Sunday, October 09, 2005

Vomiting in Halakhah

This is the first in a series of brief posts about the status of vomiting in halakhah. While this might seem like a somewhat bizarre topic, the issues are actually quite relevant. The current topic -- vomiting on Yom Kippur -- is hopefully not an issue for most readers. However, the two subsequent topics will probably be issues that arise every once in a while in the average observant Jew's life (although hopefully not too often).

The central passage to this issue is Hullin 103b, which states that for most prohibitions of eating the violation is the enjoyment of the taste (hana'as gerono) rather than the settling of the food in the stomach (hana'as me'av). Therefore, if one eats a ke-zayis (olive's worth) of a prohibited food and then vomits it, one is liable for violating the prohibition because one has enjoyed the taste even though the food never settled in one's stomach. [The Gemara raises the case of someone who eats half a ke-zayis, vomits it (or, as Artscroll translates it, it becomes disgorged), and then eats it again. Somewhat farfetched, but that is how Talmudic logic works, searching for extreme cases that define theories.]

However, Yom Kippur might be different. On Yom Kippur, the prohibition is a function of affliction rather than eating per se. Therefore, one could say that without the satisfaction of having the food settle in one's stomach one is not liable. The Minhas Hinukh (313:2) reaches the conclusion that this is proper but stops short of issuing a lenient ruling on this basis. The Hasam Sofer (Responsa, Orah Hayim 127) writes confidently that the prohibition on Yom Kippur requires enjoyment of the stomach. Therefore, one who eats a ke-zayis and then vomits it before it has a chance to settle is not liable. Similarly, one who eats half a ke-zayis, vomits it, and then shortly eats another half a ke-zayis is not considered as if he has eaten a full ke-zayis.

The Or Samei'ah (Hilkhos Shevisas Asor 2:4) agrees with this and brings a proof from Kerisos 14a. The Mishnah there suggests a case in which someone who eats a particular food violates four prohibitions that require a hatas sin-offering, including eating on Yom Kippur. The Gemara asks why the Mishnah does not add a simple condition in which a person would violate nosar also, making it five prohibitions, and answers that the Mishnah was dealing with a case of someone eating only a ke-zayis. If so, asks the Gemara, how could he be liable for eating on Yom Kippur, since that requires eating a kha-koseves (date's worth, which is double a ke-zayis)? The Gemara then attempts to solve that problem. A solution that is not offered, the Or Samei'ah points out, is if someone ate a ke-zayis, vomited it up (or it becomes disgorged), and then ate it again. In that case, one could eat a kha-koseves of food from only a ke-zayis, thereby also violating the prohibition of eating on Yom Kippur. From the fact that the Gemara does not offer this solution, and it is a reasonable enough solution that it is offered elsewhere in the Talmud, the Or Samei'ah finds evidence that this scenario would not entail a complete violation of the prohibition of eating on Yom Kippur.

One is not liable for eating on Yom Kippur if the food is vomited shortly. (This only impacts whether one is liable, not whether this is a permissible action. That discussion involves other issues.)

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