Both the handles of cutlery and entire spoons have been made of elephant ivory, which is from a tusk (a tooth) of an elephant. Elephant is of course not a kosher animal. Presumably, then, these spoons and cutlery would render any food eaten with them (hot) non-kosher as well (depending on circumstances). Does anyone have any sources (or additional arguments) that say as much, or that say the opposite? (Of course, for practical halacha, consult your rabbi rather than relying on what you read here.)


3 Answers 3


Bones of "neveila" (improperly slaughtered animal) that have no marrow or moisture do not impart forbidden taste (based on Shulchan Aruch 99:1) because they are not fit for eating (Taz 99:1). The Taz's reasoning should apply to the bones, tusks and other inedible parts of a temeiah (forbidden animal) as well.

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    Incidentally, IINM, this is the crux of the dispute about gelatin. On the one hand, the bones have been made inedible. On the other hand, they have been reconstituted to be edible. Do they retain their non-non-Kosher status, or do they return to their original status?
    – Seth J
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 18:37
  • If Seth is correct, there should be no problem with the cutlery, which is not edible.
    – AGC
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 18:34
  • @AGC, I don't understand your point. Can you elaborate?
    – YDK
    Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 19:38
  • @YDK, Seth points out that the gelatin dispute arises because gelatin is made by turning bones into something inedible and then back into something (else) that is edible. In the case of cutlery, the item is never made edible again, so no reason for there to be a problem.
    – AGC
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 20:58
  • @AGC, it is unnecessary to say that. In Seth's case, the gelatin was originally a non-kosher edible product. It was made inedible and then reconstituted. Now there is a question of status. In the original case asked by msh210, the product was never edible. Even if it was made into an edible product, it would still be kosher.
    – YDK
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 18:14

I'm not sure why you seem to be looking for another answer, but here goes.

I'll start with a simple question: The Halacha is always that we follow the majority. If a court is divided, the Halacha follows the majority. If the majority of an animal's neck was slaughtered, it is kosher. If the majority of the world is not sterile, we legally assume any given individual not to be sterile. And most directly relevant to this discussion - if a non-kosher piece of meat gets mixed up with a majority of identical but kosher pieces of meat, all of them may be consumed according to the letter of the law.

This being the case, why do we say that flavor can ever render something unkosher? There is always a majority of kosher substance in the mixture!

The answer, explains the Ra'avad (quoted by the Rashba to Chullin 89b ד"ה אמר), is as follows:

כי אמרינן חד בתרי בטיל מדאורייתא דוקא דקיימא איסורא באפי נפשה והיתירא באפי נפשיה כגון גיד בין הגידים וביצה בין הבצים שההיתר לא קיבל טעם מן האיסור, וכיון דאיסורא לא מנכרא בטל ברוב, אבל כשקבל ההיתר טעם האיסור נעשה הכל איסור שהרי ניכר הוא וידוע בכל ההיתר וכו', אבל כל היתר שמקבל טעם האיסור וטעם האיסור ניכר בו, טעימתו זו היא הכרתו כדכתיב וחיך אוכל יטעם לו, אין חשיבות האוכל אלא בטעמו כו

When do we say 'one in two is nullified' according to the Torah? Only when the forbidden item is by itself and the permitted item is by itself... since the prohibited item is not discernible it is nullified by the majority. But when the permitted item acquires flavor from the prohibited item the entire thing becomes prohibited because it IS discernible and known throughout the entire permitted item...

The key point is that having one part nullified by the majority is only possible when the one part is not currently discernible. Since there is flavor, the whole concept falls apart.

This idea is the basis for all Halachos of transference of flavor. Anytime we say that something 'became' not kosher because it was cooked in a non-kosher pot etc. we are in essence saying that there is a small amount of non-kosher flavor that was transferred during the cooking process from the walls of the pot and into the food. It used to be that they'd have a non-Jew come and taste the food to tell if he could discern any non-kosher flavor. For a number of reasons this stopped, and as a matter of doubt we normally require 60 parts kosher to 1 part non-kosher to be able to assume that no significant amount of flavor was transferred.

[A relevant, side consideration: If you have two items which taste the same that were cooked together, while according to Biblical Law the kosher item would remain kosher since the non-kosher flavor is not truly discernible, Rabbinic Law (according to the conclusion of the Talmud as interpreted by most Rishonim) requires 60:1 - since there was real, full-fledged flavor transferred and it just isn't discernible do to another consideration - i.e. the thing receiving the flavor already tastes that way.]

Based on the above, one can correctly conclude that in cases where there certainly was no significant flavor transfer (due to the inherent lack of flavor of the non-kosher item), no amount of cooking together or 'cross-contamination' will render something not kosher. This is the basis for the Shulchan Aruch and Rema's ruling (previously cited by @YDK) that 'non-kosher' bones do not render something not kosher even when cooked together.

I believe it is quite clear that cutlery and dishes made out of elephant tusks fall into this category. There is not the slightest chance that you will taste any significant elephant flavor in your food. Therefore they pose no kashrus concerns.

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    I don't think he was looking for another answer. The bounty message is One or more of the answers is exemplary and worthy of an additional bounty.
    – b a
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 22:04
  • @ba aha.... lol
    – Dov F
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 22:13
  • 1
    +1 Basically what I said in my above comment just...better!
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 23:37
  • @DoubleAA and Dov F, I'm not sure that that is a factor. The Taz does not say the bones team with the heter and not the issur because they have no flavor, but because they are not fit for consumption. So even if bones have an intrinsic flavor (I don't know if they actually do), that flavor would be permissible since the source of the flavor (the bone) was never forbidden.
    – YDK
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 18:06
  • @YDK You are correct in that the Taz adds that dimension of heter. However it appears that everyone agrees that there is also the factor of no flavor. Even the Shach who disagrees by regular bones agrees when they are completely dry, and even the opinion brought by the Rema to be machmir not to allow the bones to team up with the heter allows it to be not counted as issur. Furthermore, it is clear from other places that bones are not considered to have any flavor - e.g. we rule אין בגידין בנותן טעם (see 100:2) and as the Rishonim here point out it's a kal vachomer to all kinds of bones.
    – Dov F
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 19:29

This was going to be a comment on YDK's answer, until I realized there is more that is relevant to the original question than just a comment on that answer.

Yoreh De'ah 99:1 seems to tell us that bones of Isur cannot make another food Asur; in fact, they can be combined with other Heter to nullify the Isur that they are being cooked with. Wonderful; there you have your answer, right? Bones of Neveilah do not render food Asur! So when I started 99:2, I was surprised - the Halachah seems to be that bones do absorb Isur. What does that mean, then, for them being placed into Heter? Do they make it Asur? Yes, this is the original question, but 99:1 no longer answers it alone in light of 99:2.

I think there is still an answer here that can be gleaned from 99:1, however. The bones themselves are not Asurim. In fact, they can be combined with Heter to nullify Isur. However, they are not impervious to being made "Treif" themselves. Thus, one needs to be sure, like in all other Keilim, that no Isur was cooked with them alone, ie., no part of the elephant was cooked with the tusks in fashioning the ivory into a food-utensil.

  • One does not have to be sure; a reasonable doubt is sufficient. Once a utensil has been out of use for a day all of the flavor within it is rendered ta'am lifgam and is not forbidden anymore. The reason such a utensil must be kashered is because of a rabbinic decree, that one might confuse pots used within a day with ones that weren't. Since you are fairly certain that the utensils you buy in the store haven't been used within a day, all that is left is a safek derabbanan, which is permitted.
    – Dov F
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 20:49
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    Don't cook an elephant in it's mother's tusks.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 16:47

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