Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

My understanding of why bee honey is kosher is because the talmud says that the honey is not a by-product of the bees. They simply store the nectar in their body to transfer it and then expel it, turning it into honey. Since it's not a by-product of a bug, it is kosher.

However, modern science has revealed that when the nectar is in the bees body, an enzyme (?) is released, causing the honey making process to begin. Since this enzyme is integral to the creation of honey, and the bee is mixing its "juices" so to speak with the nectar, shouldn't we now declare bee honey non-kosher? Why are there no pushes for this? Is it because the enzyme is invisible to the naked eye? Don't get me wrong, I love honey and want it to remain kosher, I just want an explanation in light of modern science.

share|improve this question
You are apparently assuming that any byproduct of a non-Kosher animal is not Kosher, even if it isn't part of the animal. While this assumption is correct, the question itself, as well as future readers, would benefit from your including your assumption in the body of the question, along with a source (if you have one). – Seth J Sep 16 '13 at 16:38
I assume it's common knowledge that any by-product of a non kosher animal is non kosher. For example, camel milk...I don't see why I need a source. – robev Sep 16 '13 at 16:43
Not an answer, because I'm not sure of the source and can't, therefore, double-check, but I believe the Gemara discusses the fact that bee honey is Kosher despite the fact that it is a byproduct of a non-Kosher animal. In fact, I think there's an opinion that it's Kosher as a גזרת הכתוב. So the discussion of the physiology of the bee my be only an attempt to explain why the Torah would exempt bee honey from the prohibition of other animal by-products (eg., pig milk). – Seth J Sep 16 '13 at 16:43
you don't need a source, but it's always helpful. Generally speaking, clarifying common-knowledge assumptions as such also helps. – Seth J Sep 16 '13 at 16:46

According to Halacha we follow Rav Sheishes's view (bechoros 7b) who holds like Rabbe Yaakov (the Tannah) that the reason honey is kosher (even if the bee extracts part of its flesh into the honey as part of the process - Rabeinu Gershom) is a Gzeiras Hakosuv (by Hashem's command) and not like the opinion who says that the reason for its permissiblity is 'because the bees store it in their bodies but do not drain it from their bodies'. (See Beis Yosef Yoreh Day'ah end of Siman 81, and in Baeir Heitev #1 that we follow Rav Sheishes.)

share|improve this answer
gezeiras hakasuv is a bit of a stretch. the gemarah actually says that God praises the land of Israel as "z'vas chalav u'devash" from which the gemarah adduces that if honey wasn't kosher God wouldn't include it in the praise of the land of Israel. – not-allowed to change my name Sep 17 '13 at 2:48
@not-Yahu Obviously you didn't look in the Gemara I quoted because it says just what i said. In addition the honey in that Possuk you quote refers to honey from dates (see rashi) and the Gemara you quote doesn't exist - the Gemara Bechoros 6b quotes that Possuk for the permissibility of milk (not being considered Eiver Min Hachay). Try again. – Meir Zirkind Sep 17 '13 at 2:56
If you tell me what pasuk tells us that honey is kosher, I'll accept your answer. All the pesukim I've heard of are about dates. – robev Sep 18 '13 at 9:30
For crying out loud, learn the Gemara! – Meir Zirkind Sep 18 '13 at 13:07
I'm just asking for an answer to my question..... – robev Sep 21 '13 at 19:43

My last answer wasn't clear, so although I am loath to rewrite answers that have been voted on already, I'll try to make this a bit clearer.

The Talmud has two opinions as to why bee honey is Kosher. Only one of them relies on the way in which bees make honey. The other says it is a "gezeras hakasuv" - an arbitrary distinction made in the Torah - which would mean it would be permitted even if it was an excretion from the bee like milk is from a cow.

The identification of the bee enzymes involved in honey production does not fundamentally alter the understanding of how honey was made. It obviously wasn't the pure nectar, even 2000 years ago, as only bees made it into honey. In fact, according to the opinion that bee honey is kosher because of the way bees produce it, shellac would also be Kosher (according to Rav Moshe Feinstein, at least).

The principle that excretions from a non-Kosher animal are themselves non-Kosher is limited by two concepts: "Pirsha Balma" - that what is excreted is not food, essentially. Bees wax may fall into that category, but the classic example is urine, I believe.

A more extensive treatment of the subject can be found here, which specifically discusses the enzymes of the cow stomach used for Rennet being different than the actual flesh. So even according to the opinion that it is the way the bee processes honey that renders it kosher, the fact that an enzyme from the bee is involved in the process does not change the conclusion. In fact, it is unlikely that it even changes the understanding from the Talmud, it just gives it more specificity and detail to identify and name specific enzymes and their function.

share|improve this answer
It is not at all universally agreed upon that shellac is kosher – Double AA Sep 16 '13 at 22:03
@DoubleAA, true, but that follows the other opinion - that bees honey is just arbitrarily Kosher, having nothing to do with how it is made. – Yishai Sep 16 '13 at 22:16
Rennet from a non-kosher animal renders the cheese non-kosher. Also, see this answer. – Fred Sep 17 '13 at 2:17

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.