Halacha » When Does Bishul Akum Apply

When Does Bishul Akum Apply

There are two prerequisites which must be met for a food to be included in the prohibition of bishul akum. The food must be inedible when raw, and the food must be oleh al shulchan melachim – fit to be served at a king’s table. A food which does not fulfill both of these requirements does not fall under the prohibition of bishul akum.

Eaten Raw

A food which is eaten raw is not included in the prohibition of bishul akum for a few reasons. One reason is that the cooking is not seen as having accomplished any change in the food.[1] Another reason is that a food which can be eaten raw is not considered a distinguished food, and therefore would not engender closeness between a Jew and non-Jew.[2]

Whether a food is considered to be eaten raw or not is decided based on whether the majority of people would eat that particular food raw.[3]

A food which is only eaten raw when it is mixed with another food, such as onions which are eaten raw in a salad, is still considered to be eaten raw, and would not be included in bishul akum.[4]

If in one community or locale a food is eaten raw but in a different one the food is not eaten raw, one is obligated to go with the standard of where he is at that time.[5] For example, in Israel it is normal to eat cauliflower when it is raw. However, in the United States cauliflower is not commonly eaten raw, rather it is cooked prior to consumption. Therefore, in Israel cauliflower would not have the rules of bishul akum, even for one who is just visiting from the United States.[6]

Sushi and Raw Fish

Fish these days may be considered eaten raw because fish are eaten raw in sushi. Even though most fish are eaten cooked, the Shach[7] rules that we determine the status of the food based on whether most people would eat a food raw sometimes, not whether the majority of this food is consumed raw. This leniency would only apply to species of fish that are eaten raw in sushi, such as salmon or tuna. The leniency would not extend to a variety of fish which is never eaten raw. If one is in a city where sushi is not eaten and most people there would not eat sushi, the fish in that city would not be considered eaten raw.

Oleh Al Shulchan Melachim – Food Fit for a King

Bishul akum only applies to a food that is oleh al shulchan melachim – fit to be served to a king. We determine this status based on what would be served to a non-Jewish king,[8] and based on the kings of the times we currently live in.[9]

The poskim write that nowadays we do not specifically go based on a king, rather any food which would be served to a person of stature at an upscale meal is considered to be fit for a king.[10]

It is difficult to determine which food is considered fit for a king based on the writings of poskim which were not published recently, since these definitions change constantly. In our times, Rabbi Moshe Heineman ruled that only food which would be served at a state dinner falls into this category. Rabbi Eliyahu Falk ztz”l ruled that any food which one would serve to guests by a Shabbat meal is considered fit for a king.

A food which in its current state is not fit for a king, but could have been prepared in a manner which is fit for a king, is not subject to bishul akum. This is only referring to a food that was prepared in a different manner, such as cooked instead of baked, or spiced different. However, a food which was prepared in a way that is fit for a king, but is currently in a state that makes it unfit for a king, such as if it is burnt, is considered to be fit for a king. For example, pringles or potato chips are not fit for a king, but duchess potatoes are definitely fit to be served by a dinner party. The halachot of bishul akum would not apply to potato chips and pringles, but they would apply to overdone duchess potatoes.[11]

Beer and Other Beverages

Tosafot[12] writes that beer is not subject to bishul akum, and gives two reasons for this. The first reason is that beer is not oleh al shulchan melachim. Tosafot writes a second reason that we find the bracha on beer is shehakol as opposed to mezonot even though beer is made from grain, because the grain in the beer is considered to be nullified by the water. So too, in regards to bishul akum the grain is nullified by the water and there is no bishul akum on water.

Some rule that the first reason of Tosafot is the main reason, and since beer is considered fit to be served to a king these days, the prohibition of bishul akum is applicable.[13] However, most poskim rule that the second reason is the main reason, that there is no bishul akum by beer since beer is mostly water, and therefore there is still no bishul akum on beer nowadays.[14] This ruling would similarly apply to coffee, tea, soft drinks, or any other beverage which is mostly water.

[1] חכמת אדם כלל סו אות א, לבוש סעיף ב

[2] ט”ז יו”ד קיג ס”ק א

[3] פרי חדש קיג ס”ק ג, חכמ”א כלל סו אות ד, ערה”ש יו”ד סי’ קיג סעי’ יב

[4] מג”א או”ח רג ס”ק ד, משנ”ב שם ס”ק יא, ערה”ש שם סעי’ יד

[5] ערה”ש שם סעי’ יב, חלקת בנימין סי’ קיג ס”ק ה

[6] מיהו עיין פרי חדש שם ס”ק ג דאזלי’ בתר רוב העולם

[7] יו”ד קיג ס”ק יט

[8] תורת חטאת כלל עה דין יא

[9] פרי חדש ס”ק ג

[10] איסור והיתר כלל מג, פרי חדש ס”ק ז

[11] רמ”א יו”ד סי’ קיג סעי’ ב, עיין רמב”ם מאכ”א פ”יז הל’ יא

[12] עבודה זרה לא: ותרוייהו

[13] פת”ת סי’ קיד ס”ק א

[14] ט”ז סי’ קיד ס”ק א, ש”ך שם ס”ק א, פר”ח שם ס”ק ב, גר”א שם ס”ק ג