By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
There is an old saying that there are only three things in life that are certain: Death, Taxes, and that Schach eventually gets moldy or mildewy.
That is, perhaps, unless you coat it with shellac.
Shellac, for those who do not know, is a resin that is secreted by the female lac bug called Kerria Lacca within trees in southeast asia – particularly in the forests of India and Thailand. It is processed and sold as dry flakes and dissolved in alcohol to make liquid shellac, which is used as a brush-on colorant, food glaze and high gloss wood finish which keeps the wood dry and not get moldy or mildewy.
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FOR FOOD A THREE WAY DEBATE
As far as it’s use in food – there is a three way halachic debate as to whether you can use it on foods and candy.
- Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe YD II #24) in a letter dated January 18th, 1965 to Rabbi Nachum Kornmill, the former Rabbi of the Young Israel of Lawrence Cedarhurst in the Five Towns permitted it.
- The next view is that of Dayan Yitzchak Weiss zt”l. He writes in a responsa dated May 7th, 1986 (Minchas Yitzchok Vol. X #65) concludes that due to our lack of a depth of knowledge into the properties and nature of Shellac — he is unable to permit it.
- Finally, the third view is that of Rav Elyashiv zt”l. He writes in Kovetz Teshuvos (Vol 1 #73) that according to the ruling of the Mordechai and Rabbeinu Gershom — the leniency of the external product of a forbidden animal would only have applied to an animal or creature that the surrounding population generally consumes. Beetles, however, are not generally consumed — therefore that which comes from it (the Shellac) would still be forbidden.
All this is for its kashrus for food, but what about Shelac’s Kashrus for Schach?
It seems that one is permitted to do use. In Mekadesh Yisroel (Siman 9), a newly released Sefer written by one of the top Poskim in the United States, Rav Yisroel Dovid Harfenes shlita, rules that it is entirely permissible. He cites a number of Poskim who would permit it, including Rav Shlomo Kluger zt”l(1785-1869) in his HaElef Lecha Shlomo (Siman 364) and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Vol. III #153). Rav Kluger permits painting schach because it is considered beautifying it. Rav Auerbach cites a debate about the Sukkah of Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin whether one may paint it or not, but in the case of shellac it is much better because the color remains the same.
Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita cites the Chazon Ish (as quoted in Arbaas HaMinim K’hilchasam) who did not particularly like its use, but held that it was not forbidden. Just make sure that no one starts chewing on the Schach.
The author can be reached at [email protected]
PLEASE HELP A VERY CHOSHUV HACHNASSAS KALLAH