then someone who intentionally used the pot, knowing that it was prohibited to do so, was attempting to nullify a prohibited substance, and, because of ein mevatlin issur lechatchilah, the product is prohibited.

This matter is a the subject of a dispute both among the rishonim and among the acharonim.  According to the Rashba (Toras Habayis, 4:3, 4:4) and the Chamudei Daniel (quoted in Darchei Teshuvah 122:26), the food is prohibited. The Rashba states that product cooked intentionally in an eino ben yomo treif pot is prohibited because of ein mevatlin issur lechatchilah.  However, the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch imply that the food is permitted, and this is the way Rav Moshe Feinstein rules (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:41).

Roommate ruckus

At this point, we can discuss Chaya’s question. “In a fit of anger, my roommate deliberately made one of my pots non-kosher. May I eat the food that I cooked before I found out that she treifed up the pot.”

The answer is that provided the pot was not ben yomo, Chaya may eat the food and serve it to guests. Even according to the Rashba, who rules that someone who intentionally used a non-kosher pot makes the food non-kosher, this would not apply to Chaya, who was not trying to violate any ruling of Chazal. Unfortunately, if her roommate really made the pot non-kosher, Chaya will need to kasher it before she can use it again. Although someone suggested that she boil her roommate in the pot, there are probably more effective ways for Chaya to deal with her difficult living situation.

Conclusion

This article has provided a small introduction to some of the ideas of kashering, particularly to the concepts of libun and hag’alah. We have not yet dealt with several other types of kashering, including iruy, kli rishon, and miluy ve’iruy, all of which we will need to leave for a future time. We should always hope and pray that the food we eat fulfills all the halachos that the Torah commands us.

Some of the Basics of Kashering

Question #1: Sandwich Maker

“Can I kasher my sandwich maker for Pesach in order to toast vegetables with it?”

Question #2: Better than Boil?

“Is there a way to kasher things that is safer than placing them in boiling water in an open pot?”

Introduction:

Halachah assumes that when cooking food, taste residue remains in the utensil that was used. When this flavor residue, which is called ta’am, comes from something prohibited, it must be removed to allow the utensil to be used again to prepare food. When the flavor is from meat, one must extract it before using the utensil for a dairy product,* if the flavor is from chometz, the utensil must be kashered before it can be used for Pesachdik products.

Although modern appliances are not mentioned in the Torah, the basic rules for kashering all appliances lie within a careful study of the passages of the Torah, the Gemara and the early authorities on this topic. The Chumash, itself, alludes to the halachic process used to kosher a utensil when it commands, kol davar asher yavo vo’eish ta’aviru vo’eish, “Any item that entered fire, shall be passed through fire” (Bamidbar 31:23), thereby implying that kashering an appliance that became non-kosher through direct contact with a flame requires burning the appliance in a flame — no other cleaning process will sufficiently kosher this appliance.

Shabbos Hagadol

One of our responsibilities prior to Pesach is to ascertain that we know how to kasher our homes correctly. The piyutim that were traditionally added to the prayers on Shabbos Hagadol include very detailed instructions on proper kashering techniques, and we find that the baalei Tosafos discuss and correct the texts of the piyutim to accommodate the correct procedures. This week’s article will provide some introductory information to this topic, as we explore how the Gemara explains correct kashering procedures.

Let us begin by examining a passage of the Gemara that discusses kashering one’s house for Pesach. The Gemara (Pesachim 30b) quotes a beraisa (halachic source dating from the era of the Mishnah) that if beef fat was smeared onto the walls of an oven, kashering the oven to be pareve again requires firing up the oven, which means building a fire inside the oven. This heating of the oven burns out the residue of the meat fat that is absorbed into the oven walls. The Gemara then recounts that Ravina noted to Rav Ashi that the earlier amora, Rav, had declared that there is no way to kasher chometz-dik pots for Pesach-dik use. Ravina asked Rav Ashi why this was so: Why not simply fire up the pots to make them Pesachdik, just as one kashers an oven? Rav Ashi provided two answers to the question:

Metal vs. earthenware

(1) The beraisa that permits kashering an oven is referring to one made of metal, whereas Rav was discussing pots made of earthenware. Earthenware pots cannot be kashered, because once food flavor is absorbed into them, normal procedures will not physically remove the ta’am from the vessel. To quote the Gemara (Pesachim 30b, Avodah Zarah 34a), “The Torah testified that one will never be able to extract the flavor from the walls of an earthenware vessel.”

Ovens vs. pots

(2) Rav Ashi’s second answer is that an earthenware oven can be kashered by building a fire inside it, but not an earthenware pot. In those days, cooking was done by building a fire inside the oven and placing the pot inside or on top of the oven. This fire does not provide enough heat in the pot to remove the flavor (ta’am) that is absorbed inside it. Furthermore, building a fire inside the pot is also not a satisfactory method of kashering it. Chazal did not permit this method of kashering, because it may not be performed properly — the owner may be afraid that the pot might crack if it is heated long enough to kasher it (Rosh and Rabbeinu Chananel ad locum; cf. Rashi, who explains the Gemara somewhat differently.) This concern does not exist regarding an oven, presumably because this is the usual way of heating it.

Some basic rules

From this short passage of Gemara, we can derive some basic rules of kashering:

  1. When a concern exists that a particular method of kashering may break an appliance, Chazal prohibited using that method. There are many, many instances where this halachah is put into practice.

One example of this is our opening question. “Can I kasher my sandwich maker for Pesach in order to toast vegetables with it?”

Any method that might kasher the sandwich maker would very possibly ruin the machine. Therefore, it is not possible to kasher it for Pesach use.

  1. Earthenware has different properties from those of metal items, resulting in differences in halachah. Regarding metal and other types of items, there is a principle of kebol’o kach polto, that one extracts from a utensil prohibited flavor the same way the flavor was absorbed into the appliance. From the passage of Gemara quoted above, we see that there are exceptional cases when this principle does not apply. Materials such as earthenware can absorb substances that will not be removable afterwards. Rather than becoming completely extracted when one kashers them, some of the absorbed taste remains and gradually leaches out afterwards with each use, thus spreading prohibited flavor into all subsequent cooking (Tosafos, Chullin 8a s.v. Shelivna).

Exception – kiln kashering

Although the above-quoted passage of Gemara implies that earthenware pots cannot be kashered, Tosafos notes that this rule is not absolute — there is an acceptable way to kosher them. The Gemara (Zevachim 96a) implies that all earthenware vessels, even pots, can be kashered by firing them inside a kiln used for manufacturing earthenware (Tosafos, Pesachim 30b s.v. Hatorah). The intensity of heat in a kiln, which is far greater than the temperature used when baking or cooking in an earthenware oven, will remove the non-kosher or chometz-dik absorption from the walls. Furthermore, we are not afraid that someone will not kasher the utensil adequately out of concern that it will crack, because heating in a kiln is consistent on all sides and will not cause the utensils to crack (Rosh). It is uneven heating that damages the vessel.

There is an alternative explanation for why there is no concern that the owner will not kasher his pot adequately inside the kiln for fear that it will crack. In this instance, we feel that the owner will allow the pot to remain inside long enough to kasher properly because once the owner has placed the pot inside a kiln, this demonstrates that he has no concern about the pot breaking. This halachic conclusion is followed by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 451:1).

Purchase from gentile

We will now examine a different passage of Gemara to learn more about the rules of the kashering procedure.

The Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 75b) teaches that upon purchasing used kitchen equipment from a gentile, one kashers the equipment via one of the following procedures:

1) That which is usually used for cooking in liquid medium must be kashered in hot water, which is called hag’alah.

2) That which is used to broil or roast food directly in fire must be kashered directly in fire, called libun. As examples of the latter rule, the Mishnah chooses a barbecue spit and a grate used for roasting. Since these appliances absorbed non-kosher ta’am directly through fire, they must be kashered by burning them in fire.

Kebol’o kach polto

From this Mishnah, we learn a new rule – that there is a hierarchy in kashering. If an appliance absorbed flavor directly through fire, boiling it will not remove the residues of prohibited substance sufficiently to kasher it. This explains in more detail the rule I mentioned above, called kebol’o kach polto, which teaches that extracting food residue requires the same method that caused the absorption initially, or a method that is more intense, as I will explain shortly. Therefore, if a prohibited food was cooked in a pot, it can be kashered by hag’alah, which is a method of boiling out what was absorbed. However, if a spit or rack absorbed prohibited food directly through fire and not through a liquid medium, hag’alah will not suffice to kosher it.

Libun versus hag’alah

It is axiomatic that a stronger method of kashering will work for vessels requiring a lower level of kashering (for items other than earthenware). Thus, a metal pot used to cook non-kosher can be kashered by libun, although it is not necessary to use this method.

Iruy, miluy ve’iruy

There are other methods of kashering, such as iruy, which means pouring boiling water onto an item or surface, and miluy ve’iruy¸ which means submerging an appliance in water for three 24 hours periods. In this article, we will not discuss these methods of kashering.

How long?

At this point, we are ready to go to the next step in understanding how to kasher properly. The first question we will explore is germane to kashering directly by fire, which is called libun. The question is: How long must the spit or rack be held in a fire for it to be kashered? At what point can we assume that all the prohibited absorption will be removed?

We find two statements of the Gemara answering this question, one in the Talmud Yerushalmi and the other in the Talmud Bavli. The Talmud Yerushalmi (end of Avodah Zarah) states that one must heat it until sparks begin to shoot off. The Talmud Bavli (Avodah Zarah 76a) explains that you must keep it in the fire “until you remove the surface.” In practice, the halachah is that one needs to heat it until sparks shoot off (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 451:4).

Summing up

To sum up: From these two passages of Gemara, we have learned three basic rules of kashering:

  1. Removing the residue of a prohibited substance from an appliance requires performing on it a procedure that is similar to or stronger than what caused the absorption in the first place.
  2. When a concern exists that a particular method of kashering may break an appliance, one may not kasher it that way.
  3. One cannot kasher earthenware items through conventional household methods.

Contradiction

However, a different Mishnah seems to dispute one of the principles that we have just explained. The Torah teaches that there is a mitzvah to eat parts of the korbanos offered in the Beis Hamikdash, but that there is a time limit within which they may be eaten. After the korban’s time limit has passed, the leftover meat is called nosar, literally, leftover, and must be burnt. Eating it after this time violates a serious prohibition of the Torah.

What happens to the equipment used to cook the korban? The leftover flavoring remaining in the equipment becomes nosar and the equipment must be kashered. This means, essentially, that equipment used to prepare kodoshim must constantly be kashered.

How does one kasher the equipment? One would think that we would apply the same rules presented by the above-mentioned Mishnah in Avodah Zarah. However, the Mishnah states that a grill used to barbecue a korban requires only hag’alah (Zevachim 97a). This suggests that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to kashering – and that hag’alah can be used to kasher anything, even that which absorbed the food directly via fire. This approach does not fit the rule of kebol’o kach polto discussed above.

As you can imagine, we are not the first ones to raise this question. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 76a) does, and provides several answers. The conclusion of the Gemara is that when the prohibited substance was permitted at the time of absorption, a concept that the Gemara calls heteira bala, hag’alah is sufficient to kasher it. The absorption of korban meat in equipment qualifies as heteira bala because, until the time that it becomes nosar, it is permitted to eat the meat; therefore, hag’alah suffices.

The opposite of heteira bala is issura bala, which means that the food was prohibited at the time that the absorption took place. The Mishnah in Avodah Zarah discussing used equipment purchased from a gentile is teaching the laws regarding issura bala.

Heteira bala

Why does heteira bala create a basis to be more lenient?

Some explain this phenomenon as follows: When prohibited substance is absorbed through a medium, such as by cooking in water, hag’alah, boiling out the non-kosher vessel, will remove all of the prohibited substance. However, when the substance absorbed directly by fire, boiling it will not remove all of the prohibited substance. Nevertheless, it does remove most of the substance. When the vessel initially cooked non-kosher, non-kosher food absorbed into it and must be fully removed. But when the absorbed substance was kosher at the time that it absorbed, the residue left over after the pot was boiled is not enough to be considered non-kosher.

Kashering from fleishig

The Gemara mentions the concept of heteira bala relative to the absorption of permitted kodoshim, which will later become prohibited nosar. It is obvious that if one has equipment that absorbed fleishig residues and one wants to make it pareve, this is a case of heteira bala and will require only hag’alah. Here is an actual example:

In a food service operation, some pareve baking trays had mistakenly been used to bake chicken. Assuming that the chicken was placed directly onto the trays, one might think that kashering these trays would require libun, since the absorption was direct from the meat into the tray, without any liquid medium. However, because of the principle of heteira bala, only hag’alah was required.

Is chometz considered heteira bala?

Since chometz is permitted to be eaten anytime but Pesach, it would seem that chometz should be considered heteira bala. This would mean that kashering chometz equipment for Pesach use would never require more than hag’alah. However, we find that there is a dispute among halachic authorities whether chometz is considered heteira bala or issura bala. Those who follow the stringent approach rule that at the time of its use, chometz is what was absorbed into the walls of the pot, and chometz may not be used on Pesach. The concept of heteira bala is applicable, in their opinion, to kodoshim products since, at the time that the grills were used, they were not nosar. They could not become nosar afterwards since the small remnant remaining after the hag’alah will not be considered nosar.

Whether chometz is considered heteira bala or not is very germane in practical halachic terms. If it is considered heteira bala, then hag’alah will suffice to kasher all items for Pesach, and one is never required to kosher items with libun to make them Pesachdik.

How do we rule?

Both the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema (451:4) conclude that chometz is considered issura bala. Therefore, one cannot kosher a grill used for chometz through hag’alah, but it requires libun. However, in case of major financial loss (hefsed merubeh), one may rely on the opinion that chometz is heteira bala (Mishnah Berurah 451:32, citing Elya Rabbah and Gra).

Libun kal

So far we have discussed kashering through libun, by means of a high temperature of direct fire. We have also discussed hag’alah, which is kashering through boiling in water. The rishonim discuss an in-between method of kashering, which is called libun kal, easier libun. Libun kal also uses direct heat to kasher, but it does not reach as high a temperature as does the libun we have been referring to until now, which is sometimes called libun chamur, strict libun, to avoid confusion. Libun kal is defined as heating metal hot enough that one sees that the heat has permeated through the metal fully (Mordechai, Avodah Zarah, end of 860). An alternative definition is that it is hot enough to burn straw. The poskim rule that when hag’alah would be sufficient to kasher, one may use libun kal as an alternative, but that it should not be used when there is a requirement to kasher via libun chamur (Mordechai, Avodah Zarah, end of 860).

How hot is libun kal?

At what temperature does straw burn? Based on experiments that he himself conducted, Rav Yisroel Belsky concluded that this is accomplished by a combination of temperature and time. His conclusion was that an oven heated to 550° F takes an hour to burn paper, at 450° it takes 1½ hours and at 375° it takes 2 hours. Thus, kashering with libun kal would require a longer amount of time at lower temperatures. We can thus answer another of our opening questions:

“Is there a way to kasher things that is safer than placing them in boiling water in an open pot?”

The answer is that since libun kal can be used whenever hag’alah suffices, one could kasher any items that require hag’alah by libun kal in a household oven, if one keeps the item in the oven long enough.

Conclusion

This article has provided a small introduction to some of the ideas of kashering, particularly to the concepts of libun and hag’alah. We have not yet dealt with several other types of kashering, including iruy, kli rishon, and miluy ve’iruy, all of which we will need to leave for a future time. We should always hope and pray that the food we prepare fulfills all the halachos that the Torah commands us.

* There is discussion among the halachic authorities whether one may kasher an appliance that is fleishig to use with dairy and vice versa. We will leave the discussion of that topic for a different time.

 

Many other articles germane to Pesach are available on this website. You can find them using the search words matzoh; chol hamoed; chometz; ga’al yisroel; hallel; omer.

This Is the Way We Salt Our Meat

raw meatQuestion

“When I shopped in Israel, I noticed that all the chickens were split open. I like to roast my chicken whole and stuff the inside, but you can’t do this once the chicken is split open. When I asked the butcher for an explanation, he told me that all the mehadrin hechsherim split the chicken open before kashering. What does a split chicken have to do with kashrus?”

Introduction to Meat Preparation

In parshas Korach, the Torah calls the covenant of the kohanim a bris melach, a covenant of salt. In parshas Tzav, the Torah presents both a positive and a negative mitzvah requiring that we salt meat and all other offerings that are placed on the fire of the mizbeiach. These must be salted on all sides (Menachos 21a). Someone who places any offering on the mizbeiach without salting it first abrogates a mitzvas aseh, and furthermore is subject to malkus for violating a lo saaseh.

As long as our Beis Hamikdash remains destroyed, we unfortunately cannot fulfill this mitzvah. Nevertheless, I will use these opportunities to discuss the basic laws of kashering meat, notwithstanding that the salting of kosher meat accomplishes a completely different purpose than does salting korbanos.

In several places, the Torah proscribes eating blood. Blood is the efficient transporter of nutrients to the entire body and permeates the animal’s flesh while it is still alive. Thus, blood is absorbed throughout the meat. If so, how can we possibly extract the prohibited blood from the permitted meat?

The Gemara and the halachic authorities provide the guidelines how to properly remove the forbidden blood. The process begins during the butchering, when one is required to remove certain veins to guarantee that the blood is properly removed (Chullin 93a; Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 65:1).

After these veins are removed, there are two methods of extracting the blood from the meat. One is by soaking and salting the meat, which is what we will discuss in this article. In practical terms, the first approach, usually referred to as kashering meat, involves soaking the meat for thirty minutes, shaking off the excess water, salting the meat thoroughly on all sides, and then placing it for an hour in a way that the blood can drain freely. A bird should be placed with its open cavity downward so that the liquid drains off as it is kashering; similarly, a piece of meat with a cavity, such as an un-boned brisket, should be placed with its cavity draining downward. One may stack meat that is being kashered high as one wants, as long as the liquid is able to drain off the meat properly. After the salting is complete, we rinse the meat thoroughly, in order to wash away all the blood and salt. The poskim instruct that one should rinse the meat three times (Rama, Yoreh Deah 69:7).

Until fairly recently, every Jewish daughter and housewife soaked and salted meat as part of regular meal preparation. Today, the kashering of meat is usually performed either in the factory or by the butcher. Still, every housewife should know how to kasher meat, before it becomes a forgotten skill, reserved only for the specialist!

Case in point: A talmid of mine is doing kiruv in a community without a lot of kashrus amenities, but that happens to be very near a kosher abattoir. Because of necessity, they are now proficient in the practical aspects of kashering their own meat, a skill that they were fortunate to learn. Thus, we see another example of the importance of being able to kasher meat yourself.

Another case in point:

I know a very fine Jew who, following the guidance of gedolei Yisrael, accepted a kabbalah before he married that he would only eat meat that was kashered at home. Someone wanted to invite him for a sheva berachos and wanted to be able to serve him what she prepared for all her guests, but was unable to do so because she never learned how to kasher meat. (Instead, she prepared him fish, but had to find out what brand and type of fish he would use.)

For these reasons, when I taught in Beis Yaakov, I made sure that the girls knew how to kasher meat, although frankly I was quite appalled to find out how little they knew about the process. In those days, most of their mothers still knew how to kasher meat, but today, even the mothers and teachers of Beis Yaakov students no longer know how to do so.

On the other hand, I am reminded of the time some Iranian talmidim of Ner Yisrael spent Pesach at a university in Oklahoma to be mekareiv Jewish students. Although the students, natives of Shiraz and Tehran, were no longer observing many mitzvos, they all assisted in the kashering of the chickens for the Seder. Every one of them remembered exactly how to kasher meat!

Why do we Soak our Meat?

Before addressing the question that I shared at the beginning of our article, we need to understand more thoroughly the process of kashering meat. The Gemara (Chullin 113a) teaches:

“Shmuel said: The meat does not rid itself of its blood unless it is well salted and well rinsed.” The Gemara subsequently explains that the meat must be rinsed both before the salting and afterwards. We well understand why we must rinse away the salt after kashering the meat, since it is now full of forbidden blood. But why does one need to rinse the meat before kashering the meat? And why emphasize that it must be “well rinsed”?

There are actually many different explanations for this law. Here are some approaches mentioned by the rishonim, as explained by the master of practical kashrus, the Pri Megadim (in his introduction to the laws of salting meat, Second Ikar, s.v. Va’atah):

(1) Soften the Meat

Soaking the meat softens it, so that the salt can now remove the blood, but if the meat is not saturated thoroughly with water, the salt will not successfully extract the blood from the hard meat, and the meat remains prohibited (Ran). According to this reason, the Gemara’s instruction that the meat is “well rinsed,” requires not simply rinsing the surface of the meat, but submerging the meat. The later authorities interpret that one should soak the entire piece of meat to be kashered for half an hour, to guarantee that it is soft enough for the salt to extract the blood (see Darchei Moshe 69:1; as explained by Gra, 69:4).

The authorities dispute whether one is required to submerge the entire piece of meat. Some contend that if part of the meat remained above the water, one is not required to submerge the meat that remained above the water line, since it will become softened by the water absorption of the lower part of the meat (Pischei Teshuvah 69:5). Others maintain that the upper part will not soften this way, and one must submerge it for half an hour before salting the meat (Yad Yehudah, Peirush HaAruch end of 69:10; Darkei Teshuvah 69:20).

(2) Remove the Surface Blood

A second approach to why the meat must be rinsed well contends that one must rinse blood off the surface of the meat, because, otherwise, this blood will impede the ability of the salt to remove the blood that is inside the meat (Mordechai). This approach, as well as all the others that the Pri Megadim quotes, does not require submerging the meat, but merely rinsing the surface well. However, according to this approach, if the meat was submerged for half an hour and then afterwards someone sliced into the meat, one must rerinse the area that was now cut. Failure to rerinse the newly cut area will result in making it impossible for the salt to remove the blood properly (Pri Megadim).

Case in point:

Once, when I was inspecting a butcher shop, I observed that after the meat was completely soaked, the mashgiach noticed that one piece had not been properly butchered – the butcher had failed to remove a vein that one is required to remove. The mashgiach took out his knife and sliced away the offending vein. But, is one now required to soak the meat for an additional half hour or to rinse it before kashering it?

The answer is that one must rinse the newly sliced area well to remove any blood, but one is not required to soak the meat for an additional half an hour, since the meat is now nice and soft and its blood will drain out freely.

(3) The Blood will Absorb into the Meat

A third opinion why the meat must be rinsed well before salting contends that salting meat when there is blood on its surface will cause the blood to absorb into the meat, thus prohibiting it. This approach also believes that the purpose for rinsing the meat before salting is to remove the blood on the surface. However, this opinion holds that not rinsing blood off the surface entails a more serious concern. If blood remains on the surface of the meat when it is salted, this blood will absorb into the meat and prohibit it. According to this reason, if someone salted the meat without rinsing it off, the meat is now prohibited, and resoaking it and salting it will not make it kosher. According to the other reasons we have mentioned, one who failed to soak or rinse the meat before salting it may rinse off the salt, soak (or rinse) the meat properly and then salt it.

The Shulchan Aruch (69:2) rules that if one salts meat without rinsing it first, he may rinse the salt off the meat and re-salt the meat. The Rama rules that one should not use the meat, unless it is a case of major financial loss.

(4) Moisten the Surface

Another Rishon, the Rosh, contends that the reason why one must rinse the meat before salting it is because the salt does not remove the blood properly unless the meat surface is moist. Although this approach may appear similar to the Ran’s approach that I mentioned first, the Ran contends that the entire piece of meat be soaked in order to soften it so that its blood will readily extract, whereas the Rosh requires only that the surface be moist at the time of the salting. Therefore, the Rosh does not require that the meat be soaked at all, certainly not for half an hour. On the other hand, if the meat soaked for a half-hour, and then was dried or sliced, the Rosh requires one to moisten the dry surface so that the salt will work. In this last case, the Ran does not require re-rinsing the surface, since the meat already soaked for half an hour.

In practical halacha, we, lechatchilah, prepare meat according to all opinions, and for this reason we soak all meat for half an hour before salting, but we drain off some of the water before salting it, so that the meat is moist but not dripping (Rama 69:1). If the meat is too wet, the salt will not do its job.

How thick must I salt the meat?

The Gemara quoted above states that one must salt the meat well, just as it mentions that one must wash it well. What does this mean, that I must salt it well?

Some authorities require that the meat be covered with salt, whereas others rule that it is satisfactory to salt it sufficiently that one would not be able to eat the meat without rinsing it off.

The Rishonim debate whether salting meat well means that it must be salted on all sides, or whether it is sufficient to salt the meat on one side. There are actually three different opinions on the matter:

  • The meat needs to be salted on only one side, and this satisfactorily removes the blood (Tur’s interpretation of Rashba).
  • One should preferably salt the meat on both sides, but if one failed to do so, the meat is kosher (Beis Yosef’s interpretation of Rashba).
  • If the meat is not salted on opposite sides, one will not remove all the blood and the meat is prohibited for consumption (Rama).

The Shulchan Aruch concludes that one should preferably salt the meat on both sides, but if one failed to do so, the meat is kosher. However, the Rama rules that under normal circumstances, one should consider the meat non-kosher. Under extenuating circumstances, or in case of great loss, the meat is kosher (Taz).

Stacking the Meat

According to all opinions, if one stacks two pieces of meat, one atop another, and salts only one of the pieces, the blood was not removed from unsalted piece. Even if one contends that salting meat on one side of a piece will draw out all the blood in that piece, it does not draw out the blood from a different piece that the salted piece is lying on.

Similarly, if one is kashering two organs, such as the heart and the lung, salting one piece does not draw the blood out of the other piece. This is true, even if the two organs are still connected together (see Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav end of 15).

Salting a bird only on the outside is similar to salting a piece of meat on only one side, because there is an open cavity in the middle. For this reason, one is required to salt a bird on the inside of the open cavity, also, and cannot simply salt the outside of the bird.

Splitting a Bird

At this point, we have enough information to address our opening question:

“When I shopped in Israel, I noticed that all the chickens were split open. I like to roast my chicken whole and stuff the inside, but you can’t do this once the chicken is split open. When I asked the butcher for an explanation, he told me that all the mehadrin hechsherim split the chicken open before kashering. What does a split chicken have to do with kashrus?”

How does one kasher a chicken or other bird? If one salts the outside of the chicken, one has salted the bird on only one side, since the inside cavity was not salted. The Shulchan Aruch answers that one places salt on the inside cavity of the chicken.

The Pri Megadim records a dispute among earlier authorities whether one is required to cut through the breast bone of a bird before kashering it. The Shulchan Aruch rules that one is not required to cut through the breast bone of a bird before kashering it, but can rely on placing salt inside the cavity. The Beis Hillel adds that cutting through the breast bone of the bird to make the cavity most accessible is not even considered a chumrah that one should try to observe. However, the Beis Lechem Yehudah rules that one is required to cut through the breast bone before kashering. His reasoning is that one who does not cut through the bone must rely on pushing salt into the cavity and that people tend not to push the salt sufficiently deep into the cavity. The Pri Megadim agrees with the Beis Lechem Yehudah, and mentions that he required his family members to cut through the breast bone to open the cavity before salting poultry, because it is impossible to salt properly all the places in the internal cavity without splitting the chicken open. (Although the Pri Megadim uses the term “split in half,” I presume that he means to open the chicken’s cavity. There seems no reason to require one to cut the entire chicken into two pieces.) Furthermore, several of the internal organs – including the lungs, kidneys, and spleen — are often not salted properly without splitting open the cavity. It is for this reason that mehadrin shechitos in Eretz Yisrael all cut through the bone before salting the chickens, although one can note from the Pri Megadim’s own comments that this was not standard practice.

Most hechsherim in the United States follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch and the Beis Hillel and do not insist on splitting the chicken open before salting it. One hechsher I know requires that the kidneys be removed and discarded before sale, because of the concern raised by the Pri Megadim that they cannot be salted properly without opening the chicken. (In our large scale manufacturing today, the lungs, heart and spleen are always removed anyway, and usually not sold for food.)

By the way, we can also understand some of the reasons why someone would take on a personal chumrah to eat meat only if it was kashered at home. Among the reasons that he would be makpid is better control of the kashering, guaranteeing that the chickens are split before they are salted, and making certain that the chickens are placed with their cavities down.

Conclusion

At this point, I would like to return to our opening explanation, when I mentioned the mitzvah of salting korbanos that are burnt on the mizbeiach. As I alluded to above, although both items are salted in a similar manner, the purpose is very different. Whereas the salting of our meat is to remove the blood, this blood and salt is washed away. The salted offerings, on the other hand, are burnt completely with their salt. Several commentaries note that salt represents that which exists forever, and can therefore represent the mitzvos of the Torah, which are never changed. In addition, the salt used for the korbanos must be purchased from public funds, from the machatzis hashekel collection, demonstrating that this responsibility to observe the mitzvos forever is communal and collective (Rav Hirsch).

 

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