The Rema Yoreh Deah 81:6 writes:

לא תאכל המינקת אפי' ישראלית דברים האסורים וכן התינוק בעצמו כי כל זה מזיק לו בזקנותו

The wetnurse, even a Jewish one, shouldn't eat forbidden foods. Similarly the child themself, since this is damaging to them in their adult years.

My question is on the latter part of this statement. The Shach (§ 26) explains that although if a child eats something that is not permissible, there's no obligation to stop them, nevertheless, the father should. Even if it's only Rabbinically forbidden, the father should stop the child, because the child eating it will cause timtum halev (some sort of psychological or spiritual damage).

There seems to be the concept of timtum halev with regards to foods the Torah forbids (see for example Rabbeinu Bachaye). But how do we know that this applies to Rabbinically forbidden foods as well?

It's not clear to me if the Shach understands this to be the Rema's intent. I couldn't find this latter statement in the Darkei Moshe, so I don't know his source. What is it?

2 Answers 2


The Talmud in Chulin 5b records a case where R. Yochanan ate something that was forbidden by a Rabbinic decree. The Talmud there discusses the details of what might have happened, and notes that it couldn't be that he unknowingly violated the decree, because God does not let ruin come about even to the animals of the righteous.

Tosafot there, based on Talmudic passages that seem to contradict this premise, explains that this protection only applies to matters of forbidden food. The commentary Einei Shmuel there (which I cited in full here) explains that the unique characteristic of food prohibitions is that they impart timtum halev.

If this is the correct explanation of Tosafot, and in turn the Talmudic passage, then we have a Talmudic source for timtum halev even by rabbinic prohibitions.

From a logical perspective, though, this would seem somewhat odd. If timtum halev is simply a reality independent from issur status then nothing should have changed once the Rabbis forbade something. There doesn’t seem to be a reason why they would inject new timtum halev into something (assuming they could), which leaves us with the possibility that things caused timtum halev even when they were entirely permissible.

  • +1 but see Choshen Mishpat 234:3 especially the nesivos
    – Double AA
    Apr 13, 2020 at 18:10
  • @DoubleAA Doesn’t this pshat help the Nesivus? Otherwise, what does the Gemara make it sound like R. Yochanan did something “wrong”?
    – Alex
    Apr 13, 2020 at 18:39
  • I thought the whole point of the nesivos is there is no tzaar or lasting damage from eating issurei derabanan beshogeg, so you pay for full hanaah
    – Double AA
    Apr 13, 2020 at 18:40
  • @DoubleAA It’s been a while since I’ve seen it inside (and can’t check now) but I thought the point was that violating a derabanan beshogeg isn’t “wrong” because you didn’t not listen to the rabbis. But this Gemara seems to indicate that had R. Yochanan not known about the issur there would have been something wrong. To that you could say that from an issur standpoint there’s nothing wrong, but from a metzius standpoint there is (like the poison mashal).
    – Alex
    Apr 13, 2020 at 18:45
  • Alex the way you just explained the gemarra, I don't see how this would help the nesivos. It sounds more like a Kasha and a teretz. In any event, I don't see how the Einei Shmuel can say this pshat in Tosafos, who explicitly say it's because it's a genai to eat forbidden food. Nothing about timtim halev.
    – robev
    Apr 13, 2020 at 19:19

The Rashba in Yevamos 114 notes that there is an idea of timtum even by something technically permissible. Tosfos in Avoda Zara 10b also brings the idea of timtum by the story of Rebbi and Antinonos that Rebbis mother nursed Antinos and that inspired him to learn Torah later on. Tosfos also brings the medrash that milk has the power to make impure and make one pure. It seems to be an aggadic consideration.

Text of Rashba:

אלמא לכולי עלמא חלב הנכרית מותר אפילו לכתחלה, אלא שלהניק נכרית בנה של ישראל אסר ר"מ משום החשד, ורבנן שרו בשאחרים עומדין על גבה. אבל מפני שטבען של ישראל נח יותר משום דרגילי במצות והם רחמנים וביישנים בטבע, אף חלבן מגדל טבע כיוצא בהן. וז"ש במשה שלא רצה לינק מחלב הנכרית כמו שהוא באגדה (שמות רבה פר' א פי' ל ומובא להלן).

Text of Tosfos :

אמר ליה א"כ לימא ליה להאי דקאי אבבא וכו'. ר' אלחנן פירש דל"ג אם כן דאי א"ל (ב) היה לו לרבי חנינא להבין שהיה מת דאם היה ישן מה גבורה יש להקיץ אדם משנתו. אמרינן במדרש חלב מטמא חלב מטהר כשנולד רבי גזרו שלא למול ואביו ואמו מלוהו שלח קיסר והביאו לרבי ואמו לפניו והחליפתו אמו באנטונינוס והניקתו עד שהביאתו לפני קיסר ומצאוהו ערל ופטרום לשלום ואמר אותו הגמון אני ראיתי שמלו את זה אלא הקב"ה עושה להם נסים בכל עת ובטלו הגזרה ואמרי' נמי בירושלמי שלסוף למד אנטונינוס תורה ונתגייר ומל עצמו: ה"ג

  • I'm not sure you can learn from the milk of a non Jew, which while permissible, transmits their middos, to something 100% okay just Chazal said it's forbidden. Note, the Rema and Shach that I brought come right after the codification of this Rashba
    – robev
    Apr 13, 2020 at 23:55
  • The way I understood it ,is that he is learning from the Rashba and midrashim that food that is tainted in the sense of the source or prohibition can have a negative effect on that person regardless of the level of prohibition
    – sam
    Apr 14, 2020 at 0:32

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