In the previous article, we discussed who is included in Chazal’s ban on food cooked by a non-Jew (bishul akum), and we determined that the Mechaber and the Rama disagree in this regard. According to the Mechaber, domestic help is included in the ban, but the Rama feels that one can be lenient. Based on this, we questioned whether or not it is permitted to eat in restaurants or hotels with non-Jewish cooks.

The Mechaber and the Rama differ as to whether or not having a Jew light the oven solves the problem of bishul akum. According to the Mechaber (Yoreh Deah 113:7), even though lighting the oven for non-Jewish bread (pat akum) is effective, this solution is not relevant for bishul akum. However, the Rama disagrees with the Mechaber and states: “There are those that differ who deem that lighting the fire or stirring the coals applies to bishul akum and pat akum equally, and such is the custom. Even stirring the coals unintentionally is effective. There are those who opine that it is sufficient for the maid to kindle the fire from the flame of a Jew, even if the Jew neither stirred nor added woodchips (Orach Hachaim ibid, based on the Maharam).” Thus, Oriental Jews (Bnei Edot HaMizrach) are required to act with stringency and to refrain from eating in restaurants or hotels where no Jew was an active participant in the cooking process, and, in fact, some of the major poskim of the Edot HaMizrach ruled this way.
Nevertheless, the Gaon Rav Ovadiah Yosef shlita, in Yechaveh Daat 5:54, defended those who act with leniency and wrote the following in his conclusion: “Sephardim and Bnei Edot HaMizrach also have a basis for lodging and eating in kosher hotels and restaurants, under the supervision of the local rabbinate, even if the chef is a non-Jew, as long as the Jewish kashrut supervisor (mashgiach) personally lights the flames of the cooking and baking ovens. (If the fire should go out, a Jew must be the one to rekindle the flames.) And one who is stringent with himself will be blessed.” However, in contrast to this leniency, the Gaon Rav Mordechai Eliyahu shlita rules stringently and strictly according to the words of the Mechaber. Of course, for Ashkenazim, who follow the Rama, there is no problem in eating in these establishments.

Regarding bishul akum in factories, the Chida in Barchei Yosef (Yoreh Deah) cites a responsum of the Maharit Tzaha
lon which is based on the Roeh, a major Rishon, and writes: “And in addition, the baker bakes in a house that is specifically designated for [baking] and does not intend to cook either for himself or for any other specific person, rather for his trade alone. Since he was hired to bake and cook for anyone who comes to the designated house, where people neither eat nor drink and which is a public domain, open to everyone, it can be said this is not considered to be bishul akum, because the fear of social interaction is not relevant here. And even more so, with respect to pat akum, concerning which [the poskim] were more lenient.” Nonetheless, the Chida did not accept the Maharit Tzahalon’s opinion, and the Baal Shevet HaLevi wrote (in Section II): “There are those that do not regard cooking in factories as bishul akum, because there is no concern that it will lead to intermarriage. However, the Gedolim, including the Gaon of Israel, the Chazon Ish zt”l, were stringent in this respect.” Similarly, the Minchat Chinuch (3:26) also ruled stringently. However, he added that if the food was smoked, the two leniencies may be added together to permit the food.

Clearly, this discussion is particularly relevant for canned goods, such as tuna and other preserved foods that are “not served on the king’s table” (“einam olim al shulchan melachim”), an expression that will be defined later. Is it necessary that these foods be cooked by Jews (bishul Yisrael) or is it sufficient that a mashgiach be available to ensure that the workers do not introduce non-kosher food and to light the ovens? Most Ashkenazi poskim are lenient in this regard and suffice with regular supervision. In addition, there are poskim of the Edot HaMizrach that are similarly lenient, such as the Baal Ateret Paz, who writes (in Section I, Volume II): “And if so, here too it can be said about our topic, namely non-Jewish factories, that concerns are unwarranted, both for intermarriage with the shopkeeper, as explained by the Maharit Tzahalon, and lest [the non-Jew] feed [the Jew] something non-kosher, because they are supervised by a mashgiach.”

However, other poskim of the Edot HaMizrach, such as the Gaon Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, were very meticulous about bishul Yisrael. For that reason, the words “bishul Yisrael” are printed on some tunafish cans.

IY”H, in the next article, we will discuss which foods are included in the ban on bishul akum.