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Dec 19, 2012

Can Sephardim Eat Food With a Rabbanut hechsher?

In the latest update sent out by the Rabbanut, in addition to the regular notices about mislabels, fraudulent labels, and the like, the Rabbanut posted about a policy clarification in regards to bishul yisrael.

Bushul Yisrael is a halacha by which we are obligated to eat only from food cooked by a Jew, and not from food cooked by a gentile. With many restaurants and industrial kitchens, and even private homes, employing non-Jews that could be a problem. To deal with it we have an argument between the Beit Yosef and the Rama as far as what is considered cooked by a Jew and what is considered cooked by a non-Jew.

The question is really how much a Jewish person has to be involved with the pot of cooking food in order to turn it into Jewish-cooked food. According to the Beit Yosef a Jew has to actually cook the food. if the non-Jew plays anything more than a minor role in the cooking process, it would be a problem. According to the Rama, if a Jew placed the food on a fire, or if he did something minor like briefly stirring the food in the pot, that would be enough to consider the pot as having been cooked by a Jew.

This raises a difference in custom between Sephardim and Ashkenazim. It is common in kitchens that a non-Jew will do much of the cooking, but a Jew will light the fire on the stove, or place the pot on the fire. According to Sephardim that generally is not acceptable as being Jewish-cooked food, while according to Ashkenazim it is good enough.

The Rabbanut announced that any establishment that has only a regular Rabbanut hechsher, the food will be cooked according to the directives of the local rabbi, whereas any food establishment that bears the hechsher of the Rabbanut Mehadrin will be obligated to prepare the food according to the Sephardic custom of bishul yisrael.


This directive of the Rabbanut raises the question how any Sephardi person can eat regular Rabbanut (non-mehadrin). Of course they could check out any specific restaurant or caterer that bears a regular Rabbanut and see if non-Jews are employed in the kitchen, and then avoid the places they find to employ non-Jews in the kitchen in the cooking process, and eat heartily in any restaurant that only employs Jews, even with a regular Rabbanut. If they do not do their own due diligence though, and only rely on the certificate, it is a big problem for Sephardim to eat in Rabbanut establishments.

It actually, to me, seems to be a contradiction in the Rabbanut's purpose. if the purpose of the Rabbanut hechsher is to bring kosher food to the masses, even if they were to rely on many other leniencies in other aspects of food preparation , bishul yisrael is one that I think they should be strict about. Included in the masses who eat Rabbanut hechsher are many Sephardim, many of whom are traditional, and by not using the psak of the Beit Yosef in this issue of bishul yisrael, we are causing them to eat problematic food.

This is not a matter of choosing a leniency, but an issue of actual kashrut of the food for many of the people who eat it. No matter what other leniency the Rabbanut uses in order to bring kosher food to the general public, I think bishul yisrael is one policy they should be stricter about.



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10 comments:

  1. Years ago I saw a psak in one of Rav Ovadia's sefarim (don't recall which one) in which he was asked if Sephardim could go to restaurants without Sephardi compliant bishul yisrael. While not preferable, Rav Ovadia did permit people who wanted to, to eat out if the establishment was Jewish owned based on a "loophole" in the din of bishul yisrael if it's done in a Jew's home. At a Regular Rabbanut level of kashrus, they could be comfortable relying on that.

    I know that Rav Ovadia just this past week made statements to the contrary. I don't know if he changed his opinion or was just being more strict in line with the probable audience listening to his latest comments.

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  2. interesting. I was not aware of that. If that psak is still valid, the Rabbanut should really make it part of their announcement, rather than just say Sephardim shouldnt eat Rabbanut regular.

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    1. strange. just last week i saw something (i think in bhol) in which rav ovadia blasted the badatz eida chareidis in that they weren't machmir to the beit yosef on bishul akum. therefore, sefardim couldn't eat at their restaurants. because of his criticism they changed their policy

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  3. why state that the rabbinate should be machmir with bishul akum and not chalaq meat? the latter is safeq dorreita.

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    1. I have had that exact discussion before.. IIRC, I was told most Rabbanut meat is chalak. the main difference between rabbanut and mehadrin on meats is what happens after that - freezing before salting and other "kulot" in the processing process.

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  4. There are many Kashrut authorities, even "Mehadrin" that don't accept the opinions of all opinions, and it seems that in particular they disregard Sfardi opinions.

    For example, many Sfardim are makpid like the Beit Yosef which prohibits Milk and Fish together, yet many Mehadrin pizza stores have pizza with cheese and tuna.

    I guess as with all halachic questions, one should be aware of your own minhagim and which kashrut authorities are careful with individual issues.

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  5. I'm disappointed with the rabanut over this last period or perhaps I'm just expecting much more leadership.

    Granted that their resources are limited, I found that we have not progressed much with the rabanut over the last ten years. Many cities are still without chief rabbis, the kashrut department still merely sends out a periodical newsletter but has not really advanced much at all (prompting a private organization like Kosharot to be established), I remember the rabanut continues to send out periodical messages like above that are incomplete and leave much confusion, and it seems that some if not many moetza datit (the actual council plenum) have ceased to exist and are now operated by 'appointed' leaders. Shas is complacent as long as the status quo of is contained, and the religious parties seem helpless in making any change, instead supporting external organizations like Tzohar and this new Beit Hillel. Who wants to remember that the chief rabbis did not take a strong stand at all about the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and the main 'accomplishment' was the relocation of the graves.

    I'm hoping that the next chief rabbis will come to make a 'revolution' the same way that Chief Army chaplain Rav Rontzki revolutionized the army rabbinate. While it seems that the Mafdal might be more influential this time, I'm worried they'll merely support some mamlachti rabbi.
    Josh

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  6. Someone told me to look in Rav Ovadia's Yechave Daat, Chelek 5, Yoreh Deah, siman 54 for the psak I was referring to.
    I'm going to try to check it inside when I go out later to verify whether both the location and the quote are correct.

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  7. I confirmed that the source is Rav Ovadia's Yechave Daat, Chelek 5, Yoreh Deah, siman 54. He starts off looking for a rationalization (limud zechus) for what he says is the common practice of Sephardim eating in Regular Rabbanut establishments, but by the end of the rather lengthy psak he says "concerning our case, it's obvious there is plenty of room to be lenient" although he does say being strict is praiseworthy.

    Considering that the book was published way back in in 1983 based on Rav Ovadia's radio program, it would seem obvious that he was speaking to a different crowd than his recent comments were directed to, so it isn't really a contradiction.

    In any case, a Regular Rabbanut hechsher has ample reason to rely on this even for Sephardim.

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  8. I've been told that the rabanut rules are actually 'fine' but the major problem is that they are not implemented properly so that is the main reason why people look for extra certification. I can certainly identify with that. I've heard of too many 'looking the other way', bending the rules, restaurants being 'allowed' to use non-gush katif lettuce, and other issues. Scary.
    Josh

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