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Thought for the Day: ביטול for Mixtures of Both Similar and Dissimilar Ingredients

We are all familiar with בטל בששים/nullified in 60 when it comes to nullifying forbidden substances (or milk in meat or meat in milk) in mixtures.  I didn't realize just how familiar that concept really is until I saw that Google translated בטל בששים as simply "insignificant".  There is an important detail, however regarding whether the mixture is מין במינו (comprised of similar ingredients) or מין באינו מינו (comprised of dissimilar ingredients).  When it comes to מין באינו מינו, the nullification is needed at a Torah level, whereas when the mixture is מין במינו, the nullification is a Rabbinic stringency.  That, of course, is important for any cases of doubt whether there is actually 60 times the volume in the permitted substance to nullify the forbidden one.  We'll call the forbidden substance (hoped to be small volume) the "solute", and the majority component of permitted substance the "solvent".  This both saves typing and also takes on an air of scientific precision.

What is an example of מין במינו?  Campbell's chicken soup with my wife's chicken soup.  (Actually my wife's chicken soup is so amazing that I consider any other soup as a forbidden solute, but that is neither here nor there.)  מין באינו מינו?  Lard with Crisco.  (Hah!  I am one of the few readers of this TftD who have tasted lard permissibly.  For those of you who have never tasted lard, I assure you that it tastes much different -- and better -- than Crisco.  For those of you who have also tasted lard; shame on you!)

How do you get to a case of not knowing whether you have enough solvent to solute?  Being lazy about due diligence, by the way, is not an example of doubt.  You are expected to know or go back and determine how much milk fell into your meat (or vice versa).  Suppose however, one oz of Campbell's chicken soup fell into 30 oz of kosher chicken, and so you quickly scoop up where the Campbell's fell and dump it out.  Similar scenario for the Crisco and lard.  (What is the Campbell's chicken soup and lard doing in your kitchen?  Darned if I know.)  So now you definitely have more permitted solvent than forbidden solute.  However, you don't -- and can't (without chemical analysis) -- know if there is 60 times the volume of solvent to solute.  In that case the soup will be permitted -- we are lenient regarding doubt in a Rabbinic requirement; the shortening will be forbidden -- we are stringent regarding doubt in Torah matter.

How do you remember which is which?  After listening to the same few shiurim a dozen or so times, I finally got it.  Why does מין באינו מינו require a volume of 60 solvent to solute?  Because of the principle that טעם כעיקר דאורייתא/if you can taste it, the Torah regards that as eating the substance itself.  We need that volume of 60:1 in order to nullify the taste.  So as long as you are not sure you have 60:1 in a mixture of מין באינו מינו -- where you have a foreign taste admixture -- then you are in a case of doubt regarding a Torah requirement.  Why do we need a ratio of 60:1 for מין במינו?  Obviously it can't depend on taste; that's what מין במינו means, the taste is the same (according to the Shach, anyway).  In that case, the Torah requires a simple majority; then Chazal came and enacted a stringency to require a ratio of 60:1.  Since the 60:1 requirement for מין במינו mixtures is Rabbinic, the cases of doubt will be permitted.

Isn't that cool?  And that coolness is definitely a fulfillment of a Torah obligation to learn and understand.


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