By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
WARNING: THIS HALACHIC COLUMN IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART:
It is called, “sogogi gukbap,” and after reading this article you will probably not want to adapt it for your Pesach Seder (aside fromthe fact that it is filled with Kitnios).
It seems that a Manhattan couple claimed that they had found a dead rat in soup that they had ordered from a popular Koreatown restaurant, “Gammeeok” last weekend. The eatery counter-claimed that the allegation was “nonsense.” The couple brought a lawsuit against the restaurant. There will likely be expert testimony both ways.
“We ordered sogogi gukbap, which is a kind of hearty Korean beef soup,” the couple wrote. They continued: “We have been going to this restaurant for a decade and are otherwise proud supporters of Asian cuisine and culture. This incident is in no way to fuel race-based hate or prejudice, and I will have an issue with anyone who uses these posts to fit that narrative.”
True it is important not to be prejudiced, but our concern here is the halacha of finding a rat in sogogi gukbap – and not the other details of this incident.
The Shulchan Aruch (YD 104:2) has a halachic discussion about mice falling in various liquids. The underlying issue is whether one requires sixty times the volume of the rat for the liquid to be permitted. If the mouse was a field mouse, then the taste of the liquid could often be enhanced and 60 times the volume is required. If the mouse was a city mouse then the assumption is that the taste of the liquid is NOT enhanced by the city mouse and sixty times the volume is not required (104:1). The Gemorah (Avodah Zarah 69b) discusses whether a mouse would enhance the taste of beer and vinegar. The Gemorah’s conclusion is to be stringent.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER LIQUIDS?
Okay, so now we know the halacha regarding beer and vinegar – that we should be stringent. But what about other liquids? And, if we were dealing with a kosher restaurant – what would be the halacha with a hearty beef soup? Of course, most people would never touch anything that a rat was cooked in. But let’s still explore the halacha of other liquids.
The Rambam in Hilchos Maachalos Asuros (15:31) adds additional wording that seem to indicate that in regard to other liquids one must be stringent. The Shulchan Aruch rules in regard to wine and oil that the mouse pollutes the taste and sixty times the liquid is, therefore, not required. The Ramah adds that in regard to fat – one should be stringent. However, if there is a great need- then one can be lenient.
So the question is: Are wine and oil specifically the only things that get polluted by the presence of a mouse or rat? Or do we say that they are just examples of things that get polluted. The Taz (104:2) seems to understand that there is something specific about wine and oil that causes a leniency. The Shach (104:5) rules like the TaZ as well.
BUT WHAT ABOUT SOGOGI GUKBAP?
According to the Taz and Shach then, we should be stringent in regard to sogogi gukbap and assume that they should be treated like beer and vinegar, rather than wine and oil. The Pischei Teshuva (104:2), however cites the Radbaz as ruling leniently. According to the Ramah, as well, there is no indication that he would rule stringently. The same halachos would also apply to cholent.
BACK TO THE LAWSUIT
So if the Manhattan couple wanted to hire an expert witness for their side, they should someone who will present the view Shach and the Taz. On the other hand, if the owners of “Gammeeok” want to hire an expert witness – they should hire someone who will present the view of the Pischei Teshuvah and the Ramah.
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It must have been a huge bowl of soup or a miniature rat to fit in the bowl of soup.
The issue here is if the people suing planted the rat there. They have the burden of proof to prove the restaurant was negligent and should have seen the rat in the soup before it was served. All the restaurant has to say is there was no rat or it got into the soup after it was served.