Seemingly, there's an idea that honey dissolves flesh (which thereby turns into honey. I don't have a primary source for this, but there is an ibn Ezra story about it). How does this fit in with the Bavli, Bava Basra 3:2, which says that honey preserves flesh? Dissolve would seem to be the opposite of preserve in this context.

(Note: I'm not asking about what modern science says about the issue. I'm asking only about how the two Jewish-sourced statements relate to one another.)

  • I like the answers offered, but still wish someone had some source. I've found that the Intziklopedya Talmudis discusses honey's dissolving things in it (in its article on d'vash), mentioning also (IIRC) breadcrumbs. It refers the reader to Sh'elos Us'shuvos Rabenu Asher, k'lal 24 #6, Magen Avraham 247:3, Chok Yaakov 467:16, and Sh'elos Us'shuvos Chasam Sofer, YD 70 and 117, none of which I've had a chance to look up yet; perhaps one of them discusses my question....
    – msh210
    Aug 26 '11 at 19:30
  • A Fig is a kosher food and yet if you google it you will find that the fig actually produces an enzyme called ficain (also known as ficin) which digests the dead wasps and the fig absorbs the nutrients to create the ripe fruits and seeds.
    – David
    Oct 1 '17 at 15:20
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/88203
    – msh210
    Jan 3 '18 at 18:33

Maybe indeed honey will penetrate into organic material and dissolve it, but only some distance. With a small creature like a bee, then, that's enough to include its entire body; with a human corpse, the bulk of it will still remain intact.

The issue is discussed in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 84:12 and commentaries there. The Mechaber writes that "honey tends to preserve things immersed in it"; Shach (:37) observes that this is true only if the creature is whole, but that if it is dissected, then on the contrary the honey will dissolve it. The case at hand seems to have involved bees' legs that were in the honey (see Beur Hagra there :37), not the entire insect.


The ibn Ezra story is about a bee (which has no flesh) dissolving into honey, the Gemara is about human flesh.

  • Okay, but that sort of begs the question. What's the difference, then, between humans and bees (in this context)? I'd think honey would dissolve (or preserve) both if either.
    – msh210
    Aug 24 '11 at 18:03
  • Well bees are the ones that produce honey, and maybe therefore they dissolve in it. Aug 24 '11 at 18:11
  • bees do not have flesh.... I don't understand the question.
    – avi
    Aug 25 '11 at 8:13
  • @avi, good point. So perhaps honey dissolves chitin but preserves human skin? Conceivable, but not very plausible.
    – msh210
    Aug 25 '11 at 20:00
  • 1
    @msh210 I agree regarding the materials argument. Gershon's argument about bees' association with honey sounds more plausible from a pre-scientific point of view, but would also need a source.
    – Isaac Moses
    Aug 25 '11 at 21:37

See Ran Avoda Zar 16b on dafi harif, after mishna. The Gemara says if you add stuff to honey it ruins. The Rans 2nd phsat there

  • Would you care to finish the sentence about the Ran's 2nd pshat?
    – Seth J
    Jun 19 '14 at 14:33

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .