I live in an apartment with roommates, I'm trying to determine who is stealing my food. I use the word stealing because each of us had have our own separate and color-coded cabinets, and I also label all my food.

For a situation like this, what does halacha say about the permissibility of "poisoning" one's own food in a way that produces a noticable effect without doing harm? The goal is to identify the thief by seeing who, say, breaks out into a sneezing fit.

(For practical advice, of course consult your own rabbi.)

  • 1
    Rabbi J David Bleich has a lengthy article in Tradition about precisely this, "The Case of the Poisoned Sandwich." Practically -- STAY AWAY FROM POISON!! DO NOT DO IT!!
    – Shalom
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 5:56
  • you can read it here: traditionarchive.org/news/article.cfm?id=105386
    – Menachem
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 6:54
  • I would not advise it. Put in a hidden camera.
    – CashCow
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 9:47
  • 2
    @CashCow It is often hard to hide a camera in a sandwich. And then, once it is eaten, it often stops transmitting.
    – rosends
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 10:52
  • in the fridge, or the room with the fridge in it. Simplest though would be to get a lockable box.
    – CashCow
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 10:54

1 Answer 1


Rabbi J. David Bleich addresses it in "The Case of the Poisoned Sandwich", Tradition 41:3. There are one or two Israeli poskim who are gung-ho about taking the law into your own hands, but practically I advise against it in the strongest of terms.

The Vilna Gaon's reading of the Yerushalmi, Dmai 3:5 is that you make take no action that will cause harm to someone else -- even if that harm is triggered by the other fellow's malfeasance. (The example there is for you to give a pound of non-kosher flour to a cook who may swap it for someone else's flour.) This would apply to the case here of poisoning your own sandwich.

  • 2
    Would laxatives or the like be included in "harm"?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 22:21
  • 2
    @mevaqesh sounds like it would. The problem with ANY medications, esp. OTC's is that you don't know who is allergic or has negative reactions to something. Even my own doctor doesn't know that I have a bad reaction to a combo of an OTC with one of his prescribed meds, and he's a doctor! Kal vachomer trying this if you're NOT a doctor!
    – DanF
    Commented May 10, 2015 at 2:33

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