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Ask the Rabbi #18

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Ask the Rabbi

April 23, 1994; Issue #18

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Contents:
  • Why is honey Kosher?
  • What happens at an "Unveiling"
  • Subscription Information
  • Back issues are indexed both by issue no. and by subject
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  • Why is honey Kosher?

    Balint from Grinell in Iowa writes:

    I have the following question that no one could answer yet:

    Why is honey Kosher? I thought that the product of non-Kosher animals was not Kosher as well. Bees are not Kosher, so why is honey Kosher?

    I appreciate your time and hope you know the answer.

    Thank you,


    Dear Balint,

    The Mishna in Tractate Bechorot states:

    "That which comes from something which is Tameh [non-Kosher] is Tameh, and that which comes of that which is Tahor [Kosher] is Tahor." So you were right, Balint -- the product of a non-Kosher animal is not Kosher. So why is bee-honey Kosher?

    The Talmud in the same Tractate quotes a Beraita (a Halachic teaching from the time of the Mishna) which says:

    "Why did they say that bee-honey is permitted? Because even though they bring it into their bodies, it is not a *product* of their bodies [it is stored there but not produced there]."

    All the Sages of the Mishna agree with this ruling. One of them, Rabbi Yaakov, disagrees with the *reasoning*. He claims that bee-honey is Kosher based on his interpretation of Vayikra 11:21. According to him, the verse prohibits one to eat a flying insect, but *not* that which is *excreted* from it.

    Maimonides codifies bee-honey as being Kosher, as does the Shulchan Aruch.

    You may wonder: How could one even think that bee-honey is not Kosher -- the Torah refers to the Land of Israel as "a Land flowing with milk and honey"! Certainly the Torah would not choose a non-Kosher product as a means for describing the beauty of the Land of Israel! This may come as a surprise, but the honey mentioned in the verse about "milk and honey" is not bee-honey -- rather it is fig-honey. The Talmud in Tractate Berachot tells us that another verse "It is a Land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates -- a Land of olives and *honey*" -- is referring to date-honey.

    Sources:

    • Tractate Bechorot, pages 5b, 7b.
    • The Codes of Maimonides, Laws of Forbidden Foods 3:3.
    • Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, 81:8.
    • Tractate Megillah, page 6a, Rashi.
    • Chumash, Book of Devarim, 8:8.
    • Tractate Berachot, page 41b, Rashi.


    What happens at an "Unveiling"

    Daniel Kelber wrote:

    My grandfather's "headstone" will be erected soon, just over a year after his death. I would appreciate some information regarding the Halacha concerning this ceremony; a source to look up would be helpful.

    Toda Raba


    Dear Daniel,

    There are three basic reasons for a Headstone:

    1. To mark the place as Tameh (impure and off limits for Kohanim).
    2. To mark the place for people who want to visit it.
    3. To honor the deceased.

    According to the book "Gesher HaChaim", when visiting the grave during the first year it is customary to say seven paragraphs of Psalms: 33, 16, 17, 72, 91, 104, and 130. Afterwards one says Psalm 119 and recites the verses that spell the name of the deceased and the letters of the word "Neshama". Different communities have different customs.

    The Halachic section of the book "Gesher HaChaim" is soon to be published in English. There is another excellent book called "Mourning in Halacha" which is published by Artscroll. Also, a popular work is "The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning" by Rabbi Maurice Lamm.
    "May He swallow up death forever; may Hashem G-d wipe away tears from every face. (Isaiah 25:8)



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