In general, one is not permitted to be mivatel issur lichatchila. There is a machlokes whether this is an issur d’oreisah (Ravad) or an issur d’Rabbanan (Tosfos). Though most poskim hold that it is only an issur d’rabbanan1, yet many2 (including Rav Belsky) feel that one should be choshesh for the opinion of Ravad.
One potential nafka mina is in regard to being mivatel issur for the purpose of a choleh she’ain bo sakana. If bitul issur is only an issur dirabbanan then one can be mivatel issur lichatchila for a choleh; however if bitul issur is potentially an issur d’oreisah then one may not be mivatel issur for a choleh3. In general though, Rav Belsky has agreed that one can be mivatel medicines provided the active ingredients that one is interested in are not assur, and the issurim (e.g. glycerin, flavors) are inactive ingredients. In this case since one is not interested in benefitting from the issur, even Ravad would agree that this form of bitul would not be assur d’oraisah. In such cases, according to all opinions, one can be mivatel issur for a choleh4.
For example, Children’s Liquid Tylenol5contains .43 grams of glycerin per 5ml (1 teaspoon). Therefore, if one mixed each teaspoon of medicine into one ounce (1/8 cup) of water or juice, the glycerin will be batel b’shishim. Liquid Motrin6 has <.6 grams of glycerin per 5ml so a teaspoon would be batel b’shishim in about 1.25 ounces. In general most medicines do not contain more than 20% glycerin. Therefore in general a teaspoon of medicine will be batel in 2 ounces of water, though there are some elixir’s and multivitamins that contain very high levels of glycerin (some over 90%!).
The Ran (A.Z. 12b) explains that when there is no kavana to be mivatel (אין כוונתו לבטל) but rather one is intending to remove the issur and will have no benefit from the issur then bitul is permitted. It is for this reason that one is permitted to kasher ben yomo kailim in 60 parts water. Although one is being mivatel the issur so that they may benefit from the use of the kli, this form of bitul is permitted.
A common application of this concept is employed for companies that will not allow wet cleaning of dry blending equipment (e.g. mills). The proper way to “clean” such equipment is with a sufficient flush of kosher material which will then be discarded. Any original material will become batel in the flush, and the residuals of the flush are permitted. This form of bitul issur is permitted because it is intended to remove the issur and causes no benefit. (Note: Cleaning of a chadash mill for a yoshon run, is more complex because chadash is a davar sheyaish lo matirim which is not batel).
Alternatively, the equipment can be vacuumed out and cleaned according to the industry standard of cleanliness/k’derech hamichabdim7 whose criteria is as follows. If the company is trying to clean the equipment but cannot remove every bit of issur and this is the industry standard then that is sufficient. However, if they are comfortable using dirty equipment then that is not acceptable. At the point where the equipment is considered clean, even though some particles remain, one would be permitted to produce kosher. Those particles will become batel in the kosher production. Although this would appear to be bitul issur lichatchila, it is permitted. This is based on a Mishnah, Terumos 11:8 that says that if one pours oil of terumah from a jug, once the flow stops and 3 consecutive drops of oil drip out, one may put chullin into the jug. From here we see that every bit of tangible issur does not have to be removed; but merely cleaned to an accepted standard. The Rashba (brought by Ran A.Z. 12b) explains that even the Ravad permits bitul of an issur which can never cause a nesinas ta’am. After a sufficient cleaning the kli is considered a kli she’mishtamshim bo b’shefa, and one is permitted to be mivatel. Rav Elyashiv shlita told Rav Belsky that we may rely on this heter lichatchila.
• Most hold that bitul issur is assur only mid’rabbanan, though it is proper to be choshesh that it is d’oraisah
• Either way, one is permitted to be mivatel medicine for a choleh she’ain bo sakana, provided the issur is not a key ingredient
• It is not considered bitul issur if one is intending to remove the issur
• If equipment is cleaned to the industry standard of cleanliness/k’derech hamichabdim and is always used as a kli she’mishtmshim bo b’shefa then this is
not considered bitul issur.
1 Chochmos Adam 52:6
2 Darchei Teshuva 99:35 (מבי“ט, פרי תואר,מהרלב“ח, ועוד)
3 Yavin Daas 99:5
4 Yad Yehuda katzar 99:15; see also Darchei Teshuva 99:35: Since the issur is lach b’lach the tzorech of a choleh is comparable to a hefsed mirubah so we do not say ChaNaN.
5 Thomas J. Feldstein; Pediatrics 1996
6 Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford Department of Pharmacy
7 Levush Y.D. 138:11
ז“ל הלבוש – גת שדרך בה גוי, כשבא ישראל לנגבה מכבדה כדרכו ואין מחייבין אותו ללקוט החרצנים, שאף אם ישארו בה מעט חרצנים לית לן בה דיתבטלו ברוב, ואין זה מבטל איסור לכתחלה שאין כוונתו לבטל.