The following is based on a true story.
Nathan comes home from his out-of-town dormitory. He loudly declares, “I’m starving!” His mother gently reminds him that he managed for a few months on his own and surely he can fend for himself. Nathan, who is famous for his hot dogs, decides to make some for himself.
He looks around the kitchen and sees, to his delight, a utensil with boiling-hot water. He drops two hot dogs in and waits for them to be ready. His mother enters the kitchen and sees Nathan waiting for his food. She grills him: “Where exactly did you cook your hot dogs?”
“Right over there in that stainless-steel utensil.”
His mother screams, “Nathan, you are in hot water! You just made my urn fleishig!”
Nathan says, “Let’s be frank with each other; I’ll just empty out the hot water and put in new water and it will be fine!”
His mother replies, “I’m sorry, but that doesn’t cut the mustard. Even if I change the water, my urn is still fleishigs.”
Nathan says, “Don’t knock it — worse comes to “wurst,” you can use the urn for coffee after a fleishig meal.”
His mother answers, “I have a beef with you. I use the urn for my morning coffee which I add milk to. Oy! What have you done?”
Nathan says, “OK, I’ll call our rabbi, Rabbi Osher Meyer.”
He tells Rabbi Meyer what he did. Rabbi Meyer says, “Your mother is right; the urn is fleishig.”
Nathan groans. “Oy, I don’t relish the thought of telling my mother I ruined her urn.”
Rabbi Meyer responds, “Not so fast. I want to show you how laws and sausages are made. First, though, we have to discuss the buns.”
There was a phenomenon that existed in the not-so-distant past and may still exist today: the kosher dairy hot-dog bun. That is really oxymoronic — it can’t be a dairy hot-dog bun and still be kosher. The Gemara in Pesachim (30a) states that one may not bake bread in an oven that was smeared with fat. The result would be fleishig bread, and one might inadvertently eat the meat bread with dairy. To prevent this situation, the rabbis decreed that all bread should be pareve. This will enable the consumer to use the bread for any type of meal he chooses.
If one wishes to bake dairy or meat bread, there must be something unique about the bread that would lead a person to question the meat/dairy status of the bread.
The OU permits pizza crusts to be made with milk, even if no cheese is baked on top, since the pizza shape should arouse suspicion that perhaps it is a dairy item. The same sevara applies to calzones and garlic knots, which are both made using pizza dough. These items are readily identifiable as pizza-store-type items, which one could imagine being dairy or baked in a dairy oven. The fact that these items have a distinct look, which is associated with a pizza store and pizza-type products, qualifies as a shinui tzurah, and one would be expected to ask whether or not these items are dairy (Daf HaKashrus, Vol. 23 / No. 9 Dairy Bread – Lo Basi Ela L’Orer by Rabbi Eli Gersten).
Returning to the Gemara in Pesachim, Tosfos assumes that the oven was subsequently cleaned after it was used for meat. Tosfos therefore wonders why bread baked in a clean meat utensil should have the status of meat bread. After all, this is an example of the halachic jargon known as nat-bar-nat. “Nat” is an acronym for nosein ta’am, meaning flavor transfer. “Nat-bar-nat” means two flavor transfers. In this case, meat imparted flavor to a utensil. The utensil was subsequently cleaned, but the imparted flavor remains in the walls of the utensil. Now pareve bread is baked in that meat utensil. The kosher meat flavor went from the meat to the walls of the utensil and then to the bread. Tosfos says that the bread should be halachically pareve. Tosfos concludes, according to one explanation, that the bread is indeed pareve, and the oven being discussed in the Gemara wasn’t cleaned well and still had fatty residue.
However, while the Shulchan Aruch (and generally Sephardim) accepts Tosfos’s hypothesis, the Rema prefers that one not rely on it, at least initially. The Rema would rule that pareve bread baked in a clean meat pan is in fact pareve but shouldn’t be eaten together with cheese. If someone already smeared cream cheese on the bread, the Rema would say it can be eaten. Therefore, hot water boiled in a clean meat pot should not be used with dairy.
The Vilna Gaon posits that one can even eat the bread with cheese initially if the meat pan hasn’t been used for 24 hours. Therefore, one can boil hot water for use with milk in a clean meat pot, if the pot has not been used for 24 hours. The Chochmas Adam doesn’t accept this leniency unless no other pan is available. However, if one has a unique pan used for making a certain type of bread, one would initially be allowed to use such a meat pan to bake pareve bread to be smeared with cheese if the pan has not been used for 24 hours.
At this point, Rabbi Osher Meyer asks Nathan, “Did you follow that?”
Nathan replies, “Yes, but how does this get me out of the doghouse?”
Rabbi Meyer says, “Clean out the urn. Don’t use it for 24 hours. The urn is a special utensil that serves a function of always having hot water available. Presumably, you only own one urn. You are not putting milk into the urn, which you certainly may not do. The urn in that regard is fleishig even after 24 hours. Rather, you are putting clean pareve water into a clean urn that was used for meat over 24 hours ago. The Chochmas Adam says you can consume the product of a double taste transfer with food of the opposite type after 24 hours if there is a special utensil involved. So here the hot-dog flavor was absorbed by the specialized urn. It was cleaned and 24 hours elapsed. The subsequent flavor transfer from the urn to the pareve water may be disregarded in this case. Therefore, milk may be added to that water.”
Nathan replied “Well, hot dog! Thanks, Rabbi.”
Author’s Note: Someone facing a similar bind should seek guidance from a non-fictional rabbi.
Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow is a rebbe at Yeshiva Ateres Shimon in Far Rockaway. In addition, Rabbi Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com.