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Shabbat Parashat Eikev 5776

Ask the Rabbi: How Many Eggs Should be Boiled Together?

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: When making hardboiled eggs, may one cook one or two eggs or must there be at least three? Also, does it make a difference if there is an even or odd number?

 

Answer: There are sources and traditions about boiling at least three eggs together. While at first glance the practice flies in the face of halachic logic, the laws of blood spots in eggs are unique, as we will see.

 A blood spot in an egg can be the beginning of an embryo, in which case the egg is forbidden, while there is a machloket if it is based on Torah law or Rabbinic law (see Tosafot, Chulin 64b; Beit Yosef, Yoreh Deah 66). If the blood comes from the hen, the blood is forbidden (Rabbinically), but the egg is permitted and can be eaten after the blood is removed (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 66:2-3). Poskim provide physical signs of when it is more likely that the blood belongs to one category or the other, but after the egg is handled, it can be difficult to recognize these signs.

We assume that in a case where only the blood is forbidden, there will be 60:1 ratio of permitted material to forbidden to nullify (bitul) the blood (see Darchei Teshuva 66:40). However, if the whole egg is forbidden, bitul requires 60 times more permitted material in the pot against the volume of the egg, and three eggs will not help too much.

There are times that bitul takes place by means of a simple majority. When the minority forbidden food and the majority permitted food are of the same type (min b’mino) and they are “combined” yavesh b’yavesh (separate solid items that are intermingled only in that the identity of the forbidden food is not known), all the pieces are permitted (Shulchan Aruch, YD 109:1). However, this will not help for two kosher and one non-kosher eggs being boiled together because boiling causes their tastes to mix, making a ratio of 60:1 necessary for bitul (ibid. 2).

Rather, the logic of having three eggs is based on the following Rama (YD 66:4).  The Shulchan Aruch (ad loc.) discusses cases of opened raw eggs that have been mixed together and blood was found, and he rules how much has to be thrown out in each case. The Rama adds that this is only when the signs of the blood indicate that the entire egg is forbidden. However, if there is a doubt whether the whole egg is forbidden, we “permit the mixture, since in any case, one [forbidden egg] is batel in two [permitted eggs].” The Taz (ad loc. 5) explains that even though in lach b’lach (physical mixtures, like the contents of eggs mixed together) a 60:1 ratio is needed for bitul, the Rama is more lenient for an egg with a blood spot. The reason is that he holds that the egg is at worst forbidden Rabbinically, and when the type of blood spot is questionable, we do not forbid the mixture when a majority of it is permitted. This leans on the fact that the requirement of 60:1 for lach b’lach of min b’mino is itself only a Rabbinic law (a majority suffices by Torah law).

The Yad Yehuda (66:7) explains the practice in question as follows. With two eggs boiling, there is not a permitted majority for bitul if one has a blood spot, and the taste coming from the forbidden egg would render the other egg not kosher. The water in the pot does not help because it is of a different food type. Therefore, three eggs will help you if you find a blood spot after peeling the boiled eggs. The more eggs, the better the chance of a majority, and odd numbers help slightly statistically. The number of eggs is thus not required but suggested.

Almost all egg producers separate roosters and hens, rendering the chances of a blood spot coming from an embryo and forbidding the entire egg very small. Igrot Moshe (Yoreh Deah 1:36) says that since eggs are cheap, we should, as a chumra, throw out the egg for any blood spot. However, he says that we need not throw out another egg cooked with it or require hagala for the pot in which a blood-spotted egg was boiled. While some continue the old practice of using three eggs (see Teshuvot V’hanhagot II:384), this is not halachically called for.

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