In ancient times, poisonous snakes and reptiles were commonly found even in
populated areas. In keeping with the Torah’s strict exhortation to safeguard
one’s life, the Rabbis issued an edict forbidding drinking from any
uncovered vessel which had been left unsupervised, for fear that a poisonous
snake might have ejected venom into its contents while drinking from it.
This prohibition, known as mashkim megulim, “uncovered beverages,” is
recorded in the Talmud and codified by the Rambam as halachah which we
are to practice today. But the Shulchan Aruch, who starts by quoting the
Rambam, concludes by ruling that this edict no longer applies. Since
poisonous snakes and reptiles are rarely found in populated areas nowadays,
there is no longer any reason to forbid drinking an uncovered, unsupervised
beverage. The basic halachah follows this opinion, and one is no longer
required to concern himself with this prohibition.
There are, however, poskim who maintain that the original edict applies
even in our days. Their opinion is based on the following arguments:
Although poisonous snakes and reptiles are no longer common in most
places, they do exist in some remote areas. Since one can easily avoid
drinking mashkim megulim, there is little justification to discount a
Rabbinic edict which was enacted for our benefit and protection. In
addition, while it is true that we no longer fear being poisoned by a snake
or other reptile, we are still concerned about the venom of other rodents
which may be harmful, even if not fatal.
A Rabbinic prohibition cannot be repealed even when the stated rationale
no longer applies. This is because the Rabbis did not necessarily divulge
all of the reasons behind their pronouncements. Consequently, even if the
given reason is no longer applicable, we are still bound by the
As stated yesterday, the basic halachah does not follow this opinion, and
uncovered drinks may be consumed. Nevertheless, there are many people who
choose to observe these halachos strictly, and there are several sources
who strongly recommend avoiding mashkim megulim, especially in
Eretz Yisrael. The following rules, therefore, apply only to those who
choose to keep the halachos associated with the Rabbinic prohibition of
Question: Which beverages are included in this prohibition and which
Discussion: The following beverages and liquids are included:
Honey — bee’s honey only. Date honey is not affected by this prohibition.
Milk — boiled or raw.
Water, soda, beer, tea, coffee — boiled or raw, processed or unprocessed,
flavored or unflavored.
Wine — uncooked only; yayin mevushal is permitted. Uncooked grape
juice is questionable.
Fruit juices, vinegar and oil are excluded from this prohibition.
Question: Are mashkim megulim prohibited only if left uncovered overnight?
Discussion: No. A drink left uncovered and unsupervised even for a few
moments, even during the daytime, is classified as mashkim megulim.
“Uncovered” means completely uncovered. If the beverage was loosely covered
with a paper plate or napkin etc., that is sufficient. If the beverage
was left uncovered inside a closed refrigerator, it is permitted. If
the beverage was left on the stove in an uncovered pot which was boiling and
emitting steam, it is permitted.
“Unsupervised” means that the beverage was left completely alone for a
few moments. If, however, there was a person who was fully awake — even a
baby — in the room, the prohibition of mashkim megulim does not
apply. This holds true even if the person in the room was not watching
the beverage at all, and even if his eyes were closed the entire time and
even if the room was dark.
Some poskim hold that yotzei venichnas supervision —i.e., a beverage left
uncovered and unsupervised in a room where there is constant traffic — is
considered sufficient supervision. Others, however, hold that yotzei
venichnas is not valid for mashkim megulim.
Even those who are generally lenient with mashkim megulim are careful not to
use such wine for Kiddush or for other ritual purposes which require
wine, such as Havdalah and Birkas ha-mazon, since it is considered
demeaning to use mashkim megulim for mitzvos. L’chatchilah, therefore, wine
which was left uncovered and unsupervised for even a brief period — as
little as twenty minutes — should not be used for mitzvos. If,
however, no other wine is available, one may use such wine as long as its
taste and smell were not compromised in any way. If the wine was left
uncovered for five or six hours, and surely if it was left uncovered
over night, we are concerned that its taste or smell was affected and it may
not be used for Kiddush etc., even b’diavad.
1. Devarim 4:9, 4:15, as explained in Berachos 32b. See Beiur ha-Gra, C.M.
2. Although this is a Rabbinic prohibition, some poskim maintain that once
the Rabbis pointed out that mashkim megulim may be dangerous, drinking from
them becomes forbidden min ha-Torah; see Levush, C.M. 427:11, Tevuos Shor
13:2 and Chasam Sofer, Avodah Zarah 30a.
3. Avodah Zarah 30a and Chullin 9b. The original source is the Mishnah
4. Y.D. 116:1, based on the view of Tosafos, Rashba and Tur.
5. Mishnah Berurah 160:23.
6. Pri Chadash and Pri To’ar, quoted by Birkei Yosef and Aruch ha-Shulchan,
7. Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah, Avodah Zarah. See also Levush, Y.D. 116:1.
8. The Vilna Gaon (quoted in Ma’asei Rav 95 and in Pe’as ha-Shulchan 2:32).
9. Mashkim megulim, unlike non-kosher food, are not bateil b’shishim
(Chochmas Adam 68:1; Aruch ha-Shulchan 116:10).
10. See Pischei Teshuvah, Y.D. 116:1, quoting Shelah ha-Kadosh, that while
uncovered drinks are halachically permitted, it is advisable to refrain from
11. In addition to the sources quoted above, see Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
33:5, who warns against drinking mashkim megulim. See also Orchos Rabbeinu,
vol. 1, pgs. 206-209, quoting the Chazon Ish and the Steipler’s strict
adherence to all of the laws of mashkim megulim, even to the extent of not
using such water for washing the hands.
12. Birkei Yosef, Y.D. 116:3 and Pe’as ha-Shulchan 2:32. See Minchas
13. The Talmudic prohibition also included juicy fruits, e.g., watermelons
and grapes, which were cut or split open and left unsupervised; see Beitzah
7b and Rambam, Hilchos Rotzeiach 11:8. However, nowadays, even those who are
stringent with mashkim megulim do not mention unsupervised fruits as being
prohibited, unless there is clear evidence that the fruit was tampered with.
When in question, consult a rav. See Kaf ha-Chayim, Y.D. 116:9.
15. Rambam, Hilchos Rotzeiach 11:8. There is, however, a debate among
contemporary poskim whether or not yayin mevushal on the market today is
cooked in such a way as to qualify as “mevushal.” See The Weekly Halachah
Discussion, vol. 1, (Jerusalem: Feldheim Publishers, 1997) on Parashas Ki
Sisa, for an elaboration on this issue.
16. Harav C. Kanievsky (Shemiras Nefesh, Responsa #59).
17. Rambam, Hilchos Rotzeiach 11:7.
18. Rambam, Hilchos Rotzeiach 11:11; Aruch ha-Shulchan, Y.D. 116:3. Chazon
Ish is quoted as remarking that we do not know the exact time period which
renders beverages as mashkim megulim. [In addition to the edict against
mashkim megulim, there is an additional advisory against drinking beverages
that were left uncovered and unsupervised overnight; see Maseches Derech
Eretz 11 and Tzava’as R’ Eliezer ha-Gadol 62, quoted by Harav C. Kanievsky
in Shemiras Nefesh.]