7 – Ĥametz Mixtures

1. Even a Drop of Ĥametz Renders Food Forbidden

In general, when a forbidden food becomes mixed with a permitted food, it is batel be-shishim (rendered insignificant if the forbidden food constitutes less than one sixtieth of the mixture); in such small quantities, it does not contribute flavor. At the level of Torah law, ĥametz is also batel be-shishim. The Sages, however, ordained that even a drop of ĥametz render a permitted food forbidden when mixed with it. Even if the quantity of permitted food is a thousand or ten thousand times greater than the ĥametz, the entire mixture becomes forbidden.

The Sages added this stringency because the Torah itself is more stringent about ĥametz than other forbidden foods. This is true in two respects: 1) generally, if one consumes a Torah-forbidden food, the punishment is malkot (lashes), but one who eats ĥametz incurs the more severe punishment of karet (extirpation); 2) whereas all other forbidden foods may be kept in one’s home, ĥametz can neither be seen nor be found in our homes throughout Pesaĥ. The Sages therefore continued in this direction by establishing a safeguard: even if a drop of ĥametz falls into a food, it is forbidden to consume or derive benefit from it. Another reason for this stringency is that all other forbidden foods are prohibited throughout the year, and we are therefore accustomed to distancing ourselves from them, but since we eat ĥametz all year long, we are liable to forget that it is forbidden on Pesaĥ. The Sages, therefore, are more stringent about ĥametz, so that everybody remembers to be careful about it.

This law, that even a drop of ĥametz renders a mixture forbidden, goes into effect with the onset of Pesaĥ. Before Pesaĥ, ĥametz is batel be-shishim like all other forbidden foods. Although the prohibition against eating ĥametz and the mitzva to dispose of ĥametz go into effect at midday on the fourteenth of Nisan, the law that ĥametz is not batel be-shishim does not take effect until Pesaĥ begins. This is because one who consumes ĥametz incurs karet only once Pesaĥ has begun, when the prohibitions of bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei take effect (SA 447:2).[1]

[1]. According to She’iltot, Rabbeinu Tam, and Raz, ĥametz is similar to other forbidden foods and is batel be-shishim. All other poskim (including Rif, Rosh, and Rambam) maintain that ĥametz is not batel even in a thousand-to-one ratio, as per the opinion of Rava, following Rav, in Pesaĥim 30a. Even Rabbeinu Tam and Raz refrained from acting leniently (see Birur Halakha ad loc.). However, MB 447:2 states, citing Aĥaronim, that in a case where there are other factors that support a lenient ruling, She’iltot and Rabbeinu Tam can also be taken into consideration.

The aforementioned reasons for the strict nature of ĥametz are from Rashi, Rosh, Smak, Rabbeinu Yona, and many others. The first reason is the principal one, and therefore ĥametz becomes forbidden in the most minuscule quantities only once Pesaĥ begins. However, Rambam and Ramban explain that the reason a tiny amount of ĥametz is forbidden is that after Pesaĥ it will again become permitted, since on the Torah level ĥametz she-avar alav ha-Pesaĥ is permissible, and anything that will become permissible in the future (davar she-yesh lo matirin) is not batel in any mixture. According to this opinion, the tiniest amounts of ĥametz are forbidden as early as midday of the fourteenth, and this is indeed what Magid Mishneh claims is Rambam’s opinion. This is also the opinion of several Rishonim and Aĥaronim. It is possible, however, that according to this, ĥametz is not batel after midday on the fourteenth unless it is mixed with the same sort of food item (min be-mino). Kaf Ha-ĥayim 447:46 and Hilkhot Ĥag Be-ĥag 9:23 quote those who adopt this opinion. Nonetheless, even based on the rationale that we are used to eating ĥametz, there are still grounds to forbid even the tiniest amounts of ĥametz starting from midday of the fourteenth, as Ran writes.

SA adopts the opinion that tiny amounts of ĥametz only become forbidden once Pesaĥ begins, and most Aĥaronim accept this view.

2. Can a Mixture Containing a Drop of Ĥametz Be Salvaged?

As we have learned, the laws of ĥametz are uniquely strict: even a miniscule amount of ĥametz mixed with a permitted food renders the entire mixture forbidden for consumption or benefit. However, most poskim maintain that if the ĥametz is less than one sixtieth of the mixture, one may salvage its monetary value by selling it to a gentile. For example, if a kilogram of ĥametz falls into a metric ton of another food, it is permitted to sell the mixture to a gentile as long as one first throws away a kilogram of the mixture in order to avoid benefiting from the added ĥametz. This is because when the Sages forbade benefiting from such mixtures, their intention was to forbid benefiting from the ĥametz as well. Thus, if one disposes of a quantity of the mixture equaling the amount of ĥametz that was added, he does not benefit from the ĥametz, and he can then sell the mixture to a gentile. If a single wheat grain of ĥametz fell into a large amount of cooked food, it all becomes forbidden to eat and benefit from as long as it remains in a Jew’s hands, but one may sell it to a gentile. It is not necessary to dispose of any of the mixture, because the wheat did not cause the price to rise (SA 467:10).

Rema (447:1), however, rules stringently in accordance with the opinion of a few Rishonim who maintain that since it is forbidden to derive benefit from the mixture, it is likewise forbidden to sell it to a gentile. Instead, the entire mixture must be destroyed. This is the practice of Ashkenazic Jews. However, if this will result in a very great loss, even those who follow the Ashkenazic custom may rely upon the opinion of those who permit selling the mixture to a gentile (MB 447:3).[2]

[2]. There is a dispute as to whether or not one is forbidden to derive benefit from a mixture of ĥametz and non-ĥametz. According to Rif, Rosh, and the majority of poskim, ĥametz causes the entire mixture to become forbidden, whereas Ramban and Raavad maintain that the mixture is only prohibited for eating, but it is permissible to derive benefit from it. SA 447:1 adopts the former view.

However, according to Rif and Rosh, if one would discard the value of the ĥametz in the mixture, he would be permitted to sell the mixture to a gentile, since ultimately he obtains no benefit from the ĥametz; rather, he merely receives payment for the portion of the mixture that is not ĥametz. The overwhelming majority of poskim, including SA 467:10, agree with this. However, Rema writes in Darkhei Moshe 447:2 that Mordechai, Terumat Ha-deshen, and Mahari Brin all adopt a stringent approach – that the entire mixture must be burned. MB 447:3 states in the name of Aĥaronim that in a situation of potential severe monetary loss one may sell such a mixture to a gentile. Additionally, SHT 467:74 in the name of Beit Meir states that if one will suffer severe monetary losses despite selling the mixture to a gentile, he may even keep the mixture until after Pesaĥ, and then eat it or sell it to a Jew.

3. Can Ĥametz That Was Nullified before Pesaĥ Regain Its Status (“Ĥozer Ve-ne’or”) on Pesaĥ?

The Rishonim disagree over this fundamental question: Is ĥametz that was batel be-shishim before Pesaĥ ĥozer ve-ne’or (“reawakened.” i.e., its nullification is reversed) when Pesaĥ arrives, or does its bitul before Pesaĥ mean that it cannot be ĥozer ve-ne’or? If it is ĥozer ve-ne’or, the entire mixture is rendered forbidden, because during Pesaĥ even a drop of ĥametz is not nullified in any mixture. For example, a crumb of ĥametz that falls into a large dish of cooked meat before Pesaĥ is obviously batel, and this food may even be consumed after midday on the fourteenth of Nisan. The question is whether it is still permissible to eat it after Pesaĥ begins.

Some poskim rule that if ĥametz was batel be-shishim before Pesaĥ, it is considered completely eradicated, and it cannot be ĥozer ve-ne’or on Pesaĥ. Therefore, the entire mixture is permitted for consumption (Rosh, Smag, Tur, and others). Other poskim say that the annulment that takes place before Pesaĥ is not effective; as soon as Pesaĥ begins the ĥametz reawakens, and the entire mixture is rendered forbidden (Rambam, Rashba).

This question has implications for the status of matzot. Occasionally, some water drips on a mound of wheat grains, causing a few of the grains to leaven. It is very difficult to find these grains and remove them from the pile, but it is clear that the kosher wheat grains that did not become ĥametz outnumber the leavened grains by more than sixty-to-one. According to the opinion that ĥametz is ĥozer ve-ne’or, if all the wheat is ground together and matzot are baked from its flour, it will be forbidden to eat them on Pesaĥ, because the drop of ĥametz in it renders all of the matzot forbidden. It is therefore important to make sure that there is not even a single leavened grain in the wheat from which matza is made. However, according to the opinion that ĥametz that is nullified before Pesaĥ is not ĥozer ve-ne’or, the matzot are kosher for Pesaĥ. There is no need to check the wheat kernels one by one in order to remove the leavened ones, because they were already batel be-shishim before Pesaĥ.

4. Ĥozer Ve-ne’or in Practice

SA 447:4 rules that when ĥametz is batel be-shishim before Pesaĥ it is not ĥozer ve-ne’or, and therefore it is permissible to eat such a mixture on Pesaĥ. This is because, according to the Torah, ĥametz is batel be-shishim even during Pesaĥ. The Sages added the stringency of rendering a mixture forbidden because of even a drop of ĥametz. This means that the dispute about ĥozer ve-ne’or relates to a rabbinic prohibition, and when in doubt about a rabbinic dispute, the halakha follows the lenient opinion. This is the position adopted by most Sephardic Jews.

Rema (ad loc.) rules in accordance with Terumat Ha-deshen (1:124), that if ĥametz that was batel be-shishim before Pesaĥ was a fluid mixture (laĥ), the halakha follows the lenient opinion, and the ĥametz is not ĥozer ve-ne’or. If, however, it was a solid (yavesh), the law follows the stringent opinion, and it is ĥozer ve-ne’or. For example, if a drop of beer falls into another beverage, it blends with the liquid and ceases to exist independently. As a result, after being nullified, it is not ĥozer ve-ne’or and does not render the mixture forbidden. However, if a crumb of ĥametz falls into a solid food, because it continues to exist independently and does not blend with the mixture, it has a degree of significance. Therefore, when Pesaĥ arrives it is ĥozer ve-ne’or and renders the entire mixture forbidden. This is the approach adopted by Ashkenazic Jews and some Sephardic Jews.[3]

Flour, because of its fineness, is considered a fluid mixture. This is because the distinction between fluid and solid depends principally upon whether or not the forbidden food blends completely with the permitted food. In a fluid mixture, the forbidden food blends completely with the permitted food, and in a solid mixture the forbidden food remains independent. Accordingly, there is no need to check the wheat grains before they are ground and baked into matzot, because after the wheat is ground, the flour produced from the leavened grains will be nullified and blend completely with the rest of the flour, and when Pesaĥ arrives it will not reawaken to render the mixture forbidden (SA and Rema 453:3).

Based on this principle, some poskim say that it is best to bake matzot before Pesaĥ so that if some flour or dough becomes ĥametz during the kneading process, it will blend with the rest of the dough and be batel be-shishim before Pesaĥ. This assures that it will not reawaken and render the matzot forbidden during Pesaĥ. Sometimes, when machine matzot are being baked, particles of dough get stuck in the tines of the machine and remain there long enough to become ĥametz, whereupon they fall back into the dough. However, because the pieces of dough that became ĥametz blend completely with the rest of the dough, it is considered a fluid mixture, and since the ĥametz is batel be-shishim before Pesaĥ, it is not ĥozer ve-ne’or.

All of this is be-di’avad, but one should preferably take care to bake matzot from wheat that certainly has not become ĥametz and guard against the smallest crumb of flour or dough becoming ĥametz.[4]

[3]. The custom of the Sephardim: Kaf Ha-ĥayim 447:76-78 states that many Sephardim have the custom to be stringent about ĥozer ve-ne’or, and this is the opinion of Pri Ĥadash and Ĥida in Birkei Yosef 447:14. It seems that these authorities were also stringent about liquid mixtures. Kaf Ha-ĥayim adds that Sephardim have the custom to be as strict as Rema, but no more. This is similar to what Zekhor Le-Avraham states: Sephardim on Pesaĥ follow Rema. Nonetheless, SA cites the lenient position anonymously, which indicates that it is completely lenient in this matter. Additionally, Yabi’a Omer OĤ  2:23 expands on the topic and reinforces the lenient opinions, arguing that most Rishonim are lenient about ĥozer ve-ne’or. Moreover, according to She’iltot ĥametz is batel be-shishim even on Pesaĥ, and even those who are stringent maintain that this prohibition is rabbinic, and in a dispute about rabbinic law we are lenient.

SA (442:4) cites Rambam that “tiryaka” (a type of edible medicine) is prohibited on Pesaĥ since it contains a drop of ĥametz that becomes reawakened once Pesaĥ begins, and renders the entire mixture forbidden. This seems to contradict what SA stated in 447:4. According to Rema, SA retracted what was written in §442 and permitted ĥozer ve-ne’or. Pri Ĥadash explains that ĥozer ve-ne’or applies in a case where one intentionally mixed ĥametz into the mixture. Taz states that tiryaka is forbidden because the ĥametz in it acts as a stabilizer (davar ha-ma’amid) in the mixture.

It is also important to note that even according to the lenient opinions that ĥozer ve-ne’or is permitted (according to SA – in all cases; according to Rema – in liquid mixtures), it is forbidden to intentionally blend ĥametz into a mixture before Pesaĥ and annul it in a sixty-to-one ratio in order to eat the mixture on Pesaĥ (as per Pri Ĥadash’s explanation of SA and MB 447:102 at the end). The only time such a mixture is permissible is if the ĥametz was mixed in unintentionally. According to the stringent opinions, since the mixture may not be eaten, it also may not be kept in one’s house, though if one kept the mixture in his house over Pesaĥ anyway, he is permitted to eat it after Pesaĥ (MB 447:102).

MB 453:32 states that according to Taz, if a bit of ĥametz was already mixed in before Pesaĥ and there are less than sixty parts of permissible food in the mixture to annul the ĥametz, one is permitted to add more permissible food to the mixture to nullify the ĥametz. However, MA and most poskim maintain that this is forbidden, since it appears that he is intentionally trying to nullify a forbidden food. In extreme situations one may rely on the lenient opinions.

[4]. Terumat Ha-deshen 1:114 states that flour is considered a fluid mixture, and this is the opinion of the majority of poskim, as MB states in 447:32. However, Baĥ states that according to Smak and Raavya, flour mixed with flour is considered a solid mixture; therefore, one should preferably take care that no leavened flour mixes with the matza flour. This is also the opinion cited in MB 453:17 and SHT 25. Additionally, it is clear that one should preferably take into consideration the opinions that all ĥametz reawakens on Pesaĥ, whether solid or liquid.

Let us note three opinions regarding the rationale for the law of ĥozer ve-ne’or. According to the most stringent opinion, ĥozer ve-ne’or applies even in a fluid mixture, even if the ĥametz itself has been removed and only a minuscule amount of taste was absorbed into the mixture, and even though this taste is not discernible. The second opinion, cited in MB 453:17 in the name of Olat Shabbat and Eliya Rabba, is that ĥozer ve-ne’or only applies if one re-cooks the mixture, which would cause the ĥametz to add taste to the mixture. The third opinion is that of MA, quoted by MB ad loc., that ĥozer ve-ne’or applies only to solid foods and only when there is still actual ĥametz remaining in the mixture.

5. Does Ĥametz That Imparts Foul Taste (“Noten Ta’am Li-fgam”) Render a Mixture Forbidden?

There is a well-known rule that something that imparts foul taste (“noten ta’am li-fgam”) does not render a mixture forbidden. For example, if non-kosher meat falls into a pot of kosher food, and the quantity of kosher food is sixty times that of the non-kosher meat, the taste of the non-kosher meat is nullified, and it is permitted to eat the food. On the other hand, if the kosher food is not sixty times the quantity of the non-kosher meat, it is forbidden to eat the food, because the taste of the non-kosher meat is discernible in the mixture. If, however, the taste of the non-kosher meat is foul (“pagum”), since it spoils the cooked dish, it does not render it non-kosher. Therefore, as long as the kosher food constitutes the majority of the mixture, it is permitted to eat it (SA YD §103).

What about a ĥametz mixture on Pesaĥ? Some poskim (Rashbam, Rashba) say that the fact that the Sages, due to the gravity of the ĥametz prohibition, ordained that even a drop of ĥametz renders any mixture forbidden indicates that the matter does not depend upon the taste it gives to the mixture. Therefore, even when it contributes a foul taste, it is no different than a drop of ĥametz that renders its entire mixture forbidden.

The opinion of most Rishonim (Rabbeinu Tam, Ri, Rosh, and Mordechai) is that ĥametz is like other prohibited foods except with regard to bitul be-shishim. Where other forbidden foods do not render a mixture forbidden, however, like in cases of noten ta’am li-fgam, ĥametz also does not render a mixture forbidden.

In practice, SA 447:10 rules leniently whereas Rema writes that in Ashkenazic communities the custom is to follow the stringent ruling that even a drop of foul-tasting ĥametz renders an entire mixture forbidden.

Let us clarify this disagreement by way of an example: a pot in which non-kosher meat is cooked absorbs the taste of the non-kosher meat. If the same pot is then used to cook kosher food, the kosher food will absorb the taste of non-kosher meat exuded by the pot, rendering it forbidden. However, if more than twenty-four hours passed since the cooking of the non-kosher meat, the taste absorbed by the pot is pagum, and if some other food is cooked in it, it will not be rendered forbidden, because the pot is noten ta’am li-fgam.

Similarly, if one inadvertently cooks in a ĥametz pot during Pesaĥ, according to Shulĥan Arukh and most poskim since more than twenty-four hours have passed since ĥametz was cooked in the pot, the food is kosher. However, according to Ashkenazic custom, although the taste of ĥametz absorbed into the pot is foul, it renders the food forbidden, because during Pesaĥ we take the stringent position that even noten ta’am li-fgam renders a food forbidden.[5]

[5]. The custom of the Ashkenazic community is to be stringent, as we have said; however, MB 447:98 states (citing Terumat Ha-deshen) that where there is no established custom, one may act leniently, though one who acts stringently is commended. Sephardic custom follows SA, although some are stringent (Kaf Ha-ĥayim 447:228). Rema 447:2 states that the custom to be stringent about ĥametz pagum only applies once Pesaĥ begins, but before the onset of the holiday, the ĥametz is nullified even in less than a sixty-to-one ratio, like the normal case of foods that spoil the taste of a mixture into which they fall.

It is also important to stress that according to all opinions, one is not permitted to use a utensil that absorbed the taste of a forbidden food, even more than twenty-four hours after absorption. This is because the Sages were concerned that if they permitted the use of such utensils after twenty-four hours, people would make mistakes and use them even within twenty-four hours and would end up eating forbidden foods. Understandably, this is also the halakha on Pesaĥ. If one violated this prohibition and intentionally used a utensil that had absorbed forbidden foods more than twenty-four hours prior, most poskim maintain that he is not permitted to eat the food due to a rabbinic penalty imposed on him (MB 442:1; Knesset Ha-gedola YD §122, Hagahot Ha-Tur §26).

6. The Torah Law Concerning Ĥametz Mixtures

The Torah law concerning a ĥametz mixture is complicated and subject to dispute among Tanna’im, Amora’im, Rishonim, and Aĥaronim. We shall summarize its laws here succinctly.

The Torah declares that one who eats a kezayit of ĥametz on Pesaĥ incurs karet. If the ĥametz is mixed with other foods and the mixture contains a kezayit of ĥametz in a shi’ur akhilat pras of kosher food (an olive’s bulk of ĥametz in three or four eggs’ bulk of kosher food), Ramban and other Rishonim rule that his punishment is karet, while Rif and Rambam maintain that his punishment is only malkot (lashes).

If ĥametz mixes with the same type of food, for example, leavened flour with unleavened flour, most poskim maintain that since they taste the same, the ĥametz flour is nullified by the majority (batel be-rov) at the Torah level, though there is still a rabbinic prohibition against eating it.

When it comes to the prohibition against keeping ĥametz on Pesaĥ, if a kezayit of ĥametz becomes mixed with permitted food, and the permitted food is less than sixty times the quantity of the ĥametz, one violates both bal yera’eh and bal yimatzei. According to Torah law, if the mixture is more than sixty times the quantity of the ĥametz, the ĥametz is batel. If the ĥametz becomes mixed with its own kind – for example, leavened flour with unleavened flour – and there is more of the kosher ingredient than the non-kosher, according to Torah law the ĥametz is batel and no prohibition is violated. Nevertheless, the Sages ordained that the mixture must be disposed of, lest one end up eating it on Pesaĥ.[6]

[6]. If one did not dispose of it, since he did not violate bal yeira’eh or bal yimatzei he is permitted to benefit from the ĥametz after Pesaĥ. Regarding eating the ĥametz after Pesaĥ, Eliya Rabba claims that since he violated a rabbinic prohibition by keeping it over Pesaĥ, he may not eat it, although according to MA, cited in MB 447:102, he is allowed to eat it.