Question: Should a scrupulous person be stringent and refrain from eating a kosher food that was mixed with a halachically nullified non-kosher substance?

Short Answer: While there is a dispute amongst poskim whether one should be stringent, many contemporary poskim rule that even a scrupulous person may ideally eat a mixture that was nullified using a 60-times-more-kosher-than-non-kosher nullification.



I.  The Scrupulous Person

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 116:7) rules that it is permitted to slaughter a sick animal, but scrupulous individuals should be stringent and refrain from eating such an animal. The Rama (ibid) adds that if a rav paskens that an animal is kosher but relies on “svara” (logic) as opposed to an explicit law, then a “baal nefesh” (scrupulous person) should likewise refrain from eating such animal.

The Pischei T’shuvah (116:10) cites the Isur V’Heter, who ruled that if a non-kosher item falls into a k’li rishon or k’li sheini cup, but is halachically nullified because the cup has 60 more kosher item than the non-kosher item, nevertheless, it is a “mitzvah” to refrain from eating the mixture. The Pischei T’shuvah questions this ruling from the words of the above Rama, who implied that only if the ruling is based on logic, as opposed to an explicit halachah, should one be stringent. The laws of nullification, however, are an explicit ruling, and thus there should be no need even for a scrupulous person to be stringent.

The Pischei T’shuvah suggests an answer to his own question. Perhaps the Rama was only discussing whether there is an obligation on a scrupulous person. The Rama, however, would agree that there is still a “mitzvah” for the scrupulous person to refrain from eating this mixture, which is halachically permitted based on an explicit halachic principle, such as nullification.

Nevertheless, the Pischei T’shuvah concludes by citing the sefer Soles L’Minchah who rules to the contrary. Any person who tries to be strict and refrains from eating a food that we don’t find the Amoraim were similarly strict about, such as a food that relies on halachic nullification of non-kosher ingredients, not only is he not deemed “scrupulous,” but he is acting like a heretic and is punished.


II. The Darchei T’shuvah

The sefer Darchei T’shuvah (5:116:109), after citing the Pischei T’shuvah and others, brings the ruling of the Chida. The Chida appears to follow the ruling of the above Isur V’Heter, that one should be strict about eating a food that relies upon halachic nullification of a non-kosher ingredient, because the Chida distinguishes between “sheiv v’al taaseh” (passively being strict) and “kum v’asei” (actively being strict). Where one simply is stringent by NOT doing something (i.e., here) by not eating the mixture, such stringency is lauded. We only frown upon a person who performs some act that is a stringency.

Nevertheless, the Darchei T’shuvah cites an amazing B’nei Yisas’char who discusses why nullification is permitted in general. The B’nei Yisas’char explains that Hashem wanted the non-kosher food to become kosher, and that is why he orchestrated it to fall into the kosher food and become nullified. Accordingly, it is much preferable, and a greater mitzvah, to eat non-kosher food that was halachically nullified, than to refrain from eating it, as Hashem specifically wanted that food to be eaten, since He caused it to be nullified.


III. Contemporary Poskim

Rav Moshe Sternbuch (T’shuvos V’Hanhagos 2:375) cites the numerous opinions listed in the Darchei T’shuvah but suggests a proof that one should refrain from eating a nullified food from the Gemara (Beitzah 3b). The Gemara discusses the halachic principle that a “davar she’yeish bo matirin” (an object that will subsequently be permitted) does not become nullified. Rashi (ibid) explains that the reason is because: “Why eat something when it is forbidden if you can eat it when permitted?” This implies that a scrupulous person should not eat a nullified food, even if halachically permitted based on nullification principles, as it is better to eat “purely” kosher when possible.

Rav Sternbuch, however, debunks this proof, as Rashi is merely explaining that we try to avoid having to use nullification of non-kosher, as it could lead to intentionally causing nullification (which is forbidden). However, where the nullification has already occurred, even Rashi would potentially agree that even scrupulous individuals may eat the nullified food. This is certainly true when a non-kosher liquid is nullified in a different, kosher liquid, so that there is no taste of the non-kosher liquid at all, as there is 60 times more kosher than non-kosher.

Similarly, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Yoreh Dei’ah 4:14) rules that a scrupulous person should be strict when dealing with nullification based on simple majority, but there is no basis to be strict when dealing with a 60-times-more-kosher-than-non-kosher nullification mixture.

Next Week’s Topic: Are our kashrus organizations properly strict, or is it preferable for our kashrus organizations to lower standards to enable more people to eat kosher?

Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq. is Associate Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and a practicing litigation attorney. Questions? Comments? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..