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בס"ד

Lard Oil.

 

We last month gave place to a remonstrance of Mr. Falkenau, of New York, against our suggestion to appoint inspectors of the olive oil of commerce at the different places of production. We, at the same time thought Mr. Falkenau was wrong in his opinion, although we did not think that we would be justified if we withheld it from our readers, knowing, at the same time, that there were men in this country who would be able to come to our aid by a greater share of learning in the minutia of the Jewish laws than we can boast of. We accordingly give publicity to the two following communications, which will speak for themselves, and only remark, in passing, that we shall gladly give Mr. Falkenau an opportunity to be heard in his defence. Ed. Oc.

My Dear Sir,—I was surprised to see in the last number of the Occident a remonstrance from Mr. Falkenau, of New York, about the lard oil, and, notwithstanding his acquaintance with Talmudic learning, I am obliged to say that the deductions he makes from his citations are quite incorrect. You will therefore permit me to speak at length on this subject.

Our Rabbis prohibit certain articles of food prepared by gentiles, because a frequenting of gentile tables might lead us to mingle too intimately with them, and at length induce us to make matrimonial alliances with them, which last would superinduce the adoption of their modes of worship. Among these interdicted articles was at first com­prised the oil of gentiles; but afterwards Rabbi Yehuda Nesiah, the grandson of Rabbi Hackadosh, permitted such oil by the decision of the Beth Din. (Mishna Aboda Zara, ii. § 6.) But the meaning of this permission is merely the pure extracted oil; and the decision of Maimonides, Hilchoth Maachaloth Assuroth 17, § 22, that no one should prohibit the use of oil, refers only to the same article. But if the vegetable oil should be mixed with lard, there is no authority which says that the fat spoils the oil. The authority referred to treats only of a case where the oil has been boiled in a pot which had been used for meat; this is said to spoil the taste of the oil, though fat itself does not injure the taste of the oil. (Yoreh Deah 103, § 13, in the com­mentary Siphthe Cohen; also Peri Chadash and Hagaoth Maimuni on Hilchoth Maachaloth Assuroth 17, § 22.) This mixed oil, therefore, is prohibited to any Israelite.

On the account of the importance of the subject, I request you to give the above a place in your Occident.

I remain yours,
A. Rice.

Baltimore, Nov. 11th, 1844.

Mr. Editor,—In the last number of your valuable monthly, I see that the subject of “sweet oil” has attracted your attention, and from your remarks on the communication of Judge Noah, (which I have not seen,) as well as that of Mr. Falkenau, I perceive that you are aware of the importance of the subject. The place quoted by Mr. Falkenau, in Yoreh Deah, chap. 103, § 13, cannot be applied to the case now in question, for there it says that “the honey and oil of the gentiles are free to he used, because the meat or flesh (should it be intermixed) spoils the oil, and causes it to become rank.” This chapter, with the eight preceding and eight following ones, making seventeen in all, together with chapters from 118 to 120, in the same book, treats wholly of the accidental mixing of articles, or preparing of food for Israelites, by those not of that persuasion. In fact, the chapters from 112 to 120 treat wholly on the subject of the preparation of articles of food by those not of our religious persuasion not in the presence of an Israelite; or, more properly speaking, preparing kasher articles known to be so, with things not, in our presence, or with others not known or of a doubtful character, from our ignorance of what they may be.

There it is said that articles which injure the taste (טעם לפגם) when mixed with others, the mixture thus produced is allowed to be used, from the supposition that it was either accidentally mixed, or that the quantity of the prohibited article is but small. For instance, it is a well-established rule in our religion, that almost any forbidden article accidentally becoming mixed with that of a proper kind, requires sixty times the quantity of the proper article to neutralize the effect of the prohibited one. I say when accidentally mixed, but when intentionally done, even with a thousand times the quantity, the whole is unfit for Jewish use. (Yoreh Deah 99, § 5.) As to what Maimonides says in Hilchoth Maachaloth Assuroth 17, § 22, where he says the “oils of the gentiles are free to use, and he who says otherwise commits a great sin,” speaks of oil, but he surely does not mean hog’s lard.

What is said about mixing of vegetable oil with animal substances, written by Rabbi Joseph Caro, about two hundred and seventy years since, relates to what might be accidentally mixed, which then, instead of improving the taste, would make it worse; but now, when by the various improvements in the arts and sciences, hog’s lard can be so prepared that few, if any, can tell it from that of pure olive oil, the case may be different.

The large quantities of lard annually shipped from the United States to the different ports in the Mediterranean, should satisfy every unbiassed inquirer that it is only sent there to be returned under another name; and with these facts before him, I think that he will very easily perceive that the “olive oil” that he purchases is no more kasher than lard itself, which in fact it is.

Regarding what the Beth Din of Rabbi did which is related in the Talmud Aboda Zara, folio 35, even at that time both Rab and Samuel, who were considered the most Orthodox of their time, both prohibited the use of the oil of the gentiles.

You also suggest that the question be submitted to the new Rabbi in England for his decision. Why, sir, has it come to this, that we in this country cannot do the smallest thing in our religious matters here, but some busybody must write a one-sided statement to England, so as to get an answer to suit his own purposes? And do you now want to carry on the same foolish thing? Let me tell you that there are in this country many men, I think, as fit to decide a question like this, as either the late or present Rabbi of England, to whom such a question might be submitted as well as sending abroad; for I um not aware that England, any more than America, was favoured with any special grant of law at its reception at Mount Sinai, Yours,

Simeon Abrahams.

New York, 17th Nov. 5605.

Note.—We think it proper to correct Mr. Abrahams in one thing. We said merely that we would refer the question to the new Rabbi of England, not because we do not think that there is no one in this country fit to decide, but because no one has been appointed by the voice of the people in America to act for them. Besides the Haham of England will have naturally a council to aid him, and will have, moreover, a greater opportunity to act in the premises than any one among us. We are as jealous as any one can be about the independence of our congregations, and have decided, in an emergency, on our own responsibility, where there was no time to consult others better versed in the laws than we are. Still a deference to acknowledged authority cannot be any wrong, especially if this deference be voluntarily offered, and confers no authority upon the person asked, any more than his learning and experience have conferred on him already. Ed. Oc.