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The Gemara in Brachot 35b says that the proper bracha on pure olive oil is "Borei Peri HaEtz". However, it says that this refers to when you mixed the oil with some אניגרון which Prof Marcus Jastrow translates as garum. It says that if you do not mix the oil with אניגרון then you say no bracha because the pure olive oil is מזיק (unhealthy or damaging to your body).

How does this gemara stand in terms of modern science? Is pure olive oil unhealthy? Does adding אניגרון help? If not, do any poskim consider that the Halacha may have changed and pure olive oil once again gets the bracha of Borei Peri HaEtz?

  • yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/766411/Rabbi_Hershel_Schachter/… very recommended speech. Tell you the truth, I am listening to this Shiur right now but I'm not sure if he addresses this specific issue. – Hacham Gabriel Dec 26 '11 at 0:11
  • Horayot 13b speaks highly of olive oil saying that it gives better memory. – Hacham Gabriel Jan 26 '12 at 19:44
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    @DoubleAA As far as i know Olive oil is very healthy in many ways. However, if you drink pure olive oil, it can cause some immediate health problems such as diarrhea. Maybe that would be a cause for concern in Talmudic times? – Aaron May 19 '16 at 2:15
  • @Aaron Does the diarrhea not happen if you drink olive oil with garum? – Double AA May 19 '16 at 2:24
  • @DoubleAA Don't know :) But you're welcome to experiment. But a lot of time, drinking pure oils have bad effects if you don't cut it with something. – Aaron May 19 '16 at 2:37
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R Binyanim Tabadi was asked this question by someone who ate one spoon of olive oil every day, enjoyed it and wanted to know whether to make a blessing in light of the gemara you quote. He answered as follows (see here for the full Hebrew response - second question on the right)

There is a dispute amongst rishonim on the proper blessing. The Rambam understands that one "goes down by one level" from peri haeitz to sheakol because of the damage (Brachot 8:2) while most of the rishonim and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 202:4) rules there is no blessing.

He then asks two questions - is the mazik that the gemara describes really an objective reality or more of a segula? - is today's olive oil which goes through a refining process the same as in the times of the gemara?

He learns from Tosfot on Avoda Zara 35b that olive oil was something sharp and strong, and that in times of Chazal drinking oil was difficult like vinegar in our days. Therefore the mazik of the gemara is an objective reality.

Since today olive oil is different, and that there is real pleasure for some in drinking it, therefore one could go back to the blessing borei peri haeitz. Such was the ruling of R Mordechai Eliyahu.

Other poskim believe that olive oil is still mazik these days, but one who enjoys drinking it, should recite sheakol (as it is forbidden to derive pleasure from this world without blessing) (see more sources here).

Last, some poskim (e.g., R Shmuel Halevi Wozner) felt one should not deviate from the din of the gemara and not recite any blessing.

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Here's what I understand from the Gemara:

Drinking oil alone doesn't get a bracha since it's mazik- it's like having a stand-alone butter, but a little better for you.

Drinking oil through anigron, the oil doesn't get a bracha because it's tafel to the anigron- think butter on bread. You wouldn't have the oil because it's mazik. It's there to enhance the anigron.

There is one case where one makes a bracha on oil: If someone drinks a lot of oil for health (ie his throat bothers him). Although normally this alone would not get a bracha, since here he gets benefit from the anigron and the anigron cannot be said to be primary in this case, the anigron flavor enhances the oil and becomes "a good tasting oil" and gets the bracha of haetz.

Strange, but I think it makes sense.

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    That's a good summary of the gemara. I'm just questioning whether plain oil is really mazik. – Double AA Dec 26 '11 at 4:11
  • So, I'm trying to say it is similar to butter. It might be a healthier substitute, but it's still fat. My point from the gemara is that anigron doesn't make oil healthy, it just makes it taste better and triggers a bracha despite the oil's unhealthiness. – YDK Dec 26 '11 at 4:23
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    An interesting read, but I don't think it fits the words of the gemara well. The gemara seems to think that plain oil is harmful and that's why there is no bracha. If you don't think it tastes very good, you're certainly entitled to your opinion, but I don't think that's part of the gemara's calculation. – Double AA Dec 26 '11 at 4:27
  • My intent was not that the bracha on the oil hinges on the oil's taste, but that the enhancement of the anigron allows the oil to be called an achila despite it's precondition of being harmful. – YDK Dec 26 '11 at 6:18
  • @DoubleAA, I realize that probably seems a semantic change to you. The only way I can think of explaining it is that mazik doesn't mean absolutely no bracha. Mazik is not derech achila and not derech achila gets no bracha. Adding anigron enhances it to derech achila despite the mazik factor. – YDK Dec 26 '11 at 6:25
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The olive oil we get in the store is not really pure olive oil, as such it has nothing to do with that Gemara. Our "pure extra virgin olive oil" is roughly 30% real olive oil, the rest is made up of other cheaper oils or processed to change the natural taste of the oil.

See here and here for starters, but this seems to be a well documented fact.

In fact, many sites describe the real olive oil as having a biting burning sensation on the back of the throat. Something must people find unpleasant which is how this big scam is easily pulled. We don't like the real stuff when we taste it! It also sounds like a nice qualifying term to describe what the Gemara called אוזוקי מזיק ליה. And as the articles states, it is possible to cover up this distasteful effect by various means, אניגרון would probably qualify.

  • If our olive oil is processed to be nice tasting, then could it alone get a "HaEitz"? – Double AA May 19 '16 at 2:35
  • It's possible. But you'd have to know it's one of the olive oils that was only treated, not mixed with canola oil or whatnot. I was actually going to ask that as question based on this info, but I searched and found this question and the questions seemed interdependent enough. – user6591 May 19 '16 at 2:51
  • A mix of olive and canola shouldn't be worse than a mix of olive and garum. – Double AA May 19 '16 at 3:01
  • If the ratio is an actual 70% canola to 30% olive, I would assume it would be ha'adama, wouldn't you? – user6591 May 19 '16 at 3:05
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Definitely not unhealthy. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which are considered to be "a healthy dietary fat." As such, consuming this kind of fat is healthier than consuming saturated and trans fats. In addition,

Monounsaturated fatty acids, [such as olive oil], may help lower your risk of heart disease by improving related risk factors. For instance, monounsaturated fatty acids may lower your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fatty acids may also help normalize blood clotting. And some research shows that monounsaturated fatty acidss may also benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.

But even healthier fats like olive oil are high in calories, so use them only in moderation. (Source: Mayo Clinic)

Also,

Olive oil contains a wide variety of valuable antioxidants that are not found in other oils. Hydroxytyrosol is thought to be the main antioxidant compound in olives, and believed to play a significant role in the many health benefits attributed to olive oil. Epidemiological studies suggest that olive oil has a protective effect against certain malignant tumours in the breast, prostate, endometrium and digestive tract. (Source: Wikipedia)


This question is related to the general questions of "Science and Medicine in the Talmud," and "Scientific and Technological advances in Halacha." I don't have a specific answer for this issue.

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    That's all very nice. Olive oil can be super-healthy. The Gemara never said it isn't. The Gemara speaks about a case where it is drunk alone. – yydl Dec 26 '11 at 5:00
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It's simple. The oil alone is unhealthy ,furthermore many modern medicines today are based on ancient known herbs. Science know only the helps of the olive oil components , by experiments on few specific things . Yet the ancient science saw the whole image of the oil effects, and some how discovered back-then that its only recommended to eat olive oil with other food combined. The oil is not the main component in the dish (unlike the vegetables in the salad for example), Therefore by make a bless for the drink which contain Anigron drink and oil the main component is the Anigron and you bless "Shehacol"שהכל (ask any chef if oil is consumed as a main part in any dish).

חכמה בגמרא זו חכמה מסיני שקיבלנו מבורא עולם 49 שערי בינה ובגלות הרבה נשתכח . למעט מה שכן יודעים ומוזכר בגמרא,למשל רפואה ,אבל לגבי אסטרונומיה חכמי ישראל מודים שלקחו מהיוונים מפני שנשתכח אצלם שמגלה שבא זבולון שהחזיק בחכמה הזו

בסרטים תמיד יכניסו לכם שפעם היו חסרי השכלה אבל תדעו שחכמי ישראל והחכמים של אז היו בעלי חכמה עצומה שלא כולה הגיע אלינו.

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    What's the source of the last two lines in hebrew (such that we lost the knowledge of Astronomy when Zevulun (?) was sent into exile) – Shmuel Brin Nov 10 '13 at 3:34
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    @ShmuelBrin What's the source for any of the Hebrew? This doesn't seem to be a quote from anywhere Google has ever seen. – Double AA Nov 10 '13 at 4:41
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    @DoubleAA that's what I meant – Shmuel Brin Nov 10 '13 at 5:38

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