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Thought for the Day: Food Prepared by Goyim from Kosher Ingredients

Right up there with the expression "Judeo-Christian" ethic, is that old canard that the kosher dietary laws are the trumped up remnants of ancient (read: ignorant, but well meaning) health standards.  Their proof is, "Well, pork can be bad for you if you don't cook it well and pork is not kosher -- WALA and QED!"  When confronted with the fact that certain perfectly edible fats of kosher animals, milk of non-kosher animals, and non-Jewish wine used in their idolatrous practices (yayin nesech) are also not kosher, they have a ready answer: "Wow... those ancients were so illogical; that doesn't fit the pattern at all!"  Sigh...

In any case, yayin nesech is, indeed, a category of non kosher food.  Chazal broadened that to "stam yanam"/their ordinary wine.  Chazal added three other categories of non-Jewish foods: oils, baked goods, and cooked foods.  In all those cases, the non-Jewish food is forbidden even if there is no admixture of non-kosher ingredients.  Two fundamental and complimentary reasons are given for these injunctions.  First, there is the obvious problem that someone who is not personally concerned (or even believes there is a problem) with non-kosher ingredients is not going to be as careful about small "mistakes".  Just as you wouldn't eat in a restaurant that didn't allow the health inspectors in the door and also don't even really believe in bacteria -- despite their claims that everything is healthy; you really don't want to eat food prepared by someone with that feeling about kosher food.

A second, and just as fundamental, reason was to prevent intermarriage.  If you can share food, you'll come to eat and drink together, then your children will be around their children -- their nice, your nice... wedding bells, rachmana latzlan.  The second reason is why watching everything they cook and even providing the ingredients doesn't help.  In fact, that can make things worse as far as coming to inappropriate relationships. (My!  Look how respectful they are!)

You may have never heard there is an issue with shemen akum (oil produced by non-Jews).  That's because oil is usually no rendered at home and it is needed for dailying living.  Every decree by Chazal needs ratification by the entire Jewish nation, and that one was never ratified, so it never became a legally binding decree.  Bread is also necessary for daily living, but it's relatively common for people to make their own bread.  (I mean, of course, besides lazy Americanos.)  But bakeries are also common.  As a consequence, bakery bread is really permitted, though there are those who are stringent (and that is certainly meritorious, all things being equal, to do so).  Moreover, most everyone is stringent during the Aseres Y'mei T'shuva, from Rosh HaShanah through Yom Kippur; after all, if there ever was a time to be looking for merits, that's it.

That leaves us with bishul akum and stam yeinam.  We should talk more about those; there are lots of cool details.

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