Forgetting The Torah (Part 2- Olives and Olive Oil)

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

Please Read Forgetting The Torah (Part 1) before reading this post.

1. The Gemara (Horayos 13b) writes that one of the things that causes one to forget his learning is “one who eats olives regularly.” The Gemara later lists five things that restore ones studies. One of them is consuming olive oil. The Gemara adds that this follows the view of Rav Yochanan who said that just as oils cause one to forget seventy years of one’s learning, so too olive oil restores seventy years of one’s learning.

2. The Maharsha uses the above Gemara to explain why out of all of the seven species the only one which is a bi-product (of the fruit or grain) is olives. Olive oil, not olives is one of the seven species. The reason being that olives is a friut that is damaging to one’s memory. While, olive oil is beneficioul to one’s memory. Therefore, it is appropriate that olive oil and not olives are one of the seven species that are listed in the Torah as being special products of the Land of Israel.

אגב עיין במגן אברהם הנ”ל דאין זה אלא בע”ה אבל המאכל בכונה המשכחים את האדם מוסיפין לו זכירה כי הוא מתקן אותה, ע”ש. וכ”כ בנגיד ומצוה (די”ח ע”ב), שיכוין בשמות “קל אלקים מצפץ”, שעולים כמנין זית, ע”ש. אכן שו”מ בשו”ת שלמת חיים ס’ מ”א שנשאל להגאון רבי יוסף חיים זוננפלד זצ”ל בלשון זה: “במג”א ס’ ק”ע ס”ק י”ט בענין דברים המשכחים את האדם כגון זיתים וכו’ אין זה אלא בע”ה אבל האוכלים בכוונה כנודע מוסיפין לו זכירה כי הוא מתקן אותה, ושמעתי לכוין על זיתים כך ק-ל א-לקים י-ק-ו-ק בא”ת ב”ש היינו מ-צ-פ-ץ בגימט’ זית [בגוף השאלה היה כתוב השמות כהויתן ובהפסקת קוים וגם צרוף חשבון העולה במספרים]. מהו אם יש לסמוך ע”ז שלא להקפיד להרגיל את עצמו באכילת זיתים שאמרו ע”ז ובמס’ הוריות דף י”ג כשם שהזית משכח לימוד של ע’ שנה וגו’, אם אין מצוי לו שמן זית”. והשיב הגרי”ח: “תמהתי על שכ’ השמו’ הקדושים וכן לענ”ד לא יעשה ומכ”ש שלא הי’ צריך לכתוב אח”כ החשבון ולענ”ד אינו דרך כבוד ועכ”פ יזהר בדף הזה מאד כי נכתבים בו שמו’ הקדושים לשמרו היטב ולענין הדין אין ראוי להרגיל בזה במה שמפורש בש”ס ומכ”ש עניני שכחה אפשר יש בזה לתה דלאו השמר פן תשכח [עיין לעיל שהבאנו מכמה פוסקים דאין בזה כלל איסור דהשמר פן תשכח את הדברים וכו’ ע”ש] אבל יאכל אותם עם שמן זית ואז מה טוב לכוין”. ובסמוך לזה בסימן מ”ב הוסיף שהמג”א לא העתיק דברי האר”י זצ”ל כ”א לומר שאם רואים אדם שאוכל זיתים שלא להרהר אחריו אבל עדיי’ אני עומד בסברתי שאין ראוי להרגיל בזה וכו'”.

3. The concept of avoiding eating olives regularly is cited by Rabbeinu Bachya (Parshas Vayishlach Vateitzei Dina), Magen Avraham (170:19), Aruch Hashulchan (2:5), Ben Ish Chai (Shana 2 Pinchas 17) and Kaf Hachaim (157:27).

4. Regarding eating olives, when analyzing the Gemara carefully, the Gemara states, “One who eats olives regularly” and not just “One who eats olives.” Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a writes that that the word “regularly” is indeed specific, for if one eats them only sparingly and not regularly, this will not cause one any forgetfulness. The question is what is the definition of “regularly.” He continues to cite the Talmud Brachos 40a (regarding the medicinal value of eating lentils) that if one consumes them once in thirty days that is called regular consumption. Rav Kanievsky shlit”a, therefore, rules regarding olives that if it is as infrequent as once in thirty days then that is not considered regular consumption. He does note in a postscript that the Gemara (Shabbos 110a) implies that “regular” consumption is once every forty days. Which would mean that regarding olives that if it is as infrequent as once in forty days then that is not considered regular consumption.(Sefer Hazikaron 2:11 and in hosafos)

5. Rabbi Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld writes that if one consumes olives with olive oil there is no concern of forgetfulness. This solution is indicated in the Gemara cited above where it states that olive oil is beneficial to one’s memory (Salmas Chaim 41). Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l is cited as ruling that even one drop of oil would suffice to remove any hallachic problems (Halichos Shlomo chapter 2 page 23 in a footnote). However, Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a questions whether adding olive oil to olives suffices to remove the concern of forgetfulness.

6. Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l (Mor Uketzia 170) noticed that even the religious people of his day commonly ate olives and he wonders why they were not concerned about forgetting their learning. He explains, “That the Gemara was referring to one who eats raw olives and makes them the focal point of his meal. However, if the olives are cooked, salted or brined, which are commonly eaten as a snack, one need not be concerned that they will cause forgetfulness.”

It seems that the common custom is to rely upon the view of Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l. However, Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a cites the Meiri who writes that salted olives also cause one to forget his learning.

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.

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