Skip to main content

Davar Charif

Rav David Brofsky
Text file



Last week we discussed the laws of knives.  We noted that the Gemara (Chullin 111b) explains that if one cuts a cucumber (i.e., a bland vegetable) with a meat knife, one should scrape off the outer layer before eating the cucumber with dairy.  The Gemara fears that some of the meat residue, which remained on the edge of the knife, may be transferred to the cucumber.


The Gemara, however, also states that if one cuts a "tzenon" (radish) with a meat knife, it should not be eaten with dairy, because "agav churpe bal'a" (the sharpness assisted in its absorption).  In other words, if one cuts a sharp vegetable with a meat knife, it is considered to be "besari" and may not be eaten with dairy.


This week, we will discuss the uniqueness of a "davar charif" and its impact on many kashrut issues.


"Davar Charif" and Knives:


The Rishonim debate WHAT is spread throughout the radish, and HOW DEEP it is spread.



Regarding our first question, Rashi cites two explanations of the above gemara.


In his first explanation, he claims that the food residue found on most knives doesn't generally penetrate a bland food; a sharp food, however, assisted by the pressure of the knife (ducheka de-sakina), absorbs the grease residue, spreading the taste throughout the radish.  Therefore, this "davar charif" should not be consumed with milk.


In his second explanation he claims that even if the knife is clean, the sharpness of the radish, along with the pressure of the knife, cause the knife to emit actual taste.  Therefore, even if the knife was clean, the radish is considered besari.  Cutting a sharp radish is not much different from cutting a hot vegetable, in that the taste is emitted from the knife and spread throughout the radish. 


The second opinion is more stringent regarding two issues.


Firstly, even if the knife is clean, we assume the knife emitted the "ta'am balua" – the taste that was absorbed in it. Secondly, the ta'am's status is that of a "ta'am rishon" and not a "nat bar nat."  In other words, if a besari knife were to be immersed into a pot of boiling soup, the laws and debates of "nat bar nat" (see shiur #16) would apply.  Here, however, the radish is considered, according to all, to be besari, and may not be eaten with milk, and if it were mixed with milk it would be prohibited according to all!


The Shulchan Arukh (YD 96:1) rules in accordance with the more stringent opinion.  Therefore, even if the knife were clean, we assume the radish absorbed the taste absorbed within the knife and is considered to be besari.


Interestingly, the Acharonim debate whether one must wait, after eating a davar charif cut with a meat knife, before drinking milk.  Rabbi Akiva Eiger (YD 89 on Shakh 19) is lenient.  This ruling seems reasonable, as the reason for waiting after meat, as we shall explain in few weeks, relates to the meat which is either caught between one's teeth, or which leaves a greasy aftertaste.  Neither reason seems applicable in our case. 


As for whether one may eat a davar charif cut with a dairy knife after eating meat, the question seems more difficult.  Must one wait only before consuming actual milk or dairy foods, or even before eating the "ta'am" of milk? The Acharonim cite conflicting opinions.  Seemingly, if the knife wasn't used for hot meat within the last 24 hours, there is more room to be lenient.



Regarding our second question, the Rishonim disagree.  The Rosh assumes that the taste cannot penetrate more than a depth of a "kelipa" (a thin slice).  Others insist that in order to permit the sharp food, one must remove "kedei netilat makom," or the width of a finger.  The Rashba adopts an even more stringent opinion, claiming that the taste penetrates throughout the entire food.


The Shulchan Arukh (YD 96:1) cites the opinion that prohibits "kedei netilat makom."  The Rema cites the opinion of the Rashba, concluding that while le-khat'chila one should assume that the entire radish is besari (or if cut with a prohibited knife – assur), be-diavad, if the radish was already cooked with dairy, we require "shishim" against the volume of the "netilat makom."


Davar Charif Cut by a Knife Which was Eino Ben Yomo:


If one accepts the second explanation cited by Rashi, which maintains that a davar charif, aided by the pressure of the knife, may actually extract the taste from a clean knife, may one assume that if the knife was "eino ben yomo" (i.e., at least 24 hours have passed since it was last used for meat or dairy}, the food is unaffected?


Tosafot (Chullin 112a s.v. Agav churpe) raise this question but leave it unresolved. 


The question revolves around a Gemara (Avoda Zara 39a) that states, regarding a sharp herb ("chilta") used primarily for medicinal purposes:


[A chilta is prohibited] because it is cut with a [non-kosher] knife.  And although the halakha is generally that if the knife is "noten ta'am li-fgam" the food is permitted, here, the sharpness of the "chilta" rejuvenates the grease and is considered "noten ta'am li-shvach."


In other words, the sharpness of this herb neutralizes the negative impact of the "eino ben yomo" taste, rendering it "noten ta'am li-shvach."


Tosafot and others wonder whether the unique property of this sharp herb, which inhibits the negative effect of an aged taste, is similar to the properties of other ordinary sharp substances, which, incidentally, are commonly used to preserve aging meats, thereby disguising the impact of their age.  


The Rosh (Avoda Zara 2:37) records a response of his teacher, Rabbeinu Meir (the well known Maharam Mi-Rutenburg) to this question.  Rabbenu Meir responded that the Sefer Ha-Teruma had in fact equated ordinary spicy food to the "chiltit," ruling that an onion or garlic may also extract the taste from an "eino ben yomo" utensil.  Rabbeinu Meir commented that while he personally rules in accordance with the Sefer Ha-Teruma, who extends the "eino ben yomo" stringency to other sharp foods, he is inclined to be lenient, and does not rebuke those who follow the lenient opinion. 


Rav Yosef Karo, in his Shulchan Arukh (YD 96:1), cites both opinions.  The Shakh (96:6) and others note that we follow the more stringent opinion, as is evident from the Shulchan Arukh elsewhere (YD 103:6).


Therefore, in summary, common practice is to assume that ANY davar charif may extract taste, even from a CLEAN knife, which is EINO BEN YOMO from its previous problematic (i.e., meat or non-kosher) use.


Regarding blenders and food processors, the following two points should be made:


Onions or other spicy foods that are ground in a meat grinder, i.e., a food processor used for hot meat, should be considered "besari," even if the grinder is "eino ben yomo."


Furthermore, if one cuts onions or other spicy foods with a meat knife, and then grinds them, alone, in a blender, some (see Chochmat Adam 49:10 based on Magen Avraham OC 451:21) claim that the blender is now besari and one should not subsequently grind sharp food in this blender to be eaten with milk.  Others (see Even HaOzer YD 96) disagree, claiming that a transfer of taste from the onion to the blender should be considered "nat bar nat" and permitted. 


Finally, the Chochmat Adam (56:2) writes that if one cuts a davar charif with a pareve knife on a non-kosher plate or cutting board, the davar charif is prohibited.  Similarly, it would follow, if the cutting board is "besari," then the davar charif should not be eaten with milk.  The Sefer Yehoshua (letters no.122) does not consider this a case of "ducheka de-sakina." 


Other Applications of Davar Charif:


The Shulchan Arukh rules that the stringency of davar charif is not restricted to knives, but applies to other forms of cooking as well.


Therefore, he rules (YD 103:6) that if one cooks pepper (a sharp vegetable) in a non-kosher pot which is "eino ben yomo," the food is prohibited, as "the sharpness rejuvenates the otherwise spoiled taste."


The Rema (YD 95:b) cites a more practical application.  He contrasts ordinary pareve food cooked in a meat pot with sharp food cooked in the same pot.  Pareve food cooked in a ben yomo meat pot is considered "be-chezkat besari," and therefore while it may not be eaten WITH dairy, if it was already re-cooked accidentally with dairy, the food is permitted. 


However, "if, for example, sharp foods were cooked in a meat pot, even if it was "eino ben yomo," and were re-cooked with milk they are prohibited, even be-diavad."


In other words, the leniencies of "nat bar nat" DO NOT apply to a davar charif, and the food should be considered chalavi or besari.


However, when applying this principle, there are a number of points to keep in mind.


Firstly, as the Rema himself notes, a sharp food takes on the status ONLY if the ENTIRE food is sharp, and not if it was merely spiced with a davar charif.


Secondly, often, a davar charif may become sweet after being cooked.  For example, an onion fried in a dairy pot is to be considered chalavi, may not be eaten or mixed with chopped liver, and prohibits the chopped liver, be-diavad, if they are mixed together.  Furthermore, it may not be cooked in a meat pot, and may, be-diavad, prohibit such a pot.


However, an onion fried in a pareve pan, which is subsequently cooked in a dairy pot (or cut with a clean dairy knife), is no more than "be-chezkat chalavi," and if mixed with meat may be eaten, be-diavad.  Furthermore, if this onion is cooked again in a meat pot, the pot is permitted.


Finally, what is considered to be a davar charif? The Gemara (Chullin 111b) uses a "tzenon" (radish) as an example of a "davar charif."  The Rishonim debate whether other sharp foods are also considered to be "devarim charifim." 


The Shulchan Arukh (YD 96:2) rules in accordance with the view that includes all sharp foods in the category of "davar charif."  Most authorities include onions, garlic, leek, horseradish, radishes, hot peppers, lemons and other sour fruits, as well as very pickled cucumbers and salted herring.  In addition, some liquids, such as strong vinegar, may also be considered "charif" and assume the taste of the pot in which they are boiled.


I hope that our discussion has illustrated the necessity of exercising caution when preparing "devarim charifim," and possibly even designating pareve knives for cutting these foods.  Furthermore, while last week we mentioned the possibility of eating salads prepared, be-diavad, in a non-kosher setting, the laws of davar charif obviously complicate matters. 


Next week we will begin our study of the laws of basar be-chalav.

This website is constantly being improved. We would appreciate hearing from you. Questions and comments on the classes are welcome, as is help in tagging, categorizing, and creating brief summaries of the classes. Thank you for being part of the Torat Har Etzion community!