Dipping food

I must say that there is a general tendency on my part to not auto review prayers or things I’m used to saying or thinking. This Pesach was no different. As a child when it came to Karpas, I’d always have no issue aligning what I had said in the Hagada with what I did. In particular, the idea of dipping a food item such as a vegetable in water is something that only happened on Pesach.

This year, after the Seder, it dawned on me that my culinary predilections had been augmented. I wasn’t quite the new age guy or tree hugger who lovingly waxed lyrically of ‘vegetarian‘ cholent (there’s nothing wrong with that dish but calling it CHOLENT is sacrilegious) I am certainly happy to try new types of potato stews, but unhappy when these aren’t recognised as Nuevo dishes forcibly cast into a skillet of tradition when there is no tradition associated with them.

So, despite the fact that I had augmented and savoured many a new style of food, they had not regstered in my halachic mind when I absent mindedly read from the hagada one more time.

Specifically, I am reminded of the fact that “finger food”, including sushi varieties are ubiquitous at Simches. A common aspect amongs all types (and  I confess that Peter Unger’s Potato Piroshki is a trophy winner with me and the band for many years due to its unsurpassed delectablity) is that they are all served with a dipping liquid. The actual liquid or semi liquid (yes, I also have a weak spot for the rare real wasabi, which is not probably classified as a liquid unless it is the texture of the common fake variety that is essentially horesraddish mayonnaise with green dye.

There is, of course, the healthier variety of finger food which is raw vegetable dipped in water (much like karpas.)

These thoughts led me to wonder whether times had changed and we were now returning to dipping again and typically, this hadn’t registered with me despite my healthy expanse.

Shulchan Aruch doesn’t except any liqid for dipping  as requiring the ritual (and practical) dipping 158:4. This is limited to wine, honey, olive oil, milk, dew, fish blood, and of course water. We don’t make a bracha on this washing but it is curious that even if one doesn’t touch the finger food the Mishna Brura 158:12  requires a washing of the hands despite the fact that they might be accessed via a tooth pick, fork or the like.


I’m not sure of the reasoning since where one is unable to wash for bread itself, then ensuring one’s hand’s don’t touch the bread (eg via a serviette or gloves) obviates the need to wash.

Anyway, I thought it was an interesting vinaigrette  (pardon the pun) given an ingrained notion that I didn’t eat foods that were dipped. Practically speaking one should always ask their LOR, as with some dips, it will depend on the percentage of unaccepable liquid in the mixture.

PS. If you ever see someone double dipping, there is no doubt in my mind that apart from it beng a gross practice, it is forbiden according to Halacha (but ask you LOR)

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

23 thoughts on “Dipping food”

  1. First of all, pareve cholent is just as traditional as fleishige. Not everyone in Europe could have meat every week. My bobbe a”h’s cholent was parev, with prunes to simulate a meaty flavour. My zeide a”h also insisted that the correct order of foods on Shabbos is “kashe, kugel, fleish”. By “kashe” he meant cholent. I recently found a sefer that documents both the name “kashe” and the order, first cholent, then kugel, and only then fleish.

    The halacha is that one must wash even if one is not eating with ones hands, unless it’s a kind of food that one never eats with the hands. I remember Rabbi Cohen in YG telling us to develop the habit of always eating pickles with a fork, even when one has washed, so that one will not have to wash when eating them outside a meal. As far as eating bread with gloves, etc., see the very end of the Alter Rebbe’s סדר נטילת ידים:
    אבל לאכול פת אין שום צד היתר בעולם, לא ע״י כף או סכין, ולא ע״י מפה. ויש מקילים למהלך בדרך ואין לפניו מים עד יותר מד׳ מילין, לכרוך שתי ידיו במפה ולאכול, ויש חולקין, והמחמיר תע״ב.

    Note, however, that eggs are not “mashkin”, and nor are oils other than olive, so e.g. mayonnaise is not a “mashke”, and thus all dips that are basically mayo with stuff in it are exempt from washing. So is chumus, techina (if it’s not watered down), etc.


    1. Russian Bshaas hadchak doesn’t count except Bshaas hadchak 🙂
      I pronounce it choolent and kigel
      The Halacha of not touching bread Bshaas hadchak when there is no water to wash is what I and many if not most follow. SH’horav may well exhort you to be machmir. There is also the option of rubbing your hands and making nekiyus yodayim (from memory)
      Iyekes (we don’t call them pickles) are a good example although I imagine Rabbi Cohens opinion of using a fork would be the same without shulchan aruch. Yes it’s olive oil, but that’s become the oil of choice anyway for dipping (with soy or similar) in another little plate. In my fathers house we still had a spoon for the radish karpas. We just took it from the spoon rather than the bowl
      As for prunes simulating meat … That’s just the same phenomenon. Do you stick prunes in a a Yabtzok too?

      Find a new lechatchila word for potato stew void of Fleish

      Mock Choolent sounds good. My mother in law serves mock chopped liver, but it’s not chopped liver!

      Kasha is Kasha and I love it too. I’m surprised that your Zeyde didn’t include fish in his list. My Shabbos lunch has to have Herring WITH Tzibelles. Although even when they came out with Herring with a Hechsher for Pesach, my father a’h refused it, I guess because the Nochrim threw bread crumbs into the water near their herring.

      I don’t know where you get your Halacha that if you eat with a utensil eg fork you still need to wash. My recollection is that poskim who are less concerned with Kaballa certainly permit it, and it may go down to whether dirty is spiritual as well as physical.


      1. He doesn’t “exhort you to be machmir”, he says
        אין שום צד היתר בעולם, לא ע״י כף או סכין, ולא ע״י מפה
        unless water is literally not available for the next 72 minutes, and even then it’s a machlokes and it’s proper to be machmir. But in a less dire situation he says it’s not a chumra, it’s straight halacha.

        And look in the same place, that eating with a fork does not help unless it’s a food that one always eats with a fork. That’s why cereal does not need washing; one always eats it with a spoon. But if you normally eat something with your hands, then you can’t get out of washing by using a fork this time.


        1. He does with the ‘even then’ it’s a machlokes. I was taught not to follow a view that worries about that case. In regards to forks I will check again tomorrow


        2. If something is always eaten with a fork, then you don’t need to wash. I’d suggest that in this case if it’s a whole pickle it’s a question of how people generally eat such things. If they don’t use forks in general, then even you using a fork wouldn’t make a difference. If however people always grab the pickle with a fork, and cut it on their or another plate and one takes a bit with their fork you wouldn’t need to wash. All this is if we assume the pickle is washed and presented in water. If it’s presented in vinegar or whatever concoction of liquids is used to give it taste, then I don’t know, but I’m guessing there are two options: a) that it’s either one of the liquids mentioned or its not OR b) we look at Rov and consider Rov to be that liquid. Ask your LOR


      2. “Kasha” means “porridge”, and refers to any cooked grain or pseudo-grain. In parts of Poland the cholent was usually made from grain rather than potatoes, so they called it kasha.

        And yes, of course the “kashe, kugel, fleish” came after fish and ei-mit-tzibbele. Most people have those first, but then don’t have any specific order for the other foods. My zeide a”h was medayek that they should come and be eaten in that order.


        1. Not my parts of Poland. Kashe was a buckwheat based thing, and a choolent had to have schmaltz, potato and meat (unless one couldn’t afford any meat on Shabbos)


    2. I think techina is always “watered down”: unprepared techina is a paste similar to peanut butter; when you add a little water it first seizes up, as the oils form an emulsion, and it then relaxes as you add more water while stirring briskly. I suppose one could make techina using (e.g.) lemon juice instead of water, but it would probably be too sharp.


  2. PS: Note also that when traveling in a vehicle, עד יותר מד׳ מילין means 72 minutes of travel, at whatever speed one is going, not literally 4 km. So even according to the lenient opinion one could not do this unless it will be well over an hour before one will next have access to water.


    1. I’d assume that Bshaas hadchak is even broader than that. One could be only partially mobile and distance isn’t the only determinant but an example of one


  3. שו”ת מהרי”ל החדשות סימן לח ד”ה הני שמות

    ואין מורגל בלשוננו אלא מילות צרפת, כגון מנורה שקורין צנדליי”ר והוא מלשון נר שקורין קנד”ל. וכן
    צלנ”ט* הוא לע”ז של חמין שהוא קלד”א*.

    ממנהגי ה”חמין” של צרפת בשנות ה-1200 המוקדמות, מספר “אור זרוע”, הלכות ערב שבת סוף סימן ח:

    “ראיתי בצרפת בית מורי ר’ יהודא בר’ יצחק שפעמים מקררים צלנט שלהם דהיינו טמון, ובשבת טרם עת האוכל, מדליקין העבדים אש סמוך לקדרות, כדי שיתחממו בטוב, ויש שמסלקין אותם ונותנים אותם סמוך לאש, ומפרשים להיתר, מפני שאין לחוש לאוסרן, דמסתמא חמין הן קצת קרוב להיד סולדת, … מיהו נכון וראוי שלא לנהוג כן, משום דאוושא מילתא, ואיכא זילותא דשבתא, וכל מדינה דלא שכיחי בה
    רבנן, ראוי לאסור עליהם דבר זה.


    1. I wonder what “Kalda” is! Interesting use of Avsha Milsa. If that’s Avsha Milsa, you’d think he’d not like Shabbos clocks and certainly these new shabbos switches. You can bet there were no prunes there as they would largely be a Davar Lach!


    1. If you dip the apple after challah, I’d presume you don’t need to. If it’s before Chalah and you aren’t a Yekke who washes before Kiddush, then it would seem that you need to. Do most people do it immediately after the Challah, and then say the various Yehi Ratzons?


      1. The Chabad siddur and Rabbi Art. Scroll seem to agree that it is to be done after challah, but the general question about dipping still holds: most people aren’t at all careful about this. Furthermore, should we differentiate between dipping bread in honey and smearing honey on bread with a knife? The same risk of consuming tamei food should apply.

        Possibly related: my father’s custom and the one printed in older haggadas is that the “master of the house” washes for karpas. So the implication is that the consumption of wet (therefore potentially tamei) food was a problem left to the individual consuming it. Making the liquid tamei in its container, though, would be a problem for everyone. So the person who dips must wash; the person consuming it can choose whether or not to do so.


          1. Well, if the gezeira is against dipping then spreading honey on a cracker is OK. But if the gezeira is against making your food wet then I suppose you would have to wash before spreading the honey.


            1. It is about dipping food in a way that a) the food is not small (at least a kezayis according to many) and b) your fingers will come in contact with the liquid in the process (or likely to).


        1. If you are unlikely to get any honey on your fingers there is a question whether there is a need for washing. It’s less likely if you dribble it onto the end of challah and eat that end bit completely. Maybe there is something in this in respect to the different minhagim for which vegetable to use for karpas. if it’s a vegetable that is dipped and even if someone removes it with a spoon and you take it off the spoon you will get wet fingers, then that’s karpas and requires washing because you are eating the food with bits of the liquid on it.


      1. Here it would depend how you dipped your biscuit. If you are a soaker or just and end dipper. If the former, then as long as you aren’t dipping into coffee which has been cooked and is another Tzad L’Hatir, then you would have to wash, on the other hand, if you are just an end dipper or one of those people who sips through a kosher Mars Bar such that their fingers don’t and aren’t likely to come into contact with water, then you wouldn’t have to wash.


    1. Firstly, the milk has been treated through heat, and it’s questionable whether the halacha applies to any of the liquids if they have been boiled in any way, secondly, since it is always eaten with a spoon, there is no issue of fingers getting in contact.


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