By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
Anybody familiar with the summer camping experience is aware of the lack of space in most bunkhouses. I therefore would like to discuss the topic of food that is kept under the bed.
The laws concerning a person who dies in a tent is discussed in this week’s parsha, Perek Yud Tes, posuk yud daled. Is there a correlation between death and sleep, which is one sixtieth of death? The Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah, siman kuf tes zayin, seif koton heh based on the Gemara in Pesachim, daf kuf yud bais paskens that a person may not eat food that was kept under the bed as they have a “ruach ra’ah.” The Toras Chaim in Bava Basra explains that the reason one may not put food under the bed is because we know when a person sleeps he is like one sixtieth of death. The neshama leaves his body therefore enabling a ruach ra’ah to enter that void. That is the reason why one must do netilas yadayim in the morning; to remove the ruach hatumah. While one is sleeping he is “ma’hil “ (like a tent over) the food like an ohel of a dead person; thereby rendering the food tamei.
The Poskim argue whether this is only lekatchila or even b’dieved. The Shvus Yaakov in Chelek Bais, siman kuf heh says that putting food under a bed is davka assur lekatchilah. However, if food was kept under the bed already, it may be eaten. The Chida and the Divrei Yatziv hold that this applies even b’dieved and under no circumstances may one eat food that was kept under a bed.
One may wish to differentiate whether the following scenario would have the same ruling or not. Is food that was under the pillow a person was laying on considered the same as being under the bed or not? Similarly, one may wonder about food that was in one’s pocket and they fell asleep with it there. Does it have the same halachic ruling as food that was under a bed?
The Shailos U’teshuvos Ein Yitzchok in Orach Chaim, siman chof daled, ois tes brings proof that food under the bed is not forbidden b’dieved. The Midrash in Eicha says that a “chemes” (flask) has two purposes. First, it can store flour. Secondly, you can use it under your head. From this midrash we see that a flask can be used as a pillow. Therefore the same ruling would apply to food under a bed. The same logic may be applies to food kept under a bed. There is therefore no difference between food under the bed or pillow and having some food in your pocket.
The Sdei Chemed argues with this and says that since the midrash says it serves two things it is as if it said it serves as a holder for flour “or” a pillow, but it does not say you could use the flour as a pillow. In addition, he argues with the Ein Yitzchok that there is definitely a difference between under the bed and under the pillow. He holds that under the bed is a place of ruach ra’ah similar to a bathroom where some hold even if you just enter you must wash your hands. This machlokes would also bring about another difference in halacha. What is the halacha if one did not sleep in the bed and food was kept under it? According to the Ein Yitzchok it would not be tamei as he would say like the Toras Chaim that the reason it becomes tamei is because sleeping is like one sixtieth of death. Conversely, the Sdei Chemed would say it has nothing to do with sleeping; it is a makom of tumah whether one slept there or not. The Sdei Chemed brings a proof from the Gemara in Bava Basra that says that a bed of a Talmid Chacham should only have shoes underneath it, and the Gemara does not differentiate between a Talmid Chacham sleeping on it or not.
The bottom line is that the bottom of the bed is not a place for food.
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