Thursday, December 30, 2010

Torah from Our Beit Midrash

This week I discussed with my Yoreh Deah students a practical kashrut question I had been asked just last Shabbat in shul.  Someone came over to me and asked me the following question -  he had marinated a 4 pound roast in wine, roasted it, and then discovered that the wine was not kosher.   This was to be his Shabbat meal.  What was the status of the roast?

To answer this we first estimate the proportion of wine to roast - was it more or less than 1:60?  I asked him how much wine he used, and he said not more than 8 ounces.  For the measurement of 60 we go by volume, and 8 ounces is about 1/3 of a bottle of wine.  So 60 times that would be 20 bottles of wine, and there was no question that the roast was not that large.   He then stated that much of the wine evaporated when the roasting began, and suggested that maybe we could measure it based on the wine that remained after the evaporation.   This was not an option, because while Shulkhan Arukh (YD 99:4) rules that we determine the ratio of forbidden to permitted food based on the current state of the mixture, Taz (ad. loc., note 4) clarifies that when the permitted and forbidden food get absorbed or evaporate at different rates, and we know what the proportions were at the beginning of the mixture, you must use those original quantities in determining the 1:60 ration.

So, it looked like the roast was forbidden.  However, during our discussion, it came out that he had tasted some of the meat last night before realizing the problem.  I asked him if, when he tasted it, he could taste a wine taste, or whether - while the taste of the roast had clearly been altered because of the wine - the actual taste was not a distinctively wine taste.  He answered that while he could tell it had been marinated in wine, it was not a wine taste per se.  I debated whether this would be sufficient to permit the roast.  Poskim differentiate between: (a) the taste of the forbidden food per se and (b) a taste which is different from the forbidden food's taste, but results from the mixture of taste of the forbidden food and the permitted one.   The first case is forbidden, based on taam ki'ikar, the taste is like the thing itself, while the second case is, in theory, permissible.

At least in theory.  But, I was not prepared to allow this case for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, the roast had been marinated in this wine, so clearly the wine was added to add a flavor and a powerful one.  Although it did not taste like wine per se, it is doubtful, in my opinion, that this taste, even mixed with the meet, was not "winey" enough to constitute ta'am ki'ikar.  Secondly, when he tasted it, he was not focusing on detecting the taste of wine or not.  Thirdly, as Ashkenazim, we as a rule do not attend to the actual experienced taste but always go by 60.   While Shakh states that we can rely on the tasting of a Jew, at least b'dieved, it is questionable if we can do that in such a case - where there was a lot of wine, and the taste had definitely been affected.

So, I told him that the roast was not permitted.  However, as I went to sit down, it occurred to me - what was he doing with non-kosher wine in his house?  So I went back and asked him - was this really non-kosher wine, or was it just eino mevushal that had been handled by a non-Jew.  He said it was the latter - that it was eino mevushal that was left over from last shabbat, and the bottle had been opened, and his non-Jewish babysitter had since been in the house.  Well, I told him, that changed everything.   In a case of eino mevushal wine, the concern is only that the non-Jew poured it, as it is impossible to stick one's finger down the neck of the bottle and touch the wine.  Now, pouring wine only constitutes kocho, the force of the person, but not actual touching.  We generally consider kocho like touching, but it really is less severe.

The base rule is that when non-mevushal wine is poured by a non-Jew, because of kocho, the poured wine is forbidden.  But that is only the wine that was poured.  Here the concern was for the wine that remained in the bottle.   That - which was not affected by kocho, would only be forbidden on the basis that it was connected to the poured stream, a principle known as nitzok chibbur.  Now it is a debate whether we say this principle by stam yaynam.  While the Shulkhan Arukh rules this way (YD 125:1), Rema (ad. loc.) states that there are those who are lenient.  Rema advises being strict unless we are talking about a case of great loss.  The case of a 4 lb. roast for one's Shabbat meal should definitely qualify, so there is already a reason to be lenient based on not being strict for nitzok chibbur

There is another reason to be lenient as well.  Rema states in YD 124:24 that given that non-Jews nowadays are not true ovdei avodah zarah, and do not use wine for religious libations under normal circumstances, that we can be more lenient when they only touch the wine unintentionally or indirectly, and in such cases, when it is b'dieved and when there is a loss (or serious loss) involved, the wine does not become forbidden.  Now, kocho is even less severe than indirect touch, and the Shach in 125:2 states explicitly that b'dieved, in cases of loss, even not serious loss, we can be lenient in a case of kocho.  This was clearly such a case, so I was able to tell him that the roast was permissible.  Just another lesson in how a posek has to find out all the details before rendering psak.

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