Lo Basi Ella L’orer: Bishul Akum

Questions of bishul akum surface all the time, and it is important when reviewing products and ingredients to be mindful of the issues of bishul akum. The following are some recent issues that have been discussed in the office relating to bishul akum.

There are several leniencies mentioned in the Gemara (Avoda Zarah 38a) relating to bishul akum:

  1. Cooked by a Yisroel to מאכל בן דרוסאי or cooked by a non-Jew to less than מאכל בן דרוסאי
  2. A food which is אינו עולה על שולחן מלכים
  3. A food which is נאכל כמו שהוא חי

Common examples of foods that must be bishul yisroel include Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Squash, Pumpkin, Eggplant, Portobello mushrooms, Pasta, Rice, Eggs, Fish and Meat.

מאכל בן דרוסאי

It is important to note that although an ingredient may be certified kosher, it may still pose a future bishul akum concern. Foods cooked less than מאכל בן דרוסאי (1/3 cooked) are not yet considered edible, and do not become bishul akum. If the ingredient is cooked further then the item can still become bishul akum. Therefore, when accepting an ingredient, it is important to find out whether the item is considered cooked and was made bishul Yisroel, or whether it is still considered raw and bishul akum was not yet dealt with. As an example, when accepting blanched potatoes (squash/pumpkin/sweet potatoes…) one must find out whether the potatoes are considered raw or cooked. If they are considered cooked, find out how they dealt with bishul akum. This is especially important when dealing with other hashgachos that may have different standards for bishul akum.

אינו עולה על שולחן מלכים

The Rambam (Machalas Assuros 17:15) explains that since the laws of bishul akum were instituted as a safeguard against intermarriage, Chazal only forbade those foods that would be served at an invitational event (banquet), since these are the types of meals that lead towards intermarriage. Therefore, the Rambam concludes that תורמוסין (lupine beans) are not an issue of bishul akum since they are not עולה על שולחן מלכים. Rav Belsky has said that he believes this still to be true for beans in general. Although one may find beans added to a variety of fancy dishes, in general beans by themselves lack the חשיבות to be עולה על שולחן מלכים.

Chickpeas

We do not consider chickpeas in America to be עולה על שולחן מלכים, however in Middle Eastern countries chickpeas and hummus should be bishul Yisroel.

Chestnuts

Should be bishul Yisroel

Imitation foods

Seitan is wheat gluten that is formed into dough, and then boiled until it reaches a consistency similar to that of meat. It is flavored and served as a meat substitute and it can be made into very fancy looking dishes. If the king would be a vegetarian, this is what he’d eat. Is Seitan considered to be עולה על שולחן מלכים?

Rabbi Belsky said that generally speaking, foods that are imitations are not chashuv and cannot be considered עולה על שולחן מלכים. Although these foods may be healthier, they are still not as tasty as the originals that they are trying to imitate. They are only served for health or monetary considerations. Ain anyus b’makom ashirus. Since imitation foods are inherently not chashuv, they are not an issue of bishul akum.

נאכל כמו שהוא חי

Rav Belsky explains that an item which is good to eat raw, even if it is the derech to be cooked, is not subject to bishul akum. Therefore cooked corn need not be bishul Yisroel, since raw corn is also very tasty.

Mishna Berurah (203:11) says that an item which is not eaten raw by itself, but is commonly eaten raw together with another food is also considered נאכל כמו שהוא חי. Therefore, although raw ginger is not eaten plain, since it is eaten with sugar it is exempt from bishul akum. Similarly, cranberries although not eaten raw by themselves, since they are eaten together with sugar in the form of “craisins”, are exempt from bishul akum.

When there is an issue of bishul akum the Mashgiach must light the boiler. There must be a system for knowing that the boiler will not cool down to below 180 F and be turned back on by a non-Jew.

In Summary:

  • Once must keep in mind which foods are subject to bishul akum
  • One must verify whether a bishul akum sensitive ingredient was already cooked by a Yisrael to מאכל בן דרוסאי or whether it is still subject to bishul akum
  • Beans, and imitation foods are not subject to bishul akum
  • Foods which are tasty raw even though they are usually cooked are not subject to bishul akum
  • Foods which are eaten raw together with other ingredients are not subject to bishul akum