Suppose there is a pack of mixed spices that does not have a reliable hechsher, but looks like it would be good for besamim. Would it be OK to use them for havdalah since you have no intention of eating them?

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    What does the absence of a hechsher have to do with whether they are kosher? – Curiouser Sep 15 '11 at 3:14
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    I understand that lack of a hechsher does not make them non-kosher. I am just painting a scenario where there is uncertainty as to their kosher status. – Cislunar Sep 15 '11 at 18:39

You cannot say a bracha on three kinds of spices: spices that are made to remove a bad smell, spices on an erva (someone you are forbidden to marry), and spices of non-jews. (See Shulchan Aruch OC 217)

Additionally it would be forbidden to smell objects which are assur behanaah (deriving pleasure from them is forbidden) because of their issur. These things include among other things meat&milk, orla, and yayin nesach. Presumably one would not make a bracha on something one is forbidden to smell.

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  • Does one need to worry about the possibility of a spice pack containing meat & milk that were cooked together? Sounds pretty remote to me. – Dave Dec 4 '11 at 5:29
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    @Dave: I agree. – Double AA Dec 4 '11 at 5:40

As long as they were grown outside of Eretz Yisrael (so that there are no issues of Orlah, Reva'i, etc.), and you are sure that no wine product (i.e., Yayin Nesech) has been added, I can't think of any problem with it.

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  • Orla applies in Chu"l. See the last mishna in masechet orla. Revai is machloket rishonoim and we are podeh lechumra. See SA YD 294:7 – Double AA Dec 4 '11 at 3:42
  • @DoubleAA - In chu"l there is no problem unless you know for sure that it is orla. There isn't even any obligation to investigate; safek orla is completely permissible in chutz la'aretz. Therefore, in the case at hand regarding packaged spices, one needn't have any concern about orla. – Dave Dec 4 '11 at 5:20

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