Noten Ta'am Lifgam: What If One Accidentally Cooked Food in a Non-Kosher Pot

  • Rav David Brofsky



In previous shiurim, we discussed the halakhic ramifications of introducing non-kosher taste into a kosher mixture.  We noted that in the absence of sixty parts of heter to nullify the non-kosher substance's impact, ta'am prohibits the entire mixture.  In addition, we discussed the impact of this non-kosher taste on the mixture, from a conceptual and practical perspective (chatikha na'aseit neveila).


However, we have yet to discuss another crucial issue.  What impact does the quality of the ta'am have our previous discussions?  (a) What if the taste doesn't enhance the food, but actually has a detrimental effect on the mixture ("noten ta'am lifgam")? (b) What if the taste is severely weakened ("nat bar nat")?


This week I would like to discuss the first-mentioned topic, "noten ta'am lifgam" - often referred to by its abbreviation "natlap" - and its ramifications regarding vessels.


Keli She-eino Ben Yomo


The Gemara (Avoda Zara 67-8) states that generally, when non-kosher taste mixes with a permitted substance, if the issur has a detrimental impact on the permitted food, the mixture remains permitted.  The Gemara deduces this from the verse which prohibits the consumption of meat that was not ritually slaughtered (neveila): "You should not eat any neveila, rather you should give it to a stranger in your midst or sell it to a non-Jew...(Devarim 14:21).  The Gemara infers that only food which can be given to a "stranger," i.e., which is edible, is prohibited.  However, food that is not fit for the stranger is not considered neveila and may be consumed. 


The Rishonim discuss the nature, scope, and ramifications of this principle.  This week, I would like to focus on one particular, and common, application of this rule, i.e., the impact of ta'am emitted from non-kosher vessels. 


As we discussed in previous shiurim, the Torah relates that after the conquest of Midyan, Elazar Ha-Kohen commanded the people to "kasher" any cooking utensils taken from the spoils (Bemidbar 31:21–23).  While the Tana'im debate whether we can deduce the principle of "ta'am ke-ikkar" from this case, all agree that at least regarding utensils, the Torah is concerned with "gi'ulei nokhrim," the taste of non-kosher food emitted from the cooking utensils. 


The Gemara (Avoda Zara 67-8) continues by asserting that the Torah is only concerned with taste emitted from utensils within a day after they were used ("ben yomo").  After that day ("eino ben yomo"), however, the taste emitted from these utensils is regarded as "noten ta'am lifgam" (imparting detrimental taste), and the food is permitted.  Therefore, utensils which are "eino ben yomo" – more than a day away from contact with ta'am of issur - may be used, mi-de'oraita.  


The Gemara, however, rules that it is rabbinically prohibited to use a non-kosher utensil, even after a day has passed, lest one come to cook in a keli which is ben yomo.  In other words, a "keli she-eino ben yomo" is still prohibited, mi-derabanan.


The Rishonim relate to a number of points regarding this principle. 


1.  We should note that the Gemara states that this rabbinic prohibition focuses on the pot, not on the food cooked in it.  In other words, if food is accidentally cooked in a non-kosher pot which is "eino ben yomo," the food is permitted.  Therefore, it seems reasonable to say that the prohibition of an "eino ben yomo" utensil is to be viewed as a preventative measure directed at the pot owner, but not relating to the objective status of the taste inside the vessel.  The taste is still viewed as "ta'am lifgam" and be-diavad, the food is permitted.


2.  What is the definition of "eino ben yomo"? Rashi (Avoda Zara 76a) and Rabbeinu Tam (Tosafot 77b s.v. Ve-idakh) maintain that once a night has passed (linat laila), the vessel is considered "eino ben yomo."  Most Rishonim disagree and insist that only after 24 hours (me-eit le-eit) can the keli be considered "eino ben yomo."  The halakha (YD 93:1) is in accordance which the latter opinion.


The position of Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam seems to be rather troubling.  Why is the quality of taste dependent upon "linat laila"? Is a keli used immediately before nightfall actually to be regarded as "eino ben yomo" in less time than a keli used early that morning? Moreover, shouldn't there be a difference between a long winter night and a short summer one?


One could theorize that this opinion is part of a larger group of halakhot which attribute negative, almost mystical influences to the nighttime.  For example, according to some Rishonim, one must wash one's hands upon waking in the morning because of a "ruach ra" (evil spirit) which rests upon them at night.  Perhaps Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam felt that anything left overnight becomes spoiled to some extent, and therefore the taste absorbed in the pot should be considered "noten ta'am lifgam" and the pot, "eino ben yomo."


Alternatively, one could suggest that the halakha of ta'am in utensils is different from other halakhot of ta'am.  One should not use a utensil for permitted food during the same "period of time" in which it was used for prohibited foods.  If, however, a night has passed, then experientially a person has entered a new day, and the utensil is no longer associated (a least mi-de'oraita) with its previous use.  Obviously, this explanation will resonate more with those opinions which maintain that "ta'am ke-ikkar" is only mi-derabanan. 


3.  Is the issue of "eino ben yomo" applicable, as well, to be-ein of issur – actual substance of issur, as opposed to mere ta'am?  What if one accidentally cooked kosher food in a non-kosher pot twenty-four hours after its last use, without it having been washed in between?


The Ramban states that the principle of "natlap" may also be applied to food residue.  As long as twenty-four hours have passed, the residue on the plate is deemed "pagum" (defective) and the food cooked in this utensil is permitted.  The Raavad and other Rishonim disagree.  They maintain that only the ta'am absorbed in a pot twenty-hours after its last usage will cease to positively enhance a mixture.  We cannot assume, however, that the same holds true for non-kosher food residue.


The Shulchan Arukh (YD 122:3) rules in accordance with the Raavad.  The Rema notes that if there are sixty times more food than non-kosher residue, the food is permitted.  The Acharonim (see Shakh 103:15) note that one can generally assume that a pot was thoroughly cleaned.


4.  What if one is unsure whether a utensil was used within the previous twenty-four hours?


The Rishonim introduced the following principle: If a non-Jew cooked kosher food is his/her non-kosher vessel, one can generally assume that the keli was "eino ben yomo."  This principle is based on a "sefeik sefeika."  We are unsure both whether the food was cooked in an "eino ben yomo" vessel, and even if the utensil was "ben yomo," maybe the non-kosher food's taste didn't enhance the kosher food, but rather was detrimental to it ("noten ta'am lifgam").  This principle also applies to kosher utensils owned by Jews.


The Taz (YD 108:4), for example, based on this principle, notes that the practice in Krakow was to buy whole boiled nuts from non-Jews.  Even if they were cooked in non-kosher vessels, we can assume that they were "eino ben yomo."


The above principle however, applies only to cases in which the food was already cooked.  The Shulchan Arukh (YD 122:6), adds that one is not permitted to intentionally ask a non-Jew to cook in their vessels.


Furthermore, some Acharonim (see Arukh Ha-Shulchan) note that it is difficult to apply this leniency in a situation in which the non-Jew is constantly cooking in his vessels, such as in a restaurant.


5.  Finally, what happens if after cooking a prohibited substance in a pot, one then boils water in the same pot? Do we count the twenty-four hours from the time that the issur was cooked, or from the time that the water was boiled? Should we distinguish between basar be-chalav and other prohibitions? The Tur, Shulchan Arukh, and their commentaries deal with this question at length in YD 103.


"Eino Ben Yomo": Fleishig and Milchig


Until now, we discussed the ramifications of an "eino ben yomo" vessel regarding non-kosher food.  While clearly if one cooks milk in a pot used previously on the same day for meat, the food is prohibited, may one use an "eino ben yomo" fleishig pot for milk?


The Ritva (Chullin 97a) cites the opinion of his rebbe, the Ra'ah, who maintained that the prohibition mentioned in the Gemara related only to non-kosher pots, as an extension of the halakha of "kelei Midyan."  However, a vessel which is kosher may be used for both meat and dairy, as long as the keli is "eino be yomo."  The Ritva notes that he even saw the Ra'ah put this leniency into practice; nevertheless, he and other Rishonim disagreed with him.


Aside from the opinion of the Ra'ah, all other Rishonim maintain that just as one should not use an "eino ben yomo" non-kosher vessel, one should similarly not use an "eino ben yomo" meat utensil to cook milk, or vice versa.  This is the position adopted by the Shulchan Arukh (YD 93:1).


Natlap Be-Keilim – In Practice


In summary, the halakha is that one may not use a vessel which has absorbed non-kosher ta'am.  Similarly, one should not cook milk in a pot previously used for meat.  However, if one accidentally cooked in a non-kosher pot which is "eino ben yomo," the food may be eaten, as is the case with dairy food cooked in an "eino ben yomo" meat pot.  In both cases, the vessel must be kashered. 


The Rishonim note two exceptions to the above rule.


  1. Pot covers:


           The Rema (93:1) cites a minhag to always consider pot covers "ben yomo."  Therefore, if one were to accidentally place an "eino ben-yomo" dairy pot cover over a pot of boiling meat soup, the soup, according to this minhag, would be prohibited.  The Rema notes that he personally adopted this custom despite the fact that it is a "chumra be-lo ta'am," a stringency without reason. 


The Acharonim do cite a number of explanations for this stringency.  The Maharshal, for example, explains that some pot covers, due to their shape, are difficult to clean and therefore the "dirty" area has a status of be-ein, and not ta'am.  The Bach suggests that the intense contact with steam creates a layer of issur which is very difficult to clean.


In any case, however, the Acharonim seem to reject this stringency (see Arukh Ha-Shulchan 93:16).  In addition, one may claim that nowadays our soaps may render any residue on the pot cover "lifgam" (see Shulchan Arukh YD 95:4).  Therefore, it seems that one need not be stringent regarding pot covers.


        2.  Davar Charif:


In a few weeks we shall devote time to discussing "hot" or "sharp" tasting foods, such as onions or garlic, and their halakhic ramifications.  For now, suffice it to say that in certain cases, if one cooks a sharp food in an "eino ben yomo" non-kosher pot, the food may still be prohibited.  Similarly, if one cooked a "sharp" pareve food in a pot previously used for dairy, even if the pot is "eino ben yomo," the food is considered dairy.


Next week we shall discuss the principle of "nat bar nat," i.e., the status of "pareve" foods cooked in dairy or meat pots.