Beit Midrash

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  • The Laws of Kashrut
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Keeping Kosher - Eating Out


Rabbi David Sperling

I have been asked to write about eating in non-kosher restaurants. Before turning to that question, it should be quite plain that if the possibility to eat in a kosher restaurant exists, one should not eat in a non-kosher establishment. Only where there is a goodneed - such as being in a place with no kosher restaurants, or having to eat at(non-religious) family outings, or for importantbusiness meetings etc. does the question arise.

Having said that, we need to examine the following questions:

1. mar'it ayin

2. bishul akum

3. non-kosher pots and pans

4. tea and coffee

5. cold foods

6. vegetarian restaurants.

Mar'it Ayin: .8

Mar'it Ayin is a rabbinic prohibition against doing things that appear to be breaking halacha. The reason for the prohibition is because someone seeing you may assume that you are doing somethings forbidden, and a person needs to satisfy religious society's expectations of them,

just as they need to satisfy G-d's expectations (Mishnah Shekalim, Chap. 3, 2). Some also explain the reason is so others will not mistakenly assume that the act is permitted - "if she is doing it, it must be o.k." We could also add that if the person is well known as an observant Jew, there is an element of chillul Hashem, desecration of G-d's Name, by doing something that looks forbidden.

The mishnah (Shabbat 146b) states that someone whose clothes have become wet (from falling in the water), is allowed to walk in them on Shabbat without fear, however when they get to their courtyard, they lay them out in the sun, not in the public eye, lest people suspect that he laundered them on Shabbat.The gemara then saysthat this mishnah is the opinion of R. Eliezer, but that R. Shimon holds that mar'it ayin is forbidden even in private, and it is thus forbidden to hang out wet clothes even away from public view. Even though the reasons for mar'it ayin do not applie when nobody can see what is being done, R. Shimon forbids it, perhaps lest one come to do the same thing in public. This is in fact the halacha (see Shulchan Aruch Orech Hiam 301:45). The Mishnah Berura (165) quotes Tosfot ( Ketubot 60a ) who irons out several apparent contradictions in the gemara, by ruling that if the Mar'it Ayin is one where one is wrongly being suspect of doing something forbidden by the Torah (like laundry on Shabbat), then it is forbidden even in private. However, if one is being suspected of breaking a rabbinic law, he may do it in total privacy. This is the way we rule today - mar'it ayin of a suspected de'orayta is forbidden even in private, whereas mar'it ayin of a suspected d'rabanan is forbidden only in public, but permitted in private.

The question then arises, can one eat totaly kosher food in a non-kosher restaurant?Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, in Iggrot Moshe (Orach Hiam Vol. 2, 40) writes that because they serve unkosher food,

"even to go in there in order to eat food that is certainly kosher is forbidden because of mar'it ayin. However, if he is extremely famished, to the extent that it causes him severe discomfort, and there

is nowhere else to eat, he may go there to eat kosher food, on the condition that this is done in private, because in cases of severe discomfort or monetary loss, the rabbis did not enact their decrees (see Ketubot p.60). {How can one eat in the restaurant in private?}

There must be no-one outside the restaurant who knows him. Because concerning thos inside the restaurant {there is no need to worry, asthey} can see that he is eating only kosher food. If there are those outside who know him, he needs to inform them that he is in severe discomfort and that is why he is going in to eat kosher food. But if he is not in severe discomfort, there is no permission to eat there."

It is not clear why Rav Feinstein rules that one can only eat "in private", that is in such a way that no-one thinks he is sinning. We have already seen that both mar'it ayin in public and in private are rabbinic laws, and if so, why doesn't the rule that the rabbis did not enact their decrees in cases of severe discomfort apply even to public mar'it ayin? Perhaps it is because public mar'it ayin also involves an element of chillul Hashem, which is a Torah prohibition, and hence, discomfort is not enough to allow the act in question.

In any case, Rav Feinstein rules that there is a problem of mar'it ayin in a non-kosher restaurant, which can only be overcome in case of great need - it would seem that severe hunger is only one example, and that one could imagine other severe circumstances.

I heard from Rav Y.H. Henkin, shlitah, that even according to the opinion of Rav Feinstein, one could enter a non-kosher restaurant to use the bathroom.

A different approach is taken by Rav Ovadiah Yosef, shlitah. I have seen quoted in his name that mar'it ayin is limited to those specific situations that were decreed by Chazal, and no others, therefore

enabling one to enter a non-kosher restaurant.This is similar to his ruling (Yechave Da'at Vol. 4, 50) about erasing tape recordings of G-d's Name, where he writes that mar'it ayin does not apply for several different reasons, then adds: "And all the more so according to the opinion of the Pri Chadash

(Yoreh De'ah 87:7) who holds that we can not forbid things due to mar'it ayin based on our own assumptions, for we have only the clear ases ruled upon in the Talmud."

This question - whether after the Talmud, we can forbid things becauseof mar'it ayin or not - is argued amongst the achronim. The Pri Chadash, as we have seen, holds that we cannot institute new

stringencies based on mar'it ayin, whereas the Pri To'ar (Yoreh De'ah 87:9) holds we can. (The Pri To'ar is supported by the factthat the Rashba -a rishon - ruled that it is forbidden to cook meat in human mothers' milk, even though this is not forbidden by the Torah or found in the Talmud, because of mar'it ayin. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 87:4) rules like this).

It would seem then, that though there are opinions which say that there is no problem of mar'it ayin in a non-kosher restaurant, one should not be overly lenient in this question. In situations of great need,

where Rav Feinstein's ruling is unrealistic and one cannot inform those outside, or perhaps the need is great, but not on the level of discomforting hunger, then the more lenient opinion can be relied upon

to enable one to eat kosher food in a non-kosher restaurant.

Bishul Akum: (Non-Jewish Cooking) .

There is a rabbinic prohibition on eating certain foods cooked by non-Jews, which is called "Bishul Akum". The gemara (Avoda Zara 38a) brings two definitions of which foods are Bishul Akum, which are ruled, together, in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah, 113:1). They are

1) cooked foods which are not eaten in their raw state

2) food which is customarily served at a king's table, to accompany the bread or as an appetizer/dessert. We rule that to be forbidden, it must both be eaten only cooked and be

served at a king's table. The reason for this rabbinic law is to decrease the chances of intermarriage through mixed dining. Unimportant food, that is, either food which can be eaten raw, or which is never to

be found on a king's table, was allowed as one is rarely invited out to eat such food.

Amongst the poskim, there exists much debate over which foods fall into the category of bishul akum. It is impossible here to give an extensive list of the opinions in regard to each food item. Suffice it to say, there are rabbis (Rav Y.E. Henkin zt"l) who define bishul akum very leniently, applying it only to extreme delicacies, and their opinion can be relied upon in times of need. However, in most cases, the types

of foods that can be eaten in non-kosher restaurants is limited in any event because of kashrut (see further) and those that are kosher are generally not in the category of bishul akum.

Let us just examine the question of tea and coffee. There are several reasons to conclude that there is no problem of bishul akum here. Firstly, one may say that they are not important enough to be considered as appropriate for a king's table (Radbaz). Some say these drinks are permitted just as beer is permitted (Yoreh De'ah 114:1). This is because even though the cooked grains in the beer are not eaten raw, and may be considered bishul akum, they are nullified in relation to the amount of water in which they are cooked and subsequently drunk. Thisconcept is further illustrated in the bracha which is recited over beer, tea and coffee - rather than being "mezonot" over the grains of barley in the beer, or "ha'adamah" on the coffee beans, "shehakol" is the bracha recited over these beverages, indicating the primary importance of the water (Tosfot).

Despite this, the Ari HaKadosh was strict and refrained from drinking coffee prepared by non-Jews, and the Chochmat Adam (66:14) also writes that anyone who has a trace of Torah in them will distance themselves from entering into a non-Jewish home to drink anything. However, the custom today is certainly to be lenient in this matter (see Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Yechave Da'at, Vol. 4, 42, who brings extensive sources to be lenient) and we hold that there is no bishul akum in tea and coffee.This nevertheless still requires a halachic examination of the dishes these beverages are cooked and served in.

3. Non-kosher Pots and Pans: 1H

The next problem the non-kosher restaurant presents is the vessels the food is cooked in. Food cooked in a non-kosher pot absorbs the taste of the non-kosher pot and causes the food to become non-kosher itself. However, this is only true if the pot has been used for non-kosher food within the last twenty-four hours. If not, even though it is rabbinically forbidden to cook in such a utensil, food which is cooked

in it, either by mistake, or by a non-Jew (without having been requested to do so by a jew), is considered perfectly kosher. Based on this rule, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 122,6), writes that one does not have to worry about the pots and pans that a non-Jew cooked in (that perhaps they had non-kosher food absorbed into them), as there is an assumption that a vessel has not been used in the last twenty-four hours ("stam k'li aino ben yomo).

There are two reasons, however, which forbid us from making use of this law. The first is that even though we can assume that the pot has not been used in the last twenty-four hours, and does not render the food t'raif, it is forbidden in the first place, lechatchilah, to cook in it. Only after the fact, bedi'eved, if it was used by accident, can we eat the food. Not only can we not cook in it, but according to the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 122,6), "it is forbidden to tell a non-Jew to cook vegetables for him {the Jew} in the non-Jew's pot". This would mean that we could not order anything cooked in a t'raif restaurant, as

that would amount to telling the non-Jew to cook the food.

Secondly, even if the food was cooked without our requesting it, for instance, in a self-serve cafeteria, where the food is cooked and then sold without ordering, there is still a problem. There are many poskim who say that the assumption that a vessel has not been used for non-kosher food in the last twenty-four hours is not applicable in a place where the utensils are in constant use. Even though there are those who argue, it seems that the halacha adheres to the strict opinion (see Yechave Da'at, Vol. 4, 42, for Rav Ovadya Yosef's sources).

4. Tea and Coffee: 1

Nonetheless, perhaps there is room to allow the drinking of tea and coffee. The hot water is generally boiled in a special kettle, used only for this purpose, which would preclude any possibility of non-kosher food being absorbed into these vessels at all.

The tea-cups may present a problem, as they may have been used withnon-Jewish milk, "chalav akum". For those who are lenient and drink chalav akum in countries that have government supervision to ensure that only cows' milk is sold as standard milk, based on the opinion of Rav Feinstein, this difficulty would be eliminated. Even those who are strict may perhaps rely on that ruling when it is only a question of a doubt - "perhaps non-Jewish milk was used in the last twenty-four hours in the cup".

In a glass or duralex cup, there is also room to be lenient, based on the opinions that glass does not absorb.

It would therefore be preferable to use a disposable cup, or a glass. But if these options are unavailable, one can drink kosher tea or coffee from a regular cup (see Yechave Da'at, ibid., and also the Nodah

Bi'Yehudah, Yoreh De'ah, 36).

5. Cold Foods: 1:

This leaves us with cold, raw foods, such as a fruit platter or plain vegetable salad. Even though the knife used to cut with, as well as the plate and cutlery are not kosher, they do not cause absorption ofany traif taste into the food, because it is all cold and clean.

"Sharp" foods, such as raw onions and garlic, do draw out any absorbed taste from the knife onto the food. There is an opinion, which we follow, that this is so even if the knife was used for non-kosher hot food more than twenty-four hours ago (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah, 96). Therefore, one should specifically order a salad with no onions � or else eat everything but the onions.

Although there are lenient opinions, such as those who say this only applies if the knife was used for hot non-kosher food within the last twenty-four hours, which perhaps we can assume did not happen (see

above, section 3), it seems to me that because it is relatively easy to order a salad without onions, one should not rely on these leniencies.

Care needs to be taken regarding the salad dressing.Commercially- produced dressings are often not kosher. Plain olive oil (as well as pure vegetable oil) and vinegar are acceptable, as long as the vinegar is not wine-vinegar, which falls under the laws of non-kosher wines which need special supervision (as do plain fruit juices which contain grape juice). Raw lemon juice, even though the lemon may be considered as "sharp" and have the same law as an onion, is permitted due to the fact that it is not so "sharp" and only draws out a small amount of non-kosher taste from the knife, which is nullified in the large amount of lemon juice. To this we can add the lenient opinions mentioned above that only the taste of the last twenty-four hours is drawn out. Plus the fact that perhaps a lemon is not considered "sharp" at all by some authorities. (See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 96:4 and the Shach there, as well as the Chayei Adam 49:7). All other dressings - mayonnaise, thousand island, cheese etc - need to be avoided.

All this is true outside Israel. However, in the Holy Land one must also be aware of the problems of Trumah, Ma'aser, Orlah, and Shmitah.

6. Vegetarian Restaurants: 1F

Nearly everything we have discussed here applies also to vegetarian restaurants. Firstly, there are foods which could be classed as vegetarian, according to their list of ingredients, but which are

halachically t'raif.

Margarine, for example, may contain less than 2% of animal fats, which is still not kosher, but not list it as an ingredient due to its minimal percentage. If food is cooked with this, depending on the amount used, it is not kosher.

Most vegetarian restaurants also use wine in their cooking - non-Jewish wine is not kosher. They also use cheeses which, even if they are rennet-free, require kosher supervision (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh

De'ah 115,2). There are alsoproblems of bishul akum and checking vegetables and nuts for bugs. In Israel, the additional requirements of t'rumah, ma'aser, orlah and shmittah arise.

In short, the fact that it is a vegetarian restaurant certainly does not make it kosher, unless the local rabbi has given his kashrut certification or approval.

In Conclusion:

Based on what we have learned above, it seems that if someone is in a situation requiring them to eat in a non-kosher restaurant, then they could eat there as long as they are very selective about what they eat, limiting themselves to cold raw fruits and vegetables (without the onions etc), and plain tea and coffee (see above about what type of cup to use).
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