Peninei Halakha

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10. Coloring Food

There is an accepted principle that the prohibition of dyeing does not pertain to food. Therefore, one may add turmeric to a dish, even though it will color the food yellow. Similarly, one may dip bread in wine even though it will turn the bread red (SA 320:19). This is because the Torah prohibition is limited to long-lasting dyeing (like that of clothing or walls). Rabbinically, short-term coloring is prohibited as well. However, the short-term coloring of food is not included in this prohibition. This is because the primary concern with food is its taste, not its color; furthermore, people do not normally color most foods.

Some are stringent and avoid coloring drinks, as the change made to them is more obvious. Additionally, it is somewhat more common to color liquids than solids, since liquids are sometimes used for dyeing clothing and walls. Therefore, even though drinks are made for drinking, and not for their appearance, it is rabbinically forbidden to color them (Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 2, Pekudei 3-4). However, according to most poskim there is no prohibition of coloring even drinks. This is the halakha in practice (Darkhei Moshe 320:2). However, if possible, le-khatĥila it is preferable to defer to those who prohibit coloring drinks. Therefore, when mixing red and white wines, it is preferable not to pour the red into the white, as this will color the drink. Rather, one should pour the white wine into the red, because then the change in color is not obvious when the white wine becomes part of the red. Similarly, when preparing juice from concentrate, it is preferable to put the concentrate into the cup or pitcher first, and then add the water. This way the water is immediately blended with the concentrate, and the coloring is not obvious. Similarly, when preparing tea using liquid essence, it is preferable to put the essence in first and add the water to it (SHT 318:64-65; see above 10:8, which explains that one should pour the water from a kli sheni).[16]

[16]. Most poskim maintain that the prohibition of dyeing does not apply to food and drink (SA 320:9; Darkhei Moshe ad loc. 2; Ĥakham Tzvi §92; Mateh Yehuda 318:2; and many others). However, some are stringent. For example, Nishmat Adam 24:3 is concerned that it may even be prohibited by Torah law if the goal of the dyeing is to sell the food. BHL 320:19 rejects this. Nevertheless, there is a rabbinic prohibition of preparing on Shabbat for weekdays, and therefore one may not dye food in order to sell it (see MB 320:56). Others maintain that while it is true that the prohibition of dyeing does not apply to foods, there is a rabbinic prohibition to color drinks (Rav Pe’alim, OĤ 3:11 and Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 2, Pekudei 3-4; Ha-elef Lekha Shlomo §336; Lev Ĥayim 3:78). Although this is a rabbinic law, and most poskim are lenient (see Yabi’a Omer 2:20), le-khatĥila it is preferable to be stringent. Even those who are stringent allow mixing a clear drink into a colored one (Ĥesed La-alafim 320:6; SHT 318:65). If the intent is to color, then it is reasonable to be stringent even when it comes to food (Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 2, Pekudei 3; Menuĥat Ahava 3:13:8 and nn. 26, 30; SSK 11:39). See Harĥavot.

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The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
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The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman