Lo Basi Ella L’orer: Calculating Bitul

OU Kosher Staff

We are often confronted with situations in which we must determine if issur is batel in heter. Sometimes this is very easy to figure out. Under normal circumstances if 10 grams of issur is used with 5,000 lbs. of heter it will be batel.1 Other times it might be more complicated and we must take out our calculator to determine if in fact there was sixty times more heter than issur.

The Pischei Teshuva (Yoreh Deah 98:2) says that bitul must be calculated by evaluating the issur and the heter in terms of their volume (e.g. gallons, liters, etc.) and not in terms of their weight (e.g. pounds, kilograms, etc…). Two items can have identical weights but if one is denser than the other the volume that they take up will be very different. Companies will often give their proportions in weight. One must ask for them to convert this information into volume.

If this information is not readily available the attached document may be helpful to convert from weight to volume by using the specific gravity of the item. Items that have a specific gravity greater than 1 are denser than water and pound per pound they will take up less volume than water. For example, the specific gravity of corn syrup (75 brix) is 1.405. This indicates that it will take 42.7 pounds of water to be mivatel 1 pound of corn syrup. This is because 1 (pound of corn syrup) divided by 1.405 (specific density) = .711 (volume). We need 60 times that number to be mivatel it b’shishim. 60 * .711 = 42.7.

Items that have a specific density less than one are lighter than water and pound per pound will take up more volume than water. For example, the specific gravity of olive oil is .703. This indicates that it will take 85.4 pounds of water to be mivatel 1 pound of olive oil. This is because 1 (pound of olive oil) divided by .703 (specific density) = 1.422 (volume). We need 60 times that number to be mivatel it b’shishim. 60 * 1.422 = 85.4. (Note that it takes twice as much water to be mivatel 1 pound of olive oil as it does to be mivatel 1 pound of corn syrup).

If the specific gravity that you are looking for does not appear on this chart it may be available on the internet.

If one cannot figure out how to calculate if they have sufficient volume to be mivatel the issur then one must be machmir to consider the mixture as issur. Even if the issur is only an issur dirabbanan, one cannot be lenient by saying safek dirabbanan likula. This is considered a safek chisaron yidiyah which is not considered a safek.

Sometimes issur is present in a concentrated form. Do we need to first calculate its level of potency and then ensure that we have 60 times the issur in its reconstituted form? For example, if 3X condensed milk falls into a pot of soup, do we require 60 or 180 times the milk?

Rav Belsky reasoned that foods are batel b’shishim because Chazal calculated that no food gives flavor when it is so diluted. Thus, just like the Gemara, Chullin 97b says that even onions are batel b’shishim, so too all foods are batel b’shishim even if they are in a concentrated form2. Only if a food becomes concentrated to the point that it is considered a milsah d’avidah l’taamah will it no longer be batel b’shishim. One notable exception to this rule is grape juice concentrate that became diluted into a liquid. In this situation we require that there be sheish (6) times the grape juice in its reconstituted form because we view the liquid that reconstitutes the grape juice as part of the wine.

P.S. Even if the issur is batel in the product one must make sure that the issur is not a milsa d’avida l’tamah or a davar ha’mamid or by issurim d’oraissah that it does not give chazusah.

Summary:

  1. One must always calculate bitul in terms of volume.
  2. If one does not know how to calculate if there is 60 then the admixture is assur.
  3. Concentrated issur may be calculated in its present form.
  4. Before calculating bitul, one must check if the issur is a milsa d’avida l’tamah a davar ha’mamid or gives chazusah.

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1 One notable exception is as relates to Pesach. The Mishna Berurah (447:14) is machmir that chametz which is an essential ingredient is not batel b’shishim even if mixed in before Pesach.

2 A similar argument is made by the Beis Ephraim Y.D. 36 (brought by the Pischei Teshuva 98:2). He explains that one can be mivatel a kezayis of congealed fat in 60 kezaysim of heter, even though this same amount of fat would take up 1 and ½ k’beytzim if reconstituted into a liquid form.