Friday, October 16, 2009

There's a Fly in my Soup!

Disclaimer: As in all halachik discussions on the internet, what appears below should not be taken as a ruling, but as discussion only. Please discuss any practical applications with an orthodox rabbi.

In honor of my fifth rabbanut bechina in about 10 days:

In the halachot of food, insects are particularly hard to defend against, since they are small they often show up in the most unexpected places. Insects furthermore carry the distinction that if eaten whole, they encompass multiple infractions, or לאוין.

If an insect falls into a cup of juice, one may immediately remove it, and may continue to drink (although practically, one may wonder where the insect may have been, and what disease it may carry). This is because the taste of the forbidden insect did not transfer into the food or drink. However, in a situation where the offending insect falls into cooking liquid, or is steeped in liquid for 24 hours (see SA YD 105:1), the situation is more complex. Here, we assume that taste has transferred (as happens during cooking), and therefore, the taste of the forbidden insect has been diffused throughout the cooking. In a case like this, one may only eat the food once the insect is removed if there is sixty times the forbidden taste (approximated by volume of the offending insect) in the food (ששים כנגדו). However, there is a more subtle case, where the food is hot but not cooking on the fire. This discussion will center around a fly in soup, and the worm that is often placed in a bottle of tequila.

Normally, an item is considered cooked with another item if it is brought to a temperature at which a hand is burnt, or if it steeps (כבישה) in it for 24 hours. The later authorities discuss the temperature "at which a hand is burnt" or יד סולדת בו. The פתחי תשובה brings two opinions (105:2), that it is either heat that would burn a baby's stomach, or that which makes it impossible to hold a vessel. He says that the practical reality is that people rely on the second opinion, which is approximated at 120o F (see the Star-K site).

Once the soup is placed in a bowl, however, it is considered in a כלי שני and thus not capable of cooking. However, the Rashba posits that even though it does not cook, it still transfers taste (מפליט ומבליע) and so it can still create forbidden mixtures. In this case, the soup with the fly may be forbidden even after the fly is removed, since the taste of the fly is considered by Rashba to have transferred into the soup (כדי קליפה, only into a thin layer surrounding the food). However, the Shulchan Aruch (105:2) only rules stringently as the Rashba in an ideal situation (לכתחילה); practically, if the accident has already occured, he allows one to behave as if a second vessel, a כלי שני does not pose the problem of flavor transferral. The ש"כ goes further and says that most authorities rule that כלי שני presents no problem whatsoever.

In addition to this reasoning permitting the soup in a bowl after the removal of a fly, even a pot on the fire could be permitted in the case of a fly falling in. In YD 104:1 (which rules like Rava in ע"ז סח:), we read that mice, flies, ants and other things that are disgusting to everyone, would be considered in essence things that give off a bad flavor (נותן טעם לפגם). In this sistuation, the requirement of sixty times the forbidden amount is unneeded, since that is in place only to ensure that the benefit from the forbidden part is imperceptible. So, you could remove the fly and eat the rest of the soup, even if the fly fell in while the pot was on the fire.

(This reasoning is restricted by a caveat: if we are dealing with beer or vinegar into which the forbidden item fell, even if the item is something that is essentially disgusting, they may, in these media, somehow enhance the flavor. In this case, we would need sixty times the forbidden item after it is removed in order to permit the soup.)

At the end of 104:3, the Shulchan Aruch rules thus, and permits these disgusting things, even if they are dissolved and mixed so completely as to make it impossible to remove them. However, we are required to do the best we can to remove them, like straining the soup before serving it. This issue is brought up again in 107:2. While the Rema there permits as did the Shulchan Aruch, the Bach quotes the שערי דורא who is strict and forbids it. The ש"כ mentions there are many who forbid.

And so, if the fly is visible or locatable, remove it. Otherwise, the Shulchan Aruch and Rema both would permit the soup. If the item is removed, and the soup has more than 60 times the forbidden item, everyone would permit.

The Aruch Hashulchan says its not reasonable to assume that a fly would be so mashed and dissolved by regular cooking as to permit it simply by being lost, according to the Shulchan Aruch and Rema. Therefore, how can we allow eating the soup? The same question applied in their days when the flour was full of bugs (as opposed to today, when there are so few bugs in our packaged, expiry dated flour, that you do not have to sift if the flour is not passed its expiration date and it has been stored safely).

The Aruch Hashulchan says that when something is completely lost in the soup, and is bad-tasting, it is completely unimportant, and therefore you can eat it. Otherwise, one might still say that the cooking according to Shulchan Aruch does dissolve even ants(which most would disagree with), or that it is only permitted if one sees a wing or something, to ascertain that it has been mashed.

Thus in the final analysis, a fly in soup (on the fire) must be removed. If it is, or it is mashed and dissolved (or even just lost according to the Aruch Hashulchan), it is permitted even without sixty times the forbidden item's volume of permitted matter (ששים כנגדו). According to the Bach's stringency, we would still require sixty. And if the fly has fallen into a כלי שני, then the circumstance is one of בדיעבד, and it is permitted after the fly is removed.

Now, in the case of a worm in liquor (as is common in bottles of tequila), the question is, what is the worm's purpose? Is it there to add flavor or coloring? Chardal, my resident alcohol expert, claims that the worm in tequila is simply for show. He says that "while it does not harm the taste of the liquer, it also does not enhance it. Frankly, no one can tell the difference between tequila with a worm or without one (assuming it is the same quality base tequila)."

If the worm had been there to enhance the flavor or look of the drink, certainly, we would need sixty units of permitted matter for each unit of forbidden matter, after removing the worm. However, we may be sure that the taste is still there, since the worm is in the bottle to demonstrate that the liquor is flavored (as is traditional) with that worm. Therefore, even if there is sixty in the bottle, it would not help, because either 1) the one worm is enough to give its taste to that bottle or (more likely) 2) the liquor was steeped in enough worms to make it taste, and the worm in this bottle is just for show. Either way, the liquor certainly has the taste of the worm. (This ignores the possibly relavent fact that if the worm is מעמיד, that it makes up an integral part of the liquor making process, then a מעמיד of איסור is not ever בטל (See end of YD 87).

However, in light of Chardal's insight into alcoholic bevarages, the worm does not add flavor. However, even in this situation, the Shach (based on the הגהות אשרי) forbids the mixture even when the forbidden does not add taste, unless there is a measure of sixty units of permitted volume for each unit of forbidden volume, and of course, requires the forbidden item to be removed. Thus, if the tequila can be proven to never have been in a situation where the tequila was less than sixty times more in volume than the number of worms, the tequila may be allowed if the worm is removed. (See the Rama, who may be lenient and allow something of neutral taste contribution to be removed and בטל without ששים כנגדו.) Of course, all this applies only if the tequila itself is kosher. The only issue under discussion here is if the worm forbids otherwise kosher tequila.

Again, the above is not meant as ruling, but as discussion only. Please discuss any practical applications with an orthodox rabbi.




Very interesting. Thanks. This clarified a lot for me.