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Devarim Cooking

Devarim Cooking

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Published by: DanielALevine on Jul 28, 2010
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 Parashas Devarim 5770
Who's Doing the Cooking?
Food shall you buy from them for money, and you shall eat; and even water shall you purchase from them for money, and you shall drink.(Devarim 2:6) 
The Prohibition
The Mishnah (
 Avodah Zarah
35b) teaches that a Jew must not eat vegetables thatwere cooked by a non-Jew. The Gemara (
ibid 
. 37b) explains that the prohibition isextracted from the above-recorded verse in our Parashah, which compares food towater: "just as water has not changed, so food [that one may take from a non-Jew] hasnot changed." The Gemara concludes that the prohibition is rabbinic in nature, yet ahint to it can found in this verse.Rishonim dispute the rationale for the prohibition. According to Rashi in hiscommentary on the Mishna (
 Avodah Zarah
35b), the intent of the prohibition is todistance Jews from non-Jews, lest they come to intermarry. This is also theexplanation offered by Rambam (
 Laws of Forbidden Foods
17:9), and by severalother Rishonim (see Tur,
Yoreh De'ah
113).However, in his commentary to the Gemara, Rashi presents a different reason, statingthat the prohibition means to distance Jews from other prohibited foods, a rationalealso mentioned in
Or Zarua
(
 Avodah Zarah
192). Based on this idea,
 Hagahos Ashri
(
 Avodah Zarah
2:28) explains why the prohibition applies solely to cooked items:foods that are raw, whose appearance has not changed from its natural state, will notbe mistaken by Jews for non-kosher foods.
Which Foods are Prohibited
Not all foods that are cooked are included in the rabbinic enactment of 
bishul akum
.The Gemara (
 Avodah Zarah
38a), and in its wake
Shulchan Aruch
(
Yoreh De'ah
113),writes that the prohibition does not apply to foods that are eaten raw (as well ascooked), and to foods that would not be served at a king's table (a measure of importance).The reasoning behind these exemptions follows from the rationale for the prohibition.
 Ran
explains that foods which are eaten raw are not considered important foods, andthere is therefore no concern that such foods will cause closeness (between Jews andnon-Jews) that might lead to intermarriage.Rashi, however (
 Beitzah
16a), states simply that foods which can be eaten raw are notincluded in the enactment because they are not "cooked" (because they can be eatenraw, the process of cooking is not considered as applying to them). As we have
 
already mentioned, raw foods are easily distinguished, and the enactment was onlymade concerning foods that are considered cooked.Two explanations are also given for the exception for foods that are not served at theking's table: either the food is not important enough to cause concern forintermarriage, or the food will not cause Jews and non-Jews to dine together, and thusprovides no cause for concern that a Jew will come to eat non-kosher foods.
Cooked in a Jewish Home
Tosefos
(
 Avodah Zarah
38a) writes an important qualification concerning theprohibition. Citing from
 Raavad 
,
Tosefos
states that the enactment was only madewith regard to the house of a non-Jew, but not to food cooked in the house of a Jew.Yet,
Tosefos
continues by citing Rabbeinu Tam who disputes the distinction, and rulesthat the prohibition applies even to food cooked in a Jewish home.It would seem that the two sides of the dispute are related to the two rationalespresented above. If the concern is for confusing kosher with non-kosher food, itfollows that there is reason to permit food cooked in a Jewish home, because all of the(kosher) ingredients are provided by the Jewish homeowner. However, if theprohibition is due to the potential intimacy caused by sharing cooked food, theprohibition would apply even to food cooked in a Jewish home.Indeed,
 Nimmukei Yosef 
writes that the principal concern of intermarriage relates tothe case of a non-Jewish cook in a Jewish home. However, the wording of 
Tosefos
 contradicts our hypothesis since he implies that the fear of mixing up kosher withnon-kosher foods applies even to food cooked in a Jewish home. The fear ispresumably that the non-Jew will bring in his own foods.
Servants and Cooks
 
Shulchan Aruch
(
Yoreh De'ah
113:1) rules stringently, meaning that even foodcooked by a non-Jew in a Jewish home is prohibited. However, in one particular case,namely where the cooking is done by a gentile maidservant, we find a leniency in therulings of 
 Remo
. He rules (
Yoreh De'ah
113:4) that one may rely on the lenientopinion that permits the cooking of a non-Jewish maidservant in a Jewish home. Hestates the reason for this leniency is that we can assume that one of the Jewishhouseholders will stir the pot, thereby participating in the cooking process, andrendering the food permitted.
 Rashba
, which is the source of the leniency, writes a different reason why the cookingof a maid is not included in the prohibition. He argues that the concern forintermarriage applies solely to food that a non-Jew cooks from his own volition, sincethis is liable to cause intimacy between a Jew and a non-Jew. However, when a non-Jew is forced to cook the food (due to his status as a servant), the prohibition does notapply because there is no concern for intermarriage (
 Rashba
, no. 68;
meyuchasos
149,as cited in
Shach
,
Yoreh De'ah
113:7).
 
Unlike an alternative explanation, which relies on the fact that the non-Jewish slave is"owned" by the Jew (see
 Beis Yosef 
,
Yoreh De'ah
113), this line of reasoning (thenon-Jew is cooking out of compulsion) would be equally applicable to a paid laborer.Because the cook is working out of obligation and not out of mere goodwill, theprohibition of 
bishul akum
does not apply. Indeed,
Shach
implies that the leniency, expost facto (
bedieved 
), would apply even today since the work was done in a Jew'shouse. The
Shach
is opposed by
 Bach
(
Yoreh De'ah
113), who writes that the leniencyapplies only to a true slave, and not to an ordinary laborer.
Non-Jewish Kitchen Staff
 A case in point for consideration is the question of Jewish old-age homes, in whichnon-Jewish laborers are often employed for performing any jobs that need to bedone—including cooking. For those who descend from Sephardic background, thereis little room for leniency—
Shulchan Aruch
is stringent on the matter. ForAshkenazim, there might be room for leniency, under extenuating circumstances. [Of course, a Rabbi must be consulted for all practical questions.]In fact, in most places in which non-Jewish staff is employed for kitchen work, the
heter 
of a Jew lighting the fire is employed. Indeed, according to
 Remo
even a Jew'sstoking the fire is sufficient to permit the non-Jewish cooking, though other
 poskim
 (such as the Vilna Gaon) rule that stoking or lighting the fire is not sufficient.There is room to consider whether this
heter 
would be valid for Sephardim whofollow the rulings of 
Shulchan Aruch
. Whereas
 Remo
(
Yoreh De'ah
113:7) writes thatthe leniency of a Jew's lighting the fire applies to all cases of 
bishul akum
,
Shulchan Aruch
writes that it applies specifically to bread, and not to other cooked foods.Indeed,
Kaf Hachaim
writes that the principle
halachah
follows the ruling of 
Shulchan Aruch
, which should be adhered to even on a
bedieved 
level. How then canSephardim rely on the
heter 
of a Jew's lighting the fire?It is possible, however, that even Sephardim may be lenient with regard to kitchenstaff in a Jewish establishment, because of the combination of two reasons forleniency: 1) the fact that the food is cooked in a Jewish home (above), and 2) the factthat the fire was lit by a Jew. Because of this combination of factors, Rav YaakovMeir Stern (
 Beis Halevi
, vol. 12) has written that Sephardim may also act lenientlyunder such circumstances.It is noteworthy that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach stated that in our times, whenintermarriage is so prevalent, even Ashkenazim should follow the Sephardic practiceand act stringently—presumably even in a Jewish home.
Microwaves
 Commenting on a ruling of 
Shulchan Aruch
, which distinguishes between cookedfood (prohibited) and salted or smoked foods (permitted),
 Remo
gives the generalrule: the prohibition of 
bishul akum
applies only to cooking by means of fire (
Yoreh De'ah
113:13).

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