Published Spring 2011
“She is too nervous to come to the phone,” said the woman, referring to the mother of the Bar Mitzvah boy, who had just prepared a huge pot of chicken soup for the upcoming seudas Shabbos. The woman then related the following story to me. The Bar Mitzvah boy, who was home from school on the Friday before the big Shabbos, had warmed up some pizza in the toaster oven on a piece of aluminum foil. After completing his lunch, he crushed the used foil into a ball and attempted to shoot it into the garbage can. The foil ball missed the trash and landed in the large pot of chicken soup, simmering on the stove in preparation for his seudas Bar Mitzvah! The woman on the phone got right to the point. “We discarded the foil. Does the soup need to be thrown out, and do we need to start again?” she asked. We made a quick calculation of the volume of foil and any dairy residue on it, versus the amount of soup in the pot. It was clear that there was sixty times more soup than the dairy foil and residue. “Muttar,” I declared, to an audible sigh of relief on the other end of the line.
This case was just one example of an unintended mixture, where the halachah of Bitul B’shishim applies. A review of these laws will illustrate when the rule of batel b’shishim applies and when it does not.
It should be noted that most kashrus agencies do not rely on bitul. This means that Star-K policy is that products must be 100% kosher to be granted certification. Star-K does not allow companies to add non-kosher ingredients.
The following halachos relate to accidental mix-ups and highlights the general issues regarding bitul. Bitul is one of the most detailed, complex, and lengthy issues in all of Shulchan Aruch. A brief article cannot cover the myriad of cases of bitul. When questions arise, individuals should consult with their Rav or posek.1
I. WHERE DOES THE ONE TO SIXTY RATIO COME FROM?
The Mishna2 tells us that not only is non-kosher food forbidden to eat, but any taste of that food is also not allowed. This is known as “taam k’ikur,” the taste is like the prohibited food (i.e. it is like the prohibited food). Therefore, if non-kosher food falls into a pot of kosher food, thereby imbuing the kosher food with a non-kosher flavor, we apply the rule of ta’am k’ikur and the once kosher food is now non-kosher, even though the non-kosher food was removed. If, however, no non-kosher taste remains, the product is permissible because the non-kosher is “batel,” nullified.
How can one know if the food possesses non-kosher taste without tasting it himself? The Shulchan Aruch3 suggests asking an akum to taste some of it. He can tell you if there is still any taste of the non-kosher food.4
The Rama5 holds that in our times, we can no longer rely on an akum to conduct a taste test. Generally, this test cannot be used. The Rama says we know the non-kosher is batel if there is “shishim” – 60 times more kosher than non-kosher. The basis is as follows: The Gemara6 learns the halacha of “shishim” from the part of the karbon of the Nazir, referred to as the “z’roah b’shaila” – the foreleg of the ram after it had been cooked together with the ram.7 The ram8 was eaten by the Nazir, even though it was cooked together with the z’roah which only kohanim could eat. How could a non-kohen eat something cooked with the z’roah that was only fit for kohanim? The answer is that the ram was 60 times the volume of the z’roah. From here we derive the general rule of “shishim,” if there is 60 times more kosher than non-kosher the food may be eaten after any noticeable non-kosher food has been removed.9
One can assume that if there is 60 times more kosher than non-kosher food, the taste of the non-kosher food is no longer detectable and is permissible to eat. “60 times” is determined by volume (and not by weight).10 This means the volume of kosher must be 60 times greater than the volume of non-kosher.
However, if the amount of kosher is less than 60 times the non-kosher food (i.e. the non-kosher comprises more than 1.6% of the entire mixture),11 the mixture is not kosher even after the non-kosher food was been removed, since we assume there is still non-kosher ta’am (taste) in it.12 The same applies to milk and meat. This means if meat falls into milk, and the meat does not constitute more than 1/61 of the mixture, the milk remains kosher.13 However, if the meat is more than one-sixtieth of the milk, the entire mixture is deemed not kosher.14
II. ITEMS THAT ARE NOT BATEL
There are various cases when we do not apply the din of bitul, where Chazal say “afilu b’elef lo batul” – these non-kosher items are not nullified even if mixed in one thousand, and the entire mixture is not kosher:
1) A Davar Hama’amidis something that “creates” a particular product. A classic example of this is non-kosher animal rennet used to make cheese.15 Without the enzymatic reaction caused by the rennet, there would be no cheese. Hence, even if the milk is sixty times the rennet, the finished product is not kosher.16
- Davar Sheyaish Lo Matirin is something prohibited at the time it was mixed with kosher food, that will become permissible at a later time.17 Such an item is not batel, even if it is in the kosher product at less than one-sixtieth. The classic example is an egg that is laid on Shabbos or Yom Tov. One may not eat it until after Shabbos (or Yom Tov). If this egg became mixed with other eggs, one may not eat any of these eggs because the forbidden egg is a davar she’yaish lo matirin and its prohibition will cease when Shabbos or Yom Tov ends. Rashi18explains one may not rely on bitul when he can simply wait until the prohibition expires with the passing of time.19 According to some opinions, another example is when pieces of non-kosher cutlery are mixed in with kosher cutlery and one cannot differentiate between them. One must kasher all the pieces (if it is relatively easy to do so)20 since the cutlery becomes permissible through kashering.21
- Berya – A complete creature (e.g. an insect), whether dead or alive, is never batel.22
- Intentionally Mixed In – One may not mix even a small amount of non-kosher food into kosher food.23 This is known as “ain mevatlin issur l’chatchila.” Similarly, one may not put a small amount of milk into a very large pot of meat, even though the milk will be batel b’shishim. If one did this intentionally, he, his family, and the person for whom he is mevatel it may not eat it.24 However, if a gentile company adds a non-kosher ingredient and the non-kosher ingredient is batel, a kosher consumer may buy this product as there is no prohibition of “ain mevatlin” for the gentile.25 This is only true if it was not done explicitly for Yidden.
- Nikker – If the non-kosher item is detectable (e.g. one can see and notice a small non-kosher piece of meat in vegetable soup), one may not eat the food until the non-kosher item is removed. This is true, even if the non-kosher item is less than one-sixtieth.26
- Chometz on Pesach – If chometz was mixed into Kosher for Pesach food on Pesach, the food is considered chometz even if the kosher for Pesach food is 60 times the non-kosher for Pesach food.27
- Davar She’bminyan – If something is usually sold individually, it does not become batel.28 For example, pomegranates are a davar she’bminyan since they are sold in supermarkets only by the piece, not by weight or by the dozen.29
- Chaticha Re’uya L’hischabed– A prominent piece of food, such as a piece of chicken (e.g. a top or bottom), fit to be prepared (e.g. ready to be baked) for a guest is “important.” If a non-kosher piece of this chicken became mixed with many kosher pieces, all of the pieces would be assur (forbidden).30
- Avoda Zara – An idol, or anything used in the service of idolatry including wine,31 is not batel.32
- Chazusa – According to some opinions, something that is not kosher that adds color to a food is not batel b’shishim. An example of this is carmine, derived from an insect. Carmine used at even less than one-sixtieth would render the product not kosher.33 Other opinions disagree.34 One should consult a Rav.
- Sakana – There is a general principal that “chamira sakanta may’issura,” which means even if it is batel we are stricter with something that may be dangerous (even when diluted) than with something prohibited by halacha.35 An example of this is something poisonous that became diluted. It should be noted that although one may not eat fish and meat together due to sakana,36 one can be lenient if the ratio of fish to meat is less than one-sixtieth.37
III. BITUL AT PERCENTAGES OTHER THAN SHISHIM
Various items are batel at ratios other than one-sixtieth. Examples include the following:
- Pieces vs. Mixtures – When non-kosher food is mixed into kosher, the kosher food must generally be 60 times the non-kosher in order to nullify the non-kosher. When “pieces” of food are mixed up and have not been heated, soaked38 or salted together, the following halacha applies: If it is “min b’mino” (i.e. they have a similar taste), then min hadin only “rov” (the majority is permissible) is required.39 This would occur if the kosher and non-kosher pieces are identical. For example, if one piece of meat from an unshechted animal was mixed with two pieces of kosher meat, the non-kosher meat is “batel b’rov” – nullified by majority. In this case, the pieces may not be cooked together, and the minhag is to still discard one piece.40
- Nosain Taam L’fgam – If something not kosher has an unpleasant taste, and is prepared together with kosher food, it is batel b’rov and does not require shishim. For example, if an insect was cooked in a kosher product and was then removed, the food is kosher even if the food was not 60 times the volume of the insect, since the insect taste is considered to be “pagum.”41 Furthermore, in general if one inadvertently cooks in a non-kosher pot that is not a ben yomo (i.e. it has not been used in 24 hours), the taste from the pot is pogum and batel in the cooked product.42
- There are certain items that have a more lenient level of prohibition that Chazal said are batel b’rov if they were inadvertently mixed. Examples include the following:
- Kitniyos (legumes) prohibited on Pesach are batel b’rov.43
- Meat that was not salted (or soaked) for three days cannot be cooked. It may only be roasted. If such a piece of meat was salted after three days, and was then mixed with two pieces that were salted within three days of the shechita or washing, they may be cooked as the unsalted piece is batel b’rov; sixty is not required.44
4) Challah – If someone was mafrish challah, and the piece of challah fell back into the regular dough, the challah would not be batel even if there was 60 times more regular dough.45 One needs 100 times more regular dough than the piece of challah.46
IV. AVIDI L’TAAMA – FLAVORS
If a non-kosher ingredient is “avidi l’taama”, added as a flavoring agent, it will prohibit the mixture even if the issur (prohibited item) is less than one-sixtieth of the mixture.47 The reason for this is because this non-kosher item has the ability to impart “ta’am” (flavor), even in a mixture well below one-sixtieth.48 An example of this is civet absolute, which is derived from the secretions of a civet, a non-kosher cat-like species. This flavor component has a sweet animal-like odor and is added at parts per million to flavors used in beverages, ice cream, candy and baked goods.
It is quite evident that the Torah recognizes that people make mistakes. In addition to kitchen mix-ups discussed in Yoreh De’ah, every other section of the Shulchan Aruch devotes simanim to discussions of the halachos of mistakes. This includes mistakes in davening,41 a mistake made by a sofer,50 or a mistake made by a dayan.51
The important lesson is to understand that if the Torah and Chazal have set a course of direction for those who make errors, then we too must have patience with regard to all of us who make mistakes – our spouses, our family, our friends, our neighbors, and yes even ourselves. We should never feel depressed about our own shortcomings, despite the fact that we at times make mistakes. These halachos are a constant reminder that we are only human. Our goal is to recognize these errors and take the proper steps to correct them in the way the Torah prescribes.
1 The article is written according to minhag Ashkenaz. Some of these halachos are different for Sefardim. Consult your Rav.
2 Chulin 96b
3 Yoreh De’ah (Y.D.) 98:1, based on the Gemara Chulin 97 a-b.
4 The same taste test can be done if dairy falls into a pot of meat. If the akum cannot detect any dairy, it is nullified and the food may be eaten. For a full discussion as to whether this akum must be a chef or expert taster, and whether the taster can know why he is being asked to taste the food, see Shach (98:2) and Taz (98:2).
5 Y.D. 98:1. This is the minhag Ashkenaz. Under certain conditions, Sefardim will rely on the akum tasting the food. Consult your Rav.
6 Chulin 98a-b, based on the explanation of Rashi “U’shnayhem” and “Bahadi Basar.” See Tosfos “U’mahn D’amor,” who says the halacha of shishim is “kabalah hoisa b’yadam,” known through mesorah (tradition). Z’roah b’shaila is an “asmachta.”
7 Bamidbar 6:19
8 A korbon Shlamim.
9 If there is still a non-kosher taste, even when the tarfus is less than one-sixtieth, it is prohibited. As to whether this prohibition is d’Oraisa or d’Rabanan, see Shach Y.D. 98:29 and Chidushei Reb Akiva Eiger (ibid).
10 See Pischei Teshuva Y.D. 98:2.
11 The Shach Y.D. 98:26 says this applies to non-kosher food that is prohibited min haTorah or midrabanan.
12 If non-kosher food was mixed into a pot of stew in a ratio of, for example, one to fifty, the entire pot of stew is treif. If some of the stew then fell into another pot of food at a ratio of 1:3, although the stew is more than one-sixtieth of this pot, the amount of issur from the original non-kosher food is less than one-sixtieth. Nonetheless, in general, the stew is not batel because we consider the entire stew as treif, not just the original non-kosher flavor within the stew. This is known as chaticha na’asis nevaila (chana”n). See Rama Y.D. 99:5. This is always true with regard to milk and meat mixtures, and also solid non-kosher mixtures (e.g. lach b’yavesh). If the mixture is liquid non-kosher (lach b’lach), a Rav should be consulted. Furthermore, Sefardim are generally lenient unless it is milk and meat.
13 If the meat is still nikker (i.e. it can be seen), the meat must be removed and discarded as it is now assur due to the non-batel milk taste in it.
14 The above applies if the food was hot. If it was cold, consult a Rav as under certain conditions the food may be kosher. Also note, whenever we indicate “meat in milk,” in general a similar halacha will apply to milk falling into a pot of meat. If we indicate “milk in meat,” in general a similar halacha will apply by meat in milk.
15 Of course, cheese that was produced by a gentile is generally not kosher even if he uses kosher rennet, because of the prohibition of gvinas akum.
16 Y.D. 87:11
17 See Y.D. Siman 102.
18 Beitza 3b. See Ran (Nedarim 52a) for a second explanation.
19 For example, after Shabbos.
20 See Rama Y.D. 102:3.
21 See Shach Y.D. 102:8, who discusses different opinions regarding this case. See also Pischei Teshuva 102:6 (and what he says in the name of the Tzlach).
22 Y.D. 100:1. Other examples of “complete” include Gid Hanasheh and Aiver Min Hachai.
23 Y.D. 99:5
24 Y.D. 99:5 and Taz 98:10. See also Reb Akiva Eiger. In regards to selling it, see Rama & Taz 99:12.
25 See Darchei Teshuva 108:20. This is why a tablet is considered kosher even if it contains magnesium stearate, a possible non-kosher ingredient usually mixed into the product at less than one-sixtieth. As previously indicated, Star-K will only certify products that are 100% kosher.
26 Chachmas Adam 51:3
27 O.C. 447:1. See also Mishna Brura (M.B.) 447:2. When chometz is mixed before Pesach, then the following halachos apply: If the mixture is fluid (known as “lach b’lach”), for example beer (chometz) mixed with wine or if the mixture is powdery (known as kemach b’kemach), the chometz is batel one in sixty. It may be consumed on Pesach. However, if there is a “solid” food item involved, and it is cooked together with chometz (e.g. one baked a piece of chicken with chometz soy sauce), then it will not remain batel on Pesach and may not be eaten, even if it was mixed before Pesach (see O.C. 447:4 and additional cases in M.B. 33). This is known as “chozair v’nayor.”
28 Rama Y.D. 110:1. See Taz 110:1 and Shach 110:9, who discuss cases where products are sold in differing amounts. Also see Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 110:1, who cites additional examples of items that are “chashuv” (important) and not batel.
29 Therefore, if a pomegranate that was orlah was mixed with many other regular pomegranates, one may not eat any of the pomegranates. Although orlah is generally batel in 200, in this case of davar sheb’minyan, it cannot become batel.
30 Y.D. 101:1 and Rama 101:3
31 This is known as yayin nesech. For conditions and details, see Y.D. 134. Note that the halachos of wine that is prepared or touched by an akum (stam yaynam) are different.
32 Y.D. 140:1. The Shach 140:1 notes that decorative items used to beautify or enhance the idol are also not batel.
33 See Shach Y.D. 102:5.
34 See M.B. 513:9 for the different opinions.
35 The Taz Y.D. 116:2 discusses this halacha in detail.
36 Y.D. 116:2
37 Nekudas Hakesef 116. Nowadays, such a mixture is certainly permissible – see Pischei Teshuva 116:3 for a full explanation.
38 For 24 hours.
39 Y.D. 109:1
40 The Rama notes that by “min b’shaino mino” (pieces are different), the kosher must be 60 times the non-kosher. For an example of this case, see Shach 109:9. This Shach also discusses whether this also applies by an issur d’rabbonon. See also Shach 110 – Dinei Sfak Sfeika 22.
41 See Taz Y.D. 104:6 and Pri Megadim Sifsei Daas 107:7.
42 Y.D. 122:2. If the food in the pot was a davar charif (sharp), a Rav should be consulted as the pogum taste may not be batel.
43 M.B. 453:9
44 Y.D. 69:14
45 Rama Y.D. 323:1. It should be noted that there are other cases involving agricultural products that require more than shishim for bitul (e.g. Teruma) that are beyond the scope of this article.
46 If the dough is less than 100 times the amount of challah, although it is not batel, there is another way to permit the dough through hataras nedarim. Consult a Rav.
47 Rama Y.D. 98:8. See Taz 98:11.
48 It should be noted that avidi l’taama does not assur in the following cases: 1) A case where the flavor component is no longer detectable. For example, if a flavor component normally used at one part per million (ppm) is inadvertently added to a product at one part per billion (i.e. and it is no longer detectable), the product is kosher.
2) Zeh v’zeh gorem – If a kosher component gives off a basically identical taste, we say “this (heter) and this (issur) make up the taste,” and in certain cases the finished product would still be kosher. See Magen Avraham Orach Chaim (O.C.) 318:31 and Taz 318:15. A shaila should be asked. 3) If something that is intrinsically kosher that has a powerful taste is mixed with something non-kosher that does not have a strong taste, the newly formed avidi l’taama compoundwill be batel b’shishim if it falls into something else. See Y.D. 105:14. For example, salt is avidi l’taama. If it absorbed blood (which is non-kosher), and then the salt fell into food, it will still be batel b’shishim since the blood which is forbidden (and not avidi l’taama) is batel b’shishim. Similarly, if a kosher avidi l’taama item was heated in a non-kosher pot, and then placed in a pot of kosher food, it will be batel b’shishim.
49 Orach Chaim 268
50 Even Ha’ezer 151
51 Choshen Mishpat 25