Estimating the Shiur of Shishim

  • Rav David Brofsky




This week, I would like to discuss two questions of great practical and conceptual importance. 


What is the effect of ta'am on permitted food and utensils?  How does this impact the measurement of shishim when evaluating whether a mixture may be permitted?


Let us begin with a mishna (Chullin 108a) which presents the following scenario:


If a drop of milk falls onto a piece of meat, and the milk has the ability to impart taste, the piece of meat is prohibited.  If one stirred the mixture, the food is only prohibited if the milk can impart taste to the entire mixture.


In the first case, the piece of meat is clearly viewed as separate from the rest of the mixture in which it is situated, as the drop of milk is only measured against the meat, and not against the entire contents of the pot.  Regarding the exact placement of the piece of meat, Rashi and Tosafot debate whether this piece was partially immersed in the mixture or whether it was placed on top of another piece of meat and not at all immersed in the mixture.  In any case, the meat is prohibited because it stands independent of the mixture.


If, however, the mixture is stirred as the milk falls onto the meat, we view the milk as if it fell into the entire mixture, and therefore it only causes the mixture to be prohibited if it can impart taste to the entire mixture (shishim). 


The gemara, however, addresses another scenario and introduces a fundamental halakhic principle. 


Rav said, once the milk has imparted taste to the piece of meat, the meat itself becomes (like) neveila (meat which was not properly slaughtered) and causes all of the other pieces of meat to be prohibited.


The rishonim explain that Rav does NOT relate to the piece of meat as a mixture of meat and milk, but rather views the meat as if it were inherently prohibited, just like neveila.  Therefore, when this meat is mixed with other pieces of meat, we do not attempt to contrast the drop of milk with the rest of the mixture, but we must rather neutralize the impact of the entire piece of meat on the mixture. 


In other words, if this meat is introduced into a mixture of other pieces of meat, we have a mixture of prohibited meat (i.e., meat which was prohibited by the drop of milk) and permitted meat, which constitutes a mixture of similar substances (min be-mino), and not of milk and permitted meat, which is considered a mixture of dissimilar substances (min be-sheino mino).


Since Rav also maintains that bitul (nullification) is not possible in a mixture of similar substances (see shiur #2), the entire mixture is prohibited.  Consequently, according to those who allow for bitul in a mixture of similar substances - and the halakha is in accordance with their opinion - we require sixty parts (mi-derabanan) of heter for each piece of meat!


Chaticha Na'aseit Neveila:


The gemara describes this phenomenon as "Chaticha Na'aseit Neveila," and the rishonim conveniently refer to this principle as ChaNaN.  How can we understand the phenomenon of chanan, what is the scope of this halakha, and what are its ramifications?


One could offer a number of explanations for the phenomenon of chanan. 


On the one hand, chaticha na'aseit neveila may mean exactly what it says.  The heter is transformed into a prohibited substance and is viewed as the issur itself.  In our case, the piece of meat itself is viewed as a prohibited substance, similar to neveila, and we no longer focus on the milk that prohibited the meat in the first place. 


On the other hand, we might suggest that the halakha merely requires that one must not only neutralize the issur itself, but also the heter affected by it.  In other words, the "carrier" at times also requires bitul.  However, the carrier is not viewed as the issur itself, but rather as that which was prohibited.  While the acharonim suggest a number of practical differences between these two approaches (see, for example, Tosafot Chullin 108b s.v. Amai), we will focus on the halakhic applications of this principle.


Which Issurim?


Regarding the scope of this principle, the rishonim debate whether chanan applies to all issurim or only to basar be-chalav, and also whether chanan applies only to certain types of mixtures.


Does this principle of chanan apply only to the prohibition of basar be-chalav, or also to other prohibited substances? For example, is a substance prohibited by a neveila, or even by a non-kosher species (i.e., pig), also transformed into a chatichat neveila, subsequently requiring sixty parts of heter against the entire mixture, and not just against the original prohibited substance?


Rabbeinu Efraim (Tosafot Chullin 100a) claims that the principle of chanan applies only to the prohibition of basar be-chalav.  As the gemara notes elsewhere (Pesachim 44b), while generally we are concerned with one prohibited substance that prohibits a permitted substance, basar be-chalav is a chiddush (unique) in that two ordinarily-permitted substances join to form a new prohibited substance, i.e., chaticha na'aset neveila.  Basar be-chalav is not a mixture of the prohibited and permitted, rather, it is a new issur, and therefore we relate to the entire mixture as a chatichat neveila.


Interestingly, the poskim debate the status of basar be-chalav AFTER they have already been mixed, according to this opinion.  For example, if a piece of basar be-chalav prohibits another mixture, do we require sixty parts of heter against the entire mixture, or just against the piece of basar be-chalav?


The Beit Yosef (YD 103), who rules in accordance with the position of Rabbeinu Efraim, explains that if one boils water in a pot in which one cooked meat and milk earlier that day, the water becomes chanan, and is reabsorbed into the pot.  The Shakh disagrees.  He maintains that chanan only applies to the original mixture of basar be-chalav.  In our case, however, the water is prohibited by the issur of basar be-chalav, and we must relate to it as a mixture of water and a prohibited substance.  If this water were to be introduced into another mixture, we would only require shishim against the original amount of basar be-chalav!


Regarding the reasoning of Rabbeinu Efraim, it is worth noting that the Ra'ah (Torat Habayit sha'ar 4 pg. 9a) suggests that that conceptually one might arrive at the opposite conclusion.  In an ordinary mixture, a permitted substance becomes prohibited, creating one large entity of issur.  But meat and milk do not cause each other to be prohibited; rather, it is their union that is prohibited.  However, if we can neutralize one of the components of this union, then it should no longer be considered basar be-chalav!


Rabbeinu Tam, however, disagrees with Rabbeinu Efraim.  He maintains that the principle of chanan applies equally to all issurim; therefore, even a mixture prohibited by non-kosher meat is transformed into a "chatichat neveila" and we require sixty parts of heter against the entire mixture in order to permit the contents of the pot.


Clearly, this position should be seen in light of another opinion of Rabbeinu Tam.  We noted in shiur #6 that Rabbeinu Tam maintains that "ta'am ke-ikkar" teaches us that the taste of issur has the ability to define the identity of the mixture.  Rabbeinu Tam described this phenomenon as "heter nehepach le-issur," i.e., the permitted substance is transformed into a prohibited substance.  Therefore, for example, one who consumes a "kezayit" of the mixture, without actually consuming a kezayit of issur, also incurs malkot.  While the acharonim discuss the relationship between these two principles – "ta'am ke-ikkar" and "chaticha na'aseit neveila" - Rabbeinu Tam's conceptual understanding of ta'am ke-ikkar is clearly the basis for his understanding of chanan.


The Ran suggests a middle position.  Mi-de'oraita, the principle of chanan applies only to basar be-chalav.  Rabbinically, however, chanan applies to all prohibited substances.


The Shulchan Arukh (YD 92:4) accepts the opinion of Rabbeinu Efraim and limits the application of chanan to the issur of basar be-chalav. 


The Rema disagrees.  He insists that one should be stringent and apply the principle of chanan to other issurim as well.  The acharonim debate whether this extension is of rabbinic or biblical origin.  Both the Shakh and the Taz maintain that the halakha is in accordance with the Ran, and that the extension of chanan to other issurim is only mi-derabbanan. 


Which Mixtures?


As for whether chanan applies only to certain types of mixture, some rishonim believe that chanan applies only to pieces of meat, and not to liquids.  Therefore, if milk falls into a meaty soup, the soup is NOT considered to be chanan, and consequently if this soup falls into another mixture, we only require sixty parts of heter against the original milk! These rishonim, however, offer differing explanations for their opinion.


The Mordekhai, for example, maintains that chanan applies only to PIECES of meat (chatichot), because of their "importance and because the prohibited substance will be recognizable and separate" (chashivut ve-issur nikar u-muvdal).  This may relate to the question we raised above.  If the halakha of chanan tells us that the "carrier" of a prohibited substance must also be neutralized, one may suggest that this carrier is a separate and important item, and hence is not a liquid.


Alternatively, the Ra'avad offers a more technical explanation.  Chanan only applies to solid pieces, he asserts, because even after the meat is introduced into another mixture, the issur absorbed in the solid will not spread throughout the mixture and be nullified by shishim.  However, when the issur is mixed into a liquid, and then into another liquid, the original issur will be evenly distributed throughout the entire mixture, and will be nullified in shishim.


The Chavat Da'at suggests a practical difference between these two explanations.  What if after this piece of meat is prohibited, it dissolves into a liquid?  According to the Ra'avad, the issur may now be evenly distributed throughout the mixture, and therefore bitul of the original prohibition is possible.  However, according to the Mordekhai, once the chaticha was prohibited because it was a separate and chashuv entity, no matter what happens to the chaticha afterwards – even if it dissolves - it remains prohibited and we require shishim against the entire chaticha!


The Rema (92:3) cites the opinion of the Mordekhai, noting that regarding "other issurim" which have affected a wet mixture (lach), one may be lenient in a case of financial loss. 


Finally, we must also point out that that the phenomenon of chanan is relevant only to prohibited substances, and not to permitted substance such as milk or meat.  Therefore, for example, the Shukhan Arukh (YD 94:6) rules that if onions that have absorbed the taste of meat are cooked with milk, we require sixty parts of milk against the taste of meat absorbed in the onion (if known), and NOT against the entire onion. 


While we have presented some of the basic issues of chanan, there may be other factors relevant to a halakhic decision and therefore questions of this sort should be presented to a halakhic authority.


Next week we will discuss the effect of ta'am on utensils, and whether the principle of chanan applies to keilim.