Can a Liquid Become Inherently Forbidden if a Forbidden Taste is Added to It?

This came up this week on Friday’s daf (108). We are presented there with arguably the most classic case of forbidden mixtures: a drop of milk falls into a pot of meat. The Mishnah discusses the specific situation where the drop of milk fell onto a particular piece of meat and remained only in that piece. The Mishnah rules that if the piece of meat doesn’t contain sixty times the amount of milk then “it” is prohibited.  In the Gemara, Rav teaches that the word “it” refers to all of the pot’s contents. For as Rav explains, once the milk entered that first piece of meat, the entire piece is considered nonkosher. As a result, all of the pieces become prohibited--even if the prohibited piece is only 1/60th the volume of the other pieces--because in Rav’s view, nullification doesn’t apply when the elements in the mixture are of the same type.

The Raavad asserts that a distinction must be made when we discuss this concept of deeming a heretofore permitted food as inherently nonkosher as a result of it absorbing a nonkosher flavor: that this only applies to a solid food. If however a forbidden liquid became mixed with a kosher liquid we do not say that the entire mixture is considered inherently nonkosher. Instead we would only have to be concerned about the nonkosher liquid itself and so if we have sixty times its volume of kosher liquid, the nonkosher part would be nullified.

The Shach (Yore Deah, 92:14) explains that this idea of permanently branding a food as inherently prohibited as a result of absorbing some prohibited flavor only makes sense when we’re dealing with a substantial and defined entity, like a piece of meat. Whereas if we’re simply dealing with some prohibited liquid floating around in a heretofore permitted liquid, there’s no logic to brand all of the liquid as inherently prohibited.

The Rishonim question the Raavad from the Gemara on 108b which states explicitly that if meat flavor entered some milk, we do consider the entire mixture as inherently forbidden!

The Rashba defends the Raavad by suggesting that the Raavad only meant to make his distinction by other prohibitions, but not with regards to the prohibition of milk and meat. By milk and meat, however, the Raavad agrees that once meat flavor infiltrates milk the whole mixture is considered inherently forbidden. What makes the milk and meat prohibition unique is the point that Rava made earlier on our daf: the fact that in this prohibition the Torah is saying that two foods, which on their own are permitted, become prohibited by being cooked together. By a unique prohibition as this, the Raavad agrees that as soon as some of one element gets infused in the other everything is deemed inherently forbidden.

This defense of the Raavad is codified into the Halacha: The Rema (ibid; 4) rules that while in the case of other prohibited foods we may (in cases of substantial financial loss) rely on the Raavad’s leniency and only consider the prohibited liquid itself when determining the mixture’s status, when it comes to milk that absorbed some meat flavor, we cannot be lenient and we must regard all of the milk as an inherently prohibited substance.