Simanim 171-173 Respect for Food

  • Rav Asher Meir
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #107: Simanim 171 - 173


By Rabbi Asher Meir







In masekhet Sofrim, we learn:


And it is forbidden to dishonor food, and one may not throw food from place to place.  One may not sit on a case full of dates or figs, but one may sit on a case full of beans, or on a wheel of dried figs, because it is customary.  (Sofrim 3:18, some versions number 3:14)


The Bach explains that sitting on a case of dates or figs is improper because it squashes the fruit.  For this reason, there is no prohibition with dry beans.  It follows that there is no problem whatsoever if the fruits are in a hard box that will protect the contents from being squashed when sat on.


This seems to contradict the wording of the source, which says that the leniency is "because it is customary."  The Bach explains that this applies only to dried figs.  Dried figs can sometimes get squashed a bit if you sit on them, but usually they don't and so people customarily sit on them.


In another place in the SA, we find a prohibition on a closely related behavior. SA YD 116:5 forbids placing "tavshil" (cooked food) or drink under the bed, because there is a "ruach ra'ah" ("bad spirit") there.  Let us examine the source of that ruling, and clarify the distinction between these rules.


The Beit Yosef writes that the source for the ruling in YD is the Yerushalmi:


Rebbe Ami said, we need to be careful with the things ordinary people are careful about: not to put coins in the mouth, or cooked food under the bed, or bread under the armpit, or to put a knife in a radish or an etrog.

(Yerushalmi Trumot 8:3)


This passage leaves many unanswered questions.  For one thing, we don't know if we have to observe these customs because we don't want to seem to disdain the concerns of ordinary people, or because Rebbe Ami genuinely felt that there must be some kind of folk wisdom in these customs.  The former reason would imply that in a time when common people stopped worrying about these things, we could neglect them as well; the latter reason could go either way on this question.  (Perhaps we should respect the folk wisdom of earlier generations; but on the other hand, perhaps there is some kind of folk wisdom in the very fact that customs have changed.)




We also don't know the reason for the prohibitions.  The Rambam says that the reason is because something harmful might fall into the food if it is placed under the bed (Rotzeach 12:5).  The Raavad writes that the reason is because of "ruach ra'ah," and this is also the reason brought in the Beit Yosef in the name of the Ran, and the one mentioned in the SA.


From this we learn the answer to our first question.  The reason mentioned in the Rambam certainly applies in all times.  And many halakhot of "ruach ra'ah" mentioned by the Tur in YD 116 are no longer customary today; the fact that the SA DID mention this one shows clearly that he considered this ruach ra'ah in particular to be an ongoing concern, not merely deference to local custom.


The Drisha on YD reconciles the views of the Rambam and the Raavad.  He writes that the Rambam is referring to a dining couch.  Since we don't sleep on a dining couch, there is no problem of ruach ra'ah, and therefore we are only worried about "mazikim" - like bugs and dirt.  It also follows that if the container of food is covered there is no problem.


But the Raavad is referring to a bed for sleeping.  In this case we are worried about the ruach ra'ah which swathes us as we sleep, as mentioned in SA OC 4:2.  Indeed, this concern is explicitly mentioned in our Talmud: "It is taught: food and drink under the bed, even if they are enclosed in an iron container, a ruach ra'ah dwells on them" (Pesachim 112a).  We see that covering the food is of no avail, and this is what the Shach writes (YD 116:4).




What kinds of foods are included?  The word "tavshil" suggests that only cooked foods are problematic, and this is indeed the ruling of the Darkhei Teshuva (YD 116:36, cited in  Sha'arim Metzuyanim Be-Halakha 33:4). 


The Binat Adam (63) points out that the gemara in Pesachim mentions merely "food and drink," suggesting that even raw foods are included.  He relates that the Gra was asked about a raw radish that was stored under the bed, and he ordered that it should be cut in pieces and thrown away where no one will find it.


However, the Binat Adam concludes that many Rishonim had a different reading in Pesachim, which did not refer to "food and drink."  He also mentions that peasants commonly put raw vegetables under the bed, and a commonly accepted practice is considered a valid leniency regarding practices that would be forbidden because of danger.  The Binat Adam ultimately favors limiting the prohibition to "tavshil," cooked food.


The Pitchei Teshuva cites this Binat Adam, and brings some support for the stringent opinion from the gemara Bava Batra 58a, which says that a talmid chakham should have only his shoes under the bed, and Rashi explains that this is because of the ruach ra'ah which dwells on food.




What happens if despite the prohibition food WAS stored under the bed?  We mentioned that the Gra is stringent.  However, Pitchei Teshuva writes that Shevut Ya'akov is lenient "bediavad," and the Sha'arim Metzuyanim be-Halakha points out that the Beit Yosef writes that in all cases of rauch ra'ah, the food is permitted bediavad.


Rav Shlomo Braun in Sha'arim Metzuyanim be-Halakha (33:5, Kuntres Acharon) asks about the custom of putting groceries in the little basket under the baby carriage.  He concludes that this is permissible for two reasons:


1.  Darkhei Teshuva suggests that the problem exists only in a bed which is suitable for cohabitation.

2.  We know that the ruach ra'ah of small children is less problematic, and for that reason we are more lenient with various laws relating to their morning washing.


The implication is that even for adults the problem exists only if someone actually sleeps in the bed.  So putting food under the bed during the day would be permissible if it was removed before night.  Theoretically, even a nap should be permissible, since we do not wash "neigel vasser" (washing three times for the ruach ra'ah) after a nap during the day.




This siman is based on the following gemara:


Rav Yehuda said: if you forgot and put food in your mouth without a berakha - push it over to the side and bless.  One version says, swallow; and the other version says, spit it out; and another version says, push it to the side!  There's not contradiction: the one who says "swallow" refers to drink; the one who says "spit it out" refers to something that isn't repugnant, [and  therefore he can spit it out, bless, and return it to his mouth]; and the one who says "push it to the side" refers to something which has become repugnant.  Even it is not repugnant, let him push it to the side of his mouth and bless: Rav Yitzchak Kaskasa'a explained before Rebbe Yosi bar Avin in the name of Rebbe Yochanan, because of what is written: "My mouth will be filled with your praises" (Tehillim 71:8).  [And if we push the food aside instead of spitting it out, then the mouth is not filled only with praise but also with food.] (Berakhot 50b-51a)


The rationale is very simple.  If we can spit the food out and still make a berakha, that is preferable, so that our mouths will be filled with praise.  If we can't because the food will be inedible after spitting it out, then we should make a berakha with the food still in the mouth.  And if even that is impossible, as is usually the case with drink, then we may swallow the liquid as is.


Rashi says that in the case of drink we swallow it without making ANY berakha, and this is also the explanation of Rabbeinu Chananel.  But the Rosh has the following objection: when the passage refers to spitting out the food, it means to spit it out and say a blessing, and when it refers to pushing the food aside it means put it aside and make a blessing.  So when it says "swallow," it should likewise mean "swallow, and make a blessing."


The problem with this explanation is that all berakhot on mitzvot must be recited "over le-asiyatan" - immediately before their performance - as we learned in siman 158:11.  And this principle is applied also to berakhot on food, as we learn from the continuation of the above gemara on Berakhot 51a which says that if we forgot to make a blessing before eating, we may no longer say one after we are done.  (As we saw in SA OC 167:8.)


The Rosh explains that in that case we may not bless because we remember to make a blessing when no blessing is required - since the meal is already over.  But in this case we remember to make a berakha when the food is still in our mouths; the only reason we delay the berakha is because we can't talk.  In this case, says the Rosh, we may make the berakha immediately AFTER eating, instead of immediately BEFORE.  This is also the view of the Raavad.


However, most Rishonim concur with Rashi and rule that it is impossible to make a "birkhat ha-nehenin" after the enjoyment is already through.


If there will still be enough to eat and drink after spitting out drink or food which has been made repugnant, the MB makes a different recommendation - see s.k. 2.






The gemara in Pesachim discusses various degrees of absorption of taste, and when absorbed taste creates a problem of milk and meat.  We learn there:


Rav Kahana son of Rav Chinena Saba taught [this beraita]: Bread which is baked together with roast [meat] in the oven may not be eaten with [milk foods].  A benita [kind of fish] that is roasted together with meat, Rava of Parzikia forbade eating it with [milk foods].  Mar bar Rav Ashi said, it's forbidden to eat it even [alone] with salt, because it is a problem for scent and for "davar acher."  (Pesachim 76b)


"Davar acher" ("something else") is a generally used euphemism for something which is too indelicate to mention.  It can refer to sexual relations, idol worship, or swine.  It often refers to "tzara'at," which is usually translated "leprosy," and that is how Rashi explains it here.


On the basis of this passage it is customary to avoid eating meat cooked together with fish.  This prohibition is mentioned (at least) twice in the SA: here, and in YD 116:2.  We are stringent with all the rules that apply to meat and milk except that in the case of meat and fish, taste absorbed into utensils is not forbidden.  So it is perfectly permissible to cook fish in a clean fleishig utensil, even if it was just used to cook meat.


The Beit Yosef on siman YD 87 writes that eating fish with milk is also perilous; the Rema in Darkhei Moshe and many other Acharonim write that it's just a misprint, but other authorities uphold this reading and many Sefaradim have this custom not to eat fish with milk.


The Magen Avraham here suggests that this prohibition is only because of health, and like other prohibitions relating to health depends on the medical and not on the legal realities.  He points out that people's natures change, and many things that are considered dangerous in one time and place may be harmless in other times and places. 


The Magen Avraham cites the Bach for support, but I don't know where this Bach is.  Indeed, the Bach on our siman explicitly says that the custom is to wash between meat and fish.


It may be that the Bach is not referring specifically to this prohibition, in which case he may not agree with the Magen Avraham's conclusion.  The Bach may agree that health prohibitions of the gemara do not necessarily apply today, but he may not agree that fish-and-meat is a health prohibition.  After all, lashon hara also brings on tzara'at (see Rashi Shemot 4:6, Vayikra 14:4, Devarim 1:1, 24:9), but no one is suggesting that we can be lenient with gossip because today's doctors don't think it makes you ill.