Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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25 Nissan 5761 - April 18, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
"And You Shall Become Defiled Through Them"

by L. Jungerman

"You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps, neither shall you make yourselves unclean with them that you should be defiled by them" (Vayikro 11:43). The Ibn Ezra says: Do not contaminate your souls that they become filthy and disgusting, and do not defile yourselves through them, for it is known that whatever is eaten becomes flesh in the body of the one who eats thereof.

The Talmud and poskim attribute great importance and severity to the prohibitions of eating. This finds expression through practical halacha. If a person is critically ill on Shabbos, to the extent that it is permitted to desecrate the Shabbos, and he requires meat but there is no ready slaughtered meat available, we are confronted with two possibilities: to slaughter an animal for him or to feed him nonkosher meat (neveila). In this instance, the Halacha stipulates that one must slaughter an animal for him on Shabbos rather than give him nonkosher meat even though it is readily available.

The Ohr Zorua writes that the reason for this is because eating forbidden food is something to be condemned. It is permissible to go to great lengths, including transgressions, for the patient even though the act of slaughter could have been avoided since he could have eaten nonkosher meat because of his mortal illness. Treif food is disgusting and shameful.

He compares this to a rule that was mentioned, that Hashem does not cause the righteous to defile themselves with forbidden food even unintentionally through necessary circumstances, despite the fact that Hashem will not take measures to prevent them from sinning accidentally in other matters, even those stringent enough to be punishable by skillah.

The Ohr Zorua adds that the Talmud Yerushalmi in (Maseches Shevi'is 4:2) brings that regarding all sins, when circumstances force a person to transgress in matters of life and death, the rule is: "Let him transgress rather than be killed." Yet with the sin of forbidden food, which is most stringent, one should prefer death to sinning. The Rashbo and Ritvo rule thus as well in their chidushim to Yevomos 114a.

For example with an infant, while it is permissible to take a gentile wetnurse still, it is preferable to seek a Jewish one. Jewish women are, by nature, kinder, for they are used to doing mitzvos and are merciful and modest by natural heritage. Thus, the milk they produce is more conducive to nurturing children who are good-natured and have good traits. The milk produced by gentile nurses comes from food that is not kosher, derived from creeping, crawling creatures which breed cruelty and an evil nature in the child they feed.

The Talmud tells about Elisha ben Avuya, the master of R' Meir who eventually became an apostate. The Sages sought to determine the root that caused a tana of his stature to deteriorate to such a low spiritual level. They suggested that this came about from the heretical works he carried about him even while he was still studying in the beis medrash. He also sang Greek songs under his breath. The Talmud Yerushalmi attributes his downfall to a single weakness that led to the ensuing deterioration and painful end: Elisha's mother once ate something forbidden while pregnant with him. It seethed within her like poison and caused her son to eventually abandon the Torah path. The Ohr Zorua brings this and warns women in final stages of pregnancy to keep from all forbidden foods, lest their children turn sour and evil.

The Rema writes in Shulchon Oruch Yoreh Dei'ah 81:7: A nursing woman should avoid forbidden foods, as should the child, itself [not be fed them] for they will have a longlasting effect, even to his old age. The Pri Chodosh adds there: even though the halochoh rules that if a minor eats neveilos on his own initiative, it is not necessary for beis din to go to lengths to take it away from him. This is from the pure halachic aspect. It is advisable, in any case, to separate him from it since it is harmful to his development and will eventually cause him to leave the Torah path. In these times, people are not as cautious about this and too many children become wayward. The majority of the youth in this generation is arrogant and lacking in internal yiras Shomayim. They are also impervious to mussar.

The Chasam Sofer writes one particular responsa to a question addressed to him: I was asked about an orphan of seven whose father, a member of the congregation, passed away two years previously. The child does not comprehend what is said to him, and speaks nonsense, without understanding what he, himself, is saying. He is not deaf or mute, rather all of his gestures, actions and conduct indicate that he is retarded. His father left a huge fortune in escrow for this only heir, and his relatives have attempted to have doctors treat him and cure him. The consensus of all the local doctors is to take the child to Vienna where there is a special school for retarded children such as he. There he would receive intensive attention and his intelligence would be stimulated to the fullest and he would thrive. And while he might never be on par with the average person, he could surely become intelligible and self sufficient at a functioning level.

The question was that since this institution was run by gentiles and he would not be allowed to have food brought in from the outside, was it permissible for him to remain there, since he would surely be eating treif!

After considering the question from many aspects, the Chasam Sofer comes to this conclusion: The halacha would allow him to go to that institution for the meanwhile, until he reaches the age of thirteen and a day, when he would have to be removed. In any case, since our Sages have taught that eating forbidden food will eventually cause a person to turn evil, and are conducive to an evil nature, it might be better that he remain retarded for the rest of his life!

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