Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bishul Akum - Yevamos 46 - Daf Yomi

by Rabbi Neustadt

Question: With so many women today in the work force, is it permitted for non-Jewish household help to cook kosher food in one’s kitchen if the cooking is done under the supervision of an observant Jew?

Discussion: With the intention of limiting social interaction between Jews and non-Jews — for socializing is often the first step towards assimilation, the Rabbis decreed against eating certain types of perfectly kosher food which were cooked, baked or roasted by a non-Jew, even if a Jew supervised the entire process from beginning to end. This is the Rabbinical prohibition known as bishul akum. Even b’diavad, if a non-Jew cooked these foods ─ whether in the home of a Jew or in a manufacturing plant ─ it is forbidden (in many cases) to eat them; the cooked food is now considered non-kosher even though the raw food was totally kosher before being cooked by the non-Jew.[1] The pots and pans which in which the food was cooked would — in some cases — have to undergo a koshering process before one would be allowed to use them again for kosher food.[2]

Question: Which types of foods are susceptible to the restrictions of bishul akum?

Discussion: There are basically two criteria which define the type of food which is forbidden because of bishul akum:

· The food must be “important” — that is, food that would be suitable fare for a dinner served to dignitaries. Thus most dishes of poultry, meat, potatoes, pasta, eggs or fish are included, as long as they are prepared in a manner in which important people are customarily served in a formal setting. Candies, potato chips,[3] Pringles, beer, breakfast cereals, canned tuna salmon and sardines,[4] popcorn, etc. are not considered “important” foods no matter how skillfully and tastefully they are prepared.

· Foods which are edible raw (under normal conditions[5]) are exempt from the prohibition of bishul akum, even it they were cooked. Thus most fruits and vegetables, cheeses, water, milk and peanut butter, for example, are exempt from bishul akum, even if they were prepared in a manner fit for a king, since all of these foods are edible when in a raw state.[6]

Question: We have established that “cooking” by a non-Jew renders the food bishul akum. Does that mean that a non-Jew may not participate in any phase of food preparation?

Discussion: The only phase of food preparation that is forbidden to a non-Jew is to place the pot or pan on the stove or inside the oven. The non-Jew may cut, chop, grind, grate, mix, season, etc. He may also turn on the gas or electricity in the stove or oven, regulate the temperature throughout, stir or baste the food while it is cooking, and remove the food once it is cooked or baked. All this is permitted l’chatchilah, as long as the non-Jew is being supervised to ascertain that no kashrus laws are transgressed.[7]

Question: If the non-Jew has already placed the food on the stove or into the oven but has not yet turned on the fire, can the food still qualify as bishul Yisrael?

Discussion: As long as the Jew turns on the fire, the food is considered bishul Yisrael. But, l’chatchilah, this should only be relied upon in this exact case, where the food is already on the stove or in the oven and the fire is being lit after the food has been placed on the stove or in the oven.[8] In the reverse case, where first the Jew turned on the fire and then the non-Jew placed the food on the stove or in the oven, some poskim hold that this is not considered bishul Yisrael. B’diavad, however, most poskim maintain that the food is not considered bishul akum and is permitted to be eaten.[9]

Question: If the non-Jew has already turned on the fire and placed the pot or pan on the stove or inside the oven but the food is not yet completely cooked and ready to eat, can the food still be salvaged and not considered bishul akum?

Discussion: There yet remain three options for the food to be considered bishul Yisrael:

· Remove the pot or pan from the fire or the oven, hold it for a moment, and then replace it. This is permitted l’chatchilah.

· Stir, mix or flip the food over while the pot or pan is still on the fire.

· Regulate the temperature of the fire, either by raising it a bit to hasten the cooking or by lowering it a bit to prevent burning or singeing.

However, if the food is already completely cooked and ready to be eaten, it is too late to avail oneself of any of these three options. The food is considered bishul akum.


Anonymous said...

As long as the Jew turns on the fire, the food is considered bishul Yisrael.ONLY FOR ASHKENAZIM!!!

Avromi said...

100 percent correct - thank you