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The Meat Is Kosher, Treif, Kosher, Treif
‘If One Clotted Blood’
(Chullin 120a)



For a while now, we have been discussing the halachos of meat and milk, salting, neveilah, treifah, etc. The following story appears to be an ideal way to briefly review a few important halachos and, at the same time, enjoy the outstanding perceptiveness of Rav Chaim Soloveitchik of Brisk, zt”l.

Some say it occurred amidst preparations for the wedding of one of Rav Chaim’s grandchildren. Others say that a Russian government-appointed (unlearned) rabbi once said to Rav Chaim, “I don’t understand why you must examine a matter so much before answering halachic questions. Yes is yes, and no is no!” Rav Chaim smiled and replied, “If so, let’s see how you would rule in the following case…

A piece of neveilah fell into a pot of boiling meat. As soon as she realized what happened, the frightened cook extracted the neveilah and discarded it, leaving us with no way of knowing if it was small enough to become nullified (i.e., if it was 1/60 [or less] of the total mixture). So what is the status of the meat in the pot?”


The Meat Should Be Permitted

One type of halachic mixture is called “a kind with its own kind” (min b’mino). In such a mixture, a non-kosher item is nullified by a simple majority according to Torah law. Thus, since we are dealing with meat and meat – min b’mino – the neveilah did not cause the rest of the meat to become non-kosher as long as it was less than 50 percent of the mixture.

Chazal, however, enacted that even in min b’mino mixtures, a non-kosher item is not considered nullified unless it is 1/60 of the mixture or less. In the case at hand, we do not know if the neveilah was 1/60 of the mixture or less, so we have a safek d’rabanan (a doubt arising from a rabbinical decree) and a safek d’rabanan is judged leniently (Shulchan Aruch, Yorah Deah 98:2).

The rabbi breathed a sigh of relief after hearing Rav Chaim’s analysis. The meat is kosher!


No, No, The Meat Is Forbidden

Yet, the blood in the neveilah was not extracted since the neveilah was not salted. We, therefore, have a mixture of two different kinds (min b’she’eino mino) – i.e., neveilah blood with kosher meat, and as long as we are not sure that the contents of the pot constituted 60 times the neveilah’s blood, the meat should be forbidden as we cannot be lenient about a safek d’oraisa (a doubt about a Torah matter).

“Right,” the government-appointed rabbi said, “the pot of meat is treif.”

“Right?” asked Rav Chaim. “Not necessarily.”

It could actually be that the meat is kosher as the blood was absorbed in the neveilah meat and came out when cooked. Cooked blood is forbidden only by rabbinic decree. We again face a safek d’rabanan, which is judged leniently.


But No, The Meat Is Treif

Rav Chaim then added: But the truth is that only the blood of a slaughtered animal is forbidden only by rabbinic decree since the possible prohibition is eating blood. But our case concerns neveilah. That is, we do not have to relate to the prohibition of eating blood. The neveilah itself is a problem and cooking it doesn’t make it any less a neveilah. Thus, the prohibition from the Torah remains, and as long as we don’t know for sure that the amount of kosher meat was 60 times greater than the blood of the neveilah, it cannot be eaten.

Some add two more theories to permit or prohibit the mixture. Either way, there’s no doubt that from that day on, no one asked Rav Chaim why one must deeply examine a matter before answering a halachic question. (See Kisvei Kehilos Yaakov Hachadashim, Kodoshim 3, who cites this story in Rav Chaim’s name; see also ibid., where he devotes a lengthy discussion to whether the blood of a neveilah also carries the prohibition of neveilah; and see Zecher Yitzchak 67, concerning the blood of a treifah.)


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.