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Jul 19, 2009

Interesting Psak from Rav Elyashiv: Obama and French Fries

Rav Elyashiv was recently asked what the status of French Fries is regarding the issue of bishulei akum.

Rav Elyashiv's response was "Does Obama eat french fries?"

The issue being that food that does not get eaten in the respectable setting of being served on the plate of a king, does not have a problem of bishulei akum. Rav Elyashiv considers Obama to have enough of the status of royalty to at least be able to determine whether french fries have a problem of bishulei akum. (source: Kikar Shabbos)

So, does Obama eat french fries?

We know Obama has gone out on burger runs a number of times, even leaving the White House to go get a burger.
In May he went to a burger joint called Ray's Hell Burger. When he asked for fries, he was told this burger joint does not serve fries (a burger joint with no fries? strange). So, Obama at least asked for fries. If you say that is not enough, he has to have actually eaten them, then we have another burger run.
At the end of May, Obama went out for another burger run, this time to Five Guys. According to this article, he ordered fries as part of his order.

So, it looks like french fries are eaten by royalty, thus rendering bishulei akum to be an issue with french fries.


  1. i don't understand. can you give some examples of food that would be exempt from bishul akum by this criterion?

    shavuah tov

  2. the only reason you have a good question is because nowadays we don't have real royalty. The president of the US, who is being considered royalty for this, can regularly be seen in jeans (not just Obama, but George Bush before him as well), eating fast food, and doing things that regular people do. It used to not be that way.
    I think even the Queen of England, who probably should be considered royalty for this and I don't know why Rav Elyashiv chose Obama over the Queen fo England, does have more royalty class and would not be "caught dead" in street clothes or playing basketball (not just because of her age) or doing anything regular people do, because she has a touch of real royalty to her. And she probably does not eat the regular foods us regular folks eat.

  3. I don't think oleh al shulchan melachim means what a melech will grab at a fast food joint.

  4. why not? and if you read those articles linked, he did not just grab the food at a fast food joint and eat on the run. He brought the food back to be eaten at the White House.

  5. Lots of presidents do lots of ... ahem... interesting things in the White House. Are these our criteria now?!

  6. lol... as I said, it would make more sense to use someone with a more real sense of royalty, like the Queen of England, as a barometer, but the article says that "for this" Obama is enough royalty. Maybe for other halachas he would not be considered such.

  7. So if someone would suggest to R' Elyashiv that perhaps the Queen is a better example, maybe he'd change his opinion on French Fries.

    But I don't understand why oleh al shulchan melachim makes a difference. I understood that the reason why we have an issur of bishul akum is because we want to avoid mixing with the goyim, socializing, eating together, drinking together, etc. all of which can lead to intermarriage. So in that case, we should be looking at what the common folk eat, not the royalty. So why this exception when it's exactly those people we're trying to avoid intermarrying with?

  8. If I remember correctly, the concept is that is it is not "oleh al shulchan mlachim" it is not considered important enough and therefore even if a non-Jew cooks it is ok. Only important foods cannot be cooked by a non-Jew.

  9. Wanna Saab,
    The gemara considers oleh al shulchan melachim important, because as you said the concern is the closeness leading to intermarriage. If a gentile can invite a Jew for a nice meal (i.e. food fit for a king) as opposed to just a franks and beans, then there is such a concern.
    The concern is also for common folk. The prohibition doesn't exclude food that common folk eat, only food that a king would not generally have on his table because of its inferior nature.
    Common folk also make nice food.

  10. Rafi G. said...

    why not?


    Because Chazal said "ha'oleh al shulchan melachim", not "hanichnas le'peh melachim."

    V'duke! :)

  11. i dont know man. i think u need shtei aydim with hasraah. all you have is a newspaper article



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