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).

Could the Fruit on My Tree Be Orlah?

Question:

Recently, our school had several fruit trees planted for decorative and educational purposes. Someone told us that we must carefully collect the fallen fruits and bury them to make sure that no one eats them. Is there really an orlah prohibition in chutz la’aretz, and is it possible that these fully-grown trees are producing orlah fruits? If indeed we need to be concerned about orlah, do we also need to redeem the fruits of the tree in the fourth year?

Before we can answer these questions, we need to discuss the following topics:

  1. Is there a mitzvah of orlah in chutz la’aretz?
  2. Can a fully-grown tree possibly have a mitzvah of orlah? I thought orlah only applies to the first three years of a tree’s growth!
  3. Does orlah apply to an ornamental tree?
  4. Does the mitzvah of reva’ie apply in chutz la’aretz?

ORLAH

Introduction: The Torah (Vayikra 19:23) prohibits eating or benefiting from fruit grown on a tree during its first three years. Those fruits are called orlah and the prohibition of the Torah applies whether the tree was planted by a Jew or a gentile. The rules of orlah apply whether the tree grew in Eretz Yisroel or in chutz la’aretz, although many leniencies apply to trees growing in chutz la’aretz that do not apply to those growing in Eretz Yisroel (Mishnah Orlah 3:9). Orlah fruit must be burnt to guarantee that no one benefits from them (Mishnah Temurah 33b); in addition, Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, ruled that one must remove orlah fruits as soon as they begin to grow to prevent someone from mistakenly eating them.

REVA’IE

The Torah (Vayikra 19:24) teaches that the fruit a tree produces the year following its orlah years has a unique halachic status called reva’ie. One may eat this fruit only within the area surrounded by the original city walls of Yerushalayim and only if one is tahor, a status that is virtually unattainable today, as we have no ashes of a parah adumah. However, the Torah permitted us to redeem reva’ie by transferring its sanctity onto coins that must be treated with special sanctity. After performing this redemption, the reva’ie fruit loses all special reva’ie laws, and one may eat it wherever one chooses to and even if one is tamei. We will discuss later whether reva’ie applies outside Eretz Yisroel.

Why does orlah apply in chutz la’aretz? Is it not an agricultural mitzvah that should apply only in Eretz Yisroel (Mishnah Kiddushin 36b)?

The Gemara (Kiddushin 39a; Mishnah Orlah 3:9) teaches that orlah in chutz la’aretz has a special status. Although it is true that agricultural mitzvos usually apply only in Eretz Yisroel, a special halacha lemoshe misinai teaches that the mitzvah of orlah applies in chutz la’aretz. (A halacha lemoshe misinai is a law Hashem taught Moshe Rabbeinu at Har Sinai that has no source in the written Torah.) However, this particular halacha lemoshe misinai came with an intriguing leniency.

QUESTIONABLE ORLAH

The usual rule is that in a case of doubt whether or not something is prohibited, if the prohibition is a Torah one must rule stringently and prohibit the item (Avodah Zarah 7a). Even though orlah in chutz la’aretz has the status of a Torah prohibition, the halacha lemoshe misinai teaches that any doubt concerning a chutz la’aretz orlah fruit may be treated with a unique leniency. In Eretz Yisroel, one may not purchase fruit in a market without first determining whether there is a significant possibility that the fruit is orlah. In the case of orlah from chutz la’aretz, however, one is not required to research if the fruit is orlah. Even more so, the fruit is prohibited only if one knows for certain that it is orlah; if one is uncertain, it is permitted. Thus, doubtful orlah grown in chutz la’aretz is permitted even though definite orlah is prohibited min haTorah. This is indeed an anomaly.

This leads us to our next discussion point:

FULLY GROWN ORLAH TREES

  1. Can a fully-grown tree possibly have a mitzvah of orlah? I thought orlah only applies to the first three years of a tree’s growth!

In fact, someone may actually be the proud owner of a mature tree whose fruit is prohibited min haTorah because of orlah. How can this happen?

The Mishnah (Orlah 1:3) teaches that if a tree was uprooted and replanted, its orlah count sometimes begins anew. If the uprooted tree retained enough of its soil to survive, the old orlah count remains; if the tree was past its three orlah years, its fruit is permitted. But if the tree’s soil was removed from its roots during the uprooting, it is considered as planted anew, and its orlah count starts all over. Thus, halacha can consider a fully mature tree as newly planted.

The criterion for determining whether the tree is halachically new or old is whether the tree can survive with the soil still attached to its roots. However, the Mishnah omits one important detail: for how long must the tree be able to survive with that soil on its roots? Obviously, if the tree continues to grow for a long time, the small amount of soil on its roots will be insufficient. How much soil must the tree have on its roots in order that it not lose its orlah count?

The Rishonim dispute this question, some contending that soil for fourteen days is sufficient, while others require enough soil for considerably longer (see Beis Yosef, Yoreh Deah 394; Chazon Ish, Orlah 2:10-12). Since we rule leniently on orlah questions in chutz la’aretz, one may be lenient and permit a tree that has only enough soil to live for fourteen days. In Eretz Yisroel, many poskim rule that one must follow the stricter opinion.

It is important to note that, according to all opinions, if one replanted a tree with little or no soil attached, the tree is halachically considered as newly planted, and the next three years of fruit are orlah. The Torah not only prohibits one to eat these fruits, but also to benefit from them – or even give them to a non-Jewish neighbor.

HOW COMMON IS THIS?

How often is a mature, replanted tree considered new for orlah purposes?

According to the expert I contacted:

“In most parts of the United States, fruit trees sold in late winter and very early spring are usually ‘bare-root,’ meaning no soil around the roots but rather some material, like wood shavings, just to keep them moist. Unsold trees are then potted into bucket-size pots or bags of soil. The trees begin to grow as spring progresses and the tree leafs out. The nurseryman is being perfectly honest when he says it is a three-year-old tree — except that for orlah count, it is year one because the tree was replanted without soil. This problem is very common with many varieties of fruit trees that lose their leaves in autumn, such as pears, plums, peaches, cherries, apricots and nuts.”

The same expert pointed out that there can be other orlah problems in chutz la’aretz, such as trees grafted onto a root stock that was cut down to less than a tefach above the ground. This case, which is apparently very common, is halachically orlah miderabbanan (see Sotah 43b). This would apply even with a potted tree that never lost its soil. The orlah count begins again from when the tree is replanted.

WHAT DO I ASK THE GARDENER?

When purchasing a fruit tree from a nursery or gardener, what questions should one ask?

According to the horticultural halachic expert I asked, the most common, and unfortunately little known, problem is not orlah but kilayim, mixing of species. We are referring to the problem of harkavas ilan, grafting of a fruit tree onto the stock of a different species, which also applies outside of Eretz Yisroel.  More information on this topic can be found on under the title “May a Non-Jew Own a Nectarine Tree? For That Matter, May a Jew?

In regards to orlah, both of the above-mentioned problems could, and frequently do, occur: The tree may be replanted into your yard as bare-root, or it may be grafted onto a short stock. In either case, the fruit that now grows qualifies halachically as orlah.

Other orlah problems may occur. Here is a common case: Someone purchased a tree from a nursery where the soil was still attached to its root; the tree’s root ball was wrapped in burlap and tied. (The nursery industry calls this type of tree “balled and burlapped.”) When purchasing such a tree, one should try to verify when the tree was planted, and also whether the soil ball fell off while replanting the tree, which is a common occurrence. All of these affect whether the fruits of the tree are orlah, and for how many years.

I will share with you one more case that some authorities consider an orlah problem. Some people grow fruit trees in pots and move them outdoors for the summer and back indoors for the winter. Some opinions contend that moving this tree outdoors is considered replanting it, particularly if the pot is placed on earth, and means that the fruit of this tree is always orlah!

III. ORLAH ON ORNAMENTAL TREES

If one plants a tree with no intention of using its fruit, is the fruit prohibited because of orlah?

The Mishnah (Orlah 1:1) rules that fruit growing on a tree planted as a barrier or hedge, for lumber, or for firewood is not orlah. The reason for this leniency is that the Torah states that the mitzvah of orlah applies “when you plant a tree for food” (Vayikra 19:23), and these trees are not meant for food. Perhaps, the planting of our ornamental fruit trees is included in this leniency and their fruit is not orlah?

Unfortunately, this is not true. The Yerushalmi (Orlah 1:1) rules that this leniency applies only to trees planted in a way that makes it clear to an observer that they are not planted for their fruit. Examples of this are trees planted too close together for the proper growth of their fruit, or trees pruned in a way that the lumber will develop at the expense of the fruit. However, people usually do not grow ornamental trees in a way that demonstrates that they have no interest in the fruit.

Most poskim rule like this Yerushalmi (Rosh, Hilchos Orlah 1:2; Tur Yoreh Deah 294), including the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 294:23). (Note that the Rambam [Maaser Sheni 10:2] does not quote this Yerushalmi as normative halacha. Those interested in researching why the Rambam seems to ignore the Yerushalmi should research the explanation of the Rashas to the Yerushalmi and the comments of the Beis Yosef on the above-quoted Tur.)

Many years ago, when I was a rav in Baltimore, someone asked me a shaylah that is very germane to this discussion. He had planted a hopvine and asked me whether there was an orlah or reva’ie prohibition involved in this plant. Knowing only that hops are used as an ingredient in beer, I asked him what a “hopvine” is and why one would plant it. He answered that it is an ivy runner that climbs the walls of a building. He had planted the vine primarily because he liked the ivy cover for his house, but also because he was interested in brewing his own beer, using organically grown hops. At that time I was under the impression that there was certainly an orlah problem, since he also planned to harvest the fruit. But what would happen if the planter had no interest in the fruit and was simply interested in the vine’s aesthetics? Would that absolve the vines from the mitzvah of orlah? I leave it to the reader to ponder this issue.

I subsequently discovered that hops are not an orlah concern for a totally different reason: Although hops do not need to be planted annually, halachically they are not considered trees, since their shoots die off in the winter and re-grow each year. Such a plant is called a herbaceous perennial plant, not a tree, and is not subject to the halachos of orlah. Nevertheless, the concept of planting a tree for a purpose other than using its fruit is very halachically germane.

DOES REVA’IE APPLY TO FRUITS GROWN OUTSIDE ERETZ YISROEL?

Does the mitzvah of reva’ie apply in chutz la’aretz as the mitzvah of orlah does, or is it treated like other agricultural mitzvos that apply only in Eretz Yisroel? The Rishonim debate this question and its answer depends on two other interesting disputes. The first, mentioned in the Gemara (Brachos 35a), is whether the mitzvah of reva’ie applies only to grapes or to all fruits. According to some opinions, the mitzvah of reva’ie applies only to grapes (see Tosafos, Kiddushin 2b s.v. esrog); according to a second opinion, it applies to all fruits (see Brachos 35a); and according to a third approach, the mitzvah applies min haTorah only to grapes, but it applies midirabbanan to all fruits (see Tosafos, Kiddushin 2b s.v. esrog).

A second dispute is whether the mitzvah of reva’ie applies outside the land of Israel, like the mitzvah of orlah, or whether it follows the general rule of most other agricultural mitzvos and applies only in Eretz Yisroel (Tosafos, Kiddushin 2b s.v. esrog and Brachos 35a s.v. ulimaan; Gra, Yoreh Deah 294:28). The logical question here is whether reva’ie is an extension of the mitzvah of orlah, in which case the halacha lemoshe misinai that orlah applies in chutz la’aretz extends to reva’ie. On the other hand, it may be that reva’ie is a separate legal concept, totally unrelated to the mitzvah of orlah. If the latter is true, reva’ie should be treated like any other agricultural mitzvah and would not apply in chutz la’aretz.

We should bear in mind that even if we conclude that reva’ie applies in chutz la’aretz, it applies only when these fruits are definitely obligated in reva’ie. If the fruit might be from a later year, one may eat the fruit without any kashrus concern. If the chutz la’aretz fruit may be third year (orlah) or may be fourth (reva’ie), one may be lenient and redeem the fruit as one treats reva’ie.

How do we rule?

There are three opinions among the poskim:

(1) Reva’ie applies to the fruit of all trees growing outside Eretz Yisroel.

(2) Reva’ie applies only to grapes, but not to other fruit trees of chutz la’Aretz. This opinion assumes that since there is an opinion that even in Eretz Yisroel reva’ie does not apply to species other than grapes, one may be lenient with regard to chutz la’aretz and treat the fruits as a safek.

(3) Reva’ie does not apply in chutz la’Aretz.

These last poskim contend that the halacha lemoshe misinai forbidding orlah in chutz la’aretz applies only to orlah, but not to reva’ie, which is a separate mitzvah. Concerning reva’ie, we follow the general rule that agricultural mitzvos apply only in Eretz Yisroel, thus exempting these fruits from the mitzvah of reva’ie.

How do we paskin?

Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 294:7) quotes the first and third opinions, but rules primarily like the first opinion, that the mitzvah of reva’ie does apply outside of Eretz Yisroel. Rama and Gra both rule like the second opinion that it applies only to grapes outside of Eretz Yisroel and not to other fruits. Therefore, Ashkenazim may be lenient and need not redeem fourth-year fruits grown outside of Eretz Yisroel except for grapes, whereas Sefardim must redeem them.

CONCLUSION

Note that the Torah states: And in the fourth year, all its fruit shall be holy for praises to Hashem. Only in the fifth year may you eat its fruit – therefore, it will increase its produce for you, for I am Hashem your G-d (VaYikra 19:23- 25). We see that Hashem, Himself, promises that He will reward those who observe the laws of the first four years with abundant increase in the tree’s produce in future years. May we soon see the day when we can bring our reva’ie and eat it betaharah within the rebuilt walls of Yerushalayim!

The author thanks Rabbi Shmuel Silinsky for his tremendous assistance in providing agricultural information for this article.

 

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.

The Contemporary Kosher Bakery and Its Halachic Issues, II

Separating Challah

bakeryIn a previous week, I sent out an article that dealt briefly with many of the issues germane to providing kosher supervision at a bakery. This article will discuss in more detail a very common problem: the necessity and difficulty of separating challah in a commercial enterprise.

The Torah describes the mitzvah of challah in the following passage:

Upon your entering the land to which I am bringing you, when you eat from the bread of the land, you shall separate a terumah offering for G-d. The first dough of your kneading troughs shall be separated as challah, like the terumah of your grain shall you separate it (Bamidbar 15:18-20).

According to Torah law, any dough kneaded in Israel made from the five grains (wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats) in an era when most Jews reside there must have the challah portion separated and given to a kohen. Today this portion is burned, as I will explain. If the dough mixed has less than an “omer” of flour, equal to the amount of manna each Jew received as his daily portion in the desert, there is no requirement to separate challah. Contemporary authorities estimate an omer to be equal to somewhere between three and five pounds of flour. Accepted practice is to separate challah without a bracha from a dough of between three and five pounds of flour, and with a bracha from a dough that is larger. We treat the former case as a situation of a safek – a doubt as to whether there exists any requirement to separate challah. Therefore, we separate challah, but omit the bracha, a principle called safek brachos lehakeil, because we are uncertain whether there is a requirement to fulfill the mitzvah.

The Torah does not establish a minimum size portion that one separates for challah. The Mishnah records a rabbinically introduced minimum: If the dough is prepared for commercial sale, one should separate 1/48 of it, and if it is meant for private consumption, one should separate 1/24 of the dough. This challah portion is given to the kohen, to be eaten by him and his family in purity. Many opinions state that the sages established a minimum portion only for an era when the challah would be eaten by the kohen and his family. Since today we cannot achieve the status of taharah, purity, that would allow the eating of challah, the challah portion is burned and not eaten, and therefore, according to these opinions, the law reverts back to the Torah requirements, and no minimum size portion is required. Rema states that the Ashkenazic practice is to follow these opinions, but adds that the custom, according to the Maharil, is to separate a kezayis, the size of an olive, as a minimal portion.

There is a requirement to separate challah from dough that is kneaded outside of Israel. Halachic authorities are explicit that this requirement is if the dough is owned by a Jew, but not if it is owned by a non-Jew. Therefore, if a Jewish-owned business has non-Jewish employees handling production, there is still a responsibility to separate challah. Conversely, if a non-Jewish-owned business has Jewish employees handling production, there is no requirement to separate challah.

The obligation to separate challah often creates difficulties for a kosher bakery. If the bakery employs Shomer Shabbos staff, the responsibility to separate challah can be delegated to those employees. However, a bakery that has no Shomer Shabbos individuals on the premises presents a predicament. Granted that any Jew can actually separate the challah portion, the halacha stipulates that a Shomer Shabbos must ascertain that challah was, in fact, separated. In many communities, hiring a Shomer Shabbos for this task would make the cost of kosher supervision prohibitive, and other solutions must be found.

Jewish communal leaders have sought a variety of solutions to this problem. Many rabbonim assume responsibility only for the ingredients, but advise the consumers to separate challah themselves, after purchase. Although this practice is very widespread, the stumbling block for people who do not realize that challah must be separated is a serious concern, since people often do not remember or realize that they must separate challah every time they purchase.

Another approach that I have seen is for the non-Shomer Shabbos staff to separate challah from each dough. These challah portions are set aside and periodically checked by the mashgiach. Personally, I find this approach less than satisfactory. There is much room for error, as it is impossible to ascertain that challah is, indeed, always being separated.

Still another approach sometimes used is to arrange a “sale,” whereby a non-Jew owns the flour, and the Jewish-owned company acts as a contractor to process the flour into baked goods. The method for such a contract would be similar to the selling of chometz for Pesach. However, many authorities do not approve this use of heter mechirah. Granted that usage of such a sale has become accepted among Jewry to avoid the prohibition of owning chometz on Pesach and for a few other halachic issues, it is difficult to extend this leniency into an area that poskim have never recommended or advised.

Another solution that might come to mind is to separate challah once from each shipment of flour. However, the Mishnah in Challah states, “If one attempts to separate his challah portion while it is still flour, the challah does not take effect, and it would be considered stolen property in the hands of the kohen.” Since there is no requirement to separate challah before the flour is mixed with water, it is meaningless to take challah before making the dough, and the portion given to the kohen is not his property and must be returned.

However, there is a solution, based on the writings of the Tur and the Smag, who quote the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer of Metz that although challah cannot take effect when separated from flour when one intends it to take effect immediately, challah can be separated from flour with the intention that it take effect when the flour becomes dough. The rationale for this opinion is as follows: There is a halachic principle that a contract of procedure can be set up to take effect later, if conditions exist whereby the procedure could already be implemented. For example, A can sell an item to B and delay the sale to a future date, provided that A already owns the item. Since A has the legal right to sell the item now, he is able to delay the day of sale. Similarly, one could separate the challah from flour, intending it to take effect when it becomes dough, since he is already able to mix the flour with water and create the responsibility of challah-separating. Of course, the challah would not take effect until the dough is mixed. For this procedure to work, certain circumstances need to be met.

The Gemara that serves as the basis for Rabbi Eliezer’s reasoning expounds on how terumah can be separated in this fashion.

The Mishnah says that since there is no requirement to separate terumah before harvesting, one cannot separate the terumah portion from grain that has been cut, with the intention of fulfilling the requirement of separating terumah for grain that is still connected to the ground. If he attempted to do so, the terumah-separating has no effect. Rav Asi (post-Mishnah era) asked Rav Yochanan, “Is the separating of terumah valid if one makes the following declaration: ‘The unharvested fruits of this furrow should be terumah when cut, for the cut fruits of the next furrow?’”

Rav Yochanan responded, “As long as a person can create the responsibility for terumah, he would be able to set that procedure in motion.”

Rav Asi’s uncertainty was based on the following question: Ordinarily, one cannot set up a procedure to take effect later unless he is able to perform that procedure now. In this instance, one cannot separate terumah on produce still connected to the ground.

However, one could cut the grain and then separate terumah. Is this considered having the ability to perform the procedure immediately? To this question, Rav Yochanan responded literally, “Anything that a person can perform himself is not considered as lacking that action.” Whenever a person can create the responsibility to perform a certain action, we can treat it as if the situation already existed.

Based on this discussion, Rabbi Eliezer of Metz reasons that the same principles apply to the separating of challah. If one separates challah from flour, intending for the challah to take effect when the flour is mixed into dough, the challah-separating would be valid.

This opinion of R Eliezer is codified in the Shulchan Aruch as follows:

If one attempts to separate his challah portion while it is still flour, the challah does not take effect, and it would be considered stolen property in the hands of the kohen… All this is true when he wants the challah to take effect immediately. However, if he separated flour and said that challah should take effect when the flour is mixed into dough, then the challah does take effect

The principle of Rabbi Eliezer of Metz can now be applied to a moderately different set of circumstances. If one were to remove a kezayis from a dough that still bears the responsibility for challah-separating and specifies that this kezayis will become challah for a different, as yet unmixed, dough, the challah-separating will become valid when the second dough is kneaded. Since one could knead the second dough immediately and create the requirement to separate challah, he can set in motion a procedure that will cause the challah to take effect automatically.

Let us further extend the circumstances. If one were to remove a sampling from a dough that still required challah-taking and specify that an additional kezayis of this sampling become challah for every dough that will be mixed in the course of the day, the challah will automatically be considered as being separated as each dough is prepared, provided that following six criteria are met:

Challah must be taken min hachiyuv, from that which bears the responsibility of challah-taking, i.e., the sample of dough being designated as challah must have an as-yet-unfulfilled responsibility (chiyuv) at the time. Challah cannot be taken min hapatur, from dough that does not bear (or no longer bears) the responsibility of challah-taking.

This principle has the following specific applications.

  1. The dough from which the challah sample is separated must contain sufficient flour for it to be definitely chayov in challah; i.e., it must contain at least five pounds of flour.
  2. The requirement to separate challah from that dough must still be unfulfilled. If challah was already separated from this dough, then the dough now has the status of patur – that which is not currently obligated in challah-separating — and a challah sample separated from it would have the status of min hapatur.
  3. The challah sample must contain a kezayis of dough for each dough to be kneaded later. Each mixing of dough creates another automatic challah-taking, and each challah-taking requires another kezayis, according to the Rema mentioned above.
  4. All dough whose challah requirements are being met by this challah sample must be kneaded before the sample of challah is burned. Since the challah-taking takes effect when the dough is mixed, the sample must still be extant for the challah to take effect.
  5. This challah-taking will be valid only for flour already owned by the bakery at the time that the challah portion is separated. Since the owner cannot create the chiyuv of challah on that which he does not own, arranging an automatic challah-taking for flour he does not possess is the same, halachically, as creating a contract for something not in one’s possession.
  6. If the bakery bakes any breads from pure rye, barley or oat flour, or from dough that is made mostly of rye, barley or oat flour, separate challah samples must be taken from wheat dough and from rye dough. Although a challah sample taken from a wheat dough can remove the requirements for challah from all varieties of wheat or spelt, it cannot accomplish the mitzvah of challah for rye, barley or oats. (Similarly, a challah sample taken from rye dough cannot accomplish the mitzvah of challah for wheat dough.)
  7. The challah being taken should be adjacent (mukaf) to the rest of the dough for which the challah is being taken. The definition and basis for mukaf is explained below.

 

In several places, the Mishnah mentions the requirement to take terumah and challah min hamukaf, from an adjacent area. Although lechatchilah one is required to take challah and terumah from adjacent areas (which Rashi, Sotah 30, says is based on a Torah verse), be’dieved one fulfills the mitzvah also when taking from non-adjacent areas, and there is no need to take challah or terumah a second time.

What are the criteria of mukaf? The Rambam states:

One can take terumah only from adjacent areas. For example: if there were 50 measures in one house, and 50 measures in a different house, one cannot take two measures of the production in one house as terumah on the entire 100 measures, because that is considered taking terumah from non-adjacent areas. If one did take from non-adjacent areas, the terumah is still valid… Fruits that are scattered throughout a house or two piles of produce in one house, can have terumah taken from one group on the entirety. Sacks of grain or of dried figs or barrels of dates that were piled in a circle can have terumah taken from one sack for all the produce. Terumah may be taken from one barrel of wine to include several unsealed barrels. If the lids are sealed, terumah must be taken from each barrel, independently.

The exact definition of adjacent areas remains ambiguous. The Vilna Gaon explains that there are three separate sets of conditions that can constitute adjacency:

  1. Produce that is not in any vessel is considered mukaf if all of it is located in the same building.
  2. Produce in a container that is open on top requires that the containers be near one another to be considered mukaf.
  3. If the containers holding the produce are completely closed, mukaf is limited to the produce held in each container. Produce in different containers are not mukaf, even if the containers are near one another.

It should be noted that many halachic authorities are of the opinion that the requirements of mukaf for challah are more stringent than those delineated by the Rambam for terumah. However, it is evident that the Shulchan Aruch and the later commentaries are of the opinion that challah and terumah have the same criteria for mukaf. Therefore, the above criteria used by the Rambam for terumah would also be valid for challah. We have quoted the Shulchan Aruch that concludes that a portion of dough can be made into challah for other flour, when that flour is mixed into dough. Rabbi Akiva Eiger poses an intriguing query. Is the criterion of mukaf met if, at the time that the dough is mixed, the challah is no longer adjacent to it? Rabbi Akiva Eiger explains the requirement for mukaf exists at the time that challah is separated and not that at the time that it takes effect. Since the flour and dough were adjacent at the time that the challah was separated, the qualifications for mukaf have been met.

The solution that Rabbi Akiva Eiger offers will not satisfy our application of the principle of Rabbi Eliezer of Metz. When challah is set aside for many doughs that will be mixed later, it will be mukaf only if all the flour is adjacent at the time the challah is separated. An alternate way to accomplish mukaf would be to have both the challah portion and the newly-made dough adjacent at the time of kneading. A more practical recommendation is to have the challah take effect when the dough is cut and shaped, rather than when it is mixed. The reason for this is that since the mixing takes place inside a vessel, the above-mentioned criteria for mukaf require that the vessels be adjacent to one another. Since the shaping takes place on flat surfaces, it would be similar to the third category of the Vilna Gaon mentioned above, and the mukaf would merely require that the challah be located in the same building as the dough.

Conclusions for Challah Taking

According to what we have explained above, challah can be taken by separating a piece of dough from a mix that contains at least five pounds of flour and declaring that a kezayis of this portion should become challah for every dough that will be mixed, to take effect at the time the dough is cut. The following conditions must exist:

  1. Both the flour used for the challah portion and the flour which is having its challah requirement fulfilled must already be in the possession of the owner of the bakery.
  2. A kezayis (size of an olive) of dough must be separated for each dough to be included later.
  3. The challah taken must not be burned until the last dough is mixed.
  4. Challah must be taken separately for wheat and rye flour.

A study of the halachic source material indicates that methods do exist whereby challah can be taken in a practical and effective manner. Hopefully, this research will be of practical usefulness to Rabbis faced with these circumstances.

Conclusion

This article and its predecessor were written to serve two purposes. Firstly, to present the multi-faceted issues of kashrus and halacha pertaining to a “commonplace” hashgacha, which heightens awareness of the complexity involved in responsible supervision. Hopefully this increases appreciation of the efforts made to ensure proper kashrus standards. Secondly, this article explores avenues that can improve the standards in smaller Jewish communities. I have hopefully shed some light and suggested some possible solutions. Perhaps this will enable others to upgrade standards in less than ideal situations.

 

Making Dairy Bread II

breadQuestion #1: The Whey to Celebrate Shavuos!

“May I add dairy ingredients to bread that I intend to serve with a milchig meal on Shavuos?

Question #2: English Danish

“Is one permitted to make pastry with butter when it will not be noticeable that the product is dairy?”

Question #3: Sour Cream Kugel

“As my daughter was preparing a kugel for seudah shlishis, she added sour cream to the dough. The kugel is too large to consume at one meal, even for our large family. Once it is removed from its oven tray, there will be no indication that it is dairy. May we eat it?”

Answer:

Each of the above questions is a shaylah that I have been actually asked, and each involves our understanding the prohibition created by Chazal against making dairy or meaty bread. In a previous article, we learned that it is prohibited to use milk as an ingredient in dough, and that if one added milk to dough, the bread produced is prohibited from being eaten at all, even with a dairy meal, because of concern that one may mistakenly eat the dairy bread together with meat. The Gemara rules the same regarding baking bread that contains meat ingredients or baking on a hearth that was greased with beef fat – it is prohibited to eat this bread, even as a corned beef sandwich (Pesachim 30a, 36a; Bava Metzia 91a; Zevachim 95b). If one greased a hearth with beef fat, one must kasher it properly before one uses it to bake bread.

Is one ever permitted to make dairy bread?

How much is a small amount?

In the previous article, I noted that Chazal did not prohibit producing small quantities of milchig or fleishig bread. What was not discussed was: how much milchig or fleishig bread is considered a “small quantity” that one may produce? One early authority, the Hagahos Shaarei Dura, rules that one may bake rolls that have absorbed meat for Shabbos meals, since they will certainly be eaten in the course of Shabbos.

Although both the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama quote this ruling of the Hagahos Shaarei Dura, a careful reading of their comments shows that these two authorities dispute exactly how much one may make. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 97:1) writes that a small amount is the amount that one would eat at one time, which implies that it is permitted to make only what one would eat at one sitting and not leave any leftovers (Pri Megadim, Sifsei Daas 97:1; Ben Ish Chai, II Shlach 17; Darchei Teshuvah 97:17; Badei HaShulchan, Tziyunim #49). Thus, when preparing dairy or meat bread, one may make only as much as one is certain that his family and guests will completely devour at the time the bread is served.

Take it a day at a time

On the other hand, the Rama rules that one may make milchig bread for Shavuos or fleishig bread for Shabbos, since this is called a “small amount.” When preparing bread for Shavuos or Shabbos, one is preparing more than what will be eaten at one sitting, but what will be eaten for a whole day. In another venue, the Rama states explicitly that it is permitted to make dairy or meat bread for a day at a time (Toras Chatas, 60:2). For this reason, the Aruch HaShulchan concludes that one may knead dough that is no more than what one’s family and guests will eat within 24 hours.

Some authorities expressly prohibit baking dairy bread for both days of Shavuos in advance of the Yom Tov (Darchei Teshuvah 97:33). They reason that baking for two days at a time is no longer considered a “small amount.”

We should note that although several authorities mention explicitly that the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama dispute whether one may make bread for only one sitting or for one entire day, other authorities imply that the Shulchan Aruch accepts the Rama’s more lenient understanding of a small amount (see Chavos Da’as, Biurim #4; Aruch HaShulchan 97:4).

All opinions agree that one must be careful not to produce so much that one expects there to be leftovers, unless one makes a heker in the bread (Bach; Darchei Teshuvah 97:34).

The whey to celebrate Shavuos!

At this point, we can address the first question asked above: “May I add dairy ingredients to bread that I intend to serve with a milchig meal on Shavuos?

The answer is that, according to the Rama, one may prepare milchig bread in honor of the day, but only as much as will definitely be eaten in one day’s time. According to the way most authorities understand the Shulchan Aruch, a Sefardi should not prepare more than will definitely be eaten in one meal.

Dairy bread during “the Nine Days”

During the Nine Days, am I permitted to make dairy bread, since we are not eating meat anyway?”

I have not found any halachic authority who states that the custom not to eat meat during the Nine Days permits us to make dairy bread during these days. Perhaps the reason why no one mentions such a heter is because there are numerous situations when one may eat meat, such as when a person is ill, at a seudas mitzvah, or on Shabbos, and we still need to be concerned that one may mistakenly eat the dairy bread on one of these occasions.

However, the two general heterim mentioned above, either of preparing a small amount of bread or of making bread with an unusual shape, both apply. Therefore, if the questioner is a Sefardi who follows the Shulchan Aruch, he may make (without a heker) as much dairy bread as his family and guests would eat at one meal without any leftovers. If the questioner is an Ashkenazi, he may make as much dairy bread as his family and guests would eat in a 24 hour day, without having any leftovers.

What about pastry?

At this point, we can address the two remaining questions I quoted above:

“Is one permitted to make pastry with butter, when it will not be noticeable that the product is dairy?”

“As my daughter was preparing a kugel for seudah shlishis, she added sour cream to the dough. The kugel is too large to consume at one meal, even for our large family. Once it is removed from its oven tray, there will be no indication that it is dairy. May we eat it?”

The halachic authorities discuss whether the prohibition against bread containing dairy or meat applies also to items such as spices and pastry. The consensus is that one may add dairy ingredients to pastry that is ordinarily not eaten with meat, but is usually eaten either as dessert or together with coffee, but that one may not add dairy ingredients to foods, such as crackers or zwieback, that sometimes are eaten to accompany meat (Shu’t Maharit 2:18; Chachmas Adam 50:3). Others are lenient even regarding crackers and zwieback, contending that Chazal prohibited only regular bread (She’eilas Yaavetz #62; see Pri Chodosh, Yoreh Deah 97:1). According to both of these opinions, one may produce dairy cakes, cookies or doughnuts, even if they do not obviously look dairy.

There is a minority, late opinion that disagrees with the above and contends that one may not make dairy products that one may mistakenly eat for dessert after a meat meal (Yad Yehudah, Peirush HaKatzar 97:3). Following this approach, all dairy cakes, cookies or doughnuts must either be obviously dairy or be marked in a unique way that calls attention to their dairy status.

Distinguished bourekas

Based on this latter approach, common custom in Eretz Yisrael today is to make cheese bourekas in a triangular shape and pareve bourekas in square shapes. One could argue that since bourekas occasionally accompany meat, they should be prohibited from being dairy, even according to the opinions of the Shu’t Maharit and the Chachmas Adam, whom I quoted above. Since many authorities consider the Chachmas Adam to be the final authority in kashrus and other yoreh deah topics, this forms the basis for the current custom in Eretz Yisrael.

What if it happened by mistake?

What is the law if someone is in the process of making dough, and some milk spills into the dough? Is there a basis to be lenient, since the person was not trying to violate Chazal’s rules?

Crying over spilled milk

The answer is that the prohibition against eating dairy bread is not a penalty that Chazal imposed on someone who violated their ruling. It is a takkanah that they instituted to ascertain that no one err and mistakenly violate the laws of eating meat and milk together. Thus, the prohibition is in effect, whether or not the milk (or meat) was added intentionally or in error. When there was an unintended spill of meat or dairy and a major loss will result, the Chachmas Adam (50:5) permits giving many families one loaf of bread each for immediate consumption (see also Aruch HaShulchan, Yoreh Deah 97:8; Yad Yehudah, Peirush HaKatzar 97:4). This is permitted, because each person receives an amount that he will finish in one day.

Commercial bakery

There are authorities who permit a commercial bakery to manufacture a large quantity of dairy bread, as long as it is careful to sell to each individual or household only a small amount that he would be permitted to make for himself (Shu’t Kesav Sofer, Yoreh Deah #61). This logic would permit a kashrus agency to certify a company that makes dairy bread (under permitted conditions), even though they are making a large dough. However, an earlier authority, the Maharit, rejects this heter, as he is concerned that the baker may forget to tell customers that the bread is dairy (Shu’t Maharit 2:18).

Non-Jewish bakery

Does the prohibition apply only to a Jewish bakery, or even to a non-Jewish bakery? Chazal have the ability to prohibit only Jews from specific activities, but there is no mitzvah binding on a gentile to obey a ruling of Chazal. Thus, the question is as follows: If a gentile-owned bakery produces commercial quantities of dairy bread, may a Jew purchase small amounts of this bread — that is, enough for one meal or for one day? The Yad Yehudah (Peirush HaKatzar 97:7) discusses this issue, and prohibits it, only because of the problem of chalav akum, milk that was not supervised by an observant Jew. (I have written several articles on this topic in the past, and they can be accessed on RabbiKaganoff.com under the headings “milk” or “cheese.” Alternatively, I can send it to you in an e-mail.) According to those who permit contemporary produced milk, it would appear that one would be permitted to buy a small quantity of dairy bread – enough that one would consume either at one meal or in the course of one day, without any leftovers.

Conclusion:

The Gemara teaches that the rabbinic laws are dearer to Hashem than are the Torah laws. In this context, we understand the importance of this prohibition created by Chazal to protect the Jewish people from eating dairy and meat together. We should always hope and pray that the food we eat fulfills all the halachos that the Torah commands us.

 

The Contemporary Kosher Bakery and Its Halachic Issues

My wife and I are thrilled to announce the engagement of our daughter, Shalva, to Itzik (Avraham Yitzchak) Scarr, son of Dr. Tzvi and Mrs. Cindy Scarr of Har Nof, Yerushalayim. The chosson studies in Yeshivas Chevron in Yerushalayim.

Frogs jumping into Egyptian kneading bowls and ovens will create kashrus problems for the local bakeries. Thus, I present a revised version of part of an article I wrote originally over thirty years ago.

The Contemporary Kosher Bakery and Its Halachic Issues

bakeryQuestion #1: Labels

“May I rely on the label of a product that it contains no non-kosher ingredients?”

Question #2: Visiting Mom, but May I Eat?

“I will be visiting my mother, who lives in a small North American community. How can I find out if I can use the bread and other products made in the local ‘kosher-supervised’ bakery?”

Question #3: How Can They?

“How can a hechsher supervise as kosher a business that is open on Shabbos?”

Answer:

Since the twenty-first-century household does not bake its daily bread at home, a kosher bakery is a necessity for any sizable Jewish community. This often becomes one of the many challenges of a local rabbi: how to have a reliably kosher bakery in a town where there are not enough Jews who keep kosher to make it worthwhile?

Often, the situation is not ideal. In general, a food establishment should seek to be kosher supervised, rather than be solicited to become kosher. However, because of the need for a local kosher bakery, the local rabbi/rabbonim may not have that luxury, and they may have to convince a proprietor that it is worth his while to be kosher supervised.

Numerous kashrus and halachic issues must be clarified to enable this supervision. The rav hamachshir, or supervising rabbi, must assume many responsibilities, including ascertaining the kashrus of all incoming ingredients, the proper koshering of equipment, the maintenance of separate production facilities for dairy and pareve, assuring that no dairy products are added to the breads, and determining the practicality of the products being pas Yisrael (bread where a Jew participated in the baking). In other articles, I discussed at length the issues germane to making dairy bread.

To begin with, let me explain why one may not use baked goods on the basis of a scanning of the label to see that no obvious animal ingredients appear. There are several reasons that this is true, even if one knows that the label is accurate, which, I can tell you from personal experience, is not always the case. Even in an instance where the label meets legal requirements, and the government concerns itself with truth in labeling, government regulation does not usually require the listing of every ingredient on the label of a product. For example, release agents, which keep food products from sticking to machinery, may be produced from animal shortening. Legally, they are considered production aids, and not ingredients, and, as such, do not need to be listed on the label. Yet, they are sprayed or smeared directly on food, or on equipment immediately before food items are placed on them. Thus, the fact that they are legally not considered ingredients does not provide any halachic leniency. Thus, bread and other products must be certified kosher by a reliable rabbi or organization.

Ingredients

Even in a bakery where the owner is attempting to keep kosher, there are commonly problematic ingredients, such as the stabilizers, emulsifiers, and dough mixes since they frequently are animal-shortening based or include animal fats. Because these products often present a kashrus problem, it is fairly common to find that the same manufacturer produces two varieties of the product – one, a less expensive animal-oil based non-kosher version, and a replacement product, manufactured from vegetable oils and produced under responsible kosher supervision.

Tolayim

Of course, the hechsher also needs to make certain that the raw materials and the production facility itself are maintained in a way to resolve all kashrus concerns about insect contamination.

Raisin juice

Specifically in the case of pastry or some varieties of sweet bread or bagels, raisins can create a halachic problem that may go unnoticed by the hechsher. In addition to the hechsher’s requirement to ascertain that there are no tolayim concerns, raisins are often mixed or cooked with water to create a raisin juice, which functions both as a sweetener and as a natural, healthy preservative. However, this raisin juice now has a halachic status of wine, and when handled by a non-Jew becomes prohibited because of stam yeinam. Thus, one can have a very unusual situation where mixing two kosher ingredients, raisins and water, creates a non-kosher product.

Equipment

When the hechsher begins, the rabbi/rabbonim need to decide how to kasher the equipment of the bakery. This can sometimes be quite challenging, since the equipment may require libun gamur, burning in fire, which is not easy to do.

A bigger problem is keeping dairy and pareve equipment separated. Many years ago, I was asked to perform a kashrus review of a local vaad hakashrus. When I checked the shomer Shabbos bakery that the whole town was using, I discovered that the baking trays for milchig and pareve were not being kept separate. Nor was there any separation of production schedule. This meant that a tray may have been used to bake cheese Danishes, and then immediately used for challos for Shabbos without even  being cleaned in between.

I drew up a program to be followed to keep the breads pareve, but, to the best of my knowledge, the plan was not followed.

Jewish owned

If the local bakery is Jewish owned, additional questions must be dealt with, including Shabbos and Pesach production, ritual immersion of the equipment in a mikveh, and hafrashas challah — proper separation of the challah portion. (It is important to clarify that the commonly used word challah, meaning Shabbos bread [as I used it in the previous paragraph], is technically a misnomer. Here, I am using the word challah to mean the special portion removed from dough as mandated by Jewish law.) I will discuss the issues germane to challah taking in a different article.

Shabbos

Frequently, a local rabbinate, particularly in a community with a small Jewish population, is unable to arrange for a Jewish-owned bakery to be closed on Shabbos. This creates a strong moral dilemma for the rabbonim involved. By providing such a bakery with kosher certification, one is providing tacit approval to public desecration of Shabbos. In addition, one must deal with the halachic issues regarding whether the products made by a Jew on Shabbos are permitted to be used by a consumer after Shabbos. In practice, many communities allow the existence of these bakeries and provide them with kosher supervision, reasoning that this way the community at least has kosher product.

It has become more common today to have a kosher supervised bakery that is closed on Shabbos inside a supermarket that is open on Shabbos. In this instance, the supervising organization is not assuming any responsibility for the supermarket, which indeed sells non-kosher. The visiting consumer may still want to verify whether the standard maintained at the bakery is of a level similar to what he is accustomed.

Chometz and Pesach

A more serious problem is the instance of a bakery that is open on Pesach. Any chometz owned by the bakery during the festival is forbidden for use, even after Pesach. The rabbinate could remove supervision after Pesach, until all chometz items that were owned during the holiday have been consumed, thus permitting only items which were acquired after Yom Tov, but of course this leaves the community without “Kosher” bread for the duration. Based on a responsum from Rav Moshe Feinstein, some rabbis arrange a sale of all chometz items with a standard mechiras chometz document, but not all authorities agree that this sale has validity. The Maharam Schick, the Tevuos Shor, and others state that the sale of chometz is effective only for someone who does not want to own chometz during Pesach. According to this opinion, the mechiras chometz of a bakery that is open on Pesach would have no halachic validity. The bakery’s products may not be used until all chometz that it owned during Pesach has been used up or discarded.

Because of the potential chillul Hashem of having a “kosher supervised bakery” that operates on Shabbos, I know of hechsherim that supervise the “ingredients” of a bakery, but not the bakery itself. They contend, therefore, that it is not their responsibility to deal with the concerns about challah, chometz, or Shabbos desecration.

Personally, I do not see this as a solution to a problem, but as the cause of the problem. Even if we assume that the product produced on Shabbos is still kosher, and that it is not our concern to warn people about chometz she’avar alav hapesach, the average consumer does not realize that he is required to take challah. As someone once humorously put it, “this is a hechsher that everything was kosher before it got into the bakery, but what left might be treif.”

Pas Yisrael

The Mishnah in Avodah Zarah states:

The following items of a non-Jew are forbidden to be eaten, but are permitted for benefit: milk milked by a non-Jew without a Jew supervising; bread and oil of a non-Jew, although Rebbe and his rabbinic court permitted the oil of a non-Jew, and items cooked by a non-Jew [bishul akum, which, if certain conditions exist, would not be permitted.]

The latter items are prohibited because of the likelihood that increased social interaction would lead to intermarriage. Many of the rishonim note that there is evidence that the prohibition against pas akum, bread baked by a non-Jew, was not accepted in all places when introduced, because of the principle that a rabbinic injunction becomes universally binding only if the majority of people abides by it. Based on this approach, the Rema rules that one may use bread baked by gentiles for commercial sale, which is called pas paltar. Other opinions state that the permissibility of pas akum is dependent on whether there is comparable pas Yisrael (bread baked by a Jew) available. When pas Yisrael is available, one may not use pas akum. However, when suitable pas Yisrael is not available, one may use pas paltar. Bread baked for private use is still included under the rabbinic injunction of pas akum except for rare circumstances.

The Shulchan Aruch reaches the following conclusion: In a place where the custom is to use pas paltar, one is permitted to use bread prepared for commercial usage – provided that no comparable pas Yisrael is available. If pas Yisrael becomes available, then the pas paltar should not be used until the pas Yisrael is no longer available. The Rema disagrees and says that pas paltar can be used even when pas Yisrael is available in any place where the custom is to permit pas paltar. The Bach and the Gra follow the opinion of the Rema, whereas other opinions agree with Shulchan Aruch and permit pas paltar only when pas Yisrael is not available.

During the Ten Days of Repentance, even a place where the custom is to be lenient in the usage of pas paltar is required to be stringent. Most opinions also agree with the Magen Avraham that on Shabbos, one should use only pas Yisrael.

The entire issue of whether and under what circumstances a Jew may eat bread baked by a non-Jew is problematic, if the entire baking procedure is done without any participation of a Jew. However, if a Jew increases the heat of the fire being used for baking in any way, even by merely symbolically adding a splinter to the fire, the bread baked is considered pas Yisrael. The Rema furthermore states that if a Jew increased the fire once, and the oven was not turned off for twenty-four consecutive hours, then all the bread baked in that time is considered pas Yisrael. The Chachmas Adam concurs with the Rema, although the Aruch Hashulchan does not accept all these leniencies.

In conclusion, according to predominant opinion, if a Jew participated in heating the oven, then the bread is considered pas Yisrael. If no Jew participated in heating the oven, the bread baked by a non-Jew can be used wherever there is no suitable usage of pas paltar, except during the Ten Days of Repentance and Shabbos. According to the Rema, in a place where the custom is to be lenient, one can use pas paltar, even if pas Yisrael is available.

We have as yet not discussed the complicated topic of separating challah from a bakery that is owned and managed by a non-observant Jew. We will continue that part of this topic in a future issue. I am also planning articles that will discuss pas akum, the stam yeinam issues germane to the use of raisin juice, and the topic of dairy bread in more detail.

Conclusion

Based on the above information, we can gain a greater appreciation as to how hard it is to maintain a high kashrus standard. We certainly have a greater incentive to become better educated kosher consumers who better understand many aspects of the preparation of kosher food, and why it is important to ascertain that everything one consumes has a proper hechsher. We should always hope and pray that the food we eat fulfills all the halachos that the Torah commands us.

 

Does Olive Oil Require a Hechsher?

olive oilQuestion #1: Were we mistaken?

“Where I grew up, we routinely used olive oil in the kitchen without any hechsher. Was there any halachic basis for this practice?”

Question #2: Is it the real thing?

“I read recently that adulteration of olive oil is very common. How can I use this oil?”

Question #3: Which should I choose?

“Which is preferred? Using vegetable oil from a factory that produces only vegetable oils, or from a factory that is being koshered prior to every production of kosher oil?”

Answer:

A discussion of whether one may consume olive oil or vegetable oils without a proper hechsher allows us to touch on several different kashrus issues, both theoretical and practical. Let us begin with the mitzvah of orlah. The Torah (Vayikra 19:23) prohibits eating or benefiting from fruit grown on a tree during its first three years. Such fruit is called orlah. The Torah’s prohibition applies whether the tree was planted by a Jew or a gentile, and whether it grew in Eretz Yisroel or in chutz la’aretz. However, many leniencies apply to the fruits that grow in chutz la’aretz that do not apply to those growing in Eretz Yisroel (Mishnah Orlah 3:9).

Although most agricultural mitzvos of the Torah apply only in Eretz Yisroel, a special halachah lemoshe misinai¸ a law taught to Moshe Rabbeinu at Har Sinai without any source in the written Torah, teaches that the mitzvah of orlah applies also in chutz la’aretz (Kiddushin 39a). However, this particular halachah lemoshe misinai came with an intriguing leniency. In a case of doubt whether or not something is prohibited according to Torah law, the usual rule requires that we be stringent and prohibit the item (Avodah Zarah 7a). As a result, in Eretz Yisroel, one may not purchase a fruit without first determining whether there is a significant possibility that the fruit is orlah. In the case of orlah from chutz la’aretz, the halachah lemoshe misinai teaches that the fruit is prohibited only if one knows for certain that it is orlah. Any other fruit grown in chutz la’aretz is not included in the prohibition of orlah.

Terumos, maasros and shmittah

Oil of olives grown in Eretz Yisroel involves other kashrus concerns, including the various laws germane to shevi’is (shmittah) and the requirement to separate terumos and maasros. Technically, terumos and maasros do not require kashrus supervision, since the consumer can always purchase the item un-tithed and then separate terumos and maasros himself. However, a consumer who prefers that someone else separate terumos and maasros must purchase fruit and vegetables only with a hechsher that can be assumed to have attended to this satisfactorily.

Shevi’is may also be a concern. (Please note that one does find shmittah wine in the marketplace. These products involve many halachic questions that need to be resolved. Prior to using them, and preferably before purchasing them, be careful to speak to a rav for direction as to what to do.)

Refined olive oil

When discussing olive oil, we should realize that edible olive oil can be divided into two categories: virgin, or cold-pressed oil, and refined oil. One concern about the kashrus of refined olive oil is the possibility that it was produced on equipment that had been used to refine oils made from animal fat. Edible-oil refineries often process products made from beef tallow, lard or non-kosher fish on the same equipment that they refine vegetable oil products, which could include olive oil. This creates a kashrus problem for two different reasons. First, the manufacturer has no incentive to clean the equipment between productions of animal and vegetable fat products, and therefore a run of a non-kosher product usually leaves a considerable amount of fat on the equipment that subsequently becomes mixed into whatever is run next. Second, since the refining of these products is done at high temperatures, the otherwise kosher oil absorbs non-kosher flavor.

Historical precedent

Hundreds of years ago, halachic questions fairly similar to our modern kashrus issues had already been raised. Before discussing some of these cases, we need an introduction to a different halachic issue, called nosein taam lifgam, meaning that an ingredient detracts from the taste of the finished product. There is a dispute among tanna’im (Avodah Zarah 67b) whether a non-kosher food is prohibited when it becomes dissolved into a kosher product to which it gives an unpleasant taste. The conclusion is that nosein taam lifgam is permitted, even when your taste buds sense the presence of the non-kosher food. The Mishnah’s (Avodah Zarah 65b) example is non-kosher wine that fell into dried figs, which remain kosher because the wine detracts from the taste of the figs.

Sixteenth century olive oil

With this added piece of information, we can now examine what I find to be a fascinating halachic discussion. In the sixteenth century, a talmid chacham named Aharon ben Gershom sent the Rema (Shu”t Harema #53, 54) the following inquiry:

A ger tzedek, whose father was in the business of importing olive oil to Poland from Italy, told me that shipping the oil in wooden casks (apparently the most common way of shipping oil in that era) presents a problem, because of the porous nature of wood. The ger told me that, to avoid precious oil from seeping into or through the barrels, the insides of the barrels are coated with lard, which seals the barrel so that the olive oil does not leak out.

Thus, all olive oil available in Poland, where the Rema lived, would present a kashrus problem.

The Rema responds

However, the Rema ruled that one may purchase the barreled olive oil. He contended that even if the barrels are indeed sealed with lard, the olive oil inside remains permitted. The Rema rallied several proofs to this conclusion. The first is based on the historical precedent of a similar case, in which wooden barrels used to store beer were first sealed with lard to prevent seepage. An earlier authority, the Mordechai (Avodah Zarah #819), had ruled that one may purchase beer from gentiles, even if the barrels were sealed with lard, because even if taste of the lard leaks into the beer, the taste is nosein taam lifgam, and therefore permitted.

The Rema further notes another source that indicates that seepage of this nature into oil will be considered nosein taam lifgam. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 68b) mentions a case where a rat fell into edible oil, and it rules that the product is permitted because oil must be kept pleasant smelling, and the flavor that dead rats add to oil is unpleasant. To quote the Rambam (Hilchos Ma’achalos Asuros 15:31): “If a rat fell into beer or vinegar, we measure to see if the kosher liquid is sixty times the volume of the rat because of concern that it provides a good taste to the beer or vinegar. However, if it fell into wine, oil or honey, the product is permitted, even if one can taste the rat in the product, because it provides them with a taam pagum. These three foods require that they be very tasty, and this causes them to spoil and ruin their taste.”

Another proof cited by the Rema to sustain his conclusion is the statement of the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 38b) that cooked oil may be purchased from a non-Jew, without any kashrus concerns. In this passage, the Gemara concludes that though the oil was cooked in a non-kosher pot, the result is nosein taam lifgam and therefore permitted.

Furthermore, the Rema contended that the amount of olive oil in the barrel must surely be more than sixty times the volume of the lard, which would mean that the lard has become bateil, nullified, in the oil. He noted that since Jews have always consumed the barreled olive oil and never tasted any other substance in the oil, the lard is bateil.

Religious gentiles

The Rema provides an additional proof that the lard is bateil.  It is because of the fact that the gentiles used the barreled olive oil during their Lent season, when they were careful not to eat any meat or meat fat. Were they to notice any animal fat taste in the olive oil, they would certainly not use it. The Rema quotes precedent for this unusual reason from a responsum of the Rashba (1:67), in which the Rashba was asked the following:

“A Jew supervised the manufacture of cheese owned by a gentile, so that it should be kosher, and then placed his seal on it. Subsequently, the Jew left the cheese on the premises of the gentile. Do we need to be concerned that the gentile smeared lard on the cheese?”

To this inquiry, the Rashba answered: “If the cheese is owned by a Jew, there is no basis for halachic concern. …When it is sealed properly, we are concerned only that the gentile might substitute. Nowhere do we find that we are required to be concerned that a gentile would waste his own money to cause a Jew to violate a mitzvah. And even if the cheese is owned by a gentile, we do not need to be concerned that he smeared lard on the cheese, since today they consider this a prohibited food during the days that they do not eat meat, and they punish people for violating this law.”

A disputant

Rav Aharon, who posed the question to the Rema, noted that one early authority, the Issur Vaheter (32:16), expressly stated that animal oil provides a positive taste in vegetable oil. This was his case: “It once happened that someone cooked honey in a pot that had been used to cook meat and was not cleaned afterwards. The honey was then emptied, while still hot, into a dairy pot.” One would think that the both the honey and the dairy pot have now been rendered non-kosher. However, the Issur Vaheter surprises us with the following ruling: “We permitted it, because the meat is nosein taam lifgam into the honey, even though there was actual beef fat in the pot. However, if there had been oil, rather than honey, in the pot, it would have provided a good flavor, and the milchig pot would have become prohibited.” Thus, although the Issur Vaheter acknowledges that meat fat is nosein taam lifgam into honey, it adds a pleasant taste to vegetable oil.

The Rema responded by noting that since the Gemara is not concerned about animal oil mixing into olive oil, the halachah is that it is considered nosein taam lifgam, regardless of what the Issur Vaheter may have held. In order to avoid saying that the Issur Vaheter erred in his analysis, the Rema suggests that the Issur Vaheter drew a distinction between solid vegetable fat, in which case animal oil imparts a positive taste, and liquid vegetable oil, the flavor of which is not enhanced by non-kosher products, including animal fat.

The Shach disputes

Notwithstanding the Rema’s strong stance on the topic, the Shach (Yoreh Deah 103:14) disputes his conclusion, contending that animal oil always imparts a good taste to both solid vegetable fat and liquid vegetable oil. He explains that the Gemara from which the Rema proved his theory is not discussing animal oil at all, but the possibility of contamination with non-kosher wine, which certainly imparts an unpleasant taste to vegetable oil. Thus, in the Shach’s opinion, the position of the Issur Vaheter is correct. Although many authorities agree with the Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 103:4 and Gra ad loc.; Peleisi), the majority of later authorities conclude as does the Shach (Chachmas Odom 54:15; Chavos Daas 103, Chiddushim #13, Biurim #7; Badei Hashulchan 103:49).

The Yad Yehudah (103:25) adds another reason for concern, even according to the Rema. The Gemara was presumably discussing beef tallow or lard that has not been refined in any major way, whereas today, when the beef tallow or lard has been refined to remove their more pronounced flavors, they may now provide a positive taste in vegetable oil, notwithstanding the fact that the original product may have been nosein taam lifgam.

The Chachmas Odom and Yad Yehudah conclude that if one knows that the olive oil was produced on equipment that processed non-kosher fat that day, the oil is not kosher. However, when one does not know that this is the situation, one may assume that the oil is kosher. Thus, the barrels of olive oil in the time of the Rema were indeed kosher, although today’s vegetable oil manufactured on non-kosher equipment might not be, depending on how often the plant produces animal oil, and whether the equipment is cleaned thoroughly in between the two productions.

At this point, we can address one of our opening questions: “Where I grew up, we routinely used olive oil in the kitchen without any hechsher. Was there any halachic basis for this practice?”

I have been told that the rabbonim in both Tunisia and Morocco allow consumption of any oil produced there, whether olive or vegetable oil, whether refined or not. They say that no animal or fish oil is available in these countries. Although the equipment used for olive oil can also be used for grape seed oil, which might also be halachically problematic, I believe that these two countries do not produce any grape seed oil, either.

Hot off the press

However, one should avoid relying on these heterim in a country where animal oil products are produced on the same equipment as vegetable oil. As I mentioned above, one should not assume that these companies clean the equipment between runs of animal and vegetable oil, since this equipment is usually very difficult to clean. A proper hechsher at such a factory would require either that the non-kosher equipment be segregated in a way that it cannot contaminate the kosher product, or that the equipment be cleaned and koshered thoroughly prior to making kosher products. Both of these approaches require skilled and properly trained kashrus staff to make sure that they are done properly.

If the refinery processes only vegetable oil products, then the potential kashrus risks are easier to control.

Heimishe kashrus

A talmid of mine, now a recognized and respected rav where he lives, reported to me that his community sports two kashrus agencies, one that is used by the “frummer” population, and another that is meant for the general population. Notwithstanding this sociological distinction, he has discovered that, in a few instances, the standard of the general kashrus organization is, indeed, higher. For example, the “frummerkashrus organization approves vegetable oil and products only from a privately run, frum brand. This hechsher arranges for a mashgiach to oversee the cleaning and koshering of an otherwise treif facility that produces animal and vegetable oil goods on the same equipment. On the other hand, the “regular” kashrus organization manufactures its goods in a facility that produces only kosher vegetable oils. He asked me which is better to use. Our readers understand why I advised him to use products from a factory that is all kosher, rather than one that was cleaned after non-kosher manufacture.

We now have the answer to another of our original questions: “Which is preferred? Using vegetable oil from a factory that produces only vegetable oils, or from a factory that is being koshered prior to every production of kosher oil?”

Virgin oil

When discussing olive oil, we should realize that edible olive oil can be divided into two categories, virgin or cold-pressed oil and refined oil. Refined olive oil may involve all the concerns I mentioned above. “Virgin oil” means that the oil is separated from the olives without any added heat. Although the friction of the grinding of the olives into oil does create some heat, the mashgichim to whom I have spoken, who check the temperature of production, have told me that the olives get warm but not hot. Thus, there should be no cross-contamination of any non-kosher product into the virgin olive oil.

Although enzymes are sometimes added to assist in removing more oil from the olives during the pressing, these enzymes would not present any kashrus concerns to the finished product.

That which we call an olive…

However, there is concern about adulteration, since virgin olive oil commands a high price in the marketplace, and unscrupulous manufacturers have been caught adulterating it with less expensive oils. Both in Europe and in the United States there have been many scandals and prosecutions involving those who have doctored oil and sold it as virgin or refined olive oil.

Does this mean that the kashrus of virgin olive oil must be tightly monitored? When I researched this question, I received different answers from kashrus organizations. Some contended that although adulteration of virgin olive oil is not uncommon, there are no known instances of introduction of non-kosher ingredients. Therefore, they consider it sufficient for the kashrus agency to visit the factory producing the oil on a periodic basis. Other hechsherim are more concerned, and allow the product to be made under their supervision only when a mashgiach visits the facility frequently during the production.

Remember that these conclusions are only about virgin oil produced in chutz la’aretz, but olive oil produced in Eretz Yisroel may have additional kashrus concerns, particularly about orlah, and therefore requires a good hechsher.

Conclusion:

We should note the many comparisons made between olives and grapes, and this also has halachic overtones. In both instances, they are the only liquids whose brocha is not shehakol, but is ha’eitz, in the instance of olive oil, and hagefen for wine or grape juice. Wine and olive oil are the only fruit products used in korbanos on the mizbeiach. Both vineyards and olive farms are called kerem in Tanach and Mishnaic Hebrew (see Brachos 35a). Let us appreciate the uniqueness of olive oil, while we thank Hashem for the Chanukah miracles.

 

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).

 

May an Ashkenazi Eat Sirloin?

meat“And Yaakov was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man realized that he was unable to defeat Yaakov, he struck the “kaf” of Yaakov’s thigh, which became dislocated as a result of the wrestling. And the sun rose as Yaakov passed Penuel, and he was limping because of his injured thigh. Therefore, the descendants of Yisroel do not eat the sciatic sinew to this very day, for the man struck Yaakov on that sinew, dislocating it” (Breishis 32:25-26, 32-33).

With these words, the Torah introduces us to the mitzvah of gid hanosheh, which forbids us from eating the sciatic nerve, a sinew that runs from the lower back over the top of the hip and down the leg, at which point it divides into other nerves. The Hebrew word gid describes stringy body parts whose texture is too tough to chew comfortably, and may refer to nerves, tendons, ligaments, or even blood vessels (see Rambam, Peirush Hamishnayos, Zevachim 3:4). It is noteworthy that the Chinese word for the Kai Feng Jewish community was “the people who remove the sinew,” referring to the gid hanosheh; thus the observance of this mitzvah became the identifying description of the Jews.

An entire chapter of Mishnah and Gemara (the seventh chapter of Chullin) is devoted to the halachic discussion of this mitzvah, which is the third mitzvah mentioned in the Torah. The Gemara (Chullin 91a) there teaches that there is an inner gid that lies along the bone which is prohibited min hatorah, and an outer gid that lies along the meat, which is prohibited only miderabbanan. In addition, a layer of protective fat that surrounds the gid is also prohibited miderabbanan.

The Mishnah (Chullin 96a) records a dispute regarding how much of the nerve must be removed: the Tanna Kamma rules that one must remove the entire gid, whereas Rabbi Yehudah rules that one need remove only the main part of the gid. Both opinions agree that the Torah forbade only that part of the gid that lies on the top of the hip (the “kaf” of Yaakov’s thigh). According to the Tanna Kamma, the rest of the nerve is prohibited as a rabbinic injunction. Rabbi Yehudah contended that the rest of the nerve is not prohibited even miderabbanan, and therefore he did not require its removal (Chullin 96a). (The Ritva, Chullin 92b, contends that, according to some opinions, the entire main nerve and its branches are forbidden min hatorah.)

The Mishnah teaches that the mitzvah of gid hanosheh applies to all kosher mammals. This includes species of beheimah, i.e., domesticated kosher species such as cattle and sheep, and species of chayah, i.e., kosher species that are usually (but inaccurately) categorized as wild or non-domesticated species. (I discuss this inaccuracy more extensively in a different article.) Gid hanosheh does not apply to poultry, since the thigh of a bird is shaped differently and therefore has no “kaf.” Therefore, there is no need to remove this sinew from kosher birds.

There is a major difference between the prohibitions of gid hanosheh and cheilev. Whereas gid hanosheh applies to beheimah and chaya species, the Torah’s prohibition of consuming certain fats – predominantly those attached to the stomachs and the kidneys – applies only to species of beheimah, but not to chayah species (Mishnah Chullin 89b).

Another mitzvah that is affected by whether a species is a chayah or a beheimah: the mitzvah of kisuy hadam, covering the blood immediately following shechitah. This mitzvah applies only to fowl and chayah species, but not to beheimah species (Mishnah Chullin 83b). We therefore have three different types of meat species that have variant halachos pertaining to three different mitzvos: Gid hanosheh applies to beheimah and chayah, but not to birds; Cheilev applies to beheimah, but not to chayah and birds. Kisuy hadam applies only to chayah and birds, but not to beheimah.

It is important to note that the halachic definitions of beheimah and chayah are unclear. Since we are uncertain which species are considered beheimah and which are considered chayah, we are stringent and treat any species of which we are uncertain as both beheimah and chayah lechumrah, unless we have a mesorah, an oral tradition, about the halachic status of this specific species (see Shach, Yoreh Deah 80:1 as explained by Pri Megadim). Thus, we forbid the cheilev for any such species, because it might be a beheimah, yet its blood is covered after slaughter, because it might be a chayah. Since we are uncertain whether or not it is a chayah, the blood is covered without reciting the bracha one usually recites before performing this mitzvah.

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 28:4) rules that one does not perform kisuy hadam for a buffalo; this determines it to be a beheimah. (He is presumably referring to the Asian water buffalo, which was domesticated in Southern Europe hundreds of years before the Shulchan Aruch.) The Rama (ad loc.) however rules that the status of the buffalo is uncertain. According to both opinions, the cheilev is forbidden — according to the Shulchan Aruch, definitely forbidden as the cheilev of a beheimah, and according to the Rama, out of doubt. There are, also, several other bovine type species such as the yak, the African Cape buffalo, and both the American and the European bison, all of which should probably be considered a safek if they are a chayah or a beheimah, and therefore their cheilev is prohibited misafek and their blood must be covered without a bracha. (See Chullin 59b and 80a; Gra and Pri Chodosh to Yoreh Deah 80; Ohr Somayach, Ma’achalos Asuros, Chapter 1).

TRABERING

Since the Torah prohibits consuming both cheilev and the gid hanosheh, these forbidden parts must be removed from an animal before its meat can be eaten. This process is called “trabering,” a Yiddish word that derives from tarba, the Aramaic word for cheilev. The Hebrew word for the process is “nikur,” excising, and the artisan who possesses the skill to properly remove it is called a menakeir (pl. menakerim). In truth, both the words traber and the word nikur are also used to describe the kosher butchering performed in the front part of the animal, called the forequarters, to remove blood vessels and some fat; however, I will be using the words traber and nikur to mean the more difficult task of trimming the hindquarters from the gid hanosheh and the cheilev. Although there is no absolute delineating point defining where the forequarters end and the hindquarters begin, the butcher usually counts the ribs, of which there are thirteen, and slices around the twelfth, considering the area below it to be part of the hindquarters. (The first rib is the one closest to the neck.) As we will discover shortly, not all halachic authorities accept that the meat above the twelfth rib should be treated as part of the forequarters.

Removing the gid hanosheh and forbidden fats from the hindquarters is an extremely arduous process that requires much skill and patience. It is interesting to note that the Rama (Yoreh Deah 64:7 and 65:8) points out twice that nikur cannot be learned from a text, only through apprenticeship. The Mishnah refers to a dispute among Tanna’im whether observant butchers can be trusted to remove the gid hanosheh and the non-kosher fats, Rabbi Meir contending that we cannot trust them, since removing them is highly tedious (Chullin 93b). In Rabbi Meir’s opinion, someone else must double check after the menakeir is finished, to see that the trabering was performed correctly. The halacha does not follow Rabbi Meir, and technically one may rely on a trained yarei shamayim menakeir to do the job properly. However, in many places the custom was more stringent.

SIXTEENTH CENTURY POLAND

The Maharshal reports that most of the menakerim in his day did not perform an adequate job — when they had a heavy workload, one would find that they failed to remove all the cheilev. The Maharshal notes that the menakeir must be not only well trained in his practice, but also a yarei shamayim who is meticulous in the work, and that one should not rely on just any typical menakeir. He also quotes an earlier authority, the Maharam Mintz, who did not eat meat after nikur until it was checked by a second menakeir. Since he had this policy all the time, he was able to avoid implying that any particular menakeir was careless or incompetent. The Maharshal praises this practice highly, noting that the original menakeir is more careful knowing that someone else will discover if he is sloppy. He reports that, after observing much inadequate nikur, he himself followed this approach of the Maharam Mintz not to eat meat unless a second menakeir had checked the first one’s work (Yam Shel Shelomoh, Chullin 1:2, 7:19; Be’er Heiteiv, Yoreh Deah 65:6).

NOT USING HINDQUARTERS

Since most of the forbidden fats and the entire gid hanosheh and all its tributaries are in the hindquarters, in many places the custom developed for Jews to eat only the meat of the forequarters, thus considerably simplifying the trabering process. The earliest source I have located that mentions this practice is a responsum from the Radbaz (Shu’t #162), who was the Chief Rabbi of Egypt almost five hundred years ago – and a Sefardi. (This is itself an interesting observation, since the practice of nikur of hindquarters is far more common today among Sefardim than among Ashkenazim.) The Radbaz had been asked about a local custom to slaughter on the eastern side of a building, apparently a Moslem custom of the time: The question was whether this practice violates halacha, since it is a Moslem practice. The Radbaz rules that one may slaughter on the eastern side, since there was nothing idolatrous about this practice. The reason a Jew would slaughter on the eastern side was because the Jews used only the forequarters and left the hindquarters plus the non-kosher slaughtered animals (neveilos utreifos, those found to be halachically imperfect or where an error occurred during the shechitah). These were then sold to Moslems, who would not eat them unless they were slaughtered on the eastern side. Radbaz approved the practice not to traber the hindquarters, since expert menakerim are hard to find.

ASHKENAZIC 18TH AND 19TH CENTURY PRACTICES

In central Europe of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, we find that local need determined whether trabering was performed on the hindquarters. Someone asked the Noda BiYehudah (Yoreh Deah II #31) whether he should be concerned about the meat located on the forequarters. The Noda BiYehudah contended that some of the fat located between the 11th and the 12th rib is cheilev that requires removal by an expert menakeir. The Noda BiYehudah notes that in Prague, where he was the Rav, the area past the 11th rib was trabered by the menakerim who were expert in trabering the hindquarters. In his opinion, if there are no menakerim in town who know how to traber the hindquarters, then one should use only the meat above the eleventh rib.

The Chasam Sofer (Shu’t Yoreh Deah #68) disagreed with the Noda BiYehudah, contending that any fat located above the 13th rib is not cheilev and is removed only because of custom. If the place has expert menakerim available, then they should trim the area beyond the 12th rib. However, if there are no experts available, it is acceptable to have regular butchers trim the area between the 12th and the 13th ribs.

Thus, one sees from both of these responsa that in their day, whether a community used meat of the hindquarters meat depended on local custom and the expertise of the local butchers. Many communities did not use the hindquarters meat at all, but sold it as non-kosher, because they lacked skilled menakerim. However, communities that had skilled menakerim utilized their talents and enjoyed kosher hindquarters meat. Clearly, neither the Noda BiYehudah nor the Chasam Sofer was concerned about using the hindquarters, as long as expert menakerim are involved.

On the other hand, about this period of time we see that in some places it was becoming accepted practice not to traber the hindquarters. In a teshuvah dated the day after Tisha B’Av 5625 (1865), Rav Shamshon Rephael Hirsch wrote to Rav Yissochor Berish Bernstein, the Av Beis Din and Rosh Yeshiva of the Hague, that one should not relax the custom “already established by our fathers and grandfathers” to refrain from the practice of trabering (Shemesh Marpei #34).

Although nikur continued to be practiced in the 20th century, in Ashkenazic communities it became the exception rather than the norm. The Aruch Hashulchan notes (Yoreh Deah 64:54, 65:31) that most places did not perform nikur on the hindquarters and instead sold them to non-Jews, although there were still places where it was practiced, including his own city, where very tight controls were kept to insure that it was performed properly.

POLAND, 1936

The practice not to use the hindquarters was, apparently, universally accepted in Poland by the first third of the twentieth century. Because of a very sad turn of events, this practice created a very unfortunate shaylah. In 1936, the Polish Parliament, influenced by anti-Semitism from neighboring Nazi Germany, banned shechitah and permitted it only for Jewish consumption. The law specified that non-Jews could eat no part of the kosher slaughtered meat. Although they officially claimed that this was in order to recognize the Jews’ freedom of religion, in reality, this law implied that the Judaic practice of shechitah is inhumane.

This created a shaylah, since the custom existed not to traber and eat from the hindquarters. In essence, the accepted practice treated the entire hindquarters as non-kosher. However, being stringent under the new circumstances would make the price of meat prohibitively expensive, since the entire cost of the animal would have to be absorbed by the sale of its forequarters.

A halachic issue now came to the forefront. Once a custom has been established as accepted practice, it has the status of a vow that may not be rescinded (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 214:2). Did the practice of refraining from eating the meat of the hindquarters have the status of a minhag that could not be rescinded?

Rav Chayim Ozer Grodzenski, the posek of the generation, ruled that it was permitted to reintroduce the practice of trabering the hindquarters by experienced, G-d-fearing experts. In his opinion, the practice not to traber the hindquarters did not have the status of a vow that may not be rescinded, nor of a minhag that requires hataras nedarim. He ruled that it was simply more practical not to traber, since there was an ample supply of meat without resorting to trabering the hindquarters, and it was simply not worthwhile to bother. Certainly, the practice did not begin at a time when there was compelling reason to traber the hindquarters, and this would serve as adequate reason to reintroduce the practice. Rav Chayim Ozer added that the government’s intent in this evil decree was to forcibly close down shechitah by making it financially non-viable. Thus, he felt that it was a mitzvah to permit the hindquarter meat, in order to demonstrate that the decree would not prevent the Jews from having kosher meat. Furthermore, if it were officially accepted that the hindquarters were permitted, there would be proper supervision of the trabering to guarantee that it was performed properly (Shu’t Achiezer 3:84).

Initially, several Chassidic rabbayim opposed permitting the practice, concerned both about minhag and whether all the people performing nikur would be trained and work with the necessary yiras shamayim. Rav Chayim Ozer then wrote to several of the great rebbes living in Poland at the time, notably the Bobover Rebbe and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to elicit their support. Both of these rebbes eventually agreed that the needs of the generation called for permitting nikur of the hindquarters, provided it was performed by trained, yirei shamayim menakerim. Thus, all segments of Polish Jewry accepted the decision of Rav Chayim Ozer.

THREE MODERN SHAYLOS

BRUSSELS, 1964

In 1964, Rav Shmaryahu Karelitz, the Rav of Brussels, Belgium, sent Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l a shaylah whether they could reinstitute the practice of trabering the hindquarters in Belgium, since they found themselves short of kosher meat. Rav Moshe ruled that as long as a proficient menakeir, licensed by an expert Rav, performed the trabering, there was no reason to prohibit this meat. Rav Moshe writes that refraining from using the hindquarters does not have the status of a minhag; simply, it resulted from the fact that butchers did not bother, either because they were easily able to sell the hindquarters as non-kosher, or because the butchers lacked the expertise. However, should it become worthwhile to traber the hindquarters, there is no halachic problem with reintroducing the practice, provided the menakeir is a yarei shamayim and properly trained and licensed (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:42).

SOUTH AFRICA, 1990

A dissenting position is found in the responsa of Rav Moshe Sternbuch, shlit”a, currently Av Beis Din of the Eidah HaChareidis in Yerushalayim, and formerly rav of a kehillah in Johannesburg, South Africa. During his tenure in South Africa, he was asked about renewing the practice of trabering there, utilizing the skills of an expert menakeir. Rav Sternbuch prohibited the practice, contending that not trabering the hindquarters has the status of a minhag that may not be altered (Teshuvos VeHanhagos 1:418, 419).

UNITED STATES, 21st CENTURY

Within the last few years, the kosher market has begun regular production of shechitah of animals such as buffalo and deer, species in which removing the gid hanosheh and the cheilev might be financially advisable. I inquired from the OU what their policy is regarding nikur of these hindquarters, and they responded that they permit removing the gid hanosheh, but do not remove the cheilev. This translates into the following: If it is questionable whether a species is a chayah or a beheimah, the hindquarters are not trabered and are sold as non-kosher. However, if the species is one concerning which we have a mesorah to treat it as a chayah, there is no halachic requirement to remove any cheilev from the hindquarters, as we learned in the beginning of this article. The only halachic requirement is to remove the gid hanosheh. Thus, on species such as deer, where there is a halachic mesorah that it is a chayah, the hindquarters are trabered and the gid hanosheh is removed. However, on species such as bison (American buffalo), where there is no mesorah whether it is a chayah or a beheimah, the hindquarters are left untrabered and are sold as non-kosher.

WHY DISTINGUISH BETWEEN CHEILEV AND GID HANOSHEH?

I asked this same question and this is the response they sent me:

“Removing cheilev is difficult and time-consuming, even for those who know how. Removing the gid hanosheh and its subordinate parts is no more difficult than removing veins: one is removing a gid that separates easily from the surrounding meat. Therefore, when we know that an animal is a chayah, we allow the removal of the gid hanosheh. Any animal for which we do not have a mesorah whether it is a beheimah or a chayah, such as buffalo, will be treated as a sofek, and kisuy hadam will be performed, and the hindquarters will not be used for kosher.”

Rav Shamshon Rephael Hirsch explains the mitzvah of gid hanosheh as a message that although the spirit of Eisav will never conquer Yaakov and his descendants, Eisav will be able to hamstring Yaakov and prevent him from standing firmly on two feet. Thus, Yaakov goes through history with an unfirm physical posture and gait. By having to remove the gid hanasheh, whenever Yaakov’s descendants sit down to eat meat, they realize that their continued existence is not dependent on their physical strength and stamina, but on spiritual factors which can never be weakened by Eisav’s might.