Halacha for Wednesday 22 Sivan 5781 June 2 2021

Restaurants which Employ Non-Jewish Cooks

Today’s Halacha is dedicated to the memories of the three young men kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in sanctification of Hashem’s name on this day in the year 5774 (2014). May Hashem avenge the blood of Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devora, Gilad Michael ben Bat-Galim, and Eyal ben Iris Teshura and may their souls be bound up in the bond of the living. May we merit witnessing the Ultimate Redemption and the Resurrection of the Dead, speedily and in our days, Amen!

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Question: In previous Halachot we have discussed that one may not consume food cooked by a non-Jew. Based on this it would seem that it should be forbidden to eat in any restaurant where non-Jewish cooks are employed. If so, why do many of these restaurants bear Kashrut certification?

Answer: Many kosher restaurants have the practice that a Jew ignites the flame in the restaurant’s kitchen in the morning and the non-Jewish cooks place food on the fire during the course of the day. The question is whether or not the prohibition of food cooked by a non-Jew applies in this situation.

This is indeed subject to a disagreement among the Rishonim: Some say that as long as the Jew ignites the fire, even if a non-Jew places the food on top of the stove, this does not constitute the prohibition of food cooked by a non-Jew. The Ra’avan, Mordechi, Rabbeinu Peretz, and Terumat Ha’Deshen rule accordingly. The Rama in his notation on Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 113) rules likewise.

On the other hand, the Ran, Rashba, Rivash, Rabbeinu Yonah, and the majority of the Rishonim are of the opinion that a Jew’s igniting of the fire does not remove the prohibition of foods cooked by a non-Jew (as opposed to the laws of bread baked by a non-Jew, which we shall not discuss at length at this point). Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rules likewise.

Based on this, according to the Rama, whose rulings are followed by Ashkenazi Jewry, as long as a Jew has ignited the flame, the prohibition of foods cooked by a non-Jew no longer applies. However, according to the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, premier halachic authority of Sephardic Jews, this prohibition is in effect until a Jew places the food on the fire.

Because of this, the Kashrut agencies of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Badatz Eidah Ha’Charedit had not required a Jew to place the food on the fire, for they do not follow the stringency of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch in this matter. A Jew merely igniting the flame is sufficient for them.

Only later when the Sephardic Jews became more aware of this issue did they begin requesting that a Jew place the food on the fire or in the oven, in accordance with the opinion of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch. Nevertheless, many establishments are still not careful about this issue. The question becomes: When this is the case, is there any room to allow a Sephardic individual to eat in such establishments.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l discusses this issue in several of his works and rules that when the restaurant is under Jewish ownership and a Jew ignites the flame in the kitchen in the morning, there is room for leniency even according to Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch.

This is because several Poskim maintain that when a non-Jew cooks in a Jew’s home, the prohibition of foods cooked by a non-Jew does not apply, for when the cooking is being done in a Jew’s home (especially if the non-Jew is a hired worker), there is no concern for the non-Jew feeding the Jew non-kosher items or for intermarriage. Although the Halacha does not follow this view, nevertheless, when these two conditions are combined, i.e. a Jew ignites the flame and when the non-Jew places the food on the fire, this is being done in a Jewish establishment when he is a paid worker, there is room for leniency to eat the foods cooked by a non-Jew in such a case. (See Halichot Olam, Volume 7, page 120)

Nevertheless, a Sephardic Jew may not eat in a non-Jewish-owned (kosher) restaurant even if a Jew ignites the flame in the morning, for according to Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, the prohibition of foods cooked by a non-Jew applies here. There is only room for leniency according to Maran’s opinion in a Jewish establishment, as we have explained.

Summary: There is room for leniency even for Sephardic individuals to eat in a Jewish-owned restaurant where a Jew ignites the flame in the morning and a non-Jew places food on the fire during the course of the day.

It is nevertheless preferable that the Mashgiach (Kashrut supervisor) of the restaurant place the food on the fire himself. Indeed, the Chacham Tzvi once exclaimed that if only we (Ashkenazim) would follow the few stringencies quoted by Maran Bet Yosef, for they are far more precious than all of the stringencies adopted by Ashkenazim.

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