Hosting an Intermarried Converting Couple for Yom Tov: Managing Bishul Akum and Kashrut

QUESTION

Minneapolis, MN

I’m working with two couples for giyur (conversion).

The first couple (couple #1) is close to finishing—they eat only kosher but have not yet kashered the house.

The second couple (couple #2) is intermarried (she is already Jewish and expecting a baby. The husband is patrilineal and committed to Orthodox giyur in the future.) They do not yet eat fully kosher. They also live very far from shul.

Couple #2 asked couple #1 to host them for Rosh HaShanah. Couple #1 asked me confidentially what to do since hosting them would result in issues of bishul akum and kashrut for the Jewish woman (since their kitchen has not yet been kashered.) Then again, couple #2 doesn’t keep fully kosher at home anyway and having them in shul for the Chagim would be a very valuable experience for them as they have no car and can seldom be in shul for Shabbat/Chagim. My gut is to tell couple #1 that it’s okay to allow couple #2 to come under the circumstances, but to let both couples know that there is indeed a bishul akum issue.

ANSWER

This is an interesting and important question!

I fully agree with you about the importance for couple #2 to be in shul for Yom Tov. Under these circumstances I would not worry about the fact that the kitchen is not kashered. The food itself will all be kosher, and as for ta’am—we can rely on stam keilim einam b’nei yoman (Shulchan Arukh YD 122:7) (especially in this case—since the last time they used them for treif (non kosher) has been a long time ago), further, soap is pogem ( Shulchan Arukh YD 95:4), etc.

The only possible issue someone could raise is the issur (prohibition) to use keli eino ben yomo lekhatchilah—using non kosher vessel not used in the previous twenty-four hours ab initio (Shulchan Arukh YD 122:2). But that issur doesn’t apply to couple #1, who are doing the cooking, since they are not Jewish.

So the only issue is that by inviting themselves over, couple #2 is telling couple #1 to cook for them, which the Rashba (and then Shulchan Arukh) says is part of the issur (Shulchan Arukh YD 122:6). To that I would respond, that there are three people for whom it is permissible to cook (namely the non-Jewish husband of couple #2, and both the husband and wife of couple #1); it is only not permissible to use eino ben yomo for wife of couple #2. I think the rov (majority) here of whom are being cooked for gets it out of any problem here of considering the cooking being done on behalf of the Jew.

As to bishul akum—if couple #1 knows of the problem, why not ask wife of couple #2 to turn on the fire for them before/on Yom Tov? If that’s not doable, given the circumstances I think you can assume that the food is either ne’echal kamut she’hu chai (eaten raw), or eino oleh al shulchan melachim (not considered important foods that would be served to honor a guest) (Shulchan Arukh YD 113:1). Since people eat fish and meat raw, and if we define shulchan melachim narrowly (and remember that it is defined based on the state of the food when it is cooked, not if things are done to make it nice afterwards), and couple #1 can make sure to not cook anything that falls into the shulchan melachim ve’eino ne’echal kamut she’hu chai defined narrowly.

I think that should cover almost everything.

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