Food Under the Bed (Part 1)
(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)
Section 1: The Source
1. The Gemara in Pesachim (112a) states that if any foods or beverages are left under a bed, even if they are enclosed in a vessel made of iron, an evil spirit rests on them and it is prohibited to partake of them. This ruling is cited by the Tur and Shulchan (Y.D. 116:5) Aruch as normative halacha.
2. The Toras Chaim (Baba Basra 58b) suggests that this evil spirit is akin to corpse contamination: The Gemara (Berachos 57b) teaches that “sleep is a sixtieth part of death.” The law is that items placed beneath a corpse become contaminated by it. Accordingly, food placed beneath a sleeping person should contract a semblance of impurity as well. This semblance of impurity manifests itself in the form of an evil spirit.
3. The Gemara clearly states that the reason that one should not eat food that was under the bed is because there is an evil spirit that rests on the food. However, the Rambam (Rotzeach 12:5) offers an alternative reason. He writes, “A person should not place a cooked dish under the couch on which he is reclining, even though he is in the midst of his meal, lest an entity that could harm him fall into the food without his noticing.”
4. According to the Rambam if the food is covered it would be permissible since there is no concern of anything falling into the food. However, the Gemara clearly states that one cannot eat the food even if it is sealed, due to the evil spirit. The authorities question why the Rambam does not rule in accordance with the Gemara. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer 1 Y.D. 9) cites several authorities who explain that the Rambam felt that the evil spirit, referred to in the Gemara, no longer applies. Therefore, he did not cite the exact ruling of the Gemara. He does, however, add his own concern of a foreign entity falling into one’s food.
5. Most authorities disagree with the Rambam and maintain that the evil spirit still applies today and one should act accordingly.
6. There is a great debate amongst the poskim whether bedieved one may eat food that was left under the bed. Many poskim, including the Shvus Yaakov, Rav Yitzchak Elchonon zt”l and the Malbim, maintain that although one should not place food under the bed, if the food was placed there one can eat it. (Shvus Yaakov 2:105, Shemiras Haguv V’Hanefesh page 56 and Yabia Omer ibid.)
7. According to other authorities, including the Vilna Gaon, Chida, Ben Ish Chai and Marcheshes, one must throw the food away. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l discusses this issue and he writes that in case of great financial loss one may rule leniently. The Chazon Ish (Taameh D’Kra 28) would rule leniently for others to eat food left under a bed. In his home, however, he was particular that the food not be eaten. Rather, it was given to poor people.
8. The poskim debate whether one may place an empty pot under a bed. The Gaon of Butchetch (Mili D’Chasidusa 458) writes that the evil spirit does not rest on pots and pans left under a bed. However, it seems that according to Rabbeinu Gershom Meor Hagolah (Baba Basra 58a) the evil spirit does rest on pots left under the bed.
9. The evil spirit does not rest on people under a bed. Therefore, one may sleep on the bottom bunk bed without concern of ruach ra’ah. (Az Nidberu 7:73)
If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email me at avizakutinsky@.
Rabbi Zakutinsky recently published a halacha sefer in English (with helpful Hebrew footnotes) addressing the laws and customs of the Jewish wedding, from the engagement period through shana rishona. Written for laymen and rabbis alike, The Gates of Joy elucidates and explains the halachos and customs of Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and Chassidim, including Chabad Chassidim. See a sample of The Gates of Joy here and email firstname.lastname@example.org to order. Say you saw it on OU Torah for a 25% discount!