Letters Dec. III 2006




Reader: Dear Rabbi, I found your Mesora site and was impressed by some of it’s content. In one article you stated that you could eat a product even if it contains pork, provided that less than 1/60 of the substance is pork. You wrote, “The Torah prohibition is not to eat an object called pork. But when eating an entire mixture with acceptable proportions of ingredients, it is permissible. One is eating a “mixture”, not pork.”

Where specifically according to Jewish law does it state that “1/60” is a maximum limit of a bad substance in kosher food? The reason I ask is because this is complete news to me. My mother used to buy toaster pastry cakes that contain milk in the icing. She stopped buying them 10 years ago because they were no longer “kosher” despite having the same ingredients. Was her response consistent with Jewish halacha?

Also, in another place on your site you said that a person who finds a truth in the scriptures is required to follow that truth even if all the rabbis contradict it. (I hope I reiterated correctly) Is there a scriptural source for that idea?





Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim:  The Shulchan Aruch, Laws of Mixtures (Ta’aruvos) 98:1 states that if a non-kosher food item has become undiscernibly intermingled with kosher food item(s) in a ratio of 1/60 or less, then the entire mixture may be consumed. The prohibition of eating non-kosher is either when the item is isolated; when it forms more than a sixtieth of a mixture and is not discernable in that mixture; or can be isolated and removed. Until that non-kosher item that is greater than 1/60 of the mixture is removed, the entire mixture is prohibited. But if a non-kosher item is less than a sixtieth, and one cannot discern it from the kosher, and one cannot separate it, then the entire mixture may be consumed.

Regarding your second question, I will quote a Rabbi. He taught that if we know something to be true beyond any doubt, we do not say it is false, even if we come across the contrary words of a Rabbi. The principle being that a clear truth is not discounted by inconclusive or cryptic words. What is proven trumps all else. We should not immediately suggest what we determined as proven, now must be discounted due to a Rabbi’s words, which may only appear as contrary due to our misunderstanding of what he wrote.






Reader: Are Atheists idolaters? The 7 Noachide laws talk about not worshiping false gods but atheist don’t worship any god at all, so it will suggest to me they are not idolaters, am I wrong?

Can an atheist be a righteous gentile? What about agnostics? I know only atheists, agnostic or Christians. I have a friendship relation with some of them. I cannot talk about God with them. They think Judaism is not for a non-Jew…they think I am crazy. I need friendship. Do you agree I cannot isolate myself? 

I used to think good doings would be enough to be in grace with God (I had a wrong perception of God) I didn’t teach my children about God, because I didn’t want them to become Christians (I wanted them to be rational and to use their minds and not to believe in blind faith). I was ignorant about Judaism. Is being ignorant a sin? Am I responsible?


Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim:  I would agree that atheists are not idolaters, since the latter must worship his false concept of God. But a Rabbi once said that there is no such thing as atheists. I don’t know his reasoning, but I would suggest it means that any atheist is in fact “denying” God…and not simply absent minded, which is what atheism suggests. For example, once I deny there is a bus in front of me, I simultaneously accept the concept of “bus”. So too, one who denies God, accepts the concept of God.

An atheist cannot be a righteous Gentile, for “righteousness” is defined by following God’s righteousness. The same applies to agnostics.

And no, one cannot isolate themselves…we are all social beings by nature. We need friendship.

Being ignorant is only a sin, if one knows his or her ignorance, and does not act upon it. But in my opinion, and in the opinion of the aforementioned Rabbi, God enables each human the opportunity – at some point in his or her life – to see the truth, and act upon it. God’s justice is that He offers humans a chance in their lives to realize our potential.