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Thought for the Day: Even a Ma'she'hu Has a Shiur

I once had a boss who was Canadian and atheist.  Nothing in essence wrong with either one of those, of course; one is an accident of birth, the other a lack of thinking. This guy, however, was jingoistic about both.  After just a short time he let me know that I was from the NSM.  "NSM?", I asked quizzically.  "Yes!  You guys don't speak clearly and it comes out 'Nited States 'Meirca."  I looked right back at him and said defiantly, "At least I have my two front teeth; eih!"  (I didn't really, but I wish I had.  The truth is, he could have been reacting to me referring to an American as someone from the United States, implicitly implying that Canada was not in America.)  Anyway, that tells you something about his personality.

Of course religion in general, and my religious observance in particular, was another favorite target of his "wit".  He once came gleefully bounding into my office.  "So.... you aren't allowed to eat pork, right?"  "Right."  (Obviously this was not why he had that cat-that-ate-the-canary look on his face, but I figured it was safe enough to answer that question in the affirmative.)  "You aren't allowed to eat any amount at all; right?"  (Ah... that's what we are up to.)  "Right.", I answered innocently; then added, "Of course, once it is less that one part in 60 then it is as if it is not there."  His expressoins changed to the cat-that-just-realized-it-was-his-kitten-and-not-a-canary-that-he-ate look.  He had been all ready to give me grief about how it is impossible to ensure that there isn't even one molecule of pork (not that there is anything called a pork molecule, of course) in my food and/or air.  yada yada

Just between us, though, we do have a shiur known as "ma'she'hu"; literally: whatever it may be.  (You try figuring out how to punctuate transliteration!)  During Pesach, of course, we are forbidden to eat even a ma'she'hu of chameitz.  Does that really mean "even a molecule of chameitz"? (again, there is not such thing as a molecule of chameitz, but you know what I mean.)  I have even heard seemingly crazy stories about people not drinking water from the Kineret during Pesach because of (non-frum/non-jewish) fishermen using chameitz for bait.  Does it really go that far?  Do I need to start wearing a surgical mask lest I catch a whiff of Dunkin Donuts from downtown?

I do not, says Halichos Shlomo; ma'she'hu is also a shiur.  Assur b'ma'she'hu means that in its current concentration the issur cannot be tasted.  However, if the amount is so small that it would not be detectable by normal human senses even if the issur were to be isolated, then the mixture is kosher l'chatchila.  In fact, that tiny amount of issur itself is not even assur, since it is undetectable by normal human senses.  Yet another example of lo nitna torah l'malachei ha'shareis -- the Torah was not given to ministering angels.

Too bad for the surgical mask vendors.


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