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Thought for the Day: Nullifying a Forbidden Substance

Sorry!  No time for stories today; too much to do and too little time.

Suppose you have 30 ounces of chicken soup simmering on your stove and your two year old throws his cup across the room, spilling one once of milk into your soup.  If you are Ashkenazi, you would say: "Darn!  If only it had been 60 ounces of soup or only 1/2 ounce of milk; then it would be bahtel b'shishim (nullified by one part on 60).  Now that it is done, though, because ein l'vatel issur l'chatchila (it is forbidden to add volume to bring the mixture to nullification once the forbidden mixture is formed)."  If you are S'fardi, though, you would say: "Soup's on!  Chicken and milk is an issur d'rabanan, ein l'vatel issur l'chatchila is also d'rabanan; trei d'rabanan mutar l'chatchila (if the action would require two rabinic decrees to forbid it, then it is permitted)."

That is the p'sak of the Shulchan Aruch, Yorah Dei'ah 99:6.  The Rema there, though, paskens that we don't do that.  Hence the distraught askenazis and happy s'fardit.

I know, I know... you are thinking, "Hmm... I wonder what brought that up.  Doesn't seem to have anything to do with Chanuka and only tangentially references his grandchildren."  What?  You are used to random, stream of conscious ramblings?  Fine; please just humor me and ask what that has to do with Chanuka.

Since you asked: Suppose that after the eighth night of lighting, one has oil that was specifically designated for the mitzvah of chanuka licht left over.  (This can happen, for example, if you put exactly the proper shiur in the little cup and it went out a bit early.)  That oil is "huktza l'mitzvasa"/set aside for its mitzvah and is now forbidden for any other use.  Particularly pernicious for Chanuka oil, which is assur b'ha'na'ah anyway.  But since the mitzvah of Chanuka is d'rabanan, you would expect the Shulchan Aruch say it is ok to nullify it by adding it to more than 60 times its volume of regular oil.  Yet the Shulchan Aruch (OC 677:4) ends with: "some say not to add oil to nullify it."  Why doesn't the Shulchan Aruch just say it is permitted, as he does in Yorah Dei'ah?  Why doesn't the Rema add that we certainly don't do this?  It's a mystery.

As long as you asked:  My five year old grandson got a magic set this Chanuka.  He was very excited till his dad showed him how to do the cups and balls trick.  "Wait!  There's four balls... that's not magic, that's just a trick!"

True enough; but you know what really is magic?  That even a few drops of oil can be infused with k'dusha and transformed from something ordinary to a little piece of eternity.


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