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One of my relatives lives at home and has a full-time non-Jewish aid that cooks her meals. My relative is on a strict diet so she cannot eat commercial pre-cooked food. The relative is immobile and cannot turn on the stove, and she has no access to a Jew who can come in and turn on the stove or oven each day to cook. Since the non-Jeiwsh aid cooks, is there a problem with the food not being bishul yisra'el?

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  • off the cuff and with no authority, I would doubt that the food an aid is making an elderly patient is oleh al shulchan malachim.
    – rosends
    May 7, 2014 at 17:44
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    Better to eat Bishul Akum than to starve to death. Sounds like this person is a serious Cholah.
    – Double AA
    May 7, 2014 at 17:46
  • This site discusses the issue as it relates to a housekeeper. dinonline.org/2012/02/01/bishul-akum-for-paid-housekeeper
    – rosends
    May 7, 2014 at 17:51
  • @Danno. Thanks for the link. Please post as an aswer, so that I can accept it. Please also explain the source of the phrase "oleh al shulchan malachim", and how that aplies, here.
    – DanF
    May 7, 2014 at 17:56

2 Answers 2

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To my understanding, the food which would be subject to the concern of bishul akum must be of a level of "importance" that it would be served "at the table of a king" (oleh al shulchan malachim). For example, this site says that hummus would not qualify.

This site from the Star-K quantifies it as "Any food that would not be served at a wedding feast because it is not elegant (e.g. doughnuts) would certainly not qualify for bishul akum."

As such, one point might be that the food that an aid makes for an elderly patient would probably not be of the type that one would serve at a wedding and would not be prohibited.

The second issue is the relative social position of a paid housekeeper. The shulchan aruch deals with ovdei avodah zarah and the commentators discuss the issue of a slave and a paid housekeeper and whether the concerns of intimacy are at all a concern when food is cooked under orders and not of free will. This article discusses that aspect.

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  • Re "the food that an aid makes for an elderly patient would probably not be of the type that one would serve at a wedding": Maybe. I've seen creamed spinach at weddings, and it seems to be a common food among the elderly. And is cooked. There are probably other food like that, too. +1, though.
    – msh210
    May 7, 2014 at 22:38
  • @msh210 I have also seen weddings in drive-thru chapels where the couple fed their guests Big Macs, but I think that the subjective notion of "elegant" is important here. The other article I read mentioned state dinners at the White House that promise to serve "anything anyone wants" but won't serve potato chips or the like. Clearly there are lines.
    – rosends
    May 7, 2014 at 22:46
  • Danno, yes, but I meant elegant weddings. Or elegant by my standards, anyway. :-)
    – msh210
    May 7, 2014 at 22:47
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If the stove/oven has a pilot light, then your relative, or another Jew, could extinguish and relight the pilot light, and then the non-Jewish aid could cook without violating bishul akum, if the following leniency is permitted under her circumstances. Of course, you should consult your local Orthodox rabbi.

"The Rama cites a very lenient ruling that even if the non-Jew lit the fire used for cooking from a fire lit by a Jew this suffices to avoid concern of violating the Bishul Akum restriction. According to this very lenient view, the Jew is considered to have participated in the cooking process. This last leniency is particularly relevant to those ovens that are equipped with a pilot light that a Jew lit. In such a situation, when the non-Jew turns on the fire he is lighting the fire from a fire lit by a Jew. The Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 113:44) rules that one should not rely on this great leniency except in case of great need and provided that the non-Jew performs the cooking in the Jew's home."

http://koltorah.org/ravj/12-16%20Bishul%20Akum.htm

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    How many stoves have pilot lights these days? May 7, 2014 at 19:47

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