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Shabbat Parashat Yitro 5774

Ask the Rabbi: Feeding A Sephardi Something Permitted Only for Ashkenazim

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: I am Ashkenazi. When I invite Sephardim to my house, should I be concerned to put the food on the fire, like the Sephardi rules of bishul akum, or since they are my guests, could I just turn the fire on and rely on my Ashkenazi rules even l’chatchila?

: Indeed, there is a crucial machloket between the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama (Yoreh Deah 113:7) about whether the prohibition of bishul akum is obviated when a Jew lights the fire upon which the food will be placed. The Rama says that this is sufficient, whereas the Shulchan Aruch says that that system works only for bread, but for other foods, a Jew must put the food on an already lit flame.

Your question is whether you, as a host, have to be concerned with the guests’ stringent standards, or whether yours suffice. Let us first focus on your halachic status, as it relates to lifnei iver – not causing another person to commit an aveira. One of the classic examples of violation is a non-nazir giving wine to a nazir (see Avoda Zara 6b), so we see that we follow the laws of the recipient. However, one can argue that the giver knows it is forbidden for the nazir, whereas in our case, one can argue that the same Torah was given to Ashkenazim and Sephardim, just that we disagree on certain details. If an Ashkenazi relies on his system regarding his own eating, why can’t he rely on his own standards regarding the laws of lifnei iver?

The Maharalbach (Shut 121) says that if the food was the subject of a “personal” machloket between the host and the guest, the lenient host would indeed not violate lifnei iver if it was clear to the guest what the food was. However, he posits that if the guest is bound by the minhag of his family or place of origin, then this creates a halachic reality that is analogous (on a lower level) to that of a nazir – i.e., even if the host’s minhag is halachically correct, he still violates lifnei iver because the guest must follow his own stringent minhag. Although there are opinions that say that the host would not violate lifnei iver (see the discussion of the Emunat Shmuel’s opinion in Sdei Chemed, vol. II, pp. 123-128), the accepted opinion is like the Maharalbach (see Shach, YD 119:20; K’tav Sofer, YD 77).

In any case, you would not want to deceive your friend or apply the often incorrect maxim of “ignorance is bliss.” The Rama (YD 119:7) is among those who assume that one should not withhold information about a food’s halachic status even regarding a personal machloket. One of the sources is from a complex story involving Rav and Shmuel and a question of pareve food cooked in a fleishig pan, in which Rav says that he knew that Shmuel would not feed him something that Rav believed was forbidden to eat (Chulin 111b).

There is significantly more room for leniency in your case, due to the nature of the machloket between the Shulchan Aruch and Rama. There is an opinion that bishul akum does not apply to the food that a non-Jewish cooks in his employer’s residence (see Shulchan Aruch YD 113:4 with commentaries); both Ashkenazim and Sephardim rule stringently. However, Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yechaveh Da’at V:54) uses the convergence of opinions to rationalize the practice of Sephardim to eat in restaurants and hotels that use the lower Ashkenazi standards on our question. He says that it is possible that the Shulchan Aruch was stringent only in each of the mentioned questions independently. In contrast, in a case where a Jew lit the flame and his non-Jewish employee put the food on the flame, perhaps the Shulchan Aruch would agree it is permitted due to the convergence of the two lenient opinions. That being said, Rav Ovadia presented the matter to rationalize a practice in a difficult situation, whereas you asked about l’chatchila, the proper thing to do, which is to strive for the food to be kosher for your guests without special leniency. If it is very difficult for you to follow the Sephardi approach, you can tell your guests and let them decide whether to rely on Rav Ovadia’s reluctant permission.

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