Monday, April 28, 2008

The Novelty of the Midianite Utensils

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Nazir 37b) had concluded regarding the emissions of utensils used by idolaters that have been used within twenty-four hours, it is impossible that the absorption is not deemed slightly bad, and although with respect to all prohibitions, such a taste would be permitted, nevertheless, the Torah states that one is prohibited from using such a pot unless it is first scalded.

The Ramban asks: If in regards to those utensils used by idolaters, the flavor is regarded like the substance, how is it possible to say that with respect to other prohibitions, the flavor is not forbidden like the substance? Are the emissions from the idolaters’ utensils a distinct class of prohibition, different from any other prohibitions? The Midianite utensils were forbidden out of the concern that there were non-kosher foods cooked inside of it!

He answers that the Torah elevated its prohibition with respect of utensils that a utensil that absorbed flavor from a forbidden food is forbidden. And although the flavor that will be emitted from this pot will be slightly spoiled, and is not equivalent to the substance, nevertheless the Torah decreed that the flavor is not nullified and is forbidden. This is similar to the halacha that one must immerse in water a utensil purchased from an idolater even though it has not been used. There, if one would use it without immersion, the food would not be forbidden; here, it would be.