Peeled Eggs, Onion or Garlic overnight: Part 2

I had written a blog post on this in 2011. You can see it here.

Recently, the OU in their emails sent the following:

May I dice onions and place them in sealed packaging to avoid the sakana (danger) of eating peeled onions that were left overnight?
(A subscriber’s question)

The Gemara (Nida 17a) writes that there is a sakana to eat peeled onions that were left overnight, even if they were placed in sealed packaging. The only exception that the Gemara mentions is if part of the roots or the peel is left on the onion. Tosfos (Shabbos 141a s.v. Hani) writes that the sakana applies to diced onions as well. However, if there are other ingredients mixed in to the onions, Rishonim already discuss that one can be lenient. Igros Moshe (Y.D. III: 20) writes that industrial produced products are not subject to this sakana. So one may purchase frozen packages of diced onions.

as well, the OU wrote:

Q. Does the halacha of not eating onions which were peeled and left overnight apply to the following: red onions, white onions, scallions, shallots and leeks? (A subscriber’s question)
A. Rav Belsky, zt”l said the halacha applies to both red and white onions and shallots, but not to leeks and scallions.

I sent my article to the OU for their feedback. It was sent onto the Safra D’Dayna Rabbi Eli Gersten, who responded that:

You are correct that the topic of ru’ach ra’ah is certainly unclear.

I don’t have an explanation as to why earlier poskim (Shulchan Aruch, Maharshal, Rema…) where seemingly unconcerned about this type of ruach ra’ah and yet later generations again began to be choshesh.

Rabbi Yosef Grossman of the OU offered to send me an article from the Daf Hakashrus of 2005 on the topic, which I copy below. I am chuffed that my thoughts were somewhat aligned with Mori V’Rabbi R’ Hershel Schachter שליט׳א (though I didn’t know of him in 2005).



Poetry to my ears, a paunch to my boich

Remember, our parents and grandparents couldn’t have been wrong. Poskim always have trouble saying something is forbidden if Rishonim and Acharonim said it was ok.

Reverend Shimon Allen will of course tell me that there is nothing new in this.

Finally, I have some ammunition. (click on the link)

My father ע’’ה exulting in his yearly dose of Gribenes on Erev Pesach
My father ע’’ה. R’ Shaul Zelig HaCohen Balbin exulting in the yearly dose of Gribenes and liver and Kartofel on Erev Pesach

There is probably a good answer to this but …

On Shabbos, while in the male urinal, I stood next to a guy who was wearing his gartel. I admonished him and said that the gartel was a הכנה for davening. I don’t believe it is necessary today, but I wear one because my Zayda Yidel HaCohen Balbin ע’’ה did (and on Yom Kippur I wear his Gartel, as he passed away on Yom Kippur)

ר׳ יהודה הכהן בלבין before WW2

The guy thought and said, “you know, you’re right”

Anyway, when I was younger and devoted some time each day to Mishna Brura, I remember being inspired by his words regarding wearing Tzitzis out, as opposed to in. I don’t include the uncouth manner of some who wear their shirts out of their pants as well today, something I don’t understand unless one wears a Kapote covering it (I see boys from the local Yeshiva all dressed like that, and personally I don’t agree with that practice).

Getting back to the Mishna Brura, in his usual way (not Litvish) of quoting all opinions he wrote very strongly that one should wear the Tzitzis out, as if he was a proud member of Hashem’s army. That was when I was in Kerem B’Yavneh. From that time on, I followed the Mishna Brura. (Ironically, the major Posek was actually the Aruch Hashulchan, but he was then considered controversial for very bad reasons by Hungarians, but in Lita and elsewhere they followed the Aruch Hashulchan).

Anyway, to my question. I don’t wear a suit jacket to work. My Tzitzis have always hung visibly at University. I am sure it didn’t help, but I don’t and didn’t care. I wear a shirt and pants, generally. In winter its warm and in summer it’s cool. It’s natural.  I walked into the bathroom, and went to the urinal to do what men do. In Universities, they don’t exactly smell “wonderful” once the students are in season. I left the Urinal and asked myself for the first time (I don’t know why) whether I should have tucked in my tzitzis before entering. At the end of the day, although the Mitzvah of Tzitzis is not a Chovas Gavro but a Chovas Cheftza, the Tzitzis themselves are M’aaseh Mitzvah. I haven’t looked to see  if this has been discussed anywhere (many Poskim/Haredim wear jackets and Yibitzes which cover the Tzitzis).

For Sephardim who follow the Zohar and Ari, this isn’t a question because they aren’t allowed to wear their Tzitzis out from memory because it’s considered Yuharo (showing off).

Am I asking a silly question?

PS. I’ve also mentioned to Meshichisten who have the advertisement on their Yarmulka that they should turn it inside out before entering a bathroom in my opinion.

Walking between two women/men

In an earlier post, I remained בצריך עיון without an adequate understanding of how a certain bad spirit רוח רעה could cease to be a concern for the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch, Ramo and others, and yet become an issue again over the last 200 years. I wondered whether the particular manifestation of רוח רעה might have disappeared for a period of time, and if so, how and why later poskim decided that the cause of such harm had returned. Alternatively, perhaps from a bland rational stance, an increase in צרות and bad happenings to Jews caused Poskim to re-examine possible causes and re-introduce once discarded so-called הלכות.

Onto the matter at hand: there are two places in Shas which discuss whether (amongst a range of other things) a male/female is permitted to pass between two females/males: one is in Horayos, and the other in Pesachim. The source in Horayos describes the practice less in terms of being forbidden, but more in terms of the action as being a “cause of forgetting” one’s Torah learning. In other words, passing between two women has (or potentially has?) the effect that it can cause the male/female to forget what they have learned. Is this like the prohibition of unpeeled eggs overnight , another instance of a particular metaphysical effect that is beyond our physical discernment, and that we would be well advised to stay away from? To be sure, the Gemora also lists a series of “antidotes” in the sense that these promote a heightening of one’s ability to remember what they have learned. The antidotes include consumption of particular food stuff. I think that my own inability to remember things that used to roll off my tongue is simply due to me not doing חזרה revision. I have a tendency to read things that I have never studied, rather than things that I once had studied. That’s probably the academic in me. Here is a list of items designed to help ones memory.

1. Eating bread baked on coals (and all the more so, the coals themselves);
2. Eating a scrambled egg without salt;
3. Frequent consumption of olive oil;
4. Frequently drinking wine and smelling spices;
5. Drinking water left over from kneading a dough;
i. Some say, also sticking one’s finger in salt and using that finger to eat.

One side of me is tempted to adopt the approach of R’ Schachter on the issue of eating Fish and Meat together. R’ Schachter contends that not eating fish and meat together was the “best medicine of the time” but that we are enjoined to follow the best medicine of our time. Accordingly, that is the reason why many Poskim do not consider there to be any issue today in eating fish and meat together. In our case of walking between to humans of the same gender, could it be argued that the list of 5 (from Horayos 13b) constituted the best medical advice of the time (given the primitive understanding of medicine back then) and that in our day, we should only follow evidence-based, and medically sound treatment?

The items which stymie one’s ability to function well in their Torah (only?) learning, the Gemora lists:

1. Passing under the reins of a camel, and all the more so under a camel itself;
2. Passing between two camels; passing between two women; and a woman who passes between two men (causes difficulties for the men);
3. Passing where one can smell a carcass; passing under a bridge which has not had water under it for 40 days;
4. Eating bread that was not fully baked; eating the froth that accumulates on the spoon used to stir cooking meat; drinking from a stream that passes through a cemetery;
5. Looking at the face of a corpse;
i. Some say, also reading what is written on a tombstone.

I haven’t done the due research to find out if it was commonplace for medics in those times to also include non physiological causes, but I suspect that it was indeed common.

Interestingly and strikingly, it would appear that the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch, again decided not to include the advice that one should not walk between two women/men. I am sure that there are Acharonim that discuss the reasons for this. I regret to say that I haven’t done adequate research. I understand that Rav Aviner does indeed permit it in his גן נעול.  Rav Aviner’s “right hand man” contacted me to clarify that Rav Aviner asks the same question as I do in his גן נעול and remains בצריך עיון but he doesn’t permit the practice להלכה except using well known leniencies. Unfortunately, being Erev Pesach, I was unable to procure a copy of the relevant pages in גן נעול.

It was with interest then, that I was reading on Shabbos, the newly published Piskei Halacha of R’ Yisroel Belsky who together with R’ Schachter are the senior poskim of the OU (may R’ Belsky continue with a Refuah Shelema). In this book it states:

Most poskim maintain that women may perform actions that cause forgetfulness of Torah (Shemiras HaGuf V’Hanefesh pages 98-99). Practically speaking, though they should l’chatchillah be stringent (R’ Belsky).

The halacha of not walking between two women applies whether a man is walking between two women that are stationary (R’ Belsky, Minchas Yitzchak 10:68:3) or if a man walks between two walking women. Certain poskim question whether this issue applies to one walking between non-jewish women (Maharsham 4:148). Practically speaking one should be stringent (R’ Beslsky, Shmiras HaGuf VeHanefesh 111:9, Beis Baruch 1:39).

One should not walk between his wife and his daughter (R’ Belsky, Shmiras HaGuf VeHanefesh page 33. Refer to Shevet HaKehasi 2:325 who permits if the girls are under 12).

There is a misconception that one who eats the end piece of a loaf of bread is susceptible to forget his Tora knowledge. However, there is no real source for this minhag, and one is permitted to eat it (Orchos Rabeinu 3, page 104 states that the Steipler did not eat the end of the loaf).

It seems to me, that the problem exists only if the two women or men (or beasts!) are companions. Otherwise, no one could go anywhere, since there are enough men and women in the world that one is always passing between them?

The aforementioned stricture of a male/female passing between two females/males is brought in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Siman 3:8 and the Chazon Ish is known to have been very careful with this (as quoted by R’ Kanievsky in Ta’ama D’Kra page 108 (6th edition)). So the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch mentions it, but the Rambam and main Shulchan Aruch ignore it. Do you understand that? I don’t.

The Magen Avraham סעיף קטן ג בשם כוונות also notes that one should not put on two clothing items together for the same reason. This is perhaps germane when one puts a hat on, together with the yarmulka inside the hat. In Rivevos Efrayim from Memphis, Tennessee (ח”ח סימן רצא) R’ Greenblatt was asked whether a man who is walking with his wife in the street (on his right) and then passes another woman to the man’s left, if the man is transgressing. He answers that this is okay, because the Gemara talks about two stam women, not a woman and a wife! I’m not sure whether this is a Litvish piece of hermeneutics which seeks to avoid an uncomfortable issue, or not. The Ben Ish Chai שנה ב’ (פרשת פינחס אות יז) qualifies this general Halacha to when the three people (man and two women or woman and two men) are in a straight line, and when there is less than four Amos between them.

Is this Halacha similar to the eggs overnight or meat and fish issue? Is this a Halacha that stems from medical advice, or is it one that derives from metaphysical considerations, such as Shedim or Spirits? If it is the latter, then I ask again, why the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch didn’t include it. The latter, R’ Yosef Caro certainly was deeply steeped in Kaballah as is well-known. Today is also the Mechaber’s Yohr Tzeit. May he have a Lichdige Gan Eden.

The Sefer Leket Yosher (d. 1490) who was a Talmid of the Terumas Hadeshen perhaps enlightens us on the general issue. He states

עיין בשער המצות (ס׳ וילך) וז״ל: צריך לזהר במאד מאד שלא לאכול שום לב בהמה וחיה ועוף, חכלית שרש התקשרות נפש הבהמית, ואם יאכלהו האדם מחקשר בו נפש הבהמית ההיא לגמרי, והיצה״ר מתקשר בו. ומטע״ז ג״כ ארז״ל שהאוכל לב בהמה גורם לו שכחה וטפשות הלב. עכ״ל.

Incredible stuff. He states that eating the heart of an animal (one of the other things one should not do for the same reason) is dangerous because one is effectively eating the soul (life source) of the animal, and as such he eats the source of גשמיות and יצר הרע, the Animal Soul or the Nefesh Habehamis. It seems to me to show that this is not a medical piece of advice (at least for this item) but a more metaphysical/kaballistic piece of advice. Note also, quite interestingly and perplexingly for those who forbid these things, that the Ramoh in Yoreh Deah at the end of Siman 11, says explicitly about Shochtim (who generally must be more punctilious with Mitzvos than the rest of us)

“And it is customary to eat from the heart”

On that note, I’ll sign off and wish everyone a Freilich’n and Kosher’n Pesach … חג שמח

Of peeled eggs, onion and garlic

Is not having a Mesora (tradition) something to be concerned about?

If you took a range of Orthodox people into a room and asked them whether it was forbidden to leave a peeled egg, onion or garlic overnight and use them the next day, you’d get three different reactions:

  1. What are you talking about? My mother and grandmother and great-grandmother never had such a tradition nor did they pass such a tradition onto us
  2. I’ve never heard of that
  3. What are you talking about? It is well-known that this is entirely forbidden. I’ve never even heard of anyone permitting such a thing.

Unlike an “ordinary” question of Kashrus, such as how long one waits between meat and milk for which absolutely everyone agrees that one must wait, except that there are different traditions, e.g.

  1. six full hours
  2. into the sixth hour
  3. three or four hours

The question of eggs, onion and garlic left overnight is:

  1. Not a question of Kashrus per se
  2. Black or white. It’s either yes or no.

In other words, some will be concerned about it whereas others will simply not be.

If you look this issue up in the Gemora (נידה יז), it is intriguing. The Gemora says in the name of R’ Shimon Bar Yochai that leaving these (peeled) items overnight is a most dangerous practice and tantamount to “suicide” if subsequently consumed. Nu, it’s an open Gemora, as they say, with very clear and harsh language, so what’s the issue? On the contrary, based on this Gemora, avoiding such a situation should be common across every single orthodox home.

The mystery then deepens.

Open up a Shulchan Aruch and look for this Din. You will discover that you simply can’t find it. Both the Mechaber, R’ Yosef Karo, and the Ramo don’t mention this Gemora’s advice/din. That’s the prime Sefardi Rishon and the prime Ashkenazi Rishon. You search in the Rambam, the Rif,  and the major codifiers and you find that they too were seemingly not bothered or perhaps no longer concerned by this Gemora. They too do not codify any prohibition.
Chazal say (חולין י) that חמירא סכנתא מאיסורא—a danger (סכנה) is something we are more concerned about than performing a possible איסור.  With an איסור we follow the רוב (the statistical likelihood) however with a possible סכנה we will be concerned about a minute concern. If the reason then for R’ Shimon Bar Yochai’s concern is רוח רעה this would constitute a סכנה, so how do we explain the Rishonim apparently not being concerned about the סכנה expressed by the Gemora?
You are perplexed, and so am I, so you ask your Local Orthodox Rabbi. In all likelihood he will say
It’s best not to leave these things overnight and use them the next day
You will likely be advised that  you can avoid the problem by leaving a bit of the peel or root on the item because the effect of the רוח רעה is nullified by this form of protection.
The Gemorah also mentions another method of protection via אותיות—holy letters. There was a custom to write/carve a פסוק on an egg and give this to a child to ingest when they started their education. Without getting into the topic of how one can “eat” פסוקים, the fact that there were holy letters on the egg meant that the רוח רעה could not take hold. This is mentioned in regards to the Yom Tov of שבועות where clearly the egg had to be written on before Yom Tov (and left overnight) in order for the child to ingest it on Yom Tov itself.
Rav Belsky, who together with R’ Schachter is the major Posek for the OU has written a תשובה where he suggests that putting the egg, garlic or onion in a zip-lock bag (sealed) will also mitigate the problem. His reasoning is that the Gemora in נידה mentions a type of basket which won’t help as protection. R’ Belsky feels that’s because the basket doesn’t constitute a hermetic seal. I’m not sure I understand his reasoning because they did have jars in those days, and presumably a jar would have provided an adequate seal?
R’ Waldenberg ז’ל in ציץ אליעזר suggests that one might consider washing the egg/onion/garlic in order to remove the רוח רעה given that רוח רעה is removed in other cases via washing (e.g. in the morning on one’s hands, or before bread etc). I’m not sure I understand his reasoning because I would have thought the Gemora itself would have mentioned this as a “solution”. In addition, it seems that there are different types of רוח רעה. Perhaps the Gemora in :יומא עז which mentions the demon (and also :חולין קז) called “שיבתא” is suggesting that for this particular demon the רוח רעה is removed with washing, but perhaps the “one” associated with eggs, onion and garlic is unaffected by such washing?
So, what we can see thus far is that while there definitely was a concern about an evil spirit the major Rishonim from whose opinions we determine Halacha seemed to no longer be concerned with this evil spirit.
Why is that? Already we see תוספות in יומא and חולין state:
ומה שאין אנו נזהרים עכשיו מזה לפי שאין אותה רוח רעה מצויה בינינו כמו שאין אנו נזהרין על הזוגות ועל הגילוי”.
In other words, there already was at the time of Tosfos a view that these evil spirits had dissipated (for want of a better word). Interestingly, there is a tradition from the Gaon (as relayed by R’ Shlomo Zalman ז’ל), that after the death of the Ger Tzedek, originally known as Graf Potocki there was a further weakening of רוח רעה to the extent that one no longer had to be concerned about walking four cubits before washing one’s hands in the morning.
We also find similar views echoing Tosfos, such as the מהר”ם מרוטנברג who is quoted by the הגהות מרדכי on שבת to the effect that it would seem that these evil spirits no longer exist in our (his) time.
It would appear that the Rishon (codifier) who was concerned about the issue of peeled eggs, onions and garlic was the סמ’’ק in the early 1200’s in France. It could be argued that from the Gemora in ביצה י’ד one could also conclude that Tosfos were still concerned about the רוח רעה because they also used this reason to permit preparing crushed garlic on Yom Tov itself, but there is little doubt that the Rishonim almost exclusively, especially with respect to the codifiers ceased being concerned about the סכנה posed by this evil demon.
Logically, one needs to conclude that the Rambam and the Rif, the Shulchan Aruch and the Ramo were no longer concerned. Surely if there was even a small doubt remaining, given that we are talking about סכנה, they would have been מחמיר and explicitly codified it להלכה ולמעשה.
So, from the period of the Rishonim until the Acharonim, the prevailing view was, from what I can tell, one need not be concerned.
Seemingly, “out of the blue” in the early 1800’s some 500 years after the Rishonim, the Shulchan Aruch HaRav in דיני שמירת הגוף והנפש codifies explicitly that it is forbidden to eat eggs, onion and garlic that have been left overnight because it is dangerous. In case you are thinking that this is understandable because the Shulchan Aruch HaRav himself was a great מקובל and חסיד of the מגיד of Mezeritch, and may well have been מחמיר because the advice came from R’ Shimon Bar Yochai, but that a Litvishe Misnaged would not have been concerned and would simply have left this out as did most Rishonim, you would be wrong! The ערוך השולחן of Navardok, another major Acharon and Codifier from the era of the Acharonim is also concerned about this phenomenon. I haven’t seen it inside, but the חפץ חיים not in the משנה ברורה but in his לקוטי הלכות is also concerned by the issue, as was R’ Moshe Feinstein ז’ל in Igros Moshe (יורה דעה ג:כ). [R’ Moshe also deals with the two views of Tosfos mentioned above].
In summary: this is an issue which is (to me at least) mysterious. One could almost say
“There was once an evil spirit which the Tanoim were concerned about. That evil spirit seemed to have left this world because the major Rishonim didn’t warn us about it as they did other evil spirits. Suddenly? in the early 1800’s the evil spirit was again a matter of concern and Acharonim warned us about it”
Add this to the very long list of things that my little brain can’t understand. If anyone has heard an explanation about why this phenomenon seemed to re-appear, please follow-up in the comments section.
As I started, my personal view is that one should ask their grandmother and if there was no tradition, then there are certainly opinions that would justify both not worrying about it, or indeed worrying about it!