Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What is Ruach ra’ah?

Arthur comments about the list of absurd Charedi beliefs:

Some thoughts about the above.

One principle discussed in Cha’zal, is "chamira sakanta me’isura" – laws regarding danger are more stringent than those regarding prohibition— make food safety a primary consideration. There is a disagreement among later Poskim about this question and other details of the prohibition. The following is a summary of these views:

The Gemara (Niddah, 17a), notes that a person who eats shelled eggs, peeled onions or garlic that had been left overnight, endangers his life and will be judged as a person who took his own life. The Gemara explains that the danger associated with these foods is ruach ra’ah

Yad Meir and Shevet HaLevi hold that this halacha is no longer relevant because Tosfos states that certain ruach ra’ah do not descend in “these countries”. We can infer from Tosfos that we do not have to be concerned for any ruach ra’ah unless we have a mesorah that that specific form is still prevalent. Yad Meir and Shevet HaLevi cite Hago’os Mordechai as a source for adopting such an approach regarding leaving eggs, onions and garlic overnight. They are supported by the fact that the Shulchan Aruch cites certain dangerous activities listed in the Gemara but not these. Minchas Yitzchok discusses this issue and concludes that there is basis for those who are lenient.

The overwhelming majority of Poskim hold that the Gemara continues to be relevant nowadays. They address, but do not resolve, the fact that Shulchan Aruch doesn’t discuss this danger. They also argue that one must have absolute proof that a form of ruach ra’ah no longer exists before considering as irrelevant a clear directive of the Gemara.
My reply:

Ruach ra’ah is not a halchik consideration. It's health advice based on the science of the time and the prevailing theory of disease. That theory of disease, known as the Miasma Theory, taught that diseases were spread by "miasma" a noxious form of "bad air" or, what the Jewish sources called ruach ra’ah.

The Miasma Theory has been fully discredited, and rendered obsolete by the Germ Theory; all health advice based upon it are similarly discreditted, and no longer applicable

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