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Thought for the Day: Know Your Issurim

We have a game at home (I believe brought in by my son when he was a teen).  It is a box of cards that offer choices.  The rules are simple: each person draws a card and must choose one of the alternatives.  The alternatives are designed to be roughly equally bad, such as: Would you rather wear wet socks or socks with pebbles in them all day?  (Of course, being as the purpose of this game is to entertain teenage boy who are in the mood to be revolted, the real choices are quite a bit more revolting.)  I bring this up only because I have a chavrusa who also likes to propose wild choices.  Not to be revolting, of course, but to bring clarity to complicated halachik issues.

Imagine our hero, Berol, is in a situation of piku'ach nefesh and must eat one k'zayis of food.  His choices are: cheese burger (1/2 k'zayis of cheese, 1/2 k'zayis of ground beef, no bun), beef stroganoff (1/3 kazayis cream, 1/3 kazayis beef, 1/3 kazayis noodles), ham and cheese (1/2 kazayis of each, thoroughly mixed and inseparable), fresh broccoli florets (unchecked).  All meat (except the ham) is glatt, chasidishe sh'chita.  All dairy is chalav yisrael.  Pasta is yoshon.  Quite a menu, eh?

The cheese burger, of course, is the obvious worst choice (but not the actual worst choice, as we shall see).  The cheese burger is, after all, the real deal: basar v'chalav cooked together and a whole k'zayis.  Even though we pasken that it is assur m'd'oraiso to eat even less than a k'zayis, it is certainly worse to eat a whole k'zayis.  What's next worse?

Ham and cheese is bad, but not as bad as the beef stroganoff.  First, the issur of milk and meat only applies to meat from kosher animals (even if not shechted properly), so the ham and cheese is only 1/2 k'zayis of issur.  The stroganoff, on the other hand is at least 2/3 k'zayis of issur.  (Whether the noodles are consider issur themselves or only a place holder is a matter of some halachik debate.  The precise term is "chaticha na'ase n'veila", or simply "chanan". )  So even though ham is repugnant, Berol only needs to eat 1/2 k'zayis of issur instead of the 2/3 engendered by the stroganoff.

"But there's brocolli -- fresh vegetable matter!", you exclaim.  Yep... and unchecked, so it certainly contains bugs.  Bugs, being whole, are assur even when they are smaller than a k'zayis.  In fact, depending on the bug, it could be 4, 5, or 6 d'oraiso violations for each bug!  There may be dozens of bugs -- that's hundreds of torah violations -- in that k'zayis helping of brocolli florets.  Really, really bad news.  Really bad.

In the merit of participating in this thought experiment, may Berol never be in this situation.  Amein.

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