Question: May a respected person (“adam chashuv”) eat foods that were cooked by an akum where the food is edible when eaten raw?
Short Answer: Many poskim are strict on this issue, but the OU appears to rely on the lenient poskim, including the Aruch HaShulchan.
I. Bishul Akum Criteria
The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 38a) states that there is no prohibition of bishul akum if either of the following two criteria exist: (i) the food is edible when eaten raw, or (ii) the food is not eaten on “shulchan m’lachim” (a king’s table). While the Ramban (cited in the Beis Yosef 113a) codifies only the first criterion, the other Rishonim understand the Gemara as explained above – that where either one of these criteria exist, there is no bishul akum prohibition.
The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 113:1) codifies these two criteria like most Rishonim; in other words, where either one of these criteria exist, there is no bishul akum prohibition. [As an aside, the Shach (113:1) lists a third criterion: that bishul akum does not apply where the food is not “changed” by the cooking process. However, he notes that most poskim do not adopt this criterion].
II. The Reasoning
The Taz (1) explains the reason for these leniencies. Since a food that is eaten raw or not served on a king’s table is not a “chashuv” (fancy) food, it will not lead to intermarriage, the principal concern behind the prohibition of bishul akum (see Article #1). Interestingly, the sefer Reishis Darko (p. 37) posits that Rashi (Beitzah 16a) disagrees with the Taz’s reason, as he explains that it is permitted because the cooking is not considered “cooking” where the food can be eaten raw. The sefer Avodah B’rurah (Avodah Zarah p.95) suggests a possible ramification: whether a person violates a d’Oraisa prohibition by cooking such an item on Shabbos. Indeed, the Rambam (Shabbos 9:3), according to the Merkeves HaMishnah, writes that you do not violate a d’Oraisa prohibition in such a situation. This presumably is like Rashi: that such cooking is not “cooking.” On the other hand, the Eglei Tal explains that the Rambam holds that a d’Oraisa prohibition is violated. This is like the Taz: that this leniency is unique to the laws of bishul akum.
The Ohel Yaakov (113:15) cites the sefer Chelkas Binyamin, who adds that even according to the other reason for bishul akum – that the akum will add non-kosher food to the dish – such reasoning does not apply with foods that are eaten raw or not served at a king’s table. Since such a food is not fancy, it will not cause friendship and invites between the Jew and akum, and thus will not increase the odds that the akum will add non-kosher food to future dishes. We are not concerned that the akum added non-kosher food in this isolated dish.
III. Adam Chashuv – Respected Person
The Gemara (Shabbos 51a) recounts a story with Rav Nachman who asked his servant to bring him water heated by an akum. When Rav Ami heard this, he got upset. Rav Yosef defended Rav Nachman by claiming that Rav Nachman was simply following the leniency of Rav, who allowed bishul akum on foods that could be eaten raw. The Gemara, however, then explains the reasoning of Rav Ami, who was upset with this reasoning. Since Rav Nachman was an “adam chashuv” – a respected person – he should have been extra strict and not eaten any foods that had bishul akum, even if the food or drink could be consumed raw. Rashi explains that an adam chashuv must be extra scrupulous, lest the uneducated populace come to be more lenient than permitted.
The Bach (113) notes that both the Rosh and the Rif codify this stringency for an adam chashuv. Accordingly, the Bach himself rules that there is bishul akum for an adam chashuv even on foods that could be consumed raw. He wonders why the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch make no mention of such a stringency.
The Shach (Yoreh Dei’ah 152:2) likewise rules stringently for an adam chashuv. He suggests that the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch make no mention of this stringency because it is blatantly obvious that an adam chashuv must conduct himself above the strict letter of the law.
On the other hand, the Dagul MeiR’vavah (113:1) disagrees with this Shach. Since Rav Nachman acted leniently in the Gemara by asking his servant to ask an akum to heat him up water, clearly we may be lenient, as well. That is the point of the Gemara telling the story.
Moreover, the Aruch HaShulchan (113:11) rules leniently, based on the majority opinion of the Gemara where Rav Yosef defended Rav Nachman in the Gemara against Rav Ami’s criticism. Moreover, the Aruch HaShulchan cites another Gemara (Moed Katan 12b) where an Amora drank water heated by an akum. Finally, the Aruch HaShulchan notes that nowadays we are not ignorant of these laws and thus no one will come to be lax in bishul akum by observing an adam chashuv drinking water heated by an akum.
IV. Practically Speaking
The Sheivet HaLevi (6:108:3) adopts the strict opinion and rules that an adam chashuv should be machmir like the Shach. The Reishis Darko (ibid) suggests that Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlita (Orchos HaBayis 8:14:41) also adopts the strict opinion, as he cites the Shach in his footnote. [However, this author is not so sure that Rav Sternbuch is machmir, as he adds that “this is against the words of the Dagul MeiR’vavah”].
Moreover, the sefer Reishis Darko (ibid) cites the sefer Otzar Hilchos Bishulei Akum, who cites the Taz (Orach Chayim 72:1) that every person should consider himself an “adam chashuv” for any law that an adam chashuv should be strict with. See also Beis Vaad L’Chachamim Journal, No. 6, 5771, p. 303) who cites Acharonim who interpret adam chashuv very broadly. The Reishis Darko himself is unsure if this rule applies to bishul akum, where the entire halachah is based on a fear that others will learn from his actions.
However, the OU, in a 2004 article by “OU Kosher Staff” on its website, simply states that “[f]ood that can be eaten in a raw state is not prohibited when cooked by a non-Jew. Since the food is edible without preparation, the consumer feels minimal appreciation to the chef, and eating the food does not engender socialization.” Only in a footnote does it state that “[s]ome are of the opinion that a person of stature should preferably refrain from eating bishul akum even when the food is edible in a raw state” and cites the Shach and the Sheivet HaLevi. It adds that the Aruch HaShulchan “quotes many poskim who reject this view.” See https://oukosher.org/blog/consumer-kosher/playing-with-fire/.
Next Week’s Topic: Does a person violate bishul akum on a food that he eats raw, but the general population does not normally eat raw?