Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Shem Ochel/Shem Chometz - clarification

In an earlier post we quoted a chiddush from R' Boruch Povarski in the name of R' Chaim regarding the issur of chometz on Pesach. Here is a quote from that post:

In Pesachim 21b Rava says that if chometz is "scorched" (chorchu) before Pesach it is mutar on Pesach. Tosafos there says the case is where it was damaged to the point that it is not even edible by a dog. He proves this from the case of Pas Sheipsha (bread that got moldy) where the halacha is that it needs to be unedible to a dog to be mutar.R' Boruch Povarski in his chiddushim asks on this from the general halacha that we find by neveilah that you only need it to be unedible to people to be mutar. So why on Pesach must it even be unedible to a dog?He anwers from R' Chaim that for Issurei Achilah it is true that you need it to only be unedible by man. However, by chometz it is not only an issur achilah. There are other issurim as well. Therefore, you need to get rid of the "shem ochel" completely, and you need it to be unedible even to a dog. (By other non kosher foods you only need to remove the maaseh achila, but the shem ochel can still be intact.)

Asher M. in the comments asked the following question:

Chametz is not only an issur achilah – it is also an issur hana’ah. Now by neveilah, even thought it’s fit for a dog, if it’s not fit for a human it is not considered a maaseh achilah. So we generalize this principle to “if a person eats any object which is not fit for human consumption he has not violated any prohibition of eating”. So, under the same circumstances by chametz – it would not be considered a maaseh achilah. Perhaps the person has gained some benefit from the object – but that would not be the same as violating the issur achilah. So, how did we answer the question?

Asher is basically asking that if the chometz is not fit for human consumption you haven't done a "maaseh achilah" so how could you possibly have transgressed the lav of eating chometz?

This is a very strong question and I believe my original post was unclear. I didn't manage to get a hold of R' Povarski's sefer, but I did see the inyan discussed in the Birchas Avraham in Pesachim on 45b. I also saw the issue discussed in R' Chaim stencils under the title "netzel" (in my edition it's on page 242 Siman 409) and also in R' Chaim on the Rambam in Maachalos Asuros 15:1.

Basically the real issue that R' Chaim is addressing is not whether one can eat chometz that is not edible to humans. On a d'orayssa level that would probably be mutar (I'm using the word probably on purpose... at the end of the post I will discuss this further) because the Gemara in Pesachim on 24b says that one is only chayav in maachalos asuros if he eats them "derech hanaah". The Rambam brings this down in Maachalos Asuros 14:10. The only exceptions to this rule are basar b'chalav and kilei hakerem, because the torah doesn't use a lashon of achilah by them.

R' Chaim was addressing the issur of bal yeraeh and bal yimatzei. The issur for one to own chometz on Pesach. The gemara by pas sheipshah (moldy bread) says that one must do biur on the bread as long as it is fit for a dog. That is to say, that as long as the chometz is fit for a dog one may not own it on Pesach. The question is why not follow the criteria of fit for a human, that as long as it is not fit for human consumption one may own it on Pesach. This is indeed the criteria by the issur of eating neveilah, that if it's not fit for a human one may eat it.

R' Chaim explained that when food is not fit for a dog it is no longer food. However, when food is not fit for human consumption (but still fit for a dog) it is still "food", it's just not a maaseh achilah. This could also affect the din of tumaas ochlin. If it's not food, it has no tumaas ochlin. If it is food, just not a maaseh achila, so it could have tumaas ochlin. [Update: As Asher points out in the comments by kabbalas tumah the Rambam actually says that if it's not fit for human consumption it is not mekabel tumah. However, R' Chaim in the stencils is dealing not with kabbalas tumah but with the halacha that neveilah has it's own tumah (the neveilah of a tahor bird and the neveilah of a beheimah are tamei). By neveilah of a bird specifically the Rambam says that it must be not fit for a dog to be tahor. We will still have to deal with the Rambam by kabbalas tumah although I don't think it is that difficult of a question to deal with. In support of Asher's contention that something not fit for human consumption is not "food" I should mention that the gemara does give a reason why chometz that is not fit for humans still needs destruction. The gemara says the reason is because that chometz is still fit to cause other dough to rise and turn into chometz (lchametz isos acheiros). R' Chaim himself mentions this in his piece on the Rambam.] So when it comes to owning chometz on Pesach one needs the chometz to be not fit for a dog so that it's not a cheftza of chometz. By neveilah, one is only getting rid of an issur achilah so it suffices that it's not fit for human consumption, in which case it is not a maaseh achilah.

I would just like to add some interesting points I saw in R' Chaim's writings that may clarify where R' Chaim was going with all of this. In the stencils R' Chaim notes that the Rambam puts two separate halachos in the same grouping. The Rambam groups together the halacha that if one eats shelo k'derech it is mutar and the halacha of einah reuyah l'ger in the same halacha. These are really two separate halachos, as R' Chaim points out, because the halacha of shelo k'derech does not apply to basar b'chalav, as we already noted. However, the halacha of not fit for a ger (i.e. for human consumption), does apply to basar b'chalav. Meaning, if one eats basar b'chalav in a "strange" manner he does transgress the issur. However, if he eats basar b'chalav that's not fit for human consumption he does not transgress the issur. So, why does the Rambam group together these two halachos? R' Chaim answers that it's to teach us that both dinim are not dinim in the cheftza of the food, but in the maaseh achila. Meaning, just like if one eats issur in a "strange" manner the reason why he is patur is not because the food is not food, it's because the eating is not a proper eating. So too, by the din of not fit for a ger, it's the eating that doesn't qualify as a proper eating that makes it mutar. It's a din in the maaseh achila.

So going back to the issue of eating chometz not fit for human consumption on Pesach, do you transgress the issur of eating chometz on Pesach? I wrote earlier that it should probably be fine because it is like the case of eating the chometz shelo k'derech. As you can see, it is not so simple to say that the two heterim are really one in the same. Nevertheless, I believe that the general consensus would be that one does not transgress the issur because it is nevertheless not a maaseh achila.

Finally, let me bring something from R' Chaim on the Rambam. R' Chaim there discusses the differences between taaroves chometz (chometz that cannot be seen, but is part of a mixture) and chometz bein (actual bona fide chometz). He says that by taaroves chometz, as long as the chometz is not fit for human consumption there is no issur to own it. This is not the case by bona fide chometz, where it must be unfit even for a dog. Why the difference? R' Chaim explains that the reason why taaroves chometz is assur to own is because of the din of taam k'ikkar. That din is nullified when the food is unedible to humans. However, actual chometz is still considered "food" (it has a shem ochel) even if it is unfit for humans. Only when it is unfit for dogs is it no longer considered food.

As you can see, this idea that food unfit for human consumption is still food just not a maaseh achila seems to be a major theme in R' Chaim's writing.