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Is a non-Jewish housekeeper permitted to turn on our oven or stove?

Is a non-Jewish housekeeper permitted to turn on our oven or stove?

E-mail

You are correct that certain food cooked entirely by a non-Jew may not be eaten by a Jew.

Here are a few paragraphs from the Chabad.org Kosher Handbook:

Certain foods which were completely cooked by a non-Jew (bishul akum) may not be eaten, even if the foods are kosher and are cooked in kosher utensils.

Foods that generally come under the category of bishul akum are: 1) Foods that cannot be eaten raw, such as meat or grains. (This excludes foods that can be eaten either cooked or raw, such as apples or carrots.) 2) Foods that are considered important, "fit to set upon a king's table." There are various opinions regarding what are considered "royal foods."

If a Jew has supervised and assisted in the cooking of these foods, such as by lighting the fire of the oven or stirring the food, such food is considered bishul Yisrael and is permitted.

These laws affect many commercially prepared foods. Some supervising services write the words bishul Yisrael on their hechsher (Kosher certification). These laws must also be kept in mind when enlisting the help of a non-Jewish housekeeper or cook."

The key is not so much that a non-Jew may not light the fire as that a Jew must light the fire or otherwise participate in the cooking in a meaningful way in order to render the food kosher.

If a non-Jew cooked the food alone, without Jewish participation, the food as well as the utensils are not kosher and the utensils must be koshered.

Important Note: The above follows the accepted custom of Ashkenazi Jewry relying on the ruling of the Rama1 who contends that symbolic participation in the cooking process such as lighting or adding to the fire is sufficient to render the food permissible.

On the other hand, Sephardim follow the ruling of the Beit Yosef2 who maintains that in the case of cooked foods a Jew must actually place the food on the fire.

I hope that I've been helpful today.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner

FOOTNOTES
1.

Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh De'ah 113:7.

2.

Ibid.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org. He lives with his family in Montreal, QC.
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Discussion (5)
April 30, 2013
To Annonymous
As I see it, the problem with your first line of reasoning is that once we start rationalizing exceptions, everyone would start claiming exemption, saying that they would not be tempted. For this reason, the halachah applies to all Jews, regardless of personal circumstances.
Menachem Posner
April 30, 2013
I see this in two ways.
1. If the rule was created in order to avoid the mixing of jews with non-jews, thus preventing intermarriage, then the "non-jewish health aid" should be ok to cook for an elderly jew. Afterall, the likelihood of such a couple deciding to marry should be quite remote.
2. If the jew can participate even in a small amount so that the food is considered Kosher, then the mixing of gentiles with jews is already taking place. The original reason for the rule would then fail because cooking together brings a feeling of closeness which could lead to romance and a desire to marry.

What is the rabbi's opinion on this?
Anonymous
August 30, 2011
Participating in cooking
What if you defrost, marinate, and prepare the chicken, but are not home to turn on oven, but you have participated in preparing the food except for turning on oven.....does that keep it kosher??
Anonymous
Miami Beach
May 17, 2011
Non Jewish housekeeper
What about if a Jew is to ill to even place the food on the fire and has no other assistance but from a non Jew?
Mrs. Mimi Ekeremor
November 22, 2010
Bishul Akum
What do you do in the case of an elderly person who has a non jewish health aid? What do you do about the non jewish aid doing the cooking?
Anonymous
Flushing, NY