Passing the Taste Test

Question #1: Gentile Goulash

Can a non-Jew determine if the cholent or the goulash is kosher?

Question #2: Expert Witness

Does halacha recognize the concept of an “expert witness?”

Question #3: It Tastes Bad!

Does whether something tastes good or bad affect halacha?

Foreword:

This article will discuss what happens if a small amount of something non-kosher falls into kosher food. Because of the limitations inherent in writing articles, at times I will need to omit significant details. As a result, please do not use this as a source for any halachic ruling. Refer a personal question to a rav.

When non-kosher and kosher foods become mixed together, it is forbidden to eat the mixture. However, when the amount of the non-kosher item is so small that it cannot be tasted, the mixture is usually permitted, since the offending substance is considered nullified, bateil.

Note that I wrote “usually,” because there are exceptions to this rule, most of which will wait patiently for future articles. One instance in which the offending ingredient is not bateil is when someone deliberately attempted to nullify a forbidden product or mixture. In this instance, the resultant mixture is prohibited because of the principle of ein mevatlin issur lechatchila (Beitzah 4b), one may not deliberately nullify a prohibited substance.

Ta’am ke’ikur

Why is the ability to taste a prohibited substance the criterion to determine whether the mixture is permitted? This is because of a halachic principle called ta’am ke’ikur, the taste is like the actual substance.

Nosein ta’am lifgam

Even when the non-kosher ingredient can be tasted, at times the mixture is still permitted. This is when the non-kosher substance does not add positive taste into the food, but adds an unpleasant taste, even if it is only mildly unpleasant. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 67b) quotes a dispute between tanna’im whether nosein ta’am lifgam, literally, that which provides a bad taste, is prohibited or permitted. According to the opinion that nosein ta’am lifgam is permitted, should a non-kosher substance provide an unpleasant taste when added to food, the food remains kosher. The halacha follows the opinion that nosein ta’am lifgam is permitted.

We can then reach this conclusion regarding a mixture of non-kosher and kosher food:

(1) When the non-kosher food is the minority of the mixture, and

(2) the non-kosher food can no longer be identified, and

(3) the non-kosher food does not improve the taste,

then the mixture may be eaten. And, as mentioned above, this is true only when the bitul, the nullifying, was not performed intentionally.

24 hours

The halachic assumption is that residual taste that is present in a vessel or utensil from a previous cooking usually spoils after 24 hours have elapsed. This means that the flavor imparted from such equipment is no longer beneficial and therefore food cooked in it is permitted. In addition, because of a more complicated halachic principle and reasoning, even when we do not know for certain whether equipment was used in the previous 24 hours, we are permitted to assume that the product cooked in non-kosher equipment is kosher (see Tosafos, Avodah Zarah 35b s.v. Miklal). On this basis, although it is prohibited to use a non-kosher pot, food cooked in it with kosher ingredients usually remains kosher.

How do we know?

When a small amount of issur (prohibited food) got mixed with heter (permitted food), we need to know whether the issur is bateil and the food is therefore permitted, or whether it is not bateil and the food is prohibited. In general, there are two methods to ascertain that the food is bateil.

The taste test

A non-Jew tastes the mixture to ascertain whether he can detect taste of the non-kosher food (or the tiny percentage of milk in meat, or vice versa). He may also tell us that, although he can detect the non-kosher substance, what it adds to the mixture is distasteful. In this instance, the food is permitted, as explained above.

Must the non-Jew swallow the food that he is tasting? There is a dispute among later halachic authorities whether a taste test requires that the taster actually swallow the food, or whether it is sufficient that he chew the food thoroughly. The Pri Megadim (Mishbetzos Zahav, Yoreh Deah 98:2) rules that when tasting to check for an issur, the person must chew the food and swallow some of it, whereas the Yad Yehudah (98:2) is satisfied that chewing well is enough and even that is necessary only if it is a solid food. If it is a liquid, even tasting the food in his mouth and spitting it out afterward suffices.

Most poskim contend that the non-Jew should not know that his answer is deciding whether a product is kosher or not. Why? Some explain that the non-Jew may want to help the Jew and tell him that he cannot taste any prohibited substance, even when he is uncertain (Badei Hashulchan 98:8).

Another possibility is that someone who does not understand that it is a violation of what Hashem wants may bias what he says because of other motivations. Thus, we cannot rely on information provided unless (a) the person is halachically concerned about the prohibition involved, or (b) there is a compelling reason why the person would tell the truth, such as an expert chef who would not want to jeopardize his professional reputation.

Ratio

If we know how much of a non-kosher substance fell in, we can try to determine (by measuring) whether the percentage is large enough to be discerned. That is, if what fell in is less than one sixtieth of the permitted substance, the mixture is permitted.

Some rishonim require that, when possible, we must use both methods. In other words, the prohibited substance must be one part in sixty or less, and even then, if a non-Jew is available, we should have him taste the mixture to determine that the prohibited food cannot be tasted (Rashi, Chullin 98a s.v. Beshishim). Others rule that it is better to have a non-Jew taste the food and tell us that he cannot taste the non-kosher substance. If no non-Jew is available, we may permit the food if we know that the kosher food is at least sixty times the volume of the non-kosher (Rambam).

The Shulchan Aruch concludes, like the Rambam, that we use one part in sixty as a determinant only when there is no non-Jew present to taste the meat. In such a case, we calculate if the heter is sixty times the issur, in which case it is mutar.

There are instances in which we cannot use the taste test and will only be able to use the ratio method. For example, what do we do if a small amount of non-kosher meat fell into a cholent or goulash in which there is more kosher meat than the non-kosher that fell in? What are we going to ask the non-Jew to taste? Of course, he is going to taste meat, because there is plenty of kosher meat in the mixture, and there is no way to know by taste whether the non-kosher meat can be tasted. In such situations, we will be forced to use the ratio method to determine whether the food is kosher (see Yorah Deah 98:2).

Chaticha na’asah neveilah

Here is another instance in which we will not be able to rely on taste to rule that something is permitted. A small amount of meat fell into a pot containing dairy. Afterward, another ingredient, that is neither meat nor dairy, was added to the pot. The problem in this instance is that, when the meat fell into the dairy, if the pot did not contain enough to make the meat bateil, all the milk and meat in that pot became prohibited as basar bechalav. Adding more to the pot will not help, nor will tasting the food afterward to discern that the meat cannot be tasted, since the dairy already became prohibited min haTorah. To permit the food (and the pot) we will need to determine how much was in the pot when the meat fell in originally; tasting it now will not help make that determination.

This concept is called chaticha na’asah neveilah, which means that once something absorbed a prohibited substance, we must treat the entirety as prohibited. This concept has ramifications for many other halachos, but space considerations will require us to leave the topic for a future article.

Why sixty to one?

Why is a prohibited substance usually bateil when there is sixty times its volume of heter in the mixture? The reason is because Chazal calculated that most prohibited foods will not be tasted when they are in the food at this small percentage. However, this calculation is not absolute. There are several prohibitions in which Chazal required a larger percentage, because they wanted us to be more stringent regarding these, more serious issurim. There is also the instance of a food that is avida leta’ama, meaning that it is a spice or other flavoring agent. Since these foods can be tasted even when in very tiny amounts, they remain prohibited even when there ar only very small amounts in the food.

Returning to the taste test

Exactly whose opinion do we need that the non-kosher cannot be tasted? Can we use any non-Jew to perform the taste test, or does it require an expert chef? Some contend that an expert chef is needed because we do not assume that the average person is so discerning (see Rashba). Others require an expert chef for a different reason: since he has his well-earned professional reputation at stake, he can be trusted to tell us the truth and not what he thinks we want to hear.

The Rambam and those who follow his approach do not require that the “taste tester” be an expert. They contend that we may rely on any non-Jew who tastes the food and tells us that he cannot discern the non-kosher ingredient in themixture. Among those who accept any non-Jewish taster, some contend that we can rely on him only when he does not know why we are asking him, whereas others are not concerned about this.

In general, halacha accepts that only someone affected by a situation pays attention to its details. For this reason, someone who witnessed something and did not realize the significance of what he was seeing cannot be relied upon for his opinion as to what happened. Thus, in general, it would seem that we should not rely on a non-Jew telling us whether he discerned the non-kosher product or not, if he is unaware of the reason we are asking.

There are some possible exceptions to this rule. One is when the individual has a professional reputation to protect. Someone in this situation is very concerned not to ruin his well-earned reputation, and will always be careful to render a correct answer to the best of his ability. Therefore, we accept his opinion to be true.

Others explain that we may ask a non-Jew whether he tastes the non-kosher when he knows that we are immediately going to see if he is right. Although it may not be his uppermost concern to provide us with accurate information, knowing that we will check immediately on his reliability will cause him to be more concerned to provide accurate information (Shach, Yorah Deah 98:2; Pri Chadash; based on Shu”t Harivash #433).

This approach is recommended by the Gemara and this is the approach followed by Sefardim as ruled in the Shulchan Aruch (Yorah Deah 98:1), who accepts any non-Jew’s opinion if he does not know that we are relying on him.

However, the custom developed among Ashkenazim not to rely on a non-Jew tasting the food. Why would Ashkenazim ignore the approach recommended by the Gemara? Did we decide to become frummer than the authors of the Gemara?

G-d forbid! There is much discussion among the later authorities why Ashkenazim follow this approach. One reason suggested is that, if we study the various explanations provided by the rishonim, we will realize that they are mutually exclusive. In other words, some hold that we can accept the non-Jew’s opinion only when he knows why we want the information, whereas others assume the exact opposite – that he is trusted only when he has no idea why we want the information. Since it is impossible to accommodate all the opinions, the custom is to be stringent and not use this approach. (This answer is provided by Rabbi Akiva Eiger in his glosses to Yorah Deah 98:1, but the Gra and Rav Shelomoh of Vilna, in their respective glosses, disagree.)

Avida leta’ama

Above, we noted that a non-kosher spice or seasoning is not usually bateil because it can still be tasted in the finished product. Thus, the ratio of sixty parts heter to one part issur will not permit this product. However, can you have a non-Jew try it to see if he can taste the issur? Certainly according to Sefardic practice, this is permitted. But can an Ashkenazi use a non-Jew to taste whether the avida leta’ama ingredient can still be tasted?

The Shach (Yorah Deah 98:29), an Ashkenazi who follows the Rema, rules that, when the question is whether you can taste an avida leta’ama, you may rely on a non-Jew. This ruling is accepted by Rav Shelomoh Eiger (in his notes on Rema, Yorah Deah 98:1); but there are those who disagree.

A Jewish taster

The Rema writes that “nowadays we do not rely on the tasting of a non-Jew” (Yorah Deah 98:1). This implies that if a Jew tastes a mixture and tells you that the “prohibited substance” cannot be discerned, you may rely on him (Shach). Most, but not all, authorities accept that we can rely on a Jewish taster (cf. Levush, who disagrees and concludes that Ashkenazim never rely on tasting).

Obviously, in the cases that we have been discussing, no halachically abiding Jew could taste the food, and a Jew who is not halachically abiding cannot be relied upon. Thus, when does this ruling apply?

There are numerous cases in which it might be relevant to have a Jewish person taste the mixture:

(1) If some terumah of one type of fruit or vegetable falls into a different species of non-terumah that is cooking, we may have a kohen taste it, since he is permitted to eat terumah. If he tells us that he cannot taste the species that is terumah, then a non-kohen may eat it. The same halacha is relevant to a case where the dough separated as challah became mixed into a product. (These cases are assuming that we are in a time and place when kohanim eat terumah and challah.)

(2) An individual made an oath or a vow prohibiting himself from eating a certain food. Subsequently, that food gets mixed into other food. Another Jew, who is not included in the oath or vow, may taste the mixture and ascertain that the prohibited food is not discernible.

(3) An onion was cut with a meat knife, and someone tasted the onion and contends that it has no fleishig taste. May someone now eat this onion with dairy? This application can be applied to any similar case where we want to verify if pareve food has a meat or dairy taste.

(4) A non-kosher substance fell into a kosher food and we do not know whether the kosher substance was sixty times the non-kosher. A non-Jew, who does not know why we are asking his opinion, tastes the food and tells us that the non-kosher substance cannot be discerned. At this point, a fully halachically observant Sefardi who heard the non-Jew’s ruling is permitted to rely on his pesak and taste the food. Upon tasting the food, the Sefardi notifies an Ashkenazi that indeed there is no taste of non-kosher in the food. According to the ruling of the Rema and the Shach, the Ashkenazi may now eat the food, relying on the tasting of a Jew.

All four of these cases are seemingly dependent on the dispute quoted above between the Levush and the Shach whether we rely on the tasting done by a Jew.

Conclusion

A well-known, non-Jewish criticism of Judaism is: “Does G-d care more about what goes into our mouths than He does about what comes out?” The criticism is, of course, both mistaken and conceited. Our development as avdei Hashem involves both what goes in and what comes out, and the height of vanity is to decide which is “more” important in His eyes. Being careful about what we eat and about what we say are vital steps in our growth as human beings.

Gluten-Free, Sake, and Vegan

This week’s parsha, Bo, teaches about matzoh, which can be made only from the five types of grain that can become chametz (wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats). This gives us the opportunity to discuss kashrus issues related to gluten and non-gluten grains.

Question #1: Rice and Oats

What kashrus issues exist concerning oat-based or rice-based nutritional beverages?

Question #2: Eating Vegan

May I eat in a vegan restaurant?

Question #3: Sake

Is Japanese sake prohibited because of bishul akum or any other kashrus issues?

Question #4: Gluten-free Pastry

Does gluten-free pastry involve pas akum or bishul akum issues?

Introduction:

In parshas Chukas the Torah describes how Bnei Yisrael offered to support the completely non-Jewish local economy by purchasing all their victuals from Sichon and his nation (Bamidbar 21:21-25). Based on an implication in the pasuk, the Gemara suggests that Bnei Yisrael had offered to purchase only food that had not been changed by cooking. Cooked food would have become non-kosher because of bishul akum, the proscription against eating food cooked by a gentile,even when all the ingredients are kosher (Avodah Zarah 37b). Based on this, the Gemara infers that bishul akum was prohibited by the Torah. The Gemara ultimately refutes the suggestion that bishul akum is implied in chumash, concluding that bishul akum is a rabbinic interdiction that does not date all the way back to the time of the Torah. Nevertheless, some early authorities theorize that bishul akum must have been a very early enactment – how else could the Gemara entertain that bishul akum is alluded to already in the Torah (see Tosafos s.v. vehashelakos)?

Chazal instituted this law to guarantee uncompromised kashrus and to discourage inappropriate social interaction (Rashi, Avodah Zarah 38a s.v. miderabbanan and Tosafos ad loc.; Rashi, Avodah Zarah 35b s.v. vehashelakos). The four questions with which I opened our article all involve questions concerning the kashrus of ingredients and also of bishul akum. Since the halachos of bishul akum are indispensable in analyzing all four cases, I will discuss them first.

YUM

When Chazal prohibited bishul akum, they did not prohibit all gentile-cooked foods, but only foods where the cooking of the non-Jew provides significant pleasure to the consumer. Therefore, three major types of gentile-cooked foods are excluded from the prohibition of bishul akum. For pedagogic purposes, we can use the following convenient acronym: YUM, standing for Yisrael, Uncooked, Monarch.

Y. Yisrael – A Jew participates

If a Jew contributes to the cooking in a significant way, the food is permitted because it is now categorized as bishul Yisrael and not bishul akum. How much Jewish participation is necessary to avoid bishul akum? The answer is that this is one of the areas of halacha in which there is a difference in practice between Sefardim and Ashkenazim; Ashkenazim are more lenient in these laws than are Sefardim. Ashkenazim rule that to permit food as bishul Yisrael it is sufficient that a Jew ignite the fire being used to cook, or to add fuel to an already existing flame. Sefardim rule that the Jew must be involved in the actual cooking of the food, preferably by placing the food on the fire.

Another case in which Sefardim and Ashkenazim differ is if a gentile began the cooking and the food became minimally edible, which halacha calls kema’achal ben Derusa’i. Sefardim consider the food already prohibited because of bishul akum. Following this approach, if a gentile cooked the food until it was barely edible and a Jew then completes the cooking and makes it quite tasty, the food is still prohibited, unless there are extenuating circumstances (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 113:9). However, Ashkenazim rule that if a Jew cooked it past this point, it is permitted, since the product’s delicious taste was created by a Yisrael.

U. Uncooked – food edible raw

A food that is commonly eaten raw is exempt from the prohibition of bishul akum even when a non-Jew cooked it completely. This is because cooking such an item is not considered significant (Rashi, Beitzah 16a). For example, baked apples or fruit soup prepared by a non-Jew present no problem of bishul akum since the fruit is edible before cooking. Similarly, a fondue made of cheese, wine and butter would involve no bishul akum concerns, even though it is meant to be eaten with bread, because its ingredients are all edible without this cooking. However, cooked potatoes present a bishul akum concern, because most people do not eat raw potatoes (Chachmas Adam 66:4; cf. Aruch Hashulchan 113:18).

M. Monarch

Bishul akum applies only to food that one would serve on a king’s table alongside bread.  This is described as oleh al shulchan melachim lelafeis es hapas, literally, “would go on a king’s table to enhance the bread with it.” Chazal did not prohibit bishul akum when the food would not be served to a highly respected guest, because they were not concerned that inappropriate social interaction may result (Rambam, Hilchos Ma’achalos Asuros 17:15).

Rice and oats

Now that we have completed our basic introduction, let us analyze our opening questions. Our first question was: What kashrus concerns exist with oat-based or rice-based nutritional beverages?

The most common products I have seen are oat milk and rice milk, which, alongside almond, soy and coconut milk have become popular alternatives to cow’s and goat’s milk. Because all of these products, when available commercially, include ingredients that can be problematic from a kashrus perspective, they should be purchased only with a reliable hechsher. However, I will bring attention to the following question:

“My neighbor, who is not Jewish, brought me some of her homemade rice milk. She knows that we keep kosher, and therefore offered the following information. The equipment she uses for her rice and oat milk is never used for other items, and she provided me with her recipe for producing rice milk:

“Boil or steam the rice in hot water until the rice is soft, but still very raw — you should be able to snap a piece in half with your fingernail without much effort.

Add salt and any other flavoring ingredients you choose (usually dates and/or spices) and then blend.

“The instructions for the oat milk were fairly similar. May I drink her rice or oat milk?”

The raw materials here are very simple and should not present kashrus concerns. There is one possible kashrus issue here related to the rice milk and that is bishul akum. The oat milk should not present a bishul akum problem, since this is not a food that one would serve at a formal banquet. Although Cheerios and gluten-friendly menus have popularized oats as people food, I would be surprised to find oats in the respected kitchens of Buckingham Palace or the White House.

On the other hand, rice is definitely not edible raw, and, unlike oats, is oleh al shulchan melachim. Nevertheless, I call your attention to a critical point. The instructions said that the rice should be “soft but still very raw — you should be able to snap a piece in half.” This rice is inedible, and even the minimal definition of ma’achal ben Derusa’i is not met. Thus, this rice is heated, but not cooked sufficiently for it to be prohibited as bishul akum, whether you are Ashkenazi or Sefardi. Thus, this rice milk should not present a halachic problem.

Whether this factor is true in all factory-produced rice milk is something that should be researched. The hechsher should check out whether the rice is cooked to an extent that it might be prohibited because of bishul akum.

Vegan restaurant

Why can’t I eat in a vegan restaurant that does not have a proper hechsher?

Some people erroneously think that, since a vegan diet includes no meat, fish, eggs or dairy products, there can be no kashrus issues in a product labeled “vegan-friendly.” Unfortunately, this is not true for many reasons.

Vegan cooking may involve many non-kosher ingredients, including vegetables that need to be checked for insects, such as seaweed, which is notorious for containing small sea horses (I guess a vegan does not consider insects as a variety of meat). Also, non-kosher wine and wine vinegars often feature prominently in vegan cuisine. In addition, vegan fare usually includes ingredients that are manufactured on non-kosher equipment. There is, also, the known instance of a vegan restaurant whose chef, a Buddhist, was consecrating food to his gods, potentially prohibiting everything in the restaurant.

Aside from all the other potential problems, a vegan restaurant will probably be cooking food that is prohibited because of bishul akum. Thus, a hechsher on a vegan restaurant will need to supervise not only that all ingredients are kosher, but that its food is prepared in a way that it qualifies as bishul Yisrael.

Japan and sake

At this point, let us discuss our opening question: Is Japanese sake prohibited because of bishul akum or any other kashrus issues?

Sake is the national alcoholic beverage of Japan and is made by fermenting steamed rice. There are probably as many varieties of sake in Japan as there are varieties of whiskey in Scotland, beer in Germany and wine in France. We know that wine without a hechsher is presumably non-kosher, but most observant consumers use whiskeys and beers, even without a hechsher on the label. The question is whether these Jews may safely imbibe sake.

There are three major kashrus areas that require research, which was performed, a few years ago, by one of the major American hechsherim.

A. Are there kashrus concerns with any of the raw materials?

B. Might the equipment be used for non-kosher products?

C. Since rice is not edible raw, and its steamed variety is certainly served to royalty, is there a problem of bishul akum?

Sake production

So, let us explore how sake is produced. Rice is a starch, and will not ferment directly into alcohol. The starch first needs to be converted into sugar, which will ferment into alcohol. Sake production begins with steamed rice and Aspergillus oryzae, a fungus that converts rice starch to sugar. The fungus is mixed with water and freshly steamed rice and left until it forms a sweet, crumbly, dry material. This crumbly mash is then placed in a vat with additional rice and water. A variety of yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is added to the mixture, which then ferments for several weeks. More Aspergillus oryzae, steamed rice, and water are added to the vat, and fermentation continues for another week or two, at which point the sake is filtered, pasteurized, and bottled. Alcohol may be added if the sake is not as strong as desired. Some high-end sake producers “polish” their product by aging it afterward in used wine casks, but these companies usually advertise this, since this sake is considered a specialty product. There are also varieties of flavored sake, which add additional ingredients.

Now let us examine the three questions that we asked above:

A. Are there kashrus concerns with any of the raw materials?

Rice, on its own, does not present a kashrus issue, nor does the fungus, the yeast or the steam. The added alcohol can present a kashrus problem, since it may be produced from non-kosher wine or whey, or may be chometz she’avar alav hapesach, grain-based chometz alcohol that was owned by a Jew on Pesach. Flavored sake would require further research to determine the sources of the flavors, probably not a practical task unless the sake producer is interested in a hechsher on the product.

B. Might the equipment be used for non-kosher products?

Sake is a very popular product in Japan and is manufactured with specialized equipment. This makes it unlikely that any other products would be made on the same equipment.

Regarding aging or finishing the sake in used wine casks, we can assume that this is not done unless it is advertised as such. Whiskeys finished in wine casks is a lengthy halachic subject that I plan to discuss in the future.

C. Since rice is not edible raw, and its steamed variety is certainly served to royalty, is there a problem of bishul akum? Indeed, since steamed rice is definitely oleh al shulchan melachim, two of the obvious heterim for bishul akum that I mentioned above, Uncooked and Monarch, may not apply. An obvious way to produce kosher sake would be to make it bishul Yisrael by having a Jew steam the rice, but the available pool of mashgichim in Japan is not huge, rendering this solution impractical.

Nevertheless, sake maynot have a bishul akum issue. Many prominent authorities contend that bishul akum does not apply to commercial food production since social interaction between the person working on the factory floor and the consumer will not result (see Birkei Yosef 112:9, quoting Maharit Tzalon). Rav Moshe Feinstein (as reported to me personally by Rav Nota Greenblatt) ruled that there is no bishul akum under these circumstances.

Some authorities (see Darkei Teshuvah 113:16) contend that Chazal never included steamed products under the prohibition of bishul akum, because they categorize steaming as smoking, an atypical form of cooking that Chazal exempted from bishul akum. The Minchas Yitzchak (3:26:6) rules that one may combine these two above reasons and permit the finished product.

Another potential heter here is that rice steamed for sake is not cooked in a way that you would usually serve it, and thus, it is not oleh al shulchan melachim. Certainly, once the rice converts to sugar it is not a product that is consumed. Even at its earlier stage, before it becomes sugar, the rice is not steamed to the point that it is servable. Thus, for an Ashkenazi, sake should not be prohibited as bishul akum. I leave it for our individual readers to discuss this with their own rav or posek.

Gluten-free pastry

At this point, let us examine the last, and perhaps most interesting, of our opening questions:

Does gluten-free pastry involve pas akum or bishul akum issues?

Let me explain the actual question that I was asked. A non-Jewish owned and operated company manufactures a large variety of gluten-free pastries and is seeking a hechsher on its products. Does the hechsher need to be concerned about either pas akum or bishul akum?

Pas akum versus bishul akum

Halachically, the difference between pas akum and bishul akum is not that one item is baked and the other is cooked. Pas akum applies to items whose brocha is hamotzi, or to pas haba’ah bekisnin, items on which the brocha is hamotzi if a large amount is eaten, such as cake or crackers (Rema, Yoreh Deah 112:6; Taz, Pri Chadash, Darchei Teshuvah). Baked items other than bread may be considered bishul akum. Thus, we will need to examine whether gluten-free pastry is prohibited because of bishul akum.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a mixture of hundreds of different proteins found in the five grains on which we recite hamotzi when baked into bread: wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats. Each of these grains has a different type of gluten. In wheat and spelt, one class of these proteins is called gliadin; in barley, it is called hordein; in rye, secalin, and in oats, avenin.

The gliadin in spelt has a different molecular structure than that of wheat. It is more water soluble, which makes it easier to digest, which is why many people who have difficulty tolerating wheat can comfortably consume spelt products.

The term “gluten” describes proteins that affect people with celiac disease. This is an autoimmune condition characterized by gastrointestinal symptoms. When people with celiac disease consume gluten, their body makes antibodies that attack gluten, causing damage to the small intestine. The inflammation and subsequent damage of the small intestine are responsible for the symptoms.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a different medical condition which also is improved by excluding or limiting gluten from the diet and replacing it with grains whose composition is different.

Research has shown that avenin, the protein found in oats, is tolerable by the majority of people with celiac disease. However, approximately one in five people with celiac disease reacts to avenin. In addition, oats are prone to cross-contamination from gluten of the other cereal grains. For these reasons, New Zealand and Australia prohibit labeling products made with oats as gluten-free, only as gluten-friendly.

What is gluten-free?

Gluten-free recipes involve using starches that contain no gluten. I have seen formulae using the following types of starch to provide the consistency of gluten flours: quinoa, tapioca (cassava), rice, sorghum, amaranth, arrowroot, plantain, millet and buckwheat (kasha). I presume that there are others.

From a kashrus perspective, gluten-free pastry must have hashgacha, just as any other baked goods do, because of various non-kosher ingredients they could contain. But our question was specifically about whether there are pas akum or bishul akum concerns.

Above, I noted that some prominent authorities contend that bishul akum does not apply to commercial food production. In addition, other strong heterim may apply here in that oats, sorghum, amaranth, arrowroot, plantain, millet and buckwheat would, on their own, not qualify as oleh al shulchan melachim. In addition, there is another very important heter here: The non-gluten flours are not the primary taste factors in gluten-free pastry. They are included to provide consistency, but the flavor components are the sugar, oils and fruits, all of which are edible and quite tasty unbaked — the U of YUM (Shu”t Tashbeitz 1:89; 3:11; Pri Chadash). I leave the final decision to the rabbis of the kashrus organization involved.

Conclusion

The Gemara teaches that the rabbinic laws are dearer to Hashem than the Torah laws. In this context, we can explain the vast halachic literature devoted to understanding a prohibition such as bishul akum, created by Chazal to protect the Jewish people from major sins.

Chalav Yisrael and Powdered Milk

According to the midrash quoted by Rashi, the baby Moshe refused to nurse from non-Jewish women, although this is not the way we use the term Chalav Yisrael in this article.

Question:

Dr. Levy asks me the following: “Friends of ours keep chalav Yisrael, but they will use foods made with non-chalav-Yisrael powdered milk. But I know from my professional work that one can purchase powdered mare’s (female horses) and camel’s milk – they are considered specialty items. So, why is there any difference between using non-chalav- Yisrael powdered milk and non-chalav Yisrael fluid milk?”

The Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 35b, 39b) proscribes consuming milk that a gentile milked unless a Jew supervised the milking, a prohibition called chalav akum, out of concern that the milk may have been adulterated with milk of a non-kosher species. In a different article (The Milky Whey), I noted that there are several opinions as to how to define the prohibition. The most lenient approach is that of the Pri Chodosh (Yoreh Deah 115:15), who understands that one needs to be concerned about chalav akum only when the non-kosher milk is less expensive than the kosher variety, or it is difficult to sell. However, when kosher milk is less expensive, the Pri Chodosh contends that one does not need to be concerned that the gentile would add more expensive specialty non-kosher milk into regular, kosher milk.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Chasam Sofer maintains that the prohibition has a halachic status of davar shebeminyan, a rabbinic injunction that remains binding, until a larger and more authoritative body declares the original sanction invalid, even when the reason the takanah was introduced no longer applies (see Beitzah 5a). Since a more authoritative beis din never rescinded the prohibition on unsupervised gentile milk, consuming this milk involves a serious violation. The Chasam Sofer requires that a Jew must be able to observe the milking, and if not, the produced milk is completely non-kosher because of the rabbinic injunction, even when the non-Jew has no incentive to adulterate the product.

In between these two positions, there is the opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Chazon Ish (Yoreh Deah 41:4) that in a place where non-kosher milk commands a higher price than kosher milk, it is still prohibited to use non-supervised milk. However, Rav Moshe understands that the takanah did not specifically require that a Jew attend the milking, but that one is convinced that the milk has no admixture of non-kosher. However, whenever it is certain that the kosher milk is unadulterated, halacha considers the milk “supervised” (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:47).

How can one be certain? The Mishnah recommended an obvious way: have a Jew nearby who may check at any moment. Of course, this method is not foolproof, but halacha did not require more.

Is there another way that one can be certain? Allow me to use my own example to explain Rav Moshe’s approach. Dr. Levy, our questioner, runs laboratory tests on a sample of unsupervised milk and concludes, with absolute certainty, that it is 100% sheep’s milk. However, no Jew supervised the milking. Is the milk kosher?

According to Rav Moshe’s analysis, this milk is certainly kosher, since we can ascertain its source.

In his earliest published teshuvah on the subject, Rav Moshe explained that when the government levies fines for adulteration of cow’s milk, the fear of this fine is sufficient proof that the milk is kosher. In later teshuvos, he is very clear that other reasons why we can assume that the milk is kosher are sufficient proof, including that normal commercial enterprises assume that standard milk is bovine milk (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:48, 49).

Being stringent

Although Rav Moshe concludes that where one can rely that the standardly available milk is kosher there is no prohibition of chalav akum, he still rules in a different teshuvah that a chinuch institution should use only chalav Yisrael products, even if all the children come from homes that do not use chalav Yisrael exclusively. He contends that part of chinuch is to show children that one follows a stricter standard, even when halacha does not necessarily require one.

Powdered milk

We can now address the question mentioned above: “Friends of ours keep chalav Yisrael, but they will use foods made from non-chalav-Yisrael powdered milk. But I know from my professional work that one can purchase powdered mare’s and camel’s milk – they are considered specialty items. So, why is there any difference between using non-chalav- Yisrael powdered milk and non-chalav-Yisrael fluid milk?”

Those who allow use of non-chalav-Yisrael milk powder follow the opinion presented by Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Rav of Yerushalayim until his passing a little over sixty years ago and one of the greatest poskim of his era. Rav Frank assumed that the halacha follows the Chasam Sofer, who requires Jewish supervision to permit the non-Jewish milk, and did not accept the heterim of the Pri Chodosh, nor that of the Igros Moshe and the Chazon Ish. Nevertheless, Rav Frank permitted powdered milk from an unsupervised gentile source, for a very interesting reason.

The poskim permit using cheese that is gevinas Yisrael and butter, even when these products are made from unsupervised milk. (I discussed both of these topics in other articles — How Do We Make Kosher Cheese?, and The Great Cottage Cheese Controversy). Why did they permit this? Because non-kosher milk is low in casein, and, therefore, it does not curd, which is the first step in producing cheese. It is also low in milkfat (also called butterfat or cream), which makes it nonprofitable to make butter from non-kosher milk. (Those curious are invited to read the highly entertaining responsum of the Melamed LeHo’il, 2:36:2, on this topic.) For these reasons, even in the days of Chazal, one could assume that a gentile would not add non-kosher milk when he intends to produce either cheese or butter, and therefore, these items were excluded from the prohibition of chalav akum.

May powdered milk be treated like cheese and butter?

Rav Frank notes that there is a qualitative difference between cheese and butter, on the one hand, and powdered milk, on the other, in that there is an inherent difficulty with making cheese and butter from non-kosher milk, whereas one can easily powder any milk. (This is precisely Dr. Levy’s question I mentioned above.) Thus, one could argue that the leniency that applies to cheese and butter should not apply to milk powder.

However, Rav Frank quotes the Ritva (Avodah Zarah 35b) who pointed out that, technically, one could make cheese even from non-kosher species, but the cheese yield from these milks is very poor, and when the milk curds, most of it becomes whey. Thus, although it is theoretically possible to make cheese or butter from non-kosher milk, the halacha does not require one to be concerned about this. Rather, one may assume that a gentile would not adulterate this milk. It is indeed noteworthy that while researching milk and cheese made the world over, I discovered cheeses made from the milk of cows, sheep, goats, water buffalo and yak, all of them kosher species, and milk used from non-kosher mammals such as donkeys, mares, llamas and camels, but I found not a single populace making any variety of cheese from the non-kosher milk. Thus, although the Ritva attests that it could be done, it is simply not worthwhile.

Rav Frank concludes that what permits the unsupervised milk used in cheese and butter is not that it is impossible to use non-kosher milk but that it is unlikely. Thus, he reasons, although one can powder non-kosher milk, the prohibition of chalav akum was limited to fluid milk and other products available in the days of Chazal which could be made easily from non-kosher milk. Since powdered milk did not exist in the days of Chazal, and since we are certain that standardly available powdered milk is of bovine origin, the prohibition against chalav akum does not apply to milk powder, just as it does not apply to butter and cheese.

We should note that the Chazon Ish took strong issue with Rav Frank’s position treating milk powder differently from fluid milk. The Chazon Ish contends that the lenience that applies to cheese and butter applies only because these products, inherently, are not made from non-kosher milk, a logic that does not apply to milk powder.

Thus, Dr. Levy’s friends who keep chalav Yisrael but use foods made with non-chalav Yisrael powdered milk follow the conclusion of Rav Pesach Frank, whereas those who are strict regarding milk powder follow the Chazon Ish’s approach. In Eretz Yisrael, this has become one of the major defining factors for the difference between what is called mehadrin (stricter) kashrus standard, and non-mehadrin hechsherim. The regular hechsherim allow use of non-chalav Yisrael milk powder (imported from the United States), whereas the mehadrin hechsherim use only chalav Yisrael products. (By the way, no Eretz Yisrael hechsher allows the use of unsupervised fluid milk as kosher; all hechsherim, both mehadrin and non-mehadrin, have accepted the position of the Chasam Sofer.)

Basar Bechalav

In this week’s parsha, Avraham Avinu serves his guests milchig and then fleishig…

Question #1: The Case of the Desperate Chef!

“I am frantically looking for a job. May I work in the kitchen of a KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken)? What if I have to flip cheeseburgers?”

Question #2: The Last Lapp

“I am in northern Norway, herding reindeer, and I want to know whether doe milk is kosher and milchig?”

Question #3: May I Smoke?

“May I smoke meat and dairy together?”

Introduction:

In three places the Torah teaches lo sevashel gedi bachaleiv imo, “Do not cook a kid in the milk of its mother.” We all know that halacha prohibits eating milk and meat together and requires waiting after eating meat, before eating dairy. These latter are prohibited only miderabbanan, unless the meat and milk were cooked together.

Three and over

The Gemara (Chullin 115b) notes that the thrice mentioning of the Torah’s prohibition can be violated three different ways, by (1) cooking, (2) eating the cooked milk-meat mixture or by (3) benefiting from this mixture.

Although we should be and are careful to observe all details of halacha, whether obligated min haTorah or miderabbanan, we are required to know whether a particular observance is Torah law or is only a rabbinic injunction (see Avos Derabbi Nosson Chapter 1:7 with commentary of Binyan Yehoshua). In the case of basar bechalav, there is an additional reason to know whether something is prohibited min haTorah or because of rabbinic injunction. The prohibitions against cooking basar becholov and benefiting from it apply only to meat and milk that violate the law min haTorah. When the meat or the milk is prohibited because of a rabbinic injunction, the prohibition is limited to consumption of the product, not to cooking or benefiting from it (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 87:3; Rema, Yoreh Deah 87:1 and commentaries in both places; cf. Yam shel Shelomoh, Chullin, 8:100, who disagrees, but whose opinion is not accepted by the later authorities). Please bear in mind that, as always, the purpose of our article is to educate, and not to pasken; that is the responsibility of each individual’s rav or posek.

Therefore, if meat and dairy were mixed together when cold, there is no prohibition of benefiting from the product. For this reason, it is not a violation of the law of benefiting from basar becholov to sell bagged pet food, even when it contains both meat and dairy products, since they are not cooked together, but mixed together at room temperature.

We will soon see that there is much halachic discussion as to which animal species are included in the prohibition, both min haTorah and miderabbanan, and which types of food preparation or cooking are included. Most of these laws are derived from the unusual way that the written Torah teaches this mitzvah.

When teaching about most ma’achalos asuros, prohibited food items, the Torah usually states, in a very straightforward way, that something “may not be eaten.” In the instance of basar becholov, the Torah does not say this, but simply commands not to cook kid’s meat in its mother’s milk. Therefore, we derive that only meat and milk “cooked” together is prohibited min haTorah, and only from species similar to goats.

Fowl play

There is a dispute among tanna’im whether the prohibition of basar becholov applies only to mammals or also to fowl. The conclusion is that the Torah prohibition of basar becholov does not apply to fowl, since they never have any type of “mother’s milk.” Milk is limited to mammals, not to avian creatures. Nevertheless, according to most tanna’im, Chazal prohibited consumption of milk and poultry. According to one tanna, Rabbi Yosi Hagalili, it is permitted, even miderabbanan, to eat milk together with poultry, even if they are cooked together (Chullin 116a). In his opinion, you may cook and serve your favorite chicken-in-cheese-sauce recipe. We have Talmudic statements that demonstrate that, in the era of the Mishnah, there were still communities that permitted eating poultry cooked in milk (Shabbos 130a; Yevamos 14a; Chullin 116a). However, since the time of the Gemara, Rabbi Yosi Hagalili’s opinion is not accepted, so eating chicken prepared this way is prohibited, and the pots and other equipment used to prepare and serve poultry cooked in milk become treif and require kashering to return them to kosher use.

The desperate chef!

At this point, let us examine the first part of our opening question: “I am frantically looking for a job. May I work in the kitchen of a KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken)?”

There is a kashrus issue here: KFC’s breading includes dairy ingredients. Several years ago, a kosher branch of KFC was opened in Israel and required a specially formulated breading to be certified kosher and pareve. (The breading mix manufactured for KFC’s other locations was kosher and dairy, although we well understand why the company never requested kashrus certification for it.)

Since consuming poultry cooked with dairy is prohibited only miderabbanan, it is permitted to cook poultry with dairy. However, there is another halachic issue here — it is prohibited lechatchilah to seek earnings from foodstuffs prohibited min haTorah, such as non-shechted poultry. I would suggest that Desperate seek alternative employment better suited to a nice Jewish boy.

Non-kosher species

Since the Torah describes the prohibition as referring to “a kid in the milk of its mother,” the halacha is that only kosher species are included in the prohibition, since “kid,” gedi in Hebrew, usually means only baby sheep and baby goats, although, upon occasion, the word can refer also to calves (Chullin 113b).

Where the deer and the antelope roam

Reindeer are a kosher species and are milked in places where they are herded and raised as cattle, such as in northern Europe, including Lapland and northern Scandinavia. The Torah prohibition of basar becholov is limited to eating the flesh (also known as the meat) of a kosher animal that is categorized as a beheimah that was cooked in the milk of a beheimah, but does not include either the milk or the meat of a chayah. When either the meat or the milk is of a chayah, the prohibition to consume the mixture is only miderabbanan.

It is difficult to define the differences between beheimah and chayah. Although we know that beheimah includes cattle and sheep, whereas chayah includes deer and antelope, the common definition of beheimah as “domesticated kosher species,” and chayah as “beast,” “non-domesticated” or “wild species” is not halachically accurate. For example, reindeer, which qualify as chayah,are domesticated, whereas wisents, Cape buffalo, bighorn sheep and Dell’s sheep, none of which is domesticated, are probably varieties of beheimah.

A more accurate description of beheimah is a genus or category in which most common species qualify as livestock, and chayah is a genus or category in which most common species are usually not livestock.

The halachic definitions of beheimah and chayah are dependent on the type of horn or antlers that the animal proudly displays. However, the terminology used by the Gemara to explain this is subject to disputes among the rishonim, and, therefore, the accepted halachic practice is to treat any species of which we have no mesorah whether it is a chayah or a beheimah as a safek in both directions (see Shach, Yoreh Deah 82:1 and commentaries thereon). This is why bison (American buffalo) is treated with the stringencies of both beheimah and chayah, notwithstanding that its horns seem to fit the description of a beheimah. Don’t cook your bison burgers in milk!

Last Lapp

At this point, we can address the next of our opening questions: “I am in northern Norway, herding reindeer, and I want to know whether doe milk is kosher and milchig?”

The answer is that it is not milchig min haTorah, but miderabbanan it is considered milchig. Therefore, a Jew may not eat reindeer venison cooked in milk, nor may he eat beef, veal or lamb cooked in reindeer milk. However, it is permitted to cook meat with reindeer milk or cheese, or cook reindeer venison with cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk or cheese. It is also permitted to benefit from any of these preparations.

So our frum Lapp may cook and sell venison cooked in reindeer milk, if he shechted the reindeer first. If there is a market for such products in Lapland, perhaps Desperate should be in touch with him! But, remember that a Jew may not eat this product, because of rabbinic injunction.

Cheese

Since we mentioned cheese, I will add that, according to most authorities, cow’s, buffalo’s, sheep’s and goat’s cheese are milchig min haTorah. There is a minority opinion that holds that, just as lactose, a dairy by-product, is milchig only miderabbanan (a topic upon which I have written a different essay), so cheese is, also, milchig only miderabbanan. However, the vast majority of later authorities reject this position (see Yalkut Yosef, Isur Vaheter, Volume III, page 114).

Marinating

As I mentioned above, the prohibitions of eating cold meat and milk together or eating dairy shortly after consuming meat are only miderabbanan. The prohibition of lo sevashel gedi bachaleiv imo is violated min haTorah only by cooking meat and dairy together or by eating meat and dairy that were previously cooked together.

There are many methods of making food edible and very tasty that do not use heat, including salting, pickling and marinating. Preparing food this way causes the flavors of the different ingredients to blend together, which halacha calls beli’ah. When one ingredient is, on its own, non-kosher, everything salted, pickled or marinated together has now become non-kosher. If the kashrus prohibition is min haTorah, such as, meat that was not shechted, non-kosher fat (cheilev), blood, or non-kosher species, the other food that was salted, pickled or marinated together has also become non-kosher min haTorah.

However, since lo sevashel gedi bachaleiv imo includes only cooking meat and milk together, there is no prohibition to marinate or salt meat and milk together. The product manufactured this way may not be eaten, but only because of a rabbinic injunction (see Nazir 37a; Pesachim 44b). Furthermore, there is no prohibition, even miderabbanan, in manufacturing or in benefiting from this mixture (Rema, Yoreh Deah 87:1).

Grilling

At this point, we can examine the second part of Desperate’s question, which opened our essay. “What if I have to grill cheeseburgers?” These products are not cooked in liquid, but are grilled. Is grilling, frying or broiling included in the Torah violation of cooking milk and meat together?

From the way Rashi and Tosafos explain the passage of Gemara in Sanhedrin 4b, it appears that frying dairy and meat together is not prohibited min haTorah. There is also strong evidence that the Ran (Commentary to Rif, Chullin, Chapter 8, on the Mishnah 108a c.v. Tipas chalav) held a similar, if not identical, approach. If this opinion is halachically correct, Desperate could work in a restaurant that uses kosher meat to make its cheeseburgers.

However, many authorities conclude that cooking basar becholov using any type of heat is prohibited min haTorah (Pri Chadash, Yoreh Deah, 87:2; Peleisi 87:2; Chachmas Adam 40:1). According to this approach, grilling cheeseburgers will land Desperate in hot water.

Other prominent authorities rule that consuming basar becholov prepared in these ways is prohibited only by rabbinic injunction (Maharam Shiff (commentary, end of Mesechta Chullin; Pri Megadim, introduction to Basar Bechalav, s.v. Vehinei). And then, there are some authorities that draw distinctions among the various methods of cooking with heat. For example, Rav Yaakov Reisch, a very prominent early eighteenth-century posek, rules that roasting (which presumably includes broiling and grilling) is prohibited min haTorah, but frying is not (Soles Lamincha, Klal 85:3). This approach is based on his analysis of the pesukim and the passages of the Gemara, but without explaining any reason for the distinction, other than the usage of the word bishul. (See also Shu’t Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah #97, who has yet another approach to the topic.) Other prominent authorities reach the same conclusion (Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav 87:1). Among the late authorities, this issue is left as an unresolved dispute. Therefore, the halachic assumption is that we should be machmir in all of these disputed areas.

May I smoke?

At this point, we can explore the third of our opening questions: “May I smoke meat and dairy together?”

To the best of my knowledge, smoking meat and dairy is not addictive, contains no nicotine, and does not cause emphysema. The question is whether it violates the laws of basar becholov. In answer to the halachic question, it appears to have been discussed in a passage of Talmud Yerushalmi (Nedorim 6:1): “The rabbis of Kisrin asked: What is the law of smoked food, in regard to the prohibition of bishul akum? Concerning cooking on Shabbos? What is its law regarding mixing meat and milk together?” The passage of Yerushalmi then changes the subject, without ruling on any of the three questions, something not unusual in the Talmud Yerushalmi.

Based on this unresolved question, the Rambam (Hilchos Ma’achalos Asuros 9:6) appears to rule that the issue is treated as a safek, a doubt, with the following conclusions: When our issue [of whether something is considered cooking] is a halacha that is min haTorah, we rule stringently. However, someone who violated this act would not be punished, since it remains unresolved whether this is indeed prohibited min haTorah. However, when the issue is a rabbinic question, we rule leniently and do not consider smoking to be cooking.

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 87:6) follows the same approach as the Rambam. Since the issue of whether it is permitted to smoke dairy and meat together is of Torah law, we rule stringently and forbid it.

The Pri Chadash (Yoreh Deah 87:2,3) and the Gra (Yoreh Deah 87:13) conclude that, although the Yerushalmi passage in Nedorim quoted above did not render a decision whether smoking qualifies as cooking or not, a passage of Talmud Yerushalmi in mesechta Shabbos does conclude that smoking is considered cooking. Therefore, they rule that smoking meat and dairy together is definitely prohibited min haTorah, and that the resultant food is certainly prohibited for benefit, min haTorah. Although several later authorities agree with the conclusion of the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch, according to both approaches it is prohibited to smoke meat and dairy together. The practical dispute between the two opinions involves only more esoteric issues, such as whether the violator can still be a kosher witness.

Heavy smoker

We should note that the terms “smoking food” or “smoked food” can mean several different ways of manufacturing. The presumed case of the Talmud Yerushalmi is similar to the processing today of frankfurters and many other sausages, which are “cooked” in smoke, often in an appliance called a smoker. Rather than being cooked directly by the fire, or by water that is heated by fire, these foods are cooked by hot smoke. This is also a common way raw salmon is processed into lox.

Cured smoker

There is another method of preparing food that involves smoke, but where the food, itself, is processed without heat. Wood is burned inside a sealed room called a “smokehouse.” The food to be smoked is placed inside the smokehouse for several days or weeks, while the smoke, now cool, cures the food, providing it with a smoky flavor. Since the food production in this instance takes place in ambient temperature, this process should not be considered “cooking” for basar becholov purposes (see Perisha, Yoreh Deah 87:9). Therefore, the finished product is prohibited for consumption only miderabbanan, and there is no prohibition to cure meat and dairy together using this method or to benefit from the product. Thus, Desperate could engage in this line of work. We should note that there is one late authority who considers this method of producing food to be similar to cooking (Chadrei Deah, quoted by Badei Hashulchan, Biurim 87:6, s.v. Ha’me’ushan), but, to the best of my knowledge, this approach is rejected by all other authorities.

Smoke flavored

There is a modern method of providing “smoke flavor” to food that involves preparing food by steaming, cooking or broiling, and smoke flavor, a natural or synthetic ingredient, is added to provide smoke taste. Whether this is prohibited min haTorah or miderabbanan when processing meat and dairy together will depend on which method is used, and also on the above-mentioned disputes among halachic authorities. I do not recommend that Desperate seek employment in a firm that does this.

Conclusion

A well-known, non-Jewish criticism of Judaism is: “Does G-d care more about what goes into our mouths than He does about what comes out?” The criticism is, of course, both mistaken and conceited. Our development as avdei Hashem involves both what goes in and what comes out, and the height of vanity is to decide which is “more” important in His eyes. Being careful about what we eat and about what we say is a vital step in our growth as human beings.

The Milky Way

The custom of eating dairy on Shavuos has a long history; certainly, we should review the topic of…

Does Chalav Yisrael Apply Today?

Question #1:

Shirley mentions to her friend: “I do not understand why some people keep chalav Yisrael today. Do they really think that someone is adding pig’s milk?”

Question #2:

Muttie inquires: “My friend quoted his rav that it is more important to keep chalav Yisrael today than it ever was before. How could this be?”

Chazal (Bechoros 6b) derive from this week’s parsha a rule that whatever comes from a non-kosher species, such as eggs or milk, is also non-kosher. Thus, milk of mares, camels, llamas, donkeys or sows are all non-kosher. Still, people find chalav Yisrael a perplexing subject matter. We have all heard various authorities quoted that today use of chalav Yisrael is only a chumrah, whereas others rule that consuming non-chalav Yisrael foods is a serious infraction of halacha. The mission of this article is to provide appreciation of the issues involved. So, let us start from the beginning of the topic by understanding the origins of this proscription and then explaining the different approaches why it does or does not apply today.

Before we even begin our halachic discussion, we need some biological and food production information. The definition of a mammal is an animal that nurses its young with mother’s milk. (The Modern Hebrew word for mammal is yoneik, literally, that which nurses, meaning that the young suckles mother’s milk.) Hashem, who provides for all His creatures, custom-developed a formula that provides the ideal nourishment for the young of each mammalian species. This supplies the perfect “food pyramid” balanced diet with all the proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that a young growing foal, cub, kitten, puppy, kid, lamb, infant or calf need to thrive and mature until they are ready for an adult diet, which in many species is when they are ready to earn their own living.

There are thousands of species of mammals, yet each species’ milk is somewhat unique. The young of kosher animals require a certain protein, called casein, in higher proportions than do the young of non-kosher animals, and therefore Hashem made kosher milk with a higher proportion of casein. Non-kosher milk, of course, also contains significant amount of protein necessary for a young growing mammal, but most of this protein is categorized as “whey protein.” (When I use the term “non-kosher milk” in this article, I will be referring to milk from non-kosher species.) Kosher milk also contains whey protein, but in much smaller proportion to the casein.

The Origins of Chalav Yisrael

The Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 35b, 39b) proscribes consuming milk that a gentile milked, unless a Jew supervised the milking, a prohibition called chalav akum. The Gemara notes that we are not concerned that the gentile is misrepresenting non-kosher milk as kosher — milk from non-kosher species looks different from kosher milk, and this would be easily identified. Rather, the prohibition is because the milk may have been adulterated with milk of a non-kosher species. The Gemara subsequently discusses how closely must the Jew supervise the milking; it concludes that, when the gentile has both kosher and non-kosher animals that could be milked, the Jew may be sitting in a place where he cannot observe the milking, provided that, should he stand up, he could. Since the Jew can stand up at any moment, we may assume that the gentile would not risk milking his non-kosher animal and losing the Jew’s business. Therefore, this milk still qualifies as kosher chalav Yisrael, milk supervised by a Jew.

On the other hand, should the gentile have only kosher species in his herd, the Gemara implies that less supervision is necessary, but it does not define exactly how much. The milking still requires the attendance of a Jew, but halachic authorities dispute the reason and purpose of the Jew’s presence. This dispute is what underlies the controversy alluded to above.

The most lenient approach

The most lenient approach is that of the Pri Chadash (Yoreh Deah 115:15), who contends that there are concerns about chalav akum only when non-kosher milk is less expensive than kosher, or when non-kosher milk is obtainable but difficult to sell. However, when kosher milk is less expensive than non-kosher, halacha has no concern that non-kosher product may contaminate kosher milk. The Pri Chadash reports that, at the time that he wrote his commentary, he was living in Amsterdam, and the vast majority of the Torah community there accepted this interpretation and drank milk sold by gentiles. He adds that he himself relied on this approach and drank the milk. The Pri Chadash explains that halacha does not require that a Jew observe the milking, nor is there any requirement to verify that non-kosher milk was not added. The Mishnah and Gemara require a Jew to supervise the milking only when it is financially advantageous for the non-Jew to adulterate milk.

Chasam Sofer’s approach

On the other hand, the Chasam Sofer (Shu”t Yoreh Deah #107) opposed any lenience to use milk from gentiles. He maintained that Chazal required that a Jew actually supervise the milking, and that this sanction remains binding, even should its rationale no longer apply, until a more authoritative body retracts it (see Beitzah 5a). Since this has never happened, consuming unsupervised gentile milk remains prohibited. The Chasam Sofer requires that a Jew observe (or be able to observe) the milking, even when no incentive exists to adulterate the product.

Risk of snake bite

Chazal (Bava Basra 110a; Avodah Zarah 27b) invoke the verse uporeitz geder yishachenu nachash (Koheles 10:8) to mean thatsomeone violating a rabbinic injunction deserves to be bitten by a snake, indicating the importance of observing rabbinic prohibitions. The Chasam Sofer writes that someone who ignores the rabbinic prohibition of chalav akum and drinks milk, relying that the gentile would not add non-kosher milk, should be categorized as a poreitz geder deservant of the punishment of yishachenu nachash.

Furthermore, the Chasam Sofer contends that even should kosher milk be cheaper than non-kosher, since the Jewish people rejected the ruling of the Pri Chadash, unsupervised dairy products are prohibited because of the laws of nedarim, vows. Since Jews do not consume chalav akum even in places where non-kosher species are not milked, it is considered that they accepted a vow to prohibit unsupervised milk. As a result, the Chasam Sofer rules that it is prohibited min HaTorah, with the full stringency of a vow, to consume unsupervised milk.

A middle road

An approach between these two positions, that of Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Chazon Ish (Yoreh Deah 41:4), who contend that in a place where non-kosher milk commands a higher price than kosher milk, it is still prohibited to use non-supervised milk. However, Rav Moshe understands that the takanah did not require specifically that a Jew attend the milking, but that one must be completely certain that the milk has no admixture of non-kosher. When it is certain that the kosher milk is unadulterated, halacha considers the milk to be “supervised” (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:47).

How can one be certain? The Mishnah recommended the most obvious way: have a Jew nearby who may enter at any moment. Of course, we realize that even this method is not foolproof, but it is as thorough as halacha requires.

Is there another way that one can be certain? Someone runs laboratory tests on some unsupervised milk and concludes, with absolute certainty, that it is 100% sheep’s milk. Yet, no Jew supervised the milking. Is the milk kosher?

According to Rav Moshe’s analysis, this milk is certainly kosher since we can ascertain its source.

In his earliest published teshuvah on the subject, Rav Moshe explained that, when the government fines those caught adulterating cow’s milk, the fear of this consequence is sufficient proof that the milk is kosher. In later teshuvos, he is very clear that other reasons why we can assume that the milk is kosher are sufficient proof, including that normal commercial practice is that standard milk is bovine milk (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:48, 49). One should note that the Chazon Ish agrees with Rav Moshe’s approach. We should also note that this heter applies only where the absolute assumption is that the milk is from kosher species, but not anywhere where camel’s milk, mare’s milk or milk from other non-kosher species is commonly sold or available.

Being Stringent

Rav Moshe concludes that, even where one can rely that the standardly available milk is kosher, and there is therefore no prohibition of chalav akum, a chinuch institution should use only chalav Yisrael products, even when all the children come from homes that do not use chalav Yisrael exclusively. He notes that this is an aspect of chinuch – to teach the importance of following a stricter standard than halacha necessarily requires.

Contemporary Problem

There is another reason why some poskim require use of chalav Yisrael today. This is because of the common occurrence in the contemporary world of a veterinary problem affecting dairy cows called displaced abomasums, which is often treated in a way that may render this cow’s milk non-kosher. I will discuss this topic a different time.

At this point, we can answer Shirley’s question: “I do not understand why some people keep chalav Yisrael today. Do they really think that someone is adding pig’s milk?”

Indeed, even in the time of the Gemara, it was probably unheard of for anyone to add pig’s milk or, for that matter, for anyone to use pig’s milk, since sows are almost impossible to milk. Although most non-kosher species do not allow themselves to be milked (have you ever tried to milk a cat?), camels, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, and mares can all be milked and produce a palatable product. Contemporarily, there is extensive research at Ben Gurion University about use of antibodies found in camel’s milk for treatment of autoimmune diseases. I have been asked about using this milk, which is clearly non-kosher, but is permitted in case of a life-threatening ailment.

To answer Shirley’s question succinctly: Although we can assume that the milk on your supermarket shelf is unadulterated cow’s milk, the Chasam Sofer still rules that Chazal prohibited consuming this milk. In his opinion, this prohibition is in full effect today, even when the reason for the takanah no longer applies. Furthermore, he suggests that the prohibition to use this milk might even be min haTorah . Other rabbonim have voiced other concerns about the kashrus of unsupervised dairy cows.

Stricter than Ever?

At this point, let us examine Muttie’s question: “My friend quoted his rav that it is more important to keep chalav Yisrael today than it ever was before. How could this be?”

One obvious reason for this rav’s position is that he holds like the Chasam Sofer that using non-chalav Yisrael incurs a Torah prohibition of violating vows. Furthermore, he may feel that since being lenient on this issue is so rampant, one must demonstrate the importance of this mitzvah. He also may be concerned about the displaced abomasums problem, and holds that this prohibits the milk min haTorah.

In Conclusion

Notwithstanding that the Chazon Ish writes several reasons why unsupervised milk is permitted, he never allowed its use. Rav Moshe similarly advocates being strict, and himself did not rely on the heter. It is also well known that Rav Eliezer Silver traveled across North America by train and took his own chalav Yisrael milk with him as he went. (I have no idea why it did not spoil en route.) In conclusion, I suggest clarifying with your rav whether you should rely on using non-chalav Yisrael milk.

Prepared to DeLIVER

In many places, the Torah forbids the consumption of blood. In chutz la’aretz, this week’s parsha is Acharei, which is one of the places where this prohibition of blood is mentioned. In Eretz Yisrael, the reading is Kedoshim, in which there are nine references to blood, in the context of different prohibitions. This makes it an appropriate week to discuss the laws of preparing livers according to halacha.

Question #1: Just a sLIVER

May a liver be broiled whole?

Question #2: DeLIVERed Electronically

May I kasher livers on an electric grill?

Question #3: Special DeLIVERy

I was told that if I plan to fry the livers I receive from the butcher, I must tell this to him when I order them. Why?

Question #4: Not Chopped LIVER

How broiled does liver need to be before I cook it?

Introduction:

In ancient times, it was noted that liver could be used to treat night blindness. With time, it was discovered that liver contains an organic chemical called retinol, C20H30O, which was called a vitamin, because it helped life (vita-), and it was thought to be an amine (-amin). However, all amines contain nitrogen (think of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins), and retinol does not. Consequently, the term “vitamin” was redefined to mean complex, organic substances, naturally occurring in plant or animal tissue, that are essential for metabolism.

Missing letters

Since retinol was the first vitamin to be identified, it was given the name vitamin A. (Today, retinol is called vitamin A1, and is usually extracted from fish liver oils.) As other vitamins were discovered, they were identified by subsequent letters of the alphabet. Eventually, some, such as vitamins G and H, were recategorized as part of the “vitamin B” group, whereas others, such as vitamins F and I, were dropped from the vitamin list and categorized differently, which is why the vitamin list is missing letters. Vitamin F contains nitrogen and is now categorized as an amino acid, and vitamin I is now categorized as an anti-inflammatory.

Our own liver has many important functions, including the manufacture of cholesterol and bile and also removal of cholesterol from the blood. However, our article will discuss neither human nor fish liver, but the kashrus of beef and poultry liver. As we all know, the meat of these animals can be consumed when they have had a proper kosher slaughter, shechitah, and, in the case of beef, after certain fats, nerves (the gid hana’sheh, the sciatic nerve) and blood      vessels are removed via a procedure called nikur (in Hebrew), or traberen (in Yiddish, from the Aramaic word tarba, which means cheilev, non-kosher fat).

Poultry must also have its blood extracted, but the gid hana’sheh does not need to be removed from fowl, nor does any fat need to be removed.

Removing blood

In many places, the Torah forbids the consumption of blood. But all meat contains blood! After all, it is the hemoglobin in the blood that provides meat with its red color. And even poultry and other meats that are not red contain blood. So, how can we eat meat?

Chazal explain that the forbidden blood is extracted from the meat either by soaking and salting the meat, or by broiling. The salt or the fire extracts the forbidden blood from the meat, and whatever remains is not considered blood, according to halacha.

The blood of liver is usually removed by broiling. This article will examine when broiling works for kashering both meat and liver, and we will discover that there are early opinions that permitted preparing liver for the Jewish table without broiling it.

For most of mankind’s history, kashering meat and liver was always performed at home. However, in the last two generations, it became commonplace that the butcher takes care of it, and, within the past decade, meat is often kashered at the abattoir. Still, there are individuals who kasher their own meat, which allows them to follow certain practices that usually qualify as chumros, and which are impractical to follow on a commercial basis. (Our readership should be aware that, due to government regulations in certain countries, kashering meat on a commercial basis involves serious halachic compromises. In these countries, none of them in North America, arrangements should be made to kasher meat at home.) In addition, I have personally witnessed both meat and liver kashered inadequately or inappropriately in commercial facilities. However, a responsible hechsher will make certain that this does not happen.

Broiling meat

Halachically, it is perfectly acceptable to broil meat to remove its blood, rather than salt it. However, usually, it is soaked and salted. We should be aware that someone whose health requires them to be concerned about the elevated sodium content that results from kashering should explore with their rav or posek the possibility of purchasing unkashered meat and broiling it, without salt. (Although we salt meat slightly when kashering it by broiling, this salt may be omitted for someone who must be concerned about sodium consumption.)

Liver

The Gemara (Chullin 110b-111a) provides a lengthy and fascinating discussion whether liver, which is the bloodiest organ in the body, can be kashered by soaking and salting. To quote the Gemara: Abayei said to Rav Safra, “When you go to Eretz Yisrael, ask them what they do with liver.” When Rav Safra reached Eretz Yisrael, he asked Rav Zereika, who answered him, “I boiled liver to serve Rav Asi, and he ate it.” (We would find this strange, but this will be explained shortly.) Many months, or perhaps years, later, when Rav Safra returned to Bavel, he reported his findings to Abayei, who answered him: “I know that preparing liver this way is not a problem. The question I wanted you to find out was whether the blood of liver can be removed while you are kashering other meat.” Abayei then quoted a Mishnah (Terumos 10:11) that preparing liver in certain ways prohibits food upon which the blood splatters, but the liver itself is permitted. This is because, while extracting blood from the liver, it does not absorb blood (provided that the blood can drain; removing blood from meat or liver always requires that the extracted blood drains as it is salted or broiled). However, extracting blood from the liver might prohibit other meat that is kashered with it.

The story that Rav Zereika tells us is unclear. Was the liver that Rav Zereika cooked to serve Rav Asi already broiled? If it was, what new halachic idea was he teaching Rav Safra? Both of them were major Torah scholars, and Rav Safra presumably asked Rav Zereika a question that was now answered, even if this was not the issue bothering Abayei.

To resolve this question, Rabbeinu Tam explains that liver does not require salting or broiling, unless you want to cook it together with other meat (Tosafos, Chullin 110b s.v. Kavda). This appears to also have been Rashi’s approach. The reason is because the liver is basically blood, yet the Torah permitted its consumption. The assumption of Rabbeinu Tam is that the blood in the liver is permitted. This would explain the conversation of Abayei and Rav Safra.

The Tur (Yoreh Deah 73) cites this opinion of Rabbeinu Tam, but does not accept it.

Most authorities disagree with Rabbeinu Tam and understand that Rav Zereika soaked and salted the liver first, the same way we kasher meat, and then cooked it. Abayei’s question was whether it is permitted to cook liver that has been salted this way with other meat, or whether this will prohibit the meat with which it is cooked. According to the latter alternative, liver may be soaked and salted to serve as chopped liver, or may be broiled and eaten without any other ingredients. The reason we do not soak and salt liver is because, usually, we want to cook or fry it subsequently with other ingredients, and that is prohibited (unless you hold like Rabbeinu Tam).

Later, the Gemara (Chullin 111a) cites different authorities who would not eat liver prepared by soaking and salting, but only by broiling.

It is unclear what the Gemara concludes, as evidenced by the dispute among rishonim what to do. Practical halacha accepts that, whereas meat is usually kashered by soaking and salting, liver may kashered only by broiling (Rema, Yoreh Deah 73:5, Shach and Taz). The Rema does not rule like Rabbeinu Tam, and, furthermore, prohibits salting liver to remove its blood, out of concern that someone will forget that he kashered the liver this way, and will mistakenly cook it with other ingredients.

How long?

For how long a period of time must you broil liver until it is kosher?

The halacha is that, once most people consider the liver minimally edible, all the blood has been removed (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 76:5). “Minimally edible” is defined as half the time it usually takes to grill this piece of liver until it is fully cooked (Rema ad locum).

Not chopped liver!

If you do not intend to cook the liver after broiling, most authorities permit broiling an entire beef liver without cutting or slicing it, provided the prohibited cheilev is fully removed (Rema, Yoreh Deah 73:3). This is not relevant to kashering of liver at home, since a beef liver is much larger than most households want to broil as one piece, and, particularly, since broiling the whole liver will probably burn the thinner parts of the liver before its thicker parts are sufficiently broiled.

However, should you intend to cook the liver after broiling, most authorities rule that, before broiling, one must make incisions into the liver and place the sliced side down while broiling so that the blood drains properly (Taz, Yoreh Deah 73:5; Pri Megadim; Gra; Be’er Heiteiv; Darchei Teshuvah). An alternative, easier option is to cut the liver into slices and broil them until edible.

According to many authorities, broiling an entire unsliced beef liver and then cooking or frying the liver makes the food and the pot or pan non-kosher (Shu’t Mahari Asad, Yoreh Deah #115, quoted in Darchei Teshuvah 73:23. Note that the Darchei Teshuvah there quotes Shu’t Ateres Zekeinim, Yoreh Deah #6, who allows the individual posek to decide whether everything is non-kosher. Darchei Teshuvah also quotes Yad Yehudah, Peirush Ha’aruch 73:9, as ruling stringently in this matter, but I have not found where Yad Yehudah says this.)

Rule of 72

The Geonim enacted that meat must be salted within seventy-two hours of its shechitah. They contended that, after three days, blood inside the meat hardens and is no longer extractable through soaking and salting. Should meat not be soaked and salted within 72 hours, they ruled that the only way to successfully remove the blood is by broiling (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 69:12). It is also prohibited to keep meat for 72 hours without salting it, figuring that you will broil it to extract its blood. This is prohibited, because of concern that someone will forget that the meat is past its “good by” 72-hour timetable and wrongly attempt to kasher it by salting (Rema, Yoreh Deah 69:12 and Shach). Furthermore, it is prohibited to cook the meat if it passed 72 hours, even after the meat was broiled. (If, be’di’eved, it was cooked after broiling, the meat may be eaten [Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 69:12]. Although the Maharshal prohibits the meat, the Bach, Taz, Gra and many others agree with the Shulchan Aruch that the meat is permitted.)

72 and liver

Since we rule that liver can be kashered only by broiling, there is no halachic concern that someone will mistakenly attempt to kasher it via salting. Therefore, it is permitted to leave liver for 72 hours without broiling it.

Assuming that someone waited more than 72 hours after slaughter before broiling liver, may he cook the liver after broiling it? We mentioned above that, concerning other meat, you are not permitted to cook the meat if 72 hours have passed since shechitah, even if you broiled the meat first. (We noted above that if the meat was cooked, it is permitted to eat it.)

What is the halacha if you broiled liver more than 72 hours after shechitah? May you now cook it after broiling? This issue is disputed. The Kereisi Upeleisi, Chachmas Odom, Aruch Hashulchan all permit cooking the liver after it was broiled, whereas the Shach seems to prohibit it (see Mateh Yehonasan to Yoreh Deah 69:12), as do the Shu’t Tzemach Tzedek (#121, quoted by Minchas Yaakov 4:3), Pri Megadim and Darchei Teshuvah (Yoreh Deah 69:224).

Special DeLIVERy

At this point, we can address another of our opening questions: “I was told that if I plan to fry the livers I receive from the butcher, I must tell this to the butcher when I order them. Why should this be true?”

This question is based on the fact that kashering liver in certain ways makes it prohibited to cook or fry afterwards, at least according to some authorities. The person who told you that you need to tell this to the butcher is under the impression either that the butcher may kasher livers more than 72 hours after shechitah, or that he does not need to slice the beef livers when he broils them whole. As I mentioned above, since both of these matters are dependent on a dispute among halachic authorities, the local hechsher may be more lenient than your friend feels that you should be.  However, the butcher can provide you with the more mehudar broiled liver, in which case everyone permits you to cook it afterward.

Livery procedure

To kasher liver, we follow these steps.

1. Slice off any fat of the animal that is attached to the liver. This fat may be cheilev that, at times, is attached to the liver.

2. Slice the liver so that its blood drains properly. At home, it is usually easiest to cut the liver into slices, although, halachically, it is adequate to slice deeply into the liver both horizontally and vertically, and broil it with the sliced side downward so the blood drains.

Livers of chickens and other fowl do not require slicing. Since they are small, broiling extracts the blood properly even without slicing the livers. Just check that the gallbladder, which attaches to the liver, has been removed.

3. Rinse blood off the surface of the liver.

4. Place the liver onto racks or coals to broil.

5. Salt the liver somewhat as you place it to broil.

6. Broil the liver until it is minimally edible, which is about half the amount of time you would broil it to eat it without further cooking.

7. After the liver has broiled sufficiently, you may remove it from the fire or heat and rinse off the blood that is now on its surface.

8. Liver is now kosher. Should you desire to cook it, you may do so immediately; there is no requirement to wait until the liver cools off from the broiling.

DeLIVERed Electronically

At this point, we are prepared to consider a different one of our opening questions: May I kasher liver on an electric grill?

Let me explain the question. Since we rule that you may kasher liver only by broiling, this means that its blood can be extracted only via direct heat. Does this require the drawing abilities of an open fire, or is heat sufficient to extract the blood?

Proof of the halachic ruling in this case may be brought from a passage of the Noda Bi’yehuda in his commentary Tzelach (to Pesachim 74a). The Tzelach mentionsthat he was asked frequently whether liver may be kashered on the bottom of a hot oven after the coals have been swept out. The Tzelach rules that this is problematic because the blood cannot drain when it is extracted from the liver. Thus, the liver lies broiling in the blood, which prohibits it. (Shu’t Har Hacarmel, Yoreh Deah #14, quoted by Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 73:1 permits this, but the Pischei Teshuvah himself is uncomfortable with this.)

However, the Tzelach rules that if the liver was placed inside an oven in a way that blood extracted by the residual heat in the oven has a place to drain, the liver is perfectly kosher. Thus, we see that it is acceptable to kasher liver on an electric grill, as long as the blood can drain off while the heat extracts it. In other words, no flame is required to extract the blood.

Conclusion

There is a very interesting comparison between two halachos that involve salt; one, the extraction of blood via salt, and the other, salting korbanos that are burned on the mizbei’ach. 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, and this blood and salt are then washed away, the salted offerings are burned completely with their salt. Several commentaries note that salt represents that which exists forever, and can therefore represent the mitzvos of the Torah, which never change.

Sabra in Halacha

Question #1: Colonche and cladodes

I admit not knowing a colonche from a cladode, but is either of them kosher?

Question #2: Is it a pear or a fig?

What is the difference between cactus pears, Indian figs, and sabras?

Question #3: Bal tashchis

Someone has an Opuntia ficus-indica growing in his yard, which constantly sheds leaves. Whenever a leaf lands, it begins to grow roots and a new shrub begins growing. Is it bal tashchis for him to destroy the new plant, since it is a fruit-producing tree?

Introduction

This article is about the sabra, the most commonly cultivated cactus, and a fascinating and highly beneficial pear-shaped fruit, with some very interesting halachic ramifications. Its scientific name, Opuntia ficus-indica, includes the genus Opuntia, andis based on the ancient Greek city of Opus, where an edible plant created new shrubs by growing roots, even from a fallen leaf, one of the many interesting features of the sabra that has halachic ramifications. The name of the species, ficus-indica,means “Indian fig.” We will find out why the sabra, which we identify with Israel and Israelis, is called an “Indian” fig.

The origin of the word “sabra” is Arabic, where the word simply means a “cactus,” although it also translates as “patience.” Since Arabic originated from Hebrew, the origin of this word indeed has a Hebrew shoresh, סבל, which means “being patient.” Indeed, notwithstanding the many uses and health benefits that the sabra provides, it requires a good deal of patience to consume it, since the fruit, the flat, paddle-looking “branch” called a cladode, and the “trunk,” are all covered with small thorns and prickles (ouch!). The entire plant demonstrates incredible nifla’os haBorei; Hashem gave this shrub incredible tools for surviving in the unforgiving, dry desert.

Sabras are cultivated as a healthy food and fodder crop that needs little water and grows well in harsh conditions, particularly in places where other crops do not grow. As we will soon see, it is a plant that has a wide variety of commercial uses.

Native American

Most people do not realize that the sabra has American origins. Along with the bell pepper, cocoa, tomato, potato, corn (maize), soybean and innumerable other American goodies, this Mexican and Central American native was brought by the Spaniards to the Old World. Indeed, both the flag and the coat of arms of Mexico portray the sabra cactus.

The sabra’s western hemisphere origins explain why it is called an “Indian fig.” Remember, Columbus was looking for a route to India. This error is reflected in several misnomers, including one way of referring to Native Americans, the island group called “the West Indies,” and scientifically naming this fruit ficus-indica, which is what the sabra fruit is called in many languages.

Dessert in the Desert

The sabra is a very useful fruit and plant. Both the sabra fruit and its cladodes (branches) are edible, providing welcome nutrients in the desert. In Mexico, the cladodes are eaten as a salad green. In arid parts of Brazil, Opuntia ficus-indica is grown predominantly as forage for the country’s huge cattle herds. In Peru, it is grown predominantly as feed for the carmine beetle – a topic I will discuss shortly. In Morocco, sabras are processed extensively to create very expensive cosmetic oil. And in pre-1948 Eretz Yisrael, sabras were grown primarily to be a border between properties or to keep livestock from wandering.

Since the fruit does not ripen after it is harvested and spoils fairly quickly after picking, the Aztecs, the Mayas and many later producers used it in innumerable food products that are less perishable, such as sauces, juices, jams, candies, vinegar, flour, starches, pickled products, various healthy additives, and even a variety of pareve “cheese.” In addition, since there are several different colors of edible cactus fruit, they can be used as a very healthy food colorant for products like yogurts.

Colonche

In Mexico, sabras are fermented into colonche, a mildly alcoholic, red beverage, whereas in Italy they are processed somewhat differently into a liqueur called ficodi. (Please note that the liqueur called “Sabra” is made of citrus fruit and derives its name from Israelis, not the fruit.)

Colonche and cladodes

At this point, we have enough background to address our opening question: “I admit not knowing a colonche from a cladode, but is either of them kosher?” Who or what are colonche and cladode? Are they kosher?

By now, we know that colonche is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting sabra fruit, whereas cladode is the name for the “branch” of the tree, which looks more like a paddle than a branch. We also know that there are two alcoholic beverages fermented from the sabra, and we can ask whether they are kosher. For that matter, we can ask about all the various other processed foods that are made from sabras: sauces, juices, jams, candies, vinegar, flour, starches, pickled products, food colorants and pareve “cheese.”

The answer is that all these products might present kashrus issues and would require a hechsher, although they all can be produced with a proper hechsher, should a manufacturer be interested. So, for someone interested in setting up his son-in-law in a new business with an original market, an idea would be to manufacture genuine Mexican cuisine, using the sabra plant as its base. I even have a few suggestions for brand names and products: Prickly’s Fig Liqueur, Maya Mia, and Aztec Araque.

Medicinal, therapeutic and cosmetic uses

The sabra’s medicinal properties were discovered in antiquity, including its value as an anti-inflammatory, diuretic and antispasmodic agent. It is rich in vitamins, amino acids, fiber, pectin, flavonoids and antioxidants. The vitamin E content of prickly pear oil is the highest among all cosmetic oils. The sabra fruit is also high in vitamin C and was often packed onto ships to prevent scurvy. Medical research continues to this day, including, for example, recent clinical evidence that the sabra reduces human cholesterol levels.

The tiny seeds of the sabra have superb cosmetic value. Indeed, one of the countries that thrive on the growth of the sabra is Morocco, where the cactus arrived south of the Strait of Gibraltar as early as the sixteenth century, shortly after arriving in Spain. The Moroccans, who are almost exclusively Muslim and therefore officially do not consume alcohol, could not market the liquor produced from Opuntia ficus-indica, but developed a vast international market of natural cosmetics based on the seeds of this fruit. So, your son-in-law’s business can now expand its original offerings of authentic Mexican cuisine washed down with Maya Mia to include Israeli-grown natural vitamin C, natural medical remedies and expensive cosmetics.

Good fences make good neighbors

In some countries, Opuntia ficus-indica was used as a border-marker between neighbors. As mentioned above, left unhindered, its dropped leaves form new plants, each with thorns and spikes, thus becoming quite a nuisance to cross – far more efficient than the famous stone walls of rural New England.

Carmine red

In its natural habitat, the cactus provides a home to scale insects called Dactylopius coccus and Dactylopius opuntiae, which feed on the cladodes. These small creatures have proved invaluable as the source of a bright red dye called cochineal. A cousin of this beetle, native to Egypt, has been known since the time of Tanach for its use as a crimson dye. Indeed, the word carmil appears in Divrei Hayamim as the source of the tola’as shani red dye used in the Mishkan and for the garments of the kohanim. According to Radak, this insect is the source of the dye. This engendered much controversy in the era of the rishonim, when many held that the source of a dye in the Mishkan cannot be non-kosher (Ra’avad, Hilchos Klei Hamikdash 8:13; Rabbeinu Bachyei, Shemos 25:3).

As mentioned above, sabra is grown in Preu primarily as feed for the carmine beetle. The western cochineal provides a dye eight times stronger than its old-world version, and this pigment was worth more than its weight in gold, until the advent of artificial dyes. The use of carmine red preceded the European invasions of America by centuries, as both the Aztecs and Mayas farmed the insect and its dye. When the Spanish imported the dye to Europe, they kept its source hidden for many years, thereby assuring themselves of great profits. In 1620, King Philip III of Spain stated, “One of the most valuable fruits grown in our Western Indies is the cactus pear; it produces value equal to gold and silver.” Certainly so, since it is difficult to grow either gold or silver, minimizing their profits to a single use.

The redcoats are coming!

There is a fascinating historic twist to the cochineal saga. The British, whose uniforms were bright red (presumably to make them highly recognizable on the battlefield), felt that they were overpaying Spain for the gorgeous new-world crimson dye. But, even after their spies discovered the source for the carmine red that they were purchasing, they could not develop an industry, since cacti will not grow in wet, chilly England, and British colonies in the eastern and northeastern parts of North America were also too cold for Opuntia ficus-indica. Even Georgia, named for the British monarchs, was too cold for this undertaking. So, the British looked at the vast holdings of their empire and decided that the huge deserts in Australia would service the British armed forces by providing a ready supply of red dye, once Opuntia ficus-indica was planted and Dactylopius opuntiae imported.

Invasion!

Shortly after planting Opuntia ficus-indica all over Australia, they discovered that not every invasion is advantageous, even for the conquering party. Much of Australia’s climate is perfect for the cactus, and there are no natural enemies to hinder its advance. Opuntia formed dense infestations that hindered livestock’s access to feed. Opuntia thorns injured animals, damaged fleece and hides, and interfered with the transportation of sheep to the shearing. The cactus was also wiping out native flora, causing a mammoth economic and environmental catastrophe. The redcoats were not so concerned about the environmental impact of their actions, but the potential destruction of a different invasive species, sheep, was a major concern that required immediate addressing, since this was the main product that the colony was intended to bring to the royal crown.

The solution is interesting. They discovered that one desert environment which had been detrimental to Opuntia ficus-indica and its red-coated inhabitants was in southern Argentina. They worked to discover what made the arid parts of Argentina so uninhabitable to sabras, eventually discovering a moth, Cactoblastis cactorum, (note the cognates to the word “cactus”) that loves cactus and destroys it. Thus, they were able to save the Australian continent from their own invasion by introducing another foreign species. Fortunately for the Mexicans, Peruvians, Brazilians, Moroccans and dwellers of Eretz Yisrael, no one attempted to introduce Cactoblastis cactorum to their deserts, which could have ruined their liquor, salad greens, dye, forage, cosmetics, boundaries, and your son-in-law’s potential business, before it even got off the ground.

Scaling down

It is curious to note that in Morocco, the cochineal scale is an unwanted pest that destroys the cosmetic value of the sabra, whereas in Peru the cactus fruit is cultivated exclusively for the dye created by this scale. Cochineal use is expanding, today, as a food and lipstick colorant, with Peru its biggest exporter, as people are increasingly concerned about the safety of artificial food additives.

A pear or a fig?

At this point, we can discuss our next introductory question:

What is the difference between cactus pears, Indian figs and sabras?

Sabra fruit is called by several other names, including “prickly pear,” “cactus pear,” “Indian fig,” “Barbary fig” and “Adam’s fig.” It is called “Barbary fig” because, after the Spaniards planted it in Spain, it began spontaneously growing in arid climates of Italy and North Africa, presumably as a result of bird droppings after they ate the sabra fruit. Thus, in many places, it became associated with the coastal areas of northwestern Africa, called the Barbary Coast.

In other words, the answer to the question, “What is the difference between cactus pears, Indian figs, Barbary figs and sabras?” is how you spell it.

At this point, let us address some halachic curiosities germane to the sabra:

Orlah

“If Opuntia ficus-indica is planted as a boundary marker, may one benefit from the fruit that grows during the first three years of the cactus’s growth?”

The Mishnah (Orlah 1:1) rules that fruits growing on a tree planted as a barrier or hedge, or for lumber or firewood, are not orlah. The reason is that the Torah states that the mitzvah of orlah applies only “when you plant a tree for food”(Vayikra 19:23), and these trees are not meant for food. The Yerushalmi (Orlah 1:1) contends that this rule applies only when it is obvious that they are not planted for their fruit; for example, they are planted closer together than what is beneficial for fruit growth, or the trees are pruned in a way that their lumber will develop at the expense of the fruit. Most poskim rule like this Yerushalmi (Rosh, Hilchos Orlah 1:2; Tur Yoreh Deah 294; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 294:23).

Thus, whether sabra fruit is governed by the laws of orlah may depend on where the fruit is grown, but for an unusual reason. Those planted by the native population in Eretz Yisrael, where they were planted as boundary markers and natural fencing to keep the sheep and goats from wandering, are exempt from orlah. Those grown in Mexico for their fruit or for liquor produced from the fruit would be prohibited as orlah. And I’ll let you ask your rav whether those grown in Brazil or Peru are exempt from orlah.

Bal tashchis

At this point, let us address the last of our opening questions. As I was writing this article, a neighbor actually asked me this shaylah: He has an Opuntia ficus-indica growing in his yard, which constantly sheds leaves. Whenever a leaf lands, it begins to grow roots and a new shrub begins growing. Is it bal tashchis for him to destroy the new plant, since it is a fruit-producing tree?

It appears that there is no halachic concern to do so, since the new plant is not yet a tree, and all he is doing is preventing the tree from growing. Should the tree have begun to grow, the question becomes more serious. As I wrote in a different article, the rules governing when it is permitted to destroy a fruit-producing tree, such as a sabra, when there is benefit in doing so are complicated and controversial (Bava Kama 91b-92a; Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 6:8-9).

Tuna fish or fig?

We are all familiar with the word “tuna” as the name of a fish whose flesh is used for brown-bag lunches. The word “tuna” also carries another meaning; in Mexico, it is the name for the fruit that the Arabs call “sabra.”

Strange Coincidence

We know that there are no coincidences and that everything is part of Hashem’s plan. With that introduction, I will share with you what can be described as, perhaps, just a curiosity, or… perhaps, much more. The pasuk in Divrei Hayamim (II 3:14) describes the peroches as woven from techeiles, argaman, karmil, and butz, which is linen. This is the same peroches that the Torah describes in parshas Vayakheil (Shemos 36:35) and in parshas Terumah (Shemos 26:31) as made of techeiles, argaman, tola’as shani, and linen (Shemos 26:31). Similarly, when describing the artisans sent by King Chiram of Tzur to help Shelomoh Hamelech build the Beis Hamikdash, Divrei Hayamim (II 2:13) mentions karmil as one of the materials used in construction of the Mishkan, and omits tola’as shani. Obviously, karmil, cognate to the English words crimson and carmine, is another way of describing tola’as shani (see Radak and Ralbag ad loc.). The Radak (Divrei Hayamim II 2:6) and the Rambam explain tola’as shani to mean “wool dyed with an insect” (Hilchos Klei Hamikdash 8:13; although Rabbeinu Bachyei, Shemos 25:3, disagrees with them). Now, bear in mind that the cochineal scale insect, which is similar to the insect described by the Radak, was originally New World, but feeds, primarily, on a shrub that is now widely associated with Eretz Yisrael. How intriguing that the people of Israel are associated with a term that just “coincidentally” alludes to a dye used in the Beis Hamikdash.

Hunting for Meat

Parshas Re’eih includes the commandment that instructs us how to prepare our meat for our table (Devorim 12:15).

Question #1:

Sheis, the son of Adom Harishon, was traveling one day and realized that he had not packed enough peanut butter sandwiches for the trip. Now hungry, he witnessed a travel accident, which resulted in an animal being killed. Was he permitted to cook the carcass for lunch?

Question #2:

Sheis’s descendant, Linda, lives in the modern era and is Jewish. While traveling in an unfamiliar area, she hunts for kosher meat, discovering some with an unfamiliar supervision, and calls her rabbi to ask whether he recommends it. What factors does he consider in advising her whether to use this product?

Question #3:

In a previous position, I was responsible for researching sources of meat that our local Vaad HaKashrus would accept. I traveled to many cities and visited many meat packing facilities. People have often asked why, sometimes, my hunt resulted in a new acceptable source, and why sometimes it did not. What was I looking for?

Before answering these questions, we need to understand what are the Torah’s requirements for allowable meat.

Upon Noach’s emerging from the teivah (the ark), Hashem speaks to Noach, notifying him that he and his descendants may now eat meat for the very first time. Prior to this time, no one had ever been permitted to sink his teeth into a steak or even a schnitzel (Sanhedrin 59b, based on Bereishis 1:29-30, 9:3; as interpreted by Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 9:1). In actuality, not all authorities agree that Adam and his pre-mabul descendants were required to be vegetarian – some maintain that they were permitted to eat the meat of animals that had already died, and were forbidden only to kill animals for meat (Rashi, Bereishis 1:29and Sanhedrin 57a s.v. limishri basar; Tosafos, Sanhedrin 56b s.v. achal). According to this last opinion, pre-Noach mankind may have eaten sushi, steak or schnitzel, provided that they did not take the animal’s life.

Thus, whether Sheis could barbecue the discovered road kill (Question #1 above) depends upon whether he held like Rashi, in which case he could, or like the Rambam, in which case he could not. According to the Rambam, he was restricted to a vegetarian diet, which included the responsibility to check that his veggies were insect-free. Presumably, he called the local Vaad HaKashrus to determine how to check each type of vegetable. I wonder what he did when he wanted to eat Brussels sprouts!

However, when Noach emerged from the teivah, he and his descendents were permitted to give up their vegetarian lifestyle, provided that they ate no meat that had been removed from an animal while it was still alive (eiver min hachai). Just think —  had Sheis lived after the time of Noach, he could have included some tuna sandwiches in his lunchbox or picked up a salami at the local grocery, instead of going hungry!

When the Torah was given, it both limited the species that a Jew may eat and created many other regulations, including that kosher meat and poultry must be slaughtered in the halachically-approved way (shechitah), and may be eaten only if they are without certain defects that render them tereifah. Even after ascertaining that the animal, itself, may be eaten, one must still remove the blood, certain fats called cheilev, and the sciatic nerve (the gid hanasheh). These last two prohibitions do not apply to fowl.

In the contemporary world, guaranteeing that one’s meat is appropriate for the Jewish table involves several trained and G-d-fearing people, including shochatim, bod’kim, menakerim, mashgichim, and knowledgeable rabbonim to oversee the entire process.

THE SHOCHEIT’S JOB

Aside from the shocheit’s obvious responsibility to slaughter the animal the way Hashem commanded, he must also fulfill another very important task: following the slaughtering, he must verify that he performed the shechitah correctly. This is a vitally important step; without this inspection, the animal or bird must be considered non-kosher – it will be acceptable for the table of Bnei Noach, but not for Klal Yisroel.

Next, the animal or bird is examined to ensure that it is not tereifah. Although common use of the word “treif” means something that is non-kosher, for any reason whatsoever, the technical meaning of the word refers to an animal with a physical defect that renders it non-kosher, even if it was the beneficiary of a proper shechitah.

THE BODEIK

In a meat packing plant (beef, veal or lamb), the individual accountable to check for these defects is called a bodeik (pl. bod’kim). Most bod’kim are trained shochatim, and, indeed, in most plants, the bod’kim and shochatim rotate their tasks, thus making it easier for them to be as attentive as the post requires. As a result, a person licensed both as a shocheit and as a bodeik is usually called a shocheit, although, technically, he should be called a shocheit ubodeik, to truly reflect the extent of his training.

THE SECOND BODEIK

The responsibility to check for tereifos is divided between two bod’kim. The first, the bodeik penim, checks the lungs in situ, which is the only way one can properly check that the lungs do not adhere to the ribs, to the membrane surrounding the heart (the pericardium), or to themselves in an improper way, all of which render the animal non-kosher. This checking is performed completely based on feel. The bodeik gently inserts his hand, and runs his fingers carefully over all eight sections of the lung, to see if he feels any adhesion between the lung and one of the other areas.

The second bodeik, the bodeik chutz, rechecks the lungs and makes a cursory check of other organs, upon their removal from the carcass, particularly the stomachs and intestines, for swallowed nails and for various imperfections that render the animal non-kosher.

After the two bod’kim are satisfied that the animal is kosher, the second bodeik or a mashgiach tags the different parts of the animal as kosher with lead or plastic seals. Longstanding practice is that, in addition, the bodeik or a mashgiach makes small slits between the ribs that identify the day and parsha of the week, to mark the piece as kosher. A mark made when the meat is this fresh appears completely different from one made even a few hours later, making it difficult to counterfeit. Of course, this mark is not, alone, used to verify that the meat is kosher, but it is an essential crosscheck, since the old-styled tags can be tampered with.

The modern kosher poultry plant is organized slightly differently: The shochatim perform shechitah only, whereas the bedikah inspection is performed by mashgichim trained to notice abnormalities. If they notice any, they remove the bird from the production line; a rav or bodeik then rules whether these birds are kosher.

For both animals and birds, one needs to check only for commonly occurring tereifos, but not for uncommon problems. For example, the established halachic practice of over a thousand years is to check an animal’s lungs, because of their high rate of tereifos, and today it is common practice in Israel to check legs. Animal lungs frequently have adhesions called sirchos, which render them non-kosher (Chullin 46b), although Ashkenazic custom is that easily removed adhesions on mature cattle do not render them treif (Rosh, Chullin 3:14; Rema, Yoreh Deah 39:13). An animal without any sircha adhesions is called glatt kosher, meaning that its lung is completely smooth – that is, without any adhesions, even of the easily removable variety.

The rav hamachishir’s responsibilities include deciding which problems are prevalent enough to require scrutiny and what is considered an adequate method of inspection.

Depending on the factory, the next steps in the preparation of beef, veal or lamb are occasionally performed in the same facility where the shechitah was performed, or alternatively, they are performed at the butcher shop.

TRABERING

Prior to soaking and salting meat to remove the blood, certain non-kosher parts of the animal, including the gid hanasheh (the sciatic nerve), non-kosher fats called “cheilev,” and certain large blood vessels, must be removed (Yoreh Deah 65:1). The Hebrew word for this process is “nikur,” excising, and the artisan who possesses the skill to properly perform it is called a menakeir (pl. menak’rim). The Yiddish word for this process is traberen,which derives from tarba, the Aramaic word for cheilev, the non-kosher fat. This step is omitted in the production of poultry, since it is exempt from the prohibitions of gid hanasheh and cheilev, and its blood vessels are small enough that it is sufficient to puncture them prior to the soaking and salting procedures.

Early in its butchering, a side of beef (which is half its carcass) is divided into its forequarter and hindquarter. Since the gid hanasheh and most of the cheilev are located in the hindquarter, trabering it is a tedious process that requires a highly skilled menakeir. (On RabbiKaganoff.com, there is an article on the history and halachic issues germane to this practice.) The forequarters must still be trabered prior to soaking and salting, to remove blood vessels and some fat (Rema, Yoreh Deah 64:1; Pischei Teshuvah 64:3). Although trabering is a relatively easy skill to learn, Linda’s rabbi might need to check whether the hechsher can be trusted that this was done properly, as the following story indicates.

I once investigated the kashrus of a certain well-known resort hotel, one not usually frequented by frum clientele. I called the hotel and asked who provided their hechsher, and was soon on the telephone with both the resident mashgiach and the rav hamachshir.

I began by introducing myself and the reason for my phone call, and then asked about the sources of the meat used in the hotel. In the course of the conversation, it became evident that neither the rabbi nor the mashgiach knew the slightest thing about traberen, although they were officially overseeing a staff of in-house butchers, none of whom was an observant Jew. I realized that the rather poor kashrus reputation of this establishment was, indeed, well deserved. The rabbi overseeing the hechsher, himself, did not know trabering, nor did he have any halachically reliable supervisor. What was he overseeing?

SOAKING AND SALTING

Returning to our brief overview of the proper preparations for kosher meat:  After the meat has been properly trabered, it is ready to be soaked and salted to remove its blood. In earlier generations, this process, usually called kashering meat, was performed exclusively at home, but today, common practice is that this is performed either by the butcher or at the meat packer. Almost all kosher poultry operations today soak and salt the meat immediately after shechitah, and it is becoming increasingly more common in beef operations.

To kasher meat, it should be rinsed well, soaked in water for half an hour, drained, salted for an hour, and then rinsed three times (Rema, Yoreh Deah 69:1, 5, 7). The halacha requires that the meat be covered with salt on all exposed surfaces (Yoreh Deah 69:4). Most packing plants do this job appropriately, although I have seen places where the salting was inadequate; entire areas of the meat were not salted. This is, probably, simple negligence; although when I called this problem to the attention of the mashgiach, he insisted that it was performed adequately, notwithstanding my observing the contrary. Needless to say, I did not approve this source.

WASHED MEAT

The Geonim instituted a requirement that meat be soaked and salted within 72 hours of its slaughter (Yoreh Deah 69:12). This is because of concern that once 72 hours have passed, the blood becomes hardened inside the meat, and salting no longer removes it. If more than 72 hours passed without the meat being salted, the Geonim ruled that if the meat is broiled, it may be eaten, since this process will still remove the blood, even though salting will not (Yoreh Deah 69:12).

A question that developed with time was whether wetting the meat prevents the blood from hardening inside. Some early authorities permitted soaking meat to extend the 72-hour period (Shach 69:53). However, this leniency often led to highly liberal interpretations. I have seen butchers take a damp rag and wipe the outside of the meat and considered it washed. Thus, there are two different reasons why most reliable kashrus operations do not allow the use of “washed meat,” either because they do not accept this lenience, altogether, or because of concern that once one accepts hosed meat, it becomes difficult to control what type of washing is acceptable.

THE RAV HAMACHSHIR

Thus far, I have described the tremendous responsibilities of most of the staff necessary to guarantee that the meat is of the highest kashrus standards. One person that I have not adequately discussed is the rav hamachshir, the supervising rabbi, who has the final say on the kashrus standards that the meat packer and butcher follow. Although a rav overseeing meat kashrus does not necessarily have to be a shocheit or trained menakeir himself, he certainly must be proficient in all of these areas, both in terms of thorough knowledge of halacha and in terms of practical experience. For most of Jewish history, the most basic requirement of every rav demanded that he be proficient in all the halachos of kosher meat production. As the local rav, his responsibility included all shechitah and bedikah in his town.

However, in the contemporary world of mass production and shipping, the local shul rav is rarely involved in the details of shechitah, and often has limited experience and training in these areas. Depending on the semicha program he attended, he may not have been required to study the laws of shechitah and tereifos. Thus, what was once the province of every rav has now become a specialty area, and, sometimes, rabbonim involved in the giving of meat hechsherim lack the proper training.

I was once given a tour of a meat packing plant by the supervising rabbi of the plant. During the course of the tour, I became painfully aware of the rabbi’s incompetence in this area of kashrus. For example, he was clearly unaware of how to check shechitah knives properly, certainly a basic skill necessary to oversee this type of hechsher. Would you approve this meat supplier for your local Vaad HaKashrus?

At this point, I want to address the third question I raised above: Sometimes, my visit to a meat packer resulted in a new, acceptable source, and sometimes it did not. What was I looking for, and why would I disapprove a source that a different rav was approving?

The answers to these questions are sometimes subjective, but I will provide you with some observations of mine.

IS THE SYSTEM WORKABLE?

There are many subtle and not-so-subtle observations that a rav makes when examining a meat packer. I could not possibly list in one article all the types of problems I have seen, but I will mention certain specific concerns to which I would always be attentive.

Is the production line too quick for the shocheit or mashgiach to do his job properly? Are the shochatim or mashgichim expected to perform their job in an unrealistic manner, either because of a shortage of trained manpower or because of the speed or organization of the production line?

QUALITY OF PERSONNEL

Are the shochatim knowledgeable? Do they appear to be G-d fearing individuals? Although it is impossible to know whether someone is, indeed, a yarei shamayim, it is unfortunately often very obvious that he is not. It can happen that one rav has questions about the staff, and for this reason, he does not approve a source of supply.

I will give you an example of this. While visiting a plant to determine whether we should allow this shechitah, we heard a conversation in which one of the shochatim showed a shortcoming in tzeniyus within his family. Although one could point to a specific law that disqualifies him as a shocheit, I, personally, was uncomfortable with entrusting him with decisions that would affect what I eat. After discussion with the other rabbonim in our community, we decided not to accept meat from this shechitah.

Does this mean that we considered this meat non-kosher? G-d forbid. It simply means that we were uncomfortable allowing it, and decided that we have that responsibility as rabbonim of our community.

Thus, it could indeed happen that what one rav considers acceptable, another rav feels is not. The differences may be based on the interpretation of halacha, or they may result from a rav’s inclination as to how a plant should be run.

CONCLUSION

Based on the above information, we can better understand many aspects of the preparation of kosher meat and why it is important to use only meat that has a proper hechsher. We can also gain a greater appreciation of how hard rabbonim and shochatim work to maintain a high kashrus standard. Now that we recognize the complexity involved in maintaining kosher meat standards, we should always hope and pray that the food we eat fulfills all the halachos that the Torah commands us.

Waiting for Twelve Months

The end of parshas Balak includes a reference to the laws of kashrus:

Question #1: Sentimental China

“A family is in the process of kashering their home for the first time, and they own an expensive and sentimental, but treif, set of china. Is there any way that they can avoid throwing it away?”

Question #2: No Bologna

“I own an expensive set of fleishig china that I do not use, and, frankly, I desperately need money for other things now. Someone is interested in paying top price for this set because it matches their milchig china. Is there any way I can kasher it and sell it to them, and they may use it for milchig?”

Question #3: Hungary on Pesach

“Help! I just completed cooking the seudos for the first days of Pesach, and I realize now that I used a pot that was used once, more than two years ago, for chometz. Do I have to throw out all the food I made? I have no idea when I am going to have time to make the seudos again!”

Introduction:

Every one of the she’eilos mentioned above shows up in one of the classic works of responsa that I will be quoting in the course of this article. They all touch on the status of food equipment that has not been used for twelve months. In order to have more information with which to understand this topic, I must first introduce some halachic background.

When food is cooked in a pot or other equipment, halacha assumes that some “taste,” of the food remains in the walls of the pot, even after the pot has been scrubbed completely clean. We are concerned that this will add flavor to the food cooked subsequently in that pot. This is the basis for requiring that we kasher treif pots, because the kashering process removes the residual taste.

Until the pot is kashered

Once twenty-four hours have passed since the food was cooked, the residual taste in the vessel spoils and is now categorized as nosein taam lifgam, a halachic term meaning thatthe taste that remains is unpleasant. Something is considered nosein taam lifgam even if it is only mildly distasteful.

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 67b) cites a dispute between tana’im whether nosein taam lifgam is permitted or prohibited. The Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 65b) rules that nosein taam lifgam is permitted. This is the conclusion of the Gemara in several places (Avodah Zarah 36a, 38b, 39b, 65b, 67b) and also the conclusion of the halachic authorities (Rambam, Hilchos Ma’achalos Asuros 17:2; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 103:5; 122:6). This means that, although it is prohibited to eat a food that includes a pleasant taste or residue of non-kosher, when the non-kosher food provides a less than appetizing flavor, the food is permitted.

Here is an example that bears out this rule. Glycerin (sometimes called glycerol), which is frequently manufactured from non-kosher animal fat, is often used as an ingredient in foods because, in addition to its other properties, it also adds a sweet flavor to the product. Therefore, when non-kosher glycerin is used in an otherwise kosher product, as I once found in a donut glaze, the product — in this case the donuts — are non-kosher.

On the other hand, if the ingredient adds an unpleasant taste, the finished product remains kosher.

Treif pots

Because of the halachic conclusion that nosein taam lifgam is permitted, min haTorah one would be allowed to use a treif pot once twenty-four hours have passed since it was last used. As mentioned above, at this point the absorbed flavor is considered spoiled, nosein taam lifgam. The reason that we are required to kasher equipment that contains nosein taam lifgam is because of a rabbinic injunction. This is because of concern that someone might forget and cook with a pot that was used the same day for treif, which might result in the consumption of prohibited food (Avodah Zarah 75b).

Chometz is exceptional

The above discussion regarding the rules of nosein taam lifgam is true regarding use of a pot in which non-kosher food was cooked. However, regarding chometz, the prohibition is stricter. Ashkenazim rule that nosein taam lifgam is prohibited in regard to Pesach products. Why is the halacha stricter regarding Pesach? Nosein taam lifgam still qualifies as a remnant of non-kosher food; it is permitted because it does not render a positive taste. However, regarding Pesach, we rule that even a minuscule percentage of chometz is prohibited. Thus, if a chometzdik pot was used to cook on Pesach, even in error, the food is prohibited.

Fleishig to milchig

The rules governing the use of fleishig equipment that was used for milchig and vice versa are similar to the rules that apply to treif equipment, and not the stricter rules that apply to chometzdik equipment used on Pesach. Someone who cooks or heats meat and dairy in the same vessel, on the same day, creates a prohibited mix of meat and milk. If the fleishig equipment had not been used the same day for meat, 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 dairy food cooked in it remains kosher (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 93:1). The same is true regarding dairy equipment used to prepare fleishig.

Kashering from fleishig to milchig

Although non-kosher equipment can usually be kashered to make it kosher, and chometzdik equipment can usually be kashered to make it kosher for Passover, there is a longstanding custom not to kasher fleishig equipment to use as milchig, and vice versa (Magen Avraham 509:11). The reason for this custom is because if a person regularly koshers his pots or other equipment from milchig to fleishig and back again, he will eventually make a mistake and use them for the wrong type of food without kashering them first (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:43). By the way, it is accepted that someone who kashered their fleishig pot for Pesach may now decide to use it for milchig and vice versa.

Earthenware

We need one more piece of information before we begin to discuss the laws of equipment that has not been used for twelve months. That is to note that there is equipment that cannot usually be kashered. The Gemara teaches that we cannot kasher earthenware equipment, since once the non-kosher residue is absorbed into its walls, it will never come out. (Some authorities permit kashering earthenware or china, which is halachically similar, three times, although this heter is not usually relied upon. A discussion on this point will need to be left for a different time.)

Twelve months

Now that we have had an introduction, we can discuss whether anything changes twelve months after food was cooked. Chazal created a prohibition, called stam yeinam, which prohibits consumption, and, at times, even use, of wine and grape juice produced by a non-Jew. Halachically, there is no difference between wine and grape juice. Notwithstanding the prohibition against using equipment that was once used for non-kosher, we find a leniency that equipment used to produce non-kosher wine may be used after twelve months have transpired. The equipment used by a gentile to crush the juice out of the grapes, or to store the wine or grape juice is also prohibited. This means that we must assume that this equipment still contains taste of the prohibited grape juice.

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 34a) rules that the grape skins, seeds and sediment left over after a gentile crushed out the juice are prohibited both for consumption and for benefit. This is because non-kosher grape juice is absorbed into the skins, seeds and sediment. However, after they have been allowed to dry for twelve months, whatever non-kosher taste was left in the skins, seeds and sediment are gone, and it is permitted to use and even eat them. Similarly, once twelve months have transpired since last use, the equipment used to process or store the non-kosher juice also becomes permitted. Thus, the Gemara rules that the jugs, flasks and earthenware vessels used to store non-kosher wine are prohibited for twelve months, but may be used once twelve months have elapsed since their last use. The conclusions of this Gemara are codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 135:16). The process of allowing twelve months to transpire and then permit the leftovers is called yishun.

Several common products are permitted because of this halacha. One example is a wine derivative called tartaric acid, an organic compound with many practical usages. Among its food uses is in beverages, as a flavor enhancer and as baking powder. It is commonly considered kosher, notwithstanding that it is a by-product of non-kosher wine. (It should have a hechsher since it can be produced in ways that are non-kosher.)

It is important to note that this method of kashering, i.e., of waiting twelve months, is mentioned in the Gemara only with reference to kashering after the use of non-kosher wine. The halachic authorities debate whether this method of kashering may be used regarding other prohibitions, and this is the starting point for us to address our opening questions.

Hungry on Pesach

“Help! I just completed cooking the seudos for the first days of Pesach, and I realize now that I used a pot that was used once, more than two years ago, for chometz. Do I have to throw out all the food I made? I have no idea when I am going to have time to make the seudos again!” It would seem that there is no hope for this hardworking housewife, and indeed all her efforts are for naught. However, let us examine an actual case and discover that not everyone agrees.

A very prominent eighteenth-century halachic authority, the Chacham Tzvi, was asked this question: On Pesach, someone mistakenly cooked food in a pot that had been used once, two years before, for chometz. Since Ashkenazim rule that even nosein taam lifgam is prohibited on Pesach, it would seem that the food cooked on Pesach in this pot is prohibited, and this was indeed what some of those involved assumed. However, the Chacham Tzvi contended that the food cooked in this pot is permitted, because he drew a distinction between nosein taam lifgam after 24 hours, and yishun after 12 months. He notes that grape juice absorbed into the vessels or the remaining seeds and skins is prohibited, even for benefit, for up to 12 months, yet after 12 months it becomes permitted. Thus, we see that even the actual wine becomes permitted, because after twelve months it dries out completely and there is no residual taste. It must certainly be true, reasons the Chacham Tzvi, that chometz flavor absorbed into a pot or other vessel must completely dissipate by twelve months after use and that no residual taste is left (Shu’t Chacham Tzvi #75, 80; cited by Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 122:3).

Notwithstanding this reasoning, the Chacham Tzvi did not permit using treif equipment without kashering it, even when twelve months transpired since its last use. He explains that since Chazal prohibited use of treif equipment even when the product now being manufactured will be kosher, no distinction was made whether more than a year transpired since its last use — in all instances, one must kasher the vessel before use and not rely on the yishun that transpires after twelve months. However, after the fact, the Chacham Tzvi permitted the food prepared by Mrs. Hardworking in a pot that had been used for chometz more than twelve months before.

Aged vessels

About a century after the Chacham Tzvi penned his responsum, we find a debate among halachic authorities that will be germane to a different one of our opening questions.

Someone purchased non-kosher earthenware vessels that had not been used for twelve months. He would suffer major financial loss if he could not use them or sell them to someone Jewish. Rav Michel, the rav of Lifna, felt that the Jewish purchaser could follow a lenient approach and use the vessels on the basis of the fact that, after twelve months, no prohibited residue remains in the dishes. However, Rav Michel did not want to assume responsibility for the ruling without discussing it with the renowned sage, Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Shu’t Rabbi Akiva Eiger 1:43).

Rabbi Akiva Eiger rejected this approach. First of all, he noted that the Chacham Tzvi, himself, did not permit cooking in vessels aged twelve months since last use, only permitting the product that was cooked in those pots.

Secondly, Rabbi Akiva Eiger disputed the Chacham Tzvi’s approach that the concept of yishun applies to anything other than wine. Rabbi Akiva Eiger writes that, among the rishonim, he found the following explanation of yishun: The Rashba writes that the concept of yishun applies only to wine vessels, and the reason is because no remnant of the wine is left since it has dried out (Shu’t Harashba 1:575). Rabbi Akiva Eiger writes that the only other rishon he found who explained how yishun works also held the same as the Rashba. This means that the kashering method known as yishun applies only for non-kosher wine, but to no other prohibitions. Since Rabbi Akiva Eiger found no rishon who agreed with the Chacham Tzvi, he was unwilling to accept this heter. In his opinion, the food cooked on Pesach by Mrs. Hardworking is chometzdik and must be discarded.

Sentimental china

At this point, let us examine a different one of our opening questions:

“A family is in the process of kashering their home for the first time, and they own an expensive, but treif, set of china. Is there anyway that they can avoid throwing it away?”

Rav Moshe Feinstein was asked this exact question (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:46). Rabbi Shmuel Weller, a rav in Fort Wayne, Indiana, asked Rav Moshe about a family that, under his influence, had recently decided to keep kosher. The question is that they have an expensive set of porcelain dishes that they have not used for over a year and they do not want to throw it away. Is there any method whereby they may still use it? Rav Moshe writes that, because of the principle of takanas hashavim — which means that to encourage people who want to do teshuvah we are lenient in halachic rules — one could be lenient. The idea is that although Chazal prohibited use of an eino ben yomo, they prohibited it only because there is still residual flavor in the vessel, although the flavor is permitted. Once twelve months have passed, the Chacham Tzvi held that there is no residual flavor left at all. Although the Chacham Tzvi, himself, prohibited the vessels for a different reason, Rav Moshe contends that there is a basis for a heter. (See also Shu’t Noda Biyehudah, Yoreh Deah 2:51.)

Rav Moshe notes that there are other reasons that one could apply to permit kashering this china, and he therefore rules that one may permit the use of the china by kashering it three times. Because of space considerations, the other reasons, as well as the explanation why kashering three times helps, will have to be left for a different time.

No bologna

At this point, let us refer again to a different one of our opening questions: “I own an expensive set of fleishig china that I do not use, and, frankly, I desperately need money for other things now. Someone is interested in paying top price for this set because it matches their milchig china. Is there anyway I can kasher it and sell it to them, and they may use it for milchig?”

This question presents two problems:

(1) Is there any way to remove the residual fleishig flavor and kasher the china?

(2) Is it permitted to kasher anything from fleishig to milchig?

In a responsum to Rav Zelig Portman, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:43) discusses this question.

We will take these two questions in reverse order. As I mentioned earlier, the Magen Avraham (509:11) reports that there is an accepted minhag not to kasher fleishig equipment in order to use it for milchig, and vice versa. Wouldn’t changing the use of this china violate the minhag?

Rav Moshe explains that the reason for this minhag is to avoid someone using the same pot, or other equipment, all the time by simply kashering it every time he needs to switch from milchig to fleishig. The obvious problem is that, eventually, he will make a mistake and forget to kasher the piece of equipment before using it.

Rav Moshe therefore suggests that the custom of the Magen Avraham applies only to a person who actually used the equipment for fleishig; this person may not kasher it to use for milchig. However, someone who never used it for fleishig would not be included in the minhag.

Regarding the first question, Rav Moshe concludes that, since twelve months have passed since the china was last used for fleishig, one may kasher it.

Conclusion

The Gemara teaches that the rabbinic laws are dearer to Hashem than are the laws of the Written Torah. In this context, we understand that Chazal established many rules to protect the Jewish people from violating the Torah’s laws of kashrus. This article has served as an introduction to one aspect of the laws of kashrus that relates to utensils. Not only is the food that a Jew eats required to be given special care, but also the equipment with which he prepares that food. We should always hope and pray that the food we eat fulfills all the halachos that the Torah commands us.

Can There Be Smoke without a Fire?

In parshas Korach, 250 men burnt ketores and paid with their lives.

Question #1: Frankfurters on the Blech

May I place cold frankfurters on top of a hot pot to warm them on Shabbos?”

Question #2: Cheese Dogs

“May one derive benefit from a cheese dog, which is a grilled hot dog with added cheese and chili sauce?”

Question #3: Lox for Eruv Tavshillin?

“I will be traveling overseas for Yom Tov and Shabbos, and it will be difficult for me to have cooked food ready for an eruv tavshillin. May I use lox as my eruv tavshillin?”

Foreword

Our  opening questions are germane to whether “smoking” qualifies as “cooking,” for halachic purposes. As we will see shortly, the Gemara and halachic authorities discuss several situations affected by this question, with ramifications for the laws of Shabbos, kashrus and eruv tavshillin. Let us begin by understanding some background information.

In general, we are familiar with two very common methods of preparing food using heat. In one instance, the food is cooked directly by the heat, without any medium. This is what we do when we barbecue, broil, or bake. The food is cooked or baked directly by the heat. On the other hand, when we boil or fry food, we cook it in a hot liquid — when boiling, usually in water, and when frying, in oil.

There are also many methods of making raw food edible without heat, such as salting, pickling or marinating. Preparing food this way causes the flavors of the different ingredients to blend together, which halacha calls beli’ah. Therefore, should one ingredient be non-kosher, the entire food will become non-kosher. However, there are halachic ramifications to the fact that these methods of food preparation are not considered “cooking.” Even though salting and pickling food make it edible, the food is not considered cooked.Therefore, germane to the laws of Shabbos, one will not be able to heat up smoked food, using methods permitted to warm food on Shabbos. For example, although it is permitted to heat food that is already cooked by placing it atop a pot which is, itself, on top of a fire or blech, one may not heat up deli this way on Shabbos, when it has been pickled, but not cooked, which is usually the case.

Several types of smoking

In contemporary use, the term “smoked” may refer to several different ways of preparing food, with variant halachic ramifications. Here are three methods:

Hot smoke

Frankfurters and many other sausages are “cooked” in hot smoke, in an appliance sometimes called a smoker. Rather than being cooked directly by the fire, or by water that is heated by a fire, these foods are cooked by hot smoke. This is also the usual way in which raw salmon is made into lox. The question we will be discussing in our article is whether this is halachically equivalent to cooking in water, oil or other liquid. There are many halachic ramifications to the question. Unless specified otherwise, our article is discussing this type of smoking, in which smoke is doing the actual cooking (see Perisha, Yoreh Deah 87:9).

Cured food

In this type of “smoking,” wood is burned inside a sealed room, usually called a “smokehouse.” The food to be preserved and processed is placed inside the smokehouse for several days, or perhaps even weeks, while the smoke, now cool, cures and provides the food with a smoky flavor. Since the food production in this instance takes place in room temperature smoke, this process should not be considered either “cooking” or beli’ah. However, there is one late authority who considers this method of producing food to be similar to cooking (Chadrei Deah, quoted by Badei Hashulchan, Biurim 87:6 s.v. Ha’me’ushan). For the rest of this article, I will not take this opinion under consideration, since it is not within mainstream accepted halacha.

Regarding the laws of Shabbos, food smoked this way is certainly considered to be uncooked.

Smoke flavored

A third method of smoking is when food is prepared by steaming, cooking or broiling, and a natural or artificial ingredient called smoke flavor is added to provide smoke taste. If the food was prepared by being cooked or broiled, it is considered cooked for halachic purposes. If the food was prepared by being “steamed,” a process similar to the first method of smoking mentioned above, the halachic issue is more complicated. The halachic question is whether cooking in steam and cooking in smoke are identical, or, perhaps, cooking in steam is like cooking in water. I will leave that aspect of this topic for a future article.

Smoking on Shabbos!

At this point, I will explain some of the halachic issues affected by the question as to whether smoking food is the same as cooking. One of the 39 melachos prohibited on Shabbos is mevasheil, cooking, or, in the words of the Mishnah (Shabbos 73a), ofeh, baking. This melacha involves preparing food with heat (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 9:1-5). One of the questions that the Gemara discusses is whether smoking food on Shabbos is considered a violation of the melacha of cooking on Shabbos min haTorah, and another issue is whether smoked food is considered cooked.

Here is one application of this issue: Once dry food has been completely cooked, such as baked or barbecued chicken or a kugel, there is no Torah violation in heating it on Shabbos. (There often may be rabbinic violations involved, but there are ways of warming cooked food on Shabbos that are permitted. We have discussed that topic in the past.) However, heating uncooked food on Shabbos usually involves a melacha min haTorah. The question we are raising is whether food that has been smoked, such as lox or hot dogs, is considered as cooked regarding the laws of warming food on Shabbos. If it is, then there are more options available to warm them on Shabbos.

Smoking meat and milk

A second area of halacha where this question – whether smoking constitutes cooking – is germane, is the prohibition of eating dairy and meat foods cooked together, basar becholov. Although we are prohibited from eating meat and milk together even when both are cold, or even from eating dairy after consuming meat, these prohibitions are only miderabbanan. The prohibition is violated min haTorah by cooking meat and dairy together or by eating meat and dairy that were previously cooked together. The question that we will tackle is whether smoking meat and dairy together is prohibited min haTorah or only miderabbanan.

There is a halachic difference that depends on whether preparing a meat and dairy mixture is prohibited miderabbanan or min haTorah. The prohibition against benefitting from meat and milk applies only when one violated the law min haTorah, but not when one violated it miderabbanan (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 87:3 and commentaries). Therefore, if meat and dairy were mixed together when cold, there is no prohibition in getting benefit from the resultant product, even though it may not be eaten. For this reason, selling pet food does not violate the law of benefiting from basar becholov, even when it contains both meat and dairy products, since the two are not cooked together, but blended together at room temperature.

The question germane to our discussion is whether a Jew may benefit from a meat and dairy product that was smoked together. For example, if someone smoked a raw frankfurter together with cheese, is it prohibited min haTorah, and for this reason one may not have benefit from it min haTorah, or not?

Bishul akum

Here is another kashrus application in which it will make a difference whether smoking is considered cooking or not. Chazal prohibited eating food cooked by a non-Jew, even when all the ingredients are kosher, unless the food is edible raw or would not be served on a royal table. Is smoking considered “cooking” germane to this prohibition, or not? This means that, if a non-Jew smoked food that is inedible raw, is it prohibited because of bishul akum? A practical difference is whether a hechsher on hot dogs must make sure that a Jew smoked the frankfurters; another is whether the smoking of lox must be done by a Jew.  In both of these situations, the question is whether this food is considered cooked by a non-Jew, which might prohibit it as bishul akum, or whether it was prepared in a way that does not qualify as “cooking,” and therefore bishul akum is not a concern.

Eruv tavshillin

Here is yet another halachic application in which it will make a difference whether smoked food is considered “cooked” or not. Chazal prohibited cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos, unless one prepares an eruv tavshillin, a cooked item designated before Yom Tov that will remain until the Shabbos preparations are completed, and that thereby permits cooking for Shabbos on Yom Tov that falls on Friday. If smoked food is considered cooked, then it is acceptable to use a food that was prepared by smoking, such as a frankfurter or lox, as an eruv tavshillin. If smoked food is not considered cooked, then it is not.

The Yerushalmi

Now that we understand the background, we can examine the Talmudic discussion that concerns smoked food. We will begin by quoting a passage of Talmud Yerushalmi (Nedorim 6:1): “The rabbis of Kisrin asked: What is the law of smoked food in regard to the prohibition of bishul akum? In regard to cooking on Shabbos? What is its law regarding mixing meat and milk together?” The passage of Yerushalmi then changes the subject, without ruling on the three questions raised.

The issue the Yerushalmi seems to be asking is whether cooking food in smoke is halachically equivalent to cooking in liquid. In each of these instances, a hot medium is used to prepare the food. The first question of the Yerushalmi is whether food smoked by a non-Jew is prohibited, or whether the proscription of bishul akum is limited to food cooked via fire or liquid. If cooking in smoke is halachically considered the same as cooking in water or oil, then lox or frankfurters that were smoked by a non-Jew are prohibited because of bishul akum. On the other hand, if smoking is not treated as cooking, then there is no halachic problem with eating lox or hot dogs in which the actual smoking was performed by a non-Jew, provided that the ingredients are all kosher.

The second question of the Yerushalmi can be explained as follows: If a Jewish person placed raw frankfurters or salmon into a smoker on Shabbos, and the frankfurters or lox thereby became edible on Shabbos, did the person desecrate a melacha on Shabbos? If he did, then there are halachic ramifications germane to a product that was smoked on Shabbos in violation of the law.

The third question of the Yerushalmi concerns the laws of cooking meat and milk together. If smoking is considered cooking, min haTorah, then smoking a cheese dog violates basar becholov min haTorah, and it is prohibited to have any benefit from it.

As I noted above, the Yerushalmi that we quoted does not mention a conclusion regarding these three questions. Based on these unresolved questions, the Rambam (Hilchos Ma’achalos Asuros 9:6) appears to conclude the following: when our issue is a halacha that is min haTorah, we rule stringently. However, when the issue is a rabbinic question, we will rule leniently and not consider this to be cooking.

As a result, it is certainly prohibited as a safek de’oraysa to smoke a cheese dog or to smoke food on Shabbos. It would be prohibited to have any benefit from a smoked cheese dog. However, someone who violated these prohibitions would not be punishable for his offense, even when such punishment was practiced and even had he fulfilled all the requirements to receive this punishment, because the Yerushalmi did not conclude definitively that it constitutes a violation. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 87:6) follows the same approach as the Rambam.

We will continue this topic at some point in the future.

Conclusion

In non-observant circles, a well-known non-Jewish criticism of Judaism is frequently leveled: “Does G-d care more about what goes into our mouths than he does about what comes out?” The criticism is, of course, in error, and its answer is that Hashem cares both about what goes in and what comes out, and it is the height of conceit for us to decide which is “more” important in His eyes. Being careful about what we eat and about what we say are both important steps in growing in our development as human beings.

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