By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
In Bamidbar, Perek Yud Tes, posuk Yud Daled, the posuk tells us what the rules of tumah are after a person dies including the rules of “ohel.”
The Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah, siman kuf tes zayin, seif koton heh quotes a gemara in Pesachim, daf kuf yud bais that says one is not allowed to eat food that was laying under a bed where someone slept since there is a ruach ra that rests on this food.
The Toras Chaim in Bava Basra, daf nun ches, amud alef and in Shavuos, daf tes vov, amud bais writes that the reason a person is not allowed to eat from food that was underneath a bed where someone slept is because sleep makes a person feel one sixtieth of death. The gemara in Brachos, daf nun zayin, amud bais says that when the neshama leaves a person, the ruach of tumah comes in its stead. When a person sleeps, his neshama leaves him and therefore there is a ruach hatumah present. This explains why we wash netilas yodayim in the morning. When a person is sleeping, he becomes an “ohel” on the food and is metameh the food via “ohel.”
There is a machlokes haposkim whether one who left food under his bed may eat it bdieved or not. The Shvus Yaakov in Chelek Bais, siman kuf heh says that the issur of eating food that was under a bed is only lekatchila, but bdieved if one already had the food there it is permissible to be eaten.
The Chida, on the other hand, argues with this position in his sefer Shiyurei Bracha, Yoreh Deah, siman kuf tes zayin, seif koton heh. He says that one may not eat food left under a bed, even bdieved. The Divrei Yatziv in Yoreh Deah, siman lamed alef was very machmir and said that since there are a lot of poskim who are machmir you should not rely on a case of bdieved.
The Shailos Utshuvos Teshuvos Vehanhagos, Chelek Alef, siman ches was asked what the halacha would be if a person fell asleep on an airplane and had food underneath his seat. Would the same rule of “ohel”apply? The same question could be asked a person who falls asleep while travelling on a bus and there is food underneath his seat. May the food be eaten or not? Rav Sternbuch was maikil in these scenarios because he held that sleeping on a chair is not the same as sleeping on a bed. It is interesting to note that the Gaon in Sefer Teshuvas Binyan Olam, siman lamed gimmel is of the opinion that the food would be prohibited even in a closet or a box above which someone slept. The Gra held that the sugar inside that box must be thrown into the river. This is in a case where one goes to sleep in a “kavuadige” way where he stretches out completely. But in the case where a person is just sitting and sleeping upright, there is room to be meikil.
It is of utmost importance to keep the kochos of kedusha and not fall prey to the kochos of tumah. May we all be zoche to reach the highest level of kedusha.