June 19, 2024
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Pork Chops and Schnitzel

Pesachim 76b

You are invited to a company outing, in the country club, on Labor Day. Your boss provides the Jewish staff with glatt kosher schnitzels sprinkled with onions. In the open kitchen on the south lawn there stands a large, ventilated, open brick barbecue, topped with a roof and towering chimney. On the new, unused barbecue grate, the happy chef tosses pork chops sprinkled with Parmesan cheese for Chris, and schnitzel sprinkled with onions for Yankel. On the far side of the grate, some distance away from the meat, the chef flips French toast for the vegetarians. And in New York melting-pot style, the pork chops, schnitzel and French toast singe and sizzle on the same grate. They never touch each other and their juices never mix. But their aromas do. If you tell your boss you don’t eat meat, he’ll point you to the French toast. You’re stuck! What do you do?

Don’t worry. It happened before. In the third century, at a party thrown at the estate of the exilarch, the political leader of Babylonian Jewry, bacon and kosher brisket were barbecued in the same oven. Rav ruled: don’t eat the brisket. Levi said “you may.” Their dispute comes down to the question of “reicha milta”—that is, whether or not the aroma of forbidden food lends taste to and contaminates permitted food.

The halacha sides with Levi, who rules reicha lav milta. That means, in general, aroma does not have the power to contaminate otherwise permitted food. And provided you do not intend to roast the permitted food with the forbidden food at the outset, but you are confronted with the situation, after the fact, you may eat the schnitzel even though it smells of pork. In fact, if the grill is sufficiently large and entirely roofless, or if the food items are covered over, or if both pieces of meat are lean, or if the items are cooked in utensils placed on the grate, rather than roasted directly on the grate, one may, in each such case, prepare the permitted food in this way even from the outset. But the onions? The onions ruin it! Even Levi admits that pungent foods absorb aromas so aggressively that they do have the power to become contaminated. If, however, the schnitzel sprinkled with onions was placed in a pot with a lid, or wrapped around in aluminium foil, the schnitzel could be eaten even if the pot or foil was placed on the grill next to the pork chops.

If, however, contrary to the case described above, the chef roasted meat and baked plain bread rather than French toast on the same grate, one may eat the plain bread alone, even though it smells of pork and schnitzel. One may not, however, add butter to it. That is because the addition of butter would be equivalent to initiating the mixture of aromas, which even Levi prohibits, rather than being confronted with it after the fact.

It should be noted, however, that the rule that aroma does not contaminate permitted food applies only when the aroma is conveyed through dry vapor. Where, however, aroma is conveyed through wet, hot steam, it does have the power to contaminate. Accordingly, one may not cook a dairy dish in the same closed oven as a meat dish, where the hot steam from the dairy dish rises and comes into contact with the meat dish.

There is no intrinsic prohibition against eating meat and fish together. In the days of the Talmud, however, cooking fish and meat together was prohibited on the grounds of being a health hazard, and this prohibition was later extended to eating. In fact, due to the fact that the prohibition was rooted in health concerns, it had, in some respects, a stricter application than the mixing of kosher and non-kosher foods. Accordingly, some authorities maintain that meat and fish roasted together, in general, remain prohibited even after the fact, whereas kosher meat roasted together with non-kosher meat, in the circumstances described above, would be permissible after the fact. That is because the rabbis, who are sometimes lenient in matters of issur and heter (issues of forbidden or permitted food), are not prepared to take risks with matters of health (“chamira sakanta meissurah”). The Magen Avraham, however, suggests that what was considered a health hazard then and there may not be relevant here and now. Nevertheless, the practice of refraining from the simultaneous consumption, cooking or roasting of meat and fish together has prevailed and is accepted by many. Accordingly, the Rema requires that one eat something else, like a piece of bread, and drink after eating fish and before eating meat.


Raphael Grunfeld, a partner at the Wall Street law firm of Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP, received smichah in Yoreh Yoreh from Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem of America and in Yadin Yadin from Rav Dovid Feinstein, zt’’l. This article is an extract from Raphael’s book “Ner Eyal: A Guide to Seder Nashim, Nezikin, Kodashim, Taharot and Zerayim” available for purchase at www.amazon.com/dp/057816731X and “Ner Eyal: A Guide to the Laws of Shabbat and Festivals in Seder Moed” available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Eyal-Guide-Shabbat-Festivals-Seder/dp/0615118992. Questions for the author can be sent to [email protected].

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