Halacha Date: 15 Sivan 5781 May 26 2021
Question: We currently employ non-Jewish help in our home. She helps with things around the house including cooking our food. All of the ingredients which enter the house are kosher and we supervise her while she is cooking, such that there is no Kashrut concern with the food. May we eat the food she prepares?
Answer: Our Sages decreed that a Jew may not eat foods cooked by a non-Jew.
The Reason for the Prohibition to Eat Foods Cooked by a Non-Jew
There are two reasons for the why our Sages decreed that a Jew may not eat food cooked by a non-Jew: The first is since a Jew may not marry a non-Jew, if Jews are accustomed to eating with non-Jews and mingling with them, this may cause intermarriage between them.
The second reason is because our Sages were concerned that the non-Jew may place non-kosher ingredients in the food and feed it to the Jew.
Thus, it is absolutely forbidden to eat foods that were cooked by a non-Jew.
The Status of Vessels that a Non-Jew Cooked Food In
We have already discussed in the laws of Pesach and the laws of milk and meat that any vessel which had any kind of food cooked in it absorbs some of the flavor of the food into the walls of the vessel as a result of the heat during the cooking. It is for this reason that we designate different sets of dishes for milk and meat as well as for Pesach and the rest of the year.
The same applies to food cooked by a non-Jew that not only is it forbidden to eat from the food cooked by the non-Jew, but the status of such food is like other forbidden foods such as non-kosher meat, milk and meat, and the like which prohibit the vessel they were cooked in since the walls of the vessel absorb some of the flavor of the forbidden food cooked in it.
Thus, if a non-Jew cooks food in a Jew’s vessels, not only are the foods prohibited for consumption, but the vessels may not be used anymore without first koshering them by immersing them in a pot of boiling water on the fire (“Hag’ala”). (Although earthenware vessels cannot be koshered through Hag’ala according to Halacha, nevertheless, regarding the prohibition of food cooked by a non-Jew, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that one may be lenient and kasher it by immersing it in boiling water on the flame three times. See Halichot Olam, Volume 7, pages 97 & 104.)
When Maran zt”l served as head of the rabbinical court in Cairo, there was an Arab maid who would help the Rabbanit with chores around the house. This maid once prepared herself an omelet using a frying pan belonging to Maran’s family. Maran zt”l instructed his wife to immerse the pan in boiling water in a pot on the fire in the presence of this maid in order for her to realize that she should not do this again in the future. (When Maran zt”l and his family left Cairo, this maid stood and wept bitterly for she was distressed about parting with the rabbi’s wife and because of her loss of the great merit to be a helping-hand to the wife of the holy sage.)
There are, however, instances where it will be permissible to eat food cooked by a non-Jew which we will, G-d-willing, discuss in following Halachot.