The following questions were posed to Rav Shmuel Fuerst, Dayan of Agudath Israel in Chicago at a kashrus symposium in Detroit on December 30, 2012. Some of the answers below have been edited and modified to reflect the position of the Vaad Harabbonim of Greater Detroit.
May a housewife have a non-Jewish cleaning lady clean her kitchen if no frum person is at home?
It is never a good idea to allow a person who does not keep kosher—Jewish or not—to have free access to your kitchen. It is quite common for a cleaning lady to bring her own non-kosher food into your kitchen and use your oven or microwave to warm it up, or use your kosher utensils to stir or serve her non-kosher food. Even if the cleaning lady does not bring her own food into your home, there remains the likelihood that she will prepare something for herself in your kitchen in a manner which will render your oven, pots, pans or dishes non-kosher. Mixing meat and milk together, transgressing the laws of bishul akum or gaining access to unsealed meat and fish are just some of the things that could go wrong when a kitchen is accessed by an individual who is not knowledgeable or reliable concerning kashrus. Whenever possible, such a person should not be left in your kitchen unsupervised.
In the event that this truly cannot be avoided, there are a number of safeguards that can be instituted to lessen the likelihood of making your kitchen non-kosher. First and foremost, the cleaning lady must be told in no uncertain terms that she may not bring any of her own food into the house, nor may she cook, bake or warm any food in the kitchen—not for herself or for anyone else. The slightest infraction of this rule will result in her immediate dismissal. Secondly, all unsealed food which cannot be clearly identified as kosher, e.g., meat, chicken, skinned fish, cheese or wine, should either be resealed or stored under lock and key. Thirdly, the microwave oven should be sealed with a tamper proof seal. In addition, one of the following two procedures must be implemented:
1.A neighbor or a relative must drop in at random times throughout the day to check up on the cleaning lady. The cleaning lady should be told in advance that someone will be checking up on her.
2.A video camera must be installed to monitor the kitchen area. The cleaning lady should be told that a camera is operating at all times. The tape should be periodically reviewed to verify that no cooking, baking or warming has taken place anywhere in the kitchen and that no outside food has been brought in.
In the event that the above precautions were not followed and a cleaning lady was left alone in the kitchen without any supervision, a Rav should be consulted to decide the status of the kitchen appliances, pots and pans, and dishes. Depending on the exact circumstances, the Rav may decide that nothing at all needs to be done and everything in the kitchen remains kosher, or he may decide that the ovens must be koshered, and that the pots and dishes—or at least some of them—may not be used for 24 hours.
A related question arises when a wife needs to step out for a few hours, but does not wish to leave her kitchen unsupervised while the cleaning lady is working there. May she ask her husband to remain at home to supervise the cleaning lady? Depending on the circumstances, that may entail a gross violation of the laws of yichud or other restrictions pertaining to modesty and purity. Cases such as these, ostensibly commonplace and innocuous, do, in fact, have to be carefully weighed and balanced and, if necessary, presented to a Rav for a ruling.
If a microwave was mistakenly used for both meat and dairy dishes, what could be done?
It is forbidden to use the same microwave to warm or cook both dairy and meat if both the dairy and meat dishes are uncovered. It is strongly recommended not to use the same microwave for meat and dairy even if one is careful to keep all of the food covered while being cooked or warmed. One should make every effort to get two separate microwave ovens and designate one for meat and the other for dairy.
In the event that uncovered dairy food was heated in a meat microwave or vice-versa, the microwave is considered not-kosher, especially if there was a substantial amount of liquid in the food being warmed. Whether or not the microwave can be koshered is a subject of debate among contemporary poskim: Some hold that it can be koshered using a modified hagalah procedure, which entails scrubbing the roof, walls and turntable of the microwave clean, waiting twenty-four hours, placing a cup of water inside the microwave and heating it for 5-10 minutes until thick steam fills the oven. If the food being warmed touched the turntable directly (without a plate or napkin in between) then the turntable should be koshered through hagalah in hot water. Other poskim, however, are wary of koshering a microwave using this procedure. The practical halachah will depend on the specific details of the case which should be presented to a Rav for a ruling.
If an item is labeled DE, may it be eaten in a fleischig meal?
An item which is labeled DE means that pareve food was processed on hot equipment that was previously used for dairy and no koshering took place between the dairy run and the pareve run. [Sometimes, DE means that the pareve product was processed on dairy equipment which was not totally clean of dairy residue.] There is no way for the consumer to tell whether or not the dairy equipment was ben yomo at the time the pareve food was processed or not. Therefore, we are careful not to eat any DE products together with meat or chicken, since it is forbidden l’chatchilah to eat meat or chicken together with pareve foods that were processed in hot ben yomo dairy equipment. It is, however, permitted to eat DE products after eating meat or chicken, even during the same meal, and even without cleaning one’s mouth in between.
If onions cut with a clean meaty knife are ground in a food processor, does the food processor become meaty?
The answer to this question is a matter of dispute. Some poskim hold that the “absorbed meaty taste” that was transferred into the onion from the meaty knife is further transferred into the blades of the food processor, thus rendering the blades of the food processor meaty. Other poskim disagree and maintain that the taste cannot be transferred further and the food processor remains pareve. Although l’chatchilah one should avoid this problem by taking care to cut onions with a pareve knife or by designating a food processor for meaty items only, when necessary, one may rely on the lenient poskim who rule that the processor does not lose its pareve status.
Which stringency is more important to observe—the stringency of eating only chalav Yisrael products, or the stringency of eating only pas Yisrael products?
Eating only chalav Yisrael products and avoiding chalav stam is more important. Pas palter, as opposed to pas Yisrael which is baked by a Jew, refers to bread and other baked goods that are kosher but were baked in a non-Jewish bakery. Pas palter is permitted to be eaten according to the Shulchan Aruch and most major poskim. While it is certainly meritorious to partake of pas Yisrael only, it is only a chumrah, above and beyond the strict letter of the law. The permissibility of drinking chalav stam, on the other hand, which is milk that was milked by non-Jews without Jewish supervision but under government regulation, is a subject hotly debated among the poskim. While there are prominent poskim who allow drinking chalav stam in the United States and one is permitted to rely on their ruling, the vast majority of poskim do not agree with this leniency. According to the majority opinion, therefore, chalav stam is not merely a chumrah but is strictly forbidden.
Which stringency is more important to observe—the stringency of eating only yashan products and refraining from chadash or the stringency of eating only chalav Yisrael products and refraining from chalav stam?
Eating only chalav Yisrael and avoiding chalav stam is more important, even though chadash is a biblical prohibition while chalav akum is not. Whether or not chadash is forbidden nowadays outside of Eretz Yisrael where the fields are owned by non-Jews, is an age-old dispute among the early authorities with no clear consensus reached. Indeed, most European Jews did not refrain from eating chadash, in keeping with the ruling of the more lenient opinions concerning chadash outside of Eretz Yisrael. Those who are lenient about chadash, therefore, are following a long-standing tradition based on the opinion of early, classic poskim. The leniency to drink chalav stam, on the other hand, is different. There is no long-standing tradition to permit it, as chalav stam was not available in Europe. It was always assumed and accepted by all poskim that unless a Jew was present at the milking, the milk was forbidden. It is only recently in the United States, where some prominent poskim ruled that we may rely on U.S. government regulation to permit milk that was not supervised by a Jew, that chalav stam became an option. This controversial ruling does not have the same halachic force as a ruling based on a centuries-old tradition, and thus chalav Yisrael is the more important stringency to observe.
Should a seven-year-old child be forced to wait six hours between meat and dairy?
Using force is the wrong approach, but at the same time the child should be taught that this is the correct thing to do. The child should be trained to observe this halachah gradually, taking into consideration his level of maturity and physical development. By the age of nine or ten, the child should be ready to understand and accept that this is what the halachah demands of him.
What procedure should be followed when baking an uncovered pareve liquid cake batter or dough in a meaty or dairy oven?
The oven should be thoroughly cleaned from any meat or dairy particles and residue, preferably with an abrasive cleaning agent. The oven should then be heated to its highest setting for an hour and the racks should be covered with a fresh piece of foil. [You may poke holes in the foil to allow the hot air in the oven to circulate freely.] The oven is now ready to be used and anything baked in it will be considered pareve. While some people are more stringent and wait 24 hours before using the oven for pareve, this is not required.
An open bottle of non-mevushal wine was left in the fridge door, and a non-Jew opened the door and cleaned the fridge. Is the wine permitted?
When leaving a non-Jew alone in a house, all non-mevushal wine should be sealed with a tamper-proof seal. If the bottle is unsealed, it should be put away under lock and key. B’diavad, however, we do not prohibit drinking the wine from the unsealed bottle unless we have reason to believe that the cleaning lady either drank from the bottle directly, poured herself a drink from the bottle into a glass, touched the wine itself (not merely the bottle), or picked up the bottle, opened or uncorked it, and shook the wine. If we have no reason to believe that any of the above occurred, we do not forbid drinking the wine. If an unsealed bottle of wine was left in the refrigerator door, and the non-Jewish cleaning lady opened the door of the refrigerator but did not remove the bottle of wine from its place, the wine may be drunk.
- All of the above halachos apply to non-mevushal grape juice as well.
Note: Contemporary poskim are divided as to whether or not the mevushal wines and grape juices on the market today are “cooked” enough to be exempt from the halachos of stam yeinam and permitted to be handled by a non-Jew or not. In the United States it is customary to rely on the more lenient views.
Is Challah taken from dough that is made out of six pounds of flour, half of which will be used for challah and half for cinnamon buns? Is the brachah recited?
Challah should be taken but the blessing for hafrashas challah should not be recited. Although the original dough contained six pounds of flour which is sufficient to require hafrashas challah with a blessing, in this case it is questionable whether or not the divided dough—which will be used for two different types of baked goods and will not be combined—is considered as one dough or as two separate batches, each one containing only 3 pounds of flour. Since the halachah remains unresolved, we fulfill the mitzvah but we do not recite the blessing.
Is a kosher pizza store required to double tape pizza being delivered by a non-Jew?
It is strongly recommended that they do so, and the kashrus agency supervising the pizza shop should insist on it. B’diavad, if an unsealed box of pizza was delivered by a non-Jew (or a Jew who does not keep kosher) a Rav should be consulted. It may still be permissible to eat the pizza depending upon the particulars of the case.
Weekly-Halacha, Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Torah.org.
Rabbi Neustadt is the Yoshev Rosh of the Vaad Harabbonim of Detroit and the Av Beis Din of the Beis Din Tzedek of Detroit. He could be reached at [email protected]