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Thought for the Day: Bitul b'Shishim

I have a chavrusa who loves hypotheticals.  When we first met, I think he thought we could be good friends because I also seemed to love hypotheticals.  He eventually learned, however, that his hypothetical was my l'ma'aseh.  That is, I don't really do hypotheticals.  To be honest, I think that realization came in less than or about 60 seconds.  We have been learning for years now, but I think he still reels from time to time by how l'ma'aseh I take nearly every one of his hypotheticals.  A match made in heaven.

So here was the hypothetical d'jour: you are eating steaming hot macaroni and cheese while talking with friends (and probably drinking a beer).  One bite seems "funny".  You look down and see half a meat ball!  What now?

So there are three issues here: the macaroni and cheese, the pot, and the (remaining bit of) meatball.  For argument's sake, we are going to say its a LOT of macaroni and cheese.  In fact, the volume of macaroni and cheese is more than 60 times the volume of the original meatball.  That is, you measure by what was there, not by what is left of the meatball.  So the macaroni and cheese is fine, because of "bitul b'shishim" -- nullified by being less than one part in 60.  "So", my friend asked, "I can eat the macaroni with cheese and the meat ball, since it is all nullified, right?"  No.

How does bitul work?  The real p'shat is that the Torah is only makpid on mixtures of meat and cheese that taste like mixtures of meat and cheese.  The Shulchan Aruch actually says that you can invite a goy who is a chef (so he won't lie, because he has a reputation to maintain) and ask him if he can taste anything meaty about your macaroni and cheese.  I guess at least partly because any real chef would turn up his nose and wacky mac, so the Rema emends the p'sak and says that now a days we rely on our experience that even an expert is not going to taste that small amount of meat flavor in a bit pot of milk (nor vice versa).  That being the case, we see that bitul is not reflexive.  Just because the meat flavor is batul in the macaroni with cheese, the cheese flavor is certainly not batul in the meat ball.  Moreover, since that meat ball is right there in your face, it must be removed and disposed.  The pot is also fine because the macaroni with cheese is fine.  There are some othere really cool sha'eilos on this topic; such as what about if the cheese is not 60 times the meat, but the cheese with the macaroni is 60 times the meat.  The fun just never ends.

Except for the poor guy who ate half the meat ball.  He is now fleishig and has to wait six hours to finish his dinner.


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