Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 2 June 2012 / 11 Sivan 5772

The Ins and Outs of "Shnei Keilim Shenagu"

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
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What exactly is “shnei keilim shenagu”? How does it affect my life? Does it affect my life? Isn’t shenagu a type of massage?

In typical Jewish fashion I will attempt to answer this question with another, a quite common kitchen question: I was cooking macaroni and cheese in one pot on the stove, while in another pot my cholent was simmering. I accidentally knocked one pot into the other, and they were touching for at least ten seconds before I realized and moved them apart. Did I just make my pots non-kosher? Can I still eat the food? Help!!

My wife actually asked my children this above question. What did they think the Halacha was?

Child #1: They both become pareve. Child #2: They both got dead. Child #3: It depends on which pot was bigger. The bigger pot would change the kashrus status of the smaller pot to match it.

Although they all receive an A+ for effort (Give them credit, my budding talmidei chachamim at the time of writing this article were only 6, 4, and 6 – yes, I have twins, k"ah), unfortunately they are all mistaken as to the proper Halacha.

The Rema[1] writes that the halacha of “shnei keilim shenagu”, or two pots of opposite types (meaning one dairy and one meat) that touch each other, even while both are boiling hot and on the fire, is that they are permitted b’dieved. In other words, “no harm, no foul”. Therefore, in the above-mentioned case, everything is still kosher and all the food may be eaten (of course not together - that would be eating bassar b’chalav - milk and meat together).

The only “issue” with this ruling of the Rema is that it’s a bit vague and does not address other factors in the equation, nor does it set parameters. For example, does this still apply if there is moisture in between the pots? What about with Chametz pots hitting Pesach pots, or non-kosher pots hitting kosher ones? Does this mean that the handle of a pot is considered a separate pot? What exactly are the boundaries of this Halacha?

The following, after extensive, exhaustive research, are my conclusions and findings on this topic.

  1. Two dry, hot pots that touch each other, whether one is dairy and one meat, or whether one is kosher and one non-kosher, or whether one was chametz and one kosher for Pesach, and even while steaming upward, the Halacha is that no harm was done and the food and the pots were unaffected and the kosher ones remain kosher. This applies even if the pots are ceramic and even if the pots contain greasy absorbed taste. However, it is commendable to refrain whenever possible, not to cook these kinds of pots together on a stove, to avoid any potential kashrus concerns.
  2. Help! My pot runneth over! Does that change the status? If there is moisture between the hot pots touching, many authorities contend that the liquid will allow transfer between the pots and will render the pots and the food non-kosher. Other authorities maintain that if there is only a minute amount of liquid (with the pots being 60 times its amount), then it can still be considered dry and everything will still be kosher. Others maintain that in the above-mentioned case, only the food remains kosher, but the pots will need to be kashered. Ask your LOR for guidance.
  3. A cheesy hetter: By cheese everyone agrees! If there was hot cheese between the pots at the point of contact, and there is 60 times its amount in the pots, then the food remains kosher, but the pots need kashering (to be kosherized).
  4. For all intents and purpose clothes would have the same Halacha applicable to them as pots do. Therefore, if hot coffee spills and gets absorbed into a shirt and then touches a hot meat pot, everything is still fine. (Except that now you need to clean your shirt. Oh well, at least coffee stains come out in the wash.)
  5. Get a handle on it: If non-kosher hot liquid falls on the handle of a pot, some authorities maintain that the food in the pot is unaffected, for the handle (since it’s only attached by screws) would be considered a different vessel. Others maintain that practically it is all considered one vessel, and it therefore will affect the food. However, if the handle was welded on, then it would be considered one vessel and will affect the kashrus status of the food. Contact your LOR for guidance.
  6. If one of the pots is pareve and the other is either dairy or meat, it’s permissible for them to come into contact with each other, as long as they are clean at the point of contact.
  7. Counter Attack!: If someone is cooking in a dairy pot and wishes to take it off the fire, and there is nowhere to place it except on the counter that is usually reserved for meat items, one may place it there. Nevertheless, since the issue is not as clear cut as it’s being presented, it is preferable not to do so, but rather one should place another layer of separation down first (for example, a board, towel or aluminum foil) in order to satisfy all opinions.

These are just a few basic guidelines and overview of the Halachos of “shnei kelim shenagu”, adapted and summarized from the original Hebrew award-winning comprehensive Kuntress on topic. To receive the full source list or a copy of the original Kuntress (via e-mail), please contact the author at:

[1]Shulchan Aruch, Yorah De’ah Ch. 92, end 8; and Ch. 93, end 1.

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author:

Disclaimer: These are just a few basic guidelines and overview of the Halacha discussed in this article. This is by no means a complete comprehensive authoritative guide, but rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issue. One should not compare similar cases in order to rules in any real case, but should refer his questions to a competent Halachic authority.

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.

L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda.

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