Halacha Date: 20 Tevet 5778 January 7 2018
Question: Is there a source for those who are careful not to eat a food that was left under a bed, even if it was well-wrapped? Similarly, is there room for concern even when the foods were left under a baby’s crib or stroller?
Answer: The Gemara in Masechet 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 upon them and it is prohibited to partake of them. Although the Rambam writes that the reason for this prohibition is not due to an evil spirit since evil spirits no longer exist in our times and is for another reason altogether, nevertheless, most Poskim concur that the reason for this prohibition is, in fact, due to an evil spirit. Indeed, this is how the Halacha has been transferred to us, that the reason for this prohibition is because of the danger that may occur as a result of eating foods upon which an evil spirit rests. (Although we do not usually see people being harmed from things like this, it is possible that the harm only emerges at a later time or is only a spiritual harm.)
Nevertheless, the Gemara does not mention if this prohibition applies only when someone slept on the bed or even if no one slept on it at all. Hagaon Torat Chaim points out that the reason why an evil spirit rests on the food is because an individual was sleeping on the bed. Since sleeping is considered one-sixtieth of death, an evil spirit therefore rests under someone who sleeps and if there is food there, it rests on the food as well. Based on this, it would seem that this prohibition only applies when someone has slept on the bed.
Although it is preferable to act stringently and never place foods under a bed, nevertheless, if one has already done so and no one has slept on the bed yet, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules that one may act leniently and consume these foods. This is especially true if the food was uncooked/raw (such as fruits, vegetables, and the like) in which case there is more room for leniency. It is nevertheless proper to rinse the foods in water three times, for according to some, doing so purifies the food from the evil spirit which rests upon it.
However, if someone was sleeping on the bed while foods were placed under it, Maran zt”l rules stringently that these foods should not be consumed based on the rulings of Maran Ha’Chida and the Gaon of Vilna, unless there is a hefty financial loss involved in which case one need not dispose of the food since we take into consideration the opinion of the Poskim who say that one need be stringent only preferably (and not if this has already been done). Maran zt”l writes that he has seen the great Tepliker Gaon, Hagaon Harav Shimshon Aharon Polansky zt”l rule leniently on these matters in cases of great financial loss.
Regarding foods left under a baby’s crib or stroller, it is quite common that mothers will place foods in the basket under the stroller. Although it is certainly preferable not to do so, if foods have already been placed there, Halacha permits the foods to be consumed, for evil spirit does not apply to children as much. Thus, even if the baby was asleep in the crib or stroller when the foods were placed under it, the foods are permissible for consumption. If uncooked/raw foods, such as fruits or vegetables, were placed there, it is proper to rinse them in water three times, as we have mentioned.
Summary: One should never place foods or beverages under a bed. If no one was asleep in the bed when the foods were under the bed, there is room to permit them for consumption. However, if someone was sleeping in the bed, the foods are prohibited for consumption once this is done, for this poses a danger. Nevertheless, if this will cause one a hefty monetary loss, there is room to permit the food’s consumption even if the bed has been slept on. If the foods are raw or uncooked, such as fruits or vegetables, and can be washed, one should preferably rinse them in water three times in order to purify them of the evil spirit which rests upon them. If the foods were placed under a child’s bed, although one should preferably not have placed them there, if this has already been done, there is room to permit the food or beverage’s consumption.