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Why is it that food cooked totally by a non-Jew - without the participation of a Jew - is not kosher?

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Food cooked by a non-Jew is generally forbidden to be eaten by a Jew by a rabbinic enactment. The purpose of this law is to discourage excessive socializing with non-Jews, out of concerns that it would eventually lead to intermarriage. (There were also concerns that non-kosher ingredients may eventually make their way in.)

The food may be kosher in so far as it contains no non-kosher ingredients and was cooked in kosher utensils but may not be eaten by a Jew depending on several factors: the nature of the food, the method of cooking, who is doing the cooking and other similar factors.

Here is Rabbi Heinemann's excellent article on the subject from the Star-K.

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Thank you for your answer, I will have a look at the link. Does this apply to Orthodox Jews in modern times who have non-Jewish domestic workers? –  Malka S Sep 19 '12 at 17:59
@MahaliaSamuels -- there are a number of exceptions to the rule of food cooked by non-Jews and one is an opinion that says that food cooked by domestic help in the modern day is not subject to this law. –  Danno Sep 19 '12 at 19:59
An easy workaround is as long as the Jew is involved somewhat in the process, the prohibition is circumvented. If you turn on the stove, put the pot on it, and give it a few stirs, your domestic help could do the rest. –  Shalom Sep 19 '12 at 23:27

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