May you visit someone who “holds” differently than you do? This is an old and common question. After all, during the period of the Tanaim, the Sanhedrin was relocated, and the law of zaken mamre (an elder who disregards the majority opinion) was nullified. As a result, there were no longer unified halachic rulings.
Eventually, the halachic disputes between the various Tanaim and Amoraim laid the foundations for communities with different customs. This situation produced conflicts for individuals who moved from place to place.
One such example is found in the Gemara (BT Chulin 116a). R’ Yosi and Rabbanan disagreed whether chicken with milk is forbidden or permitted midirabbanan (rabbinic). The Gemara concludes its discussion by stating that:
“In the location of R’ Yosi HaGlili, they would eat the meat of the chicken with milk.”
Nevertheless, neither the Gemara nor the Rishonim address our specific question. In fact, R’ Levi ben Chaviv (the Maharalbach), one of the early Achronim, writes:
“This law – I did not find it discussed in the writings of the poskim in our possession, even though it is all encompassing and relevant for all times. Because even in the days of the Sages of the Talmud, there were diverging customs throughout the lands with respect to foodstuffs… And since this law is extremely general, it should have been cited and elucidated in the writings of theposkim – which it is not. Perhaps, due to its obviousness for them, they did not write about it.” (Maharalbach 121)
Presumably, those who held that a certain food was forbidden did not eat that food at the home of one who held that the same food was permitted. Moreover, those who held that the food was permitted would not serve it to those who held that it was forbidden – because of lifnei iver (causing another to stumble).
But what if the “disputed” food was cooked together with a second food item and the latter was then served to a guest? Also, what is the status of the utensils used to cook the “disputed” food?
We must distinguish between four different cases:
A second food cooked together with the “disputed” food.
The disputed prohibition is d’orayta (from the Torah), and the utensils are either bnei yoman or not (i.e. were they used within twenty-four hours?).
There is a safeik (doubt) whether or not the “disputed” food is even there.
The disputed prohibition is dirabbanan; the utensils are either bnei yoman or not; and obviously, there is a safeik.
With respect to the first case, Sefer Toldot Adam V’Chava reports that Chachmei Narvona permitted a certain type of meat, which was prohibited by the Ravad. Yet, when the Ravad would visit them, they would mark off a portion which was “permitted”. Even though that portion had been cooked together with the “forbidden” parts, the Ravad would still eat it.
However, the Maharalbach rejects this account and insists that one should not rely on such a testimony. Nevertheless, the Maharalbach does cite the Chidushei Agudah – the Rama cites this source as well – to the effect that Bnei Rainus permitted a certain fat, which was prohibited by most other authorities. The Chidushei Agudah adds that no one should prevent Bnei Rainusfrom eating this fat in their own community and that one may use their utensils and cooking.
Therefore, the Maharalbach rules, one should be stringent when one is certain that the permitted food was cooked together with a “disputed” food. However, in a place where not everyone agrees that the disputed food is prohibited, one may be lenient.
Thus, according to the Maharalbach, in Eretz Yisrael, a person who usually eats only glatt meat may eat glatt meat which has been cooked together with non-glatt (but still kosher) meat – as long as the two types of meat can be separated from each other. After all, in Eretz Yisrael, many authorities hold that non-glatt meat is permitted.
However, contemporary authorities – such as the Chazon Ovadiah, the Tzitz Eliezer, and the Gaon Rav Avigdor Nebenzahlshlita – are more stringent in this regard.
We will now move on to the question of utensils used to cook a disputed food item. If the disputed prohibition in question isdirabbanan, the food itself is even permitted. In other words, the utensils are certainly permitted – whether or not they are bnei yoman. Meanwhile, if the prohibition in question is d’orayta (such as the aforementioned case of Bnei Rainus), the Rama says that the utensils are permitted and does not differentiate between utensils which are bnei yoman and those which are not. However, the Shach (119:20) rules that one should only be lenient when the utensils are not bnei yoman. Therefore, one must ask one’s host whether or not the utensils are, in fact, bnei yoman. But contemporary authorities add that if the host is not available, one can assume that the utensils are not bnei yoman.
Yet, for prohibitions – such as chadash flour outside of Eretz Yisrael or non-glatt meat – where there is a safeik whether the prohibition even applies to the specific food in question (e.g., the flour may actually be yashan), everyone concurs that one may even be lenient with utensils that are bnei yoman.
In the latter case, Rav Ovadiah holds that there is a s’feik s’feika (a “double doubt”): There is a safeik whether or not the prohibition applies in this case, and there is a second safeik if the halachah follows those who are lenient or those who are stringent. (I must admit that I find this statement difficult, because it implies that there can never be a case of vadai issur – a definite prohibition.) In any event, there is no need to determine whether or not the utensils are bnei yoman.
When visiting someone who “holds” differently than you do with respect to a certain halachah, you should conduct yourself as follows:
If the prohibition in question is definitely d’orayta (such as non-glatt meat or chadash in chu”l, for those who are stringent in these regards) – please note that this case is very rare – one should be stringent with respect to a food cooked together with the “disputed” item. If the foods were not cooked together but the utensils are bnei yoman, one should still be stringent. However, if the utensils are not bnei yoman, one may be lenient – even lichatchilah. In cases of doubt, one should attempt to clarify the utensils’ status – as long as one can do so without offending the host.
In a situation where there is a safeik whether or not a d’orayta prohibition applies (for example, the flour may or may not be chadash) or in a situation where there is definitely a dirabbanan prohibition (such as chalav akum), some authorities permit one to be lenient even with respect to the food itself – because of s’feik s’feika. In any event, one may eat food cooked in the utensils – even if they are bnei yoman.
This area is fairly complex, and each situation should be examined on an individual basis.