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The Crown of Halacha

Taste of Torah – Bamidbar 5777

By Rabbi Avi Kamionski

THE CASE:

Eli Goldberg lives in Israel and studies in an Issur V’heter Kollel. Eli also works as an attorney and sometimes his business requires that he travels overseas. One of the perks of frequent flying that Eli enjoys is access to airport lounges which offer travelers a comfortable environment as they wait to board their flights. On his last trip, Eli ordered a diet coke. The bartender poured the diet coke and then dropped in a slice of lime. Knowing that lime is a davar charif (sharp food), Eli wondered whether he could drink the diet coke. While he stood there contemplating this dilemma, Patrick O’Neill, another traveler, approached the bartender and asked if he could get a ham sandwich. The bartender told Patrick that the lounge does not cook or prepare food. So Patrick ordered a gin and tonic, “And don’t forget the lime.”

Can Eli drink the diet coke with the lime?

THE ANSWER

The ShulchanAruch (96:1) holds that a davar charif (for example, an onion) which is cut with a knife absorbs the taste of the knife. For instance, if a fleishig knife was used to cut a davar charif, the davar charif becomes fleishig. The reason is that the sharp taste of the davar charif combined with the pressure of the knife will draw the meat taste from the knife into the davar charif. The same would apply to non- kosher knives, and therefore the davar charif will become treif.

However, the ShulchanAruch (96:4) says that lemonade, made by non-Jews using non-kosher knives to cut the lemons, is permissible. According to what we learned above, the lemonade should be assur because the lemons absorbed a treif taste! The Rama explains that the heter for lemonade is based on the amount of lemons that are generally cut. Because they have limited ‘drawing power’, after a certain number of cuts the lemons cannot draw more blios out of the knife. Therefore, only the first few slices are prohibited even though the knife is osser and was used to cut many lemons. When those initial slices are then grouped with the rest of the slices in one barrel would also be permissible because of bitul.

The PriMegadim (20) and the Matei Yehonasan in the name of the Shlah both ask: “Why don’t we say that each lemon that is cut becomes a davar assur because of the rule that chatichah na’aseis neveilah (the piece becomes a non-kosher entity) and then the taste of the lemon goes back into the knife and prohibits the next lemon that is cut? In this way, all the lemons should be prohibited!” They answer that a davar charif only has the strength to be mavlia (absorb) or maflit (push out) but cannot do both actions at once. Therefore, even if the lemons become forbidden, they will not osser the knife, so after cutting a few lemons the rest are mutar.

The Shach (20) offers several explanations for why lemon slices would be mutar.

  1. Like the Rama, the taste of the knife becomes insignificant after the first few lemon slices and those that are assur are batel.
  2. There are poskim who hold that the stringency of davar charif does not apply to an aino ben yomo utensil. We can assume that stam keilim of non-Jews are not ben yomo.
  3. The knife used to cut the lemons was designated for cutting lemons – and we are not worried they were used to cut non-kosher food.
  4. Lastly, although we generally consider lemons as a dvar charif, there are poskim who hold that only chiltis (asafoetida) is a dvar charif and not lemons. Therefore, the knife would not affect the lemon slices even if it were a ben yomo.The BadeiHa’Shulchan (96:59) says that the issur which was absorbed in the knife has the ability only to prohibit five lemons. Therefore, once eleven lemons were cut and mixed up, all the lemons become permissible since the five prohibited lemons are batel b’rov in the other six. MaadaneiHa’Shulchan (96:57, based on the ShiboleiHa’Leket and Shach) argues that the issur in the knife is batel after only cutting two lemons. Consequently, if one cut just five lemons, all the lemons are mutar. Although we don’t know the status of the knife, based on the lenient opinions above we can be makil b’deved. Eli can have his coke and lime.
This piece is from the Taste of Torah (a Keter HaTorah publication) and is not meant to rely upon halachah which is much deeper than this presentation. Rather, it is meant to be a fun way to give you a taste of what Issur V’heter is about, and for past and present Talmidim to review and discuss what we have learned. We welcome your feedback. If you would like to write for or sponsor an issue of Taste of Torah please email Eli Gherman at eliyashu@gmail.com.
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