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Weekly Halacha

Selected Halachos relating to Parshas Vaeschanan

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.

"But you should greatly beware for your souls" (4:15)


Several Biblical injunctions are derived from the warning to "beware for your souls", including the Biblical prohibition of placing oneself in any type of life-threatening situation(1), e.g., walking dangerously near the edge of a roof, exposing oneself to a disease, etc. In addition to such obviously dangerous acts, our Sages warned against other dangers which are not understood today, such as the well-known injunction against eating meat and fish together. Although we cannot define the resultant danger in term of medical science, we accept and adhere faithfully to our sages' warning that eating fish and meat together is a danger(2).

Another practice involving food which our Sages considered dangerous is eating a peeled egg, onion or garlic(3)that was left overnight. Although this practice is less widespread than the universally accepted restriction against eating meat and fish together, the Talmud(4) maintains that a ruach ra'ah, a "spirit of impurity," rests upon these three foods when peeled and left overnight, similar to the "spirit of impurity" that rests on one's hands during nighttime sleep. One who eats these foods after they were left overnight, states the Talmud, endangers his life. Moreover, he will be judged by the Heavenly Court as a person who took his own life(5). In view of the severity of both the offense and the punishment, it is difficult to understand why certain communities do not comply with this restriction. How can they ignore such frightening consequences?

There is a basic difference, however, between the two prohibitions mentioned above. The prohibition against eating meat and fish together is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch as practical Halachah(6). All Jews - without exception - are obligated to follow the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch, whether scientifically understood or not. The prohibition against eating certain peeled foods, however, is omitted by many of the Rishonim(7) and the Shulchan Aruch, probably because they held that this particular "spirit of impurity" was no longer prevalent in their times(8). Thus, in many communities this practice is not followed, and, indeed, many people have never heard of it.

But in many other communities this prohibition is in force to one degree or another. While omitted by the Shulchan Aruch, this warning is cited by some Rishonim(9), and recorded as practical Halachah by several of the later authorities, among them the Pri Chodosh, Shulchan Aruch Harav(10), Aruch ha-Shulchan(11) and Ben Ish Chai. The following discussion, therefore, applies only to those whose custom is to observe this practice, or to those who would like to adopt it.


ANSWER: Whoever comes from a family that adheres strictly to this custom, should definitely continue to do so, since it has a Talmudic source and is surely not less valid than any other well-founded custom.

The poskim differ as to whether or not one who never followed this practice is required to adopt it. Some rule that the practice is mandatory(12), others recommend adopting it(13), while others do not require following it at all(14).

The prohibition applies even when the peeled food items were wrapped, sealed and stored in a closed pot or container, or were placed in a refrigerator(15); The prohibition applies only when... The entire egg, onion or garlic was peeled. If even a minuscule part of it was left unpeeled, or even if the root hairs on top of the onion or garlic remain, the food is not considered to be "peeled" and the prohibition does not apply(16); The peeled egg, onion or garlic was kept separate from any other food. If, however, it was mixed together with other ingredients, e.g., with vegetables, tuna fish or mayonnaise, it is permitted(17). The egg, onion or garlic was peeled with the intent of using it immediately and it was then left over night, or if it was peeled in order to be used the next day. If, however, it was peeled with the express intent of being frozen and used at a later date (as many large companies or bakeries do), it is permitted(18). Dried egg powder does not fall into the category of "peeled eggs" and is permitted(19). The egg, onion or garlic is peeled and left in its raw state. When cooked, roasted or fried, several poskim hold that it may be left overnight(20). The egg, onion or garlic is peeled and left the entire night. If it is peeled and left for only part of the night, it is permitted(21). B'dieved, if these items were peeled and left overnight, what can be done? Some poskim hold that b'dieved, one does not have to be stringent and the peeled foods should not be thrown away(22). Most other poksim, however, hold that even b'dieved these items should not be eaten(23). Some poskim hold that cooking or soaking the peeled items in vinegar removes the "spirit of impurity" from them and they may then be eaten(24). Other poskim do not mention this leniency. Washing the peeled foods does not alter their status - they still may not be eaten(25).


1. Berachos 32b; Rambam Hilchos Rotzeiach 11:4; C.M. 427:5.

2. Pesachim 76b.

3. Some people are strict with radishes also, but it is without an apparent source.

4. Niddah 17a.

5. Rashi ibid., as explained by Aruch l'Ner.

6. O.C. 173 and Y.D. 116:2.

7. Such as the Rif, Rambam and Tur.

8. Explanation offered by Teshuvos Pri ha-Sadeh 3:61-2 and others based on Yam Shel Shelomo (Chulin, Kol Habasar 31) and Tosfos Yoma 77b who state that ruach ra'ah is not longer prevalent in our midst.

9. See Tosfos Shabbos 141a, Tosfos Beitza 14a, Rosh Beitza 1:21, Sma"k 171, Leket Yosher Y.D. pg. 6, who all record this prohibition as being applicable. See also Mordechai (Shabbos, Hamotzi Yayin) who quotes the M'haram of Rottenburg as doubting if this prohibition is presently applicable.

10. Hilchos Shemiras Haguf 7.

11. Y.D. 116:23.

12. Teshuvos Beis Shlomo Y.D. 189, quoted in Darkei Teshuvah 116:74; Teshuvos M'harsham 4:148 (see also Da'as Torah O.C. 513:6), Divrei Yatziv 2:16 (Kloizenburger Rebbe) in addition to all the authorities mentioned above who quote this advisory as practical Halachah. See also episode with Harav Y. L. Diskin, quoted in Misgeres Zahav 99:1.

13. Chafetz Chayim (Likutei Halachos, Niddah 17a, Ein Mishpat 7); Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:20; Harav Y.Y. Kanievsky (quoted by Harav C. Kanievsky in Shemiras Haguf v'ha-Nefesh 3:1); Yabia Omer Y.D. 2:7.

14. Teshuvos Yad Meir 19, quoted in Darkei Teshuvah 116:74, based on the previously mentioned argument that nowadays, this ruach ra'ah is no longer prevalent. In addition, all the other poskim who do not mention this advisory, including later authorities such as the Chochmas Adam, Pischei Teshuvah and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, must be included in this category.

15. Niddah 17a; Shulchan Aruch Harav, ibid.

16. Niddah 17a (see Yaavetz and Aruch l'Ner); Shulchan Aruch Harav, ibid.

17. Sma"k 171; Zivchei Tzedek 61, quoted in Kaf ha-Chayim O.C. 504:1 and Y.D. 116:92; Ben Ish Chai (Pinchas 2:14); Chazon Ish (quoted by Harav C. Kanievsky in Shemiras Haguf v'ha-Nefesh 3:5 and in Archos Rabbeinu 1:209); Yabia Omer Y.D. 2:7. [Some mention that even if the item was salted, it is also sufficient (Ta'amei ha-Minhagim (Likutim 16). One may rely on this when a large amount of salt [or sugar] is involved - Minchas Yitzchak 6:75.]

18. Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:20.

19. Darkei Teshuvah 116:74 quoting Degel Efrayim 28; Yabia Omer Y.D. 2:7; Shevet ha-Levi 61:111. According to the previously mentioned Igros Moshe, this would also be permitted. See, however, Har Tzvi Y.D. 74 who does not cite this leniency. Harav S.Y. Elyashiv is quoted (Yashiv Moshe, pg. 159) as permitting onion powder when mixed with other ingredients.

20. Darkei Teshuvah 116:74 quoting Beis Shelomo Y.D. 189; Aderet (Kunters Over Orach 4); Shevet ha-Levi 3:169. There are others (see Darkei Teshuvah and Minchas Yitzchak 4:108), however, who hold exactly the opposite - the prohibition applies to cooked items only while raw items may be peeled and left overnight.

21. Divrei Yatziv 2:16-9 is unsure of this halachah but he states that it is not customary to be stringent when these items were peeled and left for only part of the night.

22. Chazon Ish (quoted in Archos Rabbeinu 1:210). Yaskil Avdi 8:14-4 allows these items to be used for a Shabbos meal. See also Sdei Chemed (Lamed 41:31) and Minchas Yitzchak 2:68 and 9:28.

23. Birkei Yosef Y.D. 116:10, Shem Aryeh Y.D. 56, Chelkas Yaakov 4:12, Divrei Yatziv 2:16 (who opines that various severe stomach illnesses are a result of being negligent in this prohibition) and all the poskim mentioned above who quote this practice and do not differentiate between l'chatchilah and b'dieved.

24. Kaf ha-Chayim 116:93.

25. Artzos ha-Chayim O.C. 4:32; Divrei Yatziv 2:33

Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc. Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra



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