Q: We hired a Philippine care giver to live with my mother, who is barely mobile. Until now, others have cooked most of her food. Can the care giver now cook or at least reheat the food?
A: We hope that the care giver will give your mother the help she needs. Most Philippine care givers are kind and cooperative about following the home's rules, including kashrut. It is best for all when the rules avoid creating undue pressure, and a good relation- ship is crucial for the welfare of an infirmed dear one. On the other hand, halacha requires precautions and not relying on general impressions. Some- times more restrictive rules that are simpler to follow work better than following more complex leniencies, which can cause mistakes and the tensions that come with subsequent scrutinizing and perceived recriminations. While we hope to find a golden mean for your situation, there is room for adjustments and further allowances if the situation warrants them.
The basic rules of bishul akum (cooking done by a non-Jew) can be said in a sentence. A non-Jew may not cook food that is not eaten raw, turning it into first-class food, without a Jew's involvement in the process. Let's deal very briefly with each component.
Cooking - Smoking food is permitted (Shulchan Aruch, YD 113:13). Poskim discuss if microwaving is permitted. While few permit it, it can be a mitigating factor (see Yabia Omer V, YD 9).
Not eaten raw - If a non-Jew cooks food that is sometimes eaten raw, even if it is usually cooked, the food is permitted (ibid.:1). A non-Jew may reheat food that a Jew already rendered edible. Not only are boiled milk and water permitted for this reason, but so are coffee and tea, whose principle ingredient is water (YechaveDa'at IV:42). Carrots are another classic example.
First-class food - Only food that nobility would serve is included in the prohibition (Shulchan Aruch, ibid.). This subjective criterion likely excludes farina, oatmeal, french-fries and more.
The latter categories are society based; many cases are borderline or based on machloket. Thus, we gave few details and warn about over-use. The next category enables developing a reliable plan.
Involvement of a Jew - Regarding the related prohibition of bread baked by a non-Jew, the gemara (Avoda Zara 38b) says that it is sufficient for a Jew to light the oven's fire. Shulchan Aruch (ibid.: 7) and Sefardic practice, regarding the more stringent laws of bishul akum, require a Jew to put the food on the fire (or light the fire after the food was put there) or stir the food as it cooks. The Rama (ad loc.) and Ashkenazic practice say that a Jew may light a flame, even at the beginning of the day, and have the non-Jew do all of the actual cooking. Furthermore, the Rama suggests having a Jew light the flame used to light the stove. Some apply this leniency to ovens with pilot lights. We can also use it to have a Jew light a "yahrtzeit candle" to light (the match that lights) a gas stove. The Aruch HaShulchan (113:44) says that one should rely on this last opinion only in a case of acute need and in the home of a Jew, but both lenient factors are present here. The significance of it being in a Jewish house is two-fold. Firstly, it is likely that a Jew will do some stirring (Rama 113:4) and also there is an opinion (Tosafot Avoda Zara 37a) that bishul akum applies only to cooking in a non-Jew's house. Although we do not accept that opinion independently, poskim sometimes use it as a supporting leniency, especially if the one cooking is a hired worker (see Shach 113:7). (Yechave Da'at V, 54 uses that leniency as support regarding Sefardim relying on a Jew lighting the fire in a Jewish-owned restaurant). A Jew would have to turn on electrical appliances.
Due to a few kashrut considerations, it is best that the caregiver brings home only kosher food. For cooking, there are two preferable systems. If your mother can be in or around the kitchen, she can supervise its proper use (especially milk-meat) and light the fire. If she rarely gets out of bed, it is best if the food is cooked by a Jew, when one is around. If the care giver demands freedom to cook for herself, she should have her own clearly marked utensils, which she must clean separately.
Ask the Rabbi Q&A is part of Hemdat Yamim, the
weekly parsha sheet published by Eretz Hemdah. You can read this section or
the entire Hemdat Yamim at www.ou.org or
And/or you can receive Hemdat Yamim by email weekly, by sending an email to
email@example.com with the
message: Subscribe/English (for the English version) or Subscribe/Hebrew
(for the hebrew version). Please leave the subject blank. Ask the Vebbe
Rebbe is partially funded by the Jewish Agency for Israel
Ramban asks: How does one make garments that satisfy the imperative of "lekhavod ul-tif'eret"? He answers that we copy the sartorial style of kings, especially the kings of Persia.
We know a Persian king, Achashverosh. He threw a party: "He made a feast... He showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and yakar tif'eret gedulato - his excellent majesty" (Esther 1:3-5). We translate tif'eret here as "majesty". Still, what at the party showed majesty?
Regarding tif'eret gedulato, Rabbi Yose the son of Hanina said: "This teaches that he wore priestly garments" (Megila 12a). "Tif'eret" alludes to "priestly garments" based on the words "lekhavod ul-tif'eret" found in our parsha.
So, what can this mean? In Ramban, Persia's kings suggest the design for the priests' sacral clothing; in our oral tradition, a Persian king puts on the priestly garments as a special honor for himself.
The Torah states clearly that there must be a High Priest. Not so a king. "Kingship" can be assimilated to the High Priest who will exercise a combined authority described by the term "Eved Hashem - God's servant".
In practice, only Moshe succeeded in combining the two roles. From Moshe, religious authority passed to the priests; kingship went on to have a complicated subsequent history.
Achashverosh would not have desired the priestly
dress for its faux Persian style. The sacral dress suggested to him instead
the unique role of God's servant, of political and religious leadership
combined. He coveted this double-leadership. For that glory, he dressed
himself in priestly garb.
TORAH THOUGHTS as contributed by Aloh Naaleh
members for publication in the Orthodox Union's 'Torah Insights', a weekly
Torah publication on Parshat Ha'Shavuah
Indeed, the priestly garments were the only dress allowed to be worn when kohanim performed the Service. These garments were to be made of materials that were the property of the nation and that had been specifically contributed by the people for the Temple service. This symbolized the overriding concept that the kohanim were representatives of the people.
The breastplate worn by the Kohen Gadol, which bore the names of the twelve tribes on individualized precious stones, also served the nation through the luminous letters that lit up in response to questions of national import. "Urim " denotes that light while "Tumim" indicates the completeness or truth of the responses to the question.
The Vilna Gaon asserted that the lit-up letters
could be misread as when the Kohen Gadol in Shilo misinterpreted Chana's
behavior as SH-I-K-O-R-A (drunk) instead of K-E-SH-E-R-A (worthy woman) (cf.
Samuel Alef 1:13). Clearly, representing the national interest is not only a
matter of asking the right questions: it is also a matter of possessing the
Divine Spirit to recognize the correct answers.