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By Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Administrative Rabbinic Coordinator
Q. Is it true that some Rabbis say you can eat hard boiled eggs in a non-kosher restaurant?
A. There is truly no basis for being lenient to eat hard boiled eggs in a non-kosher restaurant, and presumably anyone who said it was acceptable was basing it on a faulty reading of the Gemara.
The issue begins with a Gemara (Chullin 98a) which says that if one cooks the egg of a non-kosher bird (e.g., an ostrich egg), with the egg from a kosher bird (e.g., a chicken), the kosher egg remains kosher. If, however, both eggs were from kosher birds, but one was forbidden because a chick had begun to form inside the egg, then all the eggs in the pot are forbidden. What is the difference between the cases? The Gemara explains that there is an inherent weakness to the taste/ta’am of a liquid egg which is considered “mayah d’bei’ah b’almah” (merely the liquid of an egg); that weak taste cannot penetrate the egg’s shell. This contrasts with a developing egg that contains a chick or blood, which has a standard strict status that ta’am can pass through the shell and into the other eggs in the pot.
These halachos are brought in Shulchan Aruch 86:5-6. [It is noteworthy that Rema 86:6 says that l’chatchilah one should be machmir about all these cases, but our discussion will continue without considering that chumrah.] As noted, the only case where one can be lenient requires that the egg be in its shell, and the Acharonim have three opinions as to whether that means both eggs must be in their shells (Prishah 86:11 and Shach 86:15), either of the eggs must be in their shells (Bach), or it is specifically the non-kosher egg that must be in the shell (Taz 86:11). Even Bach, who is the most lenient of these opinions, limits this ruling to the case which the Gemara permitted – the case of an egg which was non-kosher because it came from a non-kosher species, as such eggs are “mayah d’bei’ah b’almah”. However, the Gemara is clear that if the non-kosher egg was of a more standard non-kosher status, then there is no room for leniency. Accordingly, even Bach would agree that if a pot had been used for non-kosher meat, fish, or other standard non-kosher items, then the shell on the kosher egg would not protect the egg from absorbing non-kosher taste.
In summary, there is a discussion in the Gemara as to when an egg’s shell protects non-kosher taste from spreading, but all agree that the shell on an egg would not protect it from the standard non-kosher tastes found in a restaurant’s pots. Therefore, since the pots at the non-kosher restaurant are used to cook all types of non-kosher food, hard boiled eggs made in those pots are not kosher and cannot be eaten.
Of course, this whole discussion relates merely to the question of absorbed non-kosher tastes in the egg, but hard boiled eggs cooked without Jewish participation are also forbidden due to concerns of bishul akum.