Going Kosher – Bishul Yisroel – Chapter 13

Food Cooked by a Non-Jew 

1) The rabbis forbade the consumption of food cooked by a non-Jew[1] for two reasons. According to some authorities it was out of concern that if people would be lax in this regard the ultimate result could lead to non-kosher food being served and eaten,[2] G-d forbid. According to others, it is for the same reason as the prohibition against eating non-Jewish bread, i.e. that over-familiarization with non-Jews would eventuate in assimilation and intermarriage,[3] G-d forbid.

2) However, the prohibition against eating food cooked by non-Jews is actually stricter than the prohibition against eating non-Jewish bread.[4] As stated above, the rabbis permitted the leniency of eating bread and other baked goods from non-Jewish bakeries (as opposed to bread and cakes baked in a private non-Jewish home).[5] On condition that the ingredients are kosher, Sephardim may do so if there is no Jewish bakery available[6] or if the non-Jewish bakery produces a higher quality or better selection of goods.[7] Ashkenazim, on the other hand,may choose to be lenient even without these preconditions.[8] In any case, the reason for the leniency is because bread is the “staff of life[9]” which people cannot do without.[10] Since other cooked foods do not meet this criterion it does not apply to them.

3) This prohibition applies not only to food privately cooked in a non-Jewish home but also to food cooked by a non-Jew in a Jewish home,[11] even by the domestic help, such as a maid.[12] This is the case, even if the equipment and ingredients are the property of the Jew[13] and he supervises the entire process, making sure that all the ingredients are kosher and that there is no admixture of meat and milk. Furthermore, the prohibition applies whether the food was cooked for private consumption or for sale to the public.[14]

4) The category of food cooked by a non-Jew includes food that is boiled, fried, baked and roasted.[15] There is controversy amongst the Halachic authorities regarding steamed food.[16] However, in the case of commercially steamed food (as opposed to food steamed in a private home) there is reason to be lenient.[17]

5) Food that is prepared through smoking, curing, pickling or salting does not fall into the category of food cooked by a non-Jew.[18]

Food Cooked by a Jew 

6) If a Jew participated in the cooking process, the food does not fall into the category of food cooked by a non-Jew. On the contrary, it is considered to be Bishul Yisroel-food cooked by a Jew.[19] According to Sephardic authorities the Jew must participate in the actual cooking of the food itself, such as, at least, placing it in the oven or putting it on the fire etc. Even if the non-Jew already put the food on the fire, nonetheless, if the Jew stirs the food or turns it over, thus aiding in cooking it, this is sufficient.[20]

Ashkenazic authorities are more lenient. According to them, even if the Jew just ignites the flame, this is sufficient and is regarded as Bishul Yisroel-food cooked by a Jew.[21] This is so even if he did not have cooking in mind when he ignited it.[22] Furthermore, the non-Jew may transfer fire from a preexisting flame which was ignited by a Jew. Therefore, if a Jew ignites the pilot light of a gas stove, the non-Jew may turn on the burners under the food, thus transferring a flame from the pilot light to the burner. According to Ashkenazim this is regarded as Bishul Yisroel-food cooked by a Jew.[23]

7) With this in mind, when dining in a kosher restaurant in which the kitchen staff is non-Jewish, Ashkenazim may rely on the fact that the mashgiach-the kosher supervisor, ignited the pilot lights. However, Sephardim should make a point of requesting that the mashgiach take some part in the actual cooking of the food itself, such as placing the food in the oven, putting it on the fire, stirring it or turning it over.[24] However, some Sephardic authorities are of the opinion that in a restaurant or banquet setting Sephardim may also be lenient, on condition that the Mashgiach ignited the fire under the food.[25] Inquire of your rabbi.

Food that is Eaten Raw 

8) Any foods that are customarily eaten in their raw state by most people,[26] such as most fruits and some vegetables, do not fall under the prohibition of food cooked by non-Jews.[27] This is because the cooking process does not make them any more edible than they were prior to being cooked.[28] Therefore, a cooked fruit cocktail may be consumed even if a Jew did not participate in its preparation. (Many commercially sold fruit cocktails are not kosher because of the problem of ingredients, rather than the problem of non-Jewish cooking.) Likewise, since tomatoes are customarily eaten in their raw state, therefore, tomato sauce or paste may be cooked entirely by non-Jews. The same principle applies to carrots. Of course, kosher supervision is still appropriate to ensure that only kosher ingredients and equipment will be used etc.

9) This condition, i.e. that the food must be customarily eaten raw by most people, is dependent on time and place. In other words, the same food may be commonly eaten raw in one country but not in another or it may be commonly eaten raw during one period of history and not during another. It all depends on the time and locality.[29]  Furthermore, if the majority of people eat the food raw, the food does not require bishul Yisroel, even for the minority. Likewise, if the majority of people only eat it cooked, bishul Yisroel is required, even for the minority.[30]

10) If the ingredients of a cooked dish are mostly food that is not eaten raw and partially food that is eaten raw, the dish may not be consumed if it was cooked by a non-Jew.[31] If its ingredients are mostly food that is eaten raw and partially food that is not eaten raw, it may be consumed.[32] It may, likewise, be consumed if its ingredients are half and half.[33]

11) However, according to some opinions, if the contents included any of the five grains (wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye), since they are important foods and the blessing is recited over them even when they are in the minority, they take precedence over all other ingredients. Therefore, the food may not be consumed if it is cooked by a non-Jew, even if the majority of its contents are eaten raw.[34]

Food Fit for a Royal Table 

12) Just as foods that are eaten raw do not fall into the category of food cooked by a non-Jew, so also, any food that would not be served at a royal table does not fall into this category.[35] Furthermore, if it generally is something that is not commonly eaten with bread[36] or is not regarded as a delicacy,[37] it also does not fall into the category of food cooked by a non-Jew. However, this too, is dependant on time and locality and on how the food is commonly served by most people. This being the case, food fit for a royal table is not a clearly defined category and there are many opinions at variance with each other. It all depends on the time and the locality.

To give just one example; Potatoes were first introduced into Europe towards the end of the eighteenth century. At first, they were considered to be animal fodder, unfit for human consumption.[38] Later, because they are very nutritious, hardy and easy to grow even under the harshest conditions, they were found to be of vital importance and became a life-saving staple for many people. During this period, potatoes were regarded as the food of the poor; something eaten out of poverty and desperation. Gradually, the consumption of potatoes became more and more accepted and popularized, until finally today, potatoes are also served on the tables of royalty.

Therefore, in our time, most opinions agree that potatoes are food fit for a royal table and that we may not eat them if they are cooked by non-Jews. However, because the culinary habits of the masses were in flux and transition during the nineteenth century, we find conflicting opinions in the rabbinic writings of that era regarding potatoes; some stated that they are food fit for a royal table,[39] while others stated that they are not.[40] If you have questions about which foods should be regarded as fit for a royal table and which should not, inquire of your rabbi for his opinion.

[1] שו”ע יו”ד קיג:א.

[2] רש”י גמ’ ע”ז לח:א.

[3] תוס’ גמ’ ע”ז לח:א, ערוה”ש יו”ד קיג:ב.

[4] ערוה”ש יו”ד קיג:ב.

[5] שו”ע קיב:ב ורמ”א שם.

[6] שו”ע יו”ד קיב:ב.

[7] שו”ע יו”ד קיב:ה.

[8] רמ”א יו”ד קיב:ב.

[9] היינו צורך חיי נפש.

[10] וכלשון הש”ך ביו”ד קיב:ו, דעל הפת יחיה האדם.

[11] שו”ע יו”ד קיג:א.

[12]  ט”ז קיג:ג, ש”ך יו”ד קיג:ז.

[13] שו”ע יו”ד שם.

[14] פמ”ג יו”ד קיג מש”ז ג.

[15] ערוה”ש יו”ד קיג:כד, דרכ”ת יו”ד קיג:טז.

[16] דרכ”ת יו”ד קיג:טז, תשובות והנהגות ג:רמז.

[17] מנחת יצחק ג:כו, שבט הקהתי ה:קלה.

[18] שו”ע קיג:יג ורמ”א שם.

[19] שו”ע יו”ד קיג:ו

[20] שו”ע יו”ד קיג:ו וקיג:ז.

[21] רמ”א יו”ד קיג:ז.

[22] רמ”א יו”ד שם.

[23] רמ”א יו”ד קיג שם, וכן נהוג אע”פ שערוה’ש יו”ד קיג:א ודרכ”ת קיג:נא כתבו שזה דוקא רק בשעת הדחק וכאשר העכו”ם מבשל בבית הישראל.

[24] שו”ע יו”ד קיג:ו וקיג:ז.

[25] שו”ת מנחת יצחק ז:ב, שו”ת יחו”ד ה:נד.

[26] ערוה”ש יו”ד קיג.

[27] שו”ע יו”ד קיג:א.

[28] ש”ך יו”ד קיג:א.

[29] חכמ”א סו:ד.

[30] חכמ”א שם, וראה ערוה”ש יו”ד קיג.

[31] שו”ע יו”ד קיג:ב.

[32] שו”ע יו”ד שם.

[33] ערוה”ש יו”ד קיג:יד.

[34] דרכ”ת יו”ד קיג:כ, ערוה”ש יו”ד קיג:יט.

[35] שו”ע יו”ד קיג:א.

[36] שו”ע יו”ד שם.

[37] שו”ע יו”ד שם.

[38] ולכן אבי זקני כ”ק אדמו”ר הגאון האלקי מהרמ”ם מרימנוב פסק שברכתו שהכל.

[39] חכמ”א סו:ד.

[40] ערוה”ש יו”ד קיג:יח.

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