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Avoda Zara 67a-b: A Mixture Containing Non-Kosher Food

When will a mixture containing non-kosher food be forbidden and when will it be permitted?

Rabbi Abbahu quotes Rabbi Yoḥanan as teaching that when the mixture contains non-kosher food and the taste of the non-kosher food is noticeable, then the mixture is forbidden and the person who eats it will be liable to receive lashes as punishment. If the taste of the non-kosher food is noticeable, but there is no actual food in the mixture – e.g. the non-kosher food melted and cannot be found or it was recognizable and was removed – then it is forbidden, but there is no punishment for eating it. If the taste of the forbidden food is an unpleasant taste – noten ta’am le-fegam – then it is permitted entirely.

According to Rashi, there is no punishment in the case where the taste of the non-kosher food was noticeable but there was no actual forbidden food in the mixture because there is no biblical prohibition in such a case. Other rishonim, however, believe that there are sources in the Torah that forbid such a mixture, but the prohibition is not severe enough to require punishment. One explanation is that every case where there is taste but no actual forbidden food it is impossible to eat a sufficient amount – a ke-zayit be-khdei akhilat peras (an olive-size amount eaten in the time that it takes to eat half a loaf of bread) – to become liable for punishment. This is based on the rule that it is prohibited to eat a ḥatzi shi’ur – a partial measure – of forbidden food, but there will be no punishment until a full measure is eaten within the specified amount of time.

It is a halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai – a tradition given to Moses on Mount Sinai – that a person is responsible for eating forbidden food not only if he eats it all immediately, but even if a minimum amount was eaten within a prescribed time limit – ke-zayit be-khdei akhilat peras. If he extended his eating over a longer period of time, then it is considered to be two separate acts of eating and he would not be held liable.

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

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