For the week ending 8 December 2007 / 28 Kislev 5768


by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Michael Hartman in NY
Dear Rabbi,

I am sometimes in a situation either socially or at work where I want/have to give/exchange food gifts with non-Jews. Now I realize that they don’t have to eat kosher, but am I allowed to give them non-kosher food as a gift? It would seem that I can, since they don’t have to keep kosher, but intuitively it doesn’t feel right. Please clarify.

Dear Michael,

It’s true that the Torah places only a few dietary restrictions on non-Jews and therefore by and large they can eat whatever they want, whenever they want.

Still, this does not mean that we may give them non-kosher food.

The reason is not because by doing so we are causing them to do something wrong. For them, it’s “kosher”. Rather the problem is regarding the way in which we are using the non-kosher food.

Let me explain.

There are some foods (like leavened goods on Pesach) or food mixtures (such as cooked milk and meat) which are not only forbidden for us to eat, but we may not obtain any benefit from them whatsoever. This would include feeding them to our pets, or selling or even giving them to non-Jews. Even though the recipient is allowed to consume these items, we are not allowed to reap the reward that results from giving to them.

Most other foods do not fit into this category. Meaning despite the prohibition to eat them, we can still derive benefit from them. For example, even though a Jew may not eat non-kosher meat, he may nevertheless derive benefit from it by feeding it to his pet.

However, even with most of these foods, there is still an extra prohibition against using them for commerce or business. This means that the permission to benefit from them is limited to personal use such as feeding one’s pet, for fuel, etc. However, to sell, barter, bargain or exchange these items would fall under the category of commerce and would thus be prohibited.

Based on the Talmudic principle that “a gift is like a sale” since it is being given either in payment for a past favor or in anticipation of a future one, giving a non-kosher food gift is like doing business with a forbidden item and is therefore prohibited.

While there are some fine points and exceptions to this rule, it is best to be on the safe side and to give/exchange only kosher food gifts with your non-Jewish friends and associates.

Nevertheless, there is one common exception to the rule which is worth mentioning. The prohibition against doing business with forbidden items only applies to “pre-meditated” use. But business “by chance” is permitted. Therefore, while one may not purchase non-kosher food with the intention of giving it to a non-Jew, if one received such an item he may turn around and give it to a non-Jew since that is considered only “profiting” by chance.

  • Rabbi Doniel Yehuda Neustadt, The Weekly Halachic Discussion, VaYishlach
  • Yoreh Deah 117:1 and its commentaries
  • Bava Metzia 16a

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