Insights from the Institute – Fall 2016

Q: Do potato chips need to be bishul Yisroel (cooked by a Jew)?

A: The Shulchan Aruch states that there is a rabbinic obligation that food be cooked through bishul Yisroel if both of the following conditions are met: (i) The food is generally not eaten raw, and (ii) The cooked food is something that would be served at a shulchan melochim – a king’s table.1 Since we are no longer ruled by royalty, we cannot observe what is served at a king’s table. The modern-day equivalent to a king’s meal is an elegant meal, such as that served at a wedding. This second condition is met whether the food is served at a shulchan melochim as part of the main course or as the dessert. In either case, if the food is generally not eaten raw it needs to be bishul Yisroel.3

The Aruch Hashulchan proposes that potatoes are peasant food and are not served at a shulchan melochim.4 However, this no longer seems to be the case as potatoes are served as a side dish at weddings. For this reason, the consensus of Poskim is that potatoes are served at a shulchan melochim and need to be bishul Yisroel.5 Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, therefore writes that there is no clear heter for eating potato chips which are not mbishul Yisroel.6 He adds that those who are lenient are relying upon the opinion that food produced in a commercial factory does not need to be bishul Yisroel.7 He concludes by saying that one does not need to rebuke them for relying on this heter. It seems clear that Rav Moshe feels, lechatchila, that potato chips should be bishul Yisroel. Furthermore, the possible room for leniency that Rav Moshe suggests is debatable. The Chazon Ish emphatically denied that there is any distinction between cooking in a residential or commercial setting regarding the need for bishul Yisroel.8 STAR-K policy is not to rely on this heter at all. Why then does STAR-K certify potato chips which are not bishul Yisroel?

In order to answer this, we have to ask ourselves the following question: What is the halacha when a particular mfood is served on a shulchan melochim when prepared in one manner but not when it is prepared in a different manner? The humble potato is an excellent example. As stated above, potatoes are served at a shulchan melochim when they are prepared as a side dish to the main course of the meal and need to be bishul Yisroel. However, potato chips are prepared in a different manner and are generally not eaten at a meal, either as a side dish or as a dessert. Rather, potato chips are generally eaten as a snack in between meals and are, therefore, not served at a shulchan melochim. The question now presents itself: Do we say that if one form of cooked potato needs to be bishul Yisroel then all forms of cooked potato need to be bishul Yisroel? Or do we say that, although one form of cooked potato needs to be bishul Yisroel, other forms of cooked potato do not necessarily need to be bishul Yisroel? The first approach would necessitate that potato chips be bishul Yisroel, whereas the second approach would not.

Although the earlier Poskim do not discuss potato chips, they do talk about a similar case. A bread-like product can be made from rice flour, and the Rosh states that this product does not need to be bishul Yisroel if it is not served at a shulchan melochim.9 The Beis Yosef10 points out that the implication of the Rosh is that there are circumstances where this food is served at a shulchan melochim and would need to be bishul Yisroel. The Rema in his hagohos on Shulchan Aruch quotes the Rosh, and says that bread made from rice flour does not need to be bishul Yisroel if it is not served at a shulchan melochim.11 As the Beis Yosef has pointed out, this implies that the product does need to be bishul Yisroel if it is prepared in such a way as to be served at a shulchan melochim. It seems clear that both the Beis Yosef and Rema hold that there can be food which needs to be bishul Yisroel when prepared in one way but not when it is prepared in a different way. However, the sefer Issur VeHeter HaAruch understands the Rosh differently and paskens that bread made from rice flour always needs to be bishul Yisroel because other rice products are served at a shulchan melochim.12 The Rema in his sefer Toras HaChatos takes issue with this and says that food served at a shulchan melochim when prepared one way does not necessarily need to be bishul Yisroel when prepared in a different way.13 As we have seen, this is consistent with the Rema’s opinion in his hagohos on Shulchan Aruch. The commentaries on Shulchan Aruch do not question the Rema, indicating that they agree with his point of view. It should follow that although potatoes need to be bishul Yisroel when prepared as a side dish, potato chips should not need to be bishul Yisroel.

As such, it seems difficult to understand why Rav Moshe Feinstein says that potato chips need to be bishul Yisroel. Rav Yisroel Belsky, zt”l, points out that unlike the majority of Rav Moshe’s teshuvos which provide lengthy explanations and detailed reasoning behind his decisions, the teshuva about potato chips is just a few lines long. Furthermore, Rabbi Belsky adds that even the person who proposed the question to Rav Moshe no longer remembers exactly what food item they were discussing.14 It seems that Rav Belsky is entertaining the possibility that the discussion was actually about french fries or some similar product, rather than potato chips as we know them. (It should be noted that in England, french fries are called chips.15)

Rabbi Belsky is also skeptical of the rumor that Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt”l, held that potato chips need to be bishul Yisroel. He says that if there is any truth to this rumor, it must be that Rav Yaakov was provided with incorrect information about potato chips.16 However, the sefer Emes LeYaakov accepts that Rav Yaakov held this way and brings a proof that Rav Yaakov offered for his position.17 The Rema paskens that food which is first cooked18 by an akum until it is one third or one half cooked is considered to be bishul Yisroel if a Jew subsequently completes the rest of the cooking process.19 However, if no further cooking takes place, the food is forbidden because of the bishul akum.20 Rav Yaakov points out that food which is only one third or one half cooked is surely not served at a shulchan melochim, but is nevertheless subject to the prohibition of bishul akum. Evidently, since the food is served at a shulchan melochim when fully cooked, the laws of bishul Yisroel apply even when the food is not prepared in that manner. The same reasoning would apply regarding potatoes. Since potatoes that are being served as a side dish need to be bishul Yisroel, potato chips also need to be bishul Yisroel.

Other Poskim21 point out that the case where food is one third or one half cooked is not fully analogous to the issue of potato chips. In that case, further continuation of the very same cooking process will result in the food becoming fully cooked and ready to be served at a shulchan melochim. In other words, even though partially cooked food is not yet servable at a shulchan melochim, the laws of bishul Yisroel do apply since the food is in the midst of a process which will result in it being fit to be served on a shulchan melochim. However, potato chips and potatoes that are served as a side dish are prepared in completely different ways. Although potatoes served as a side dish need to be bishul Yisroel, there is no reason to believe that potato chips also need to be bishul Yisroel. On the contrary, the case of the rice bread discussed above proves that food may need to be bishul Yisroel when prepared in one manner but not when prepared differently.

Furthermore, Rav Yaakov’s assumption that food which is one third or one half cooked is not served at a shulchan melochim is not clear. In fact, the Tiferes LeMoshe explicitly states that food which is one third or one half cooked is considered to be bishul akum only if it is fitting to be served at a shulchan melochim.22 Rav Heinemann, shlit”a, follows the position of the Tiferes LeMoshe and paskens that the law of bishul Yisroel apply to partially cooked food only when it is fit to be served at a shulchan melochim.23 According to the Tiferes LeMoshe, it should certainly follow that potato chips which are not served at a shulchan melochim do not need to be bishul Yisroel. There are contemporary Poskim24 who feel that potato chips need to be bishul Yisroel. However, as discussed, there is ample reason to pasken that potato chips do not need to be bishul Yisroel. Therefore, STAR-K and other national kashrus agencies do not require potato chips to be bishul Yisroel.25

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  1. .שו”ע יו”ד סי’ קיג סעי’ א
  2. כתב הברכ”י שם ס”ק ב שלאו דוקא מלכים אלא אפילו עולה על שלחן שרים יש בו משום בישול עכו”ם, וממו”ר ר’ היינעמאן שליט”א שמעתי שבזמנינו סעודת נישואין היא דוגמא לשלחן מלכים
  3. כתב השו”ע שם שיש דין בישול עכו”ם בפרפרת, והיינו דבר הנאכל לקינוח סעודה כמבואר ברמ”א שם סעי’ ב ובחכ”א כלל סו דין א ודלא כהפר”ח שם ס”ק ג, וכן פסק בשו”ת שבט הלוי ח”ב סי’ מג
  4. ערוך השלחן שם סעי’ יח
  5. שו”ת שבט הלוי ח”ב סי’ מה וח”ט סי’ כג, וכדברי החכ”א כלל סו דין ד
  6. שו”ת אגרות משה יו”ד ח”ד סי’ מח אות ה
  7. מקור להיתר זה נמצא בשו”ת מהריט”ץ סי’ קסא
  8. כ”כ בשו”ת שבט הלוי ח”ט סי’ כג שהחזו”א דחה היתר זה בפשיטות, וכבר כתב הברכ”י סי’ קיב ס”ק ט שמש”כ המהריט”ץ שגם בבישולי גוים יש היתר בפלטר “זו לא שמענו”
  9. שו”ת הרא”ש כלל יט סי’ כא
  10. בית יוסף סי’ קיב
  11. רמ”א שם סעי’ א
  12. איסור והיתר הארוך כלל מד דין ג
  13. תורת החטאת כלל עה דין יא
  14. שו”ת שלחן הלוי – בירורי הלכה סי’ כה
  15. וכן אמר מו”ר ר’ היינעמאן שליט”א שנראה שהנידון באגרות משה הנ”ל היה על מאכל כזה ולא על מה שאנו קוראים צ’יפס
  16. שו”ת שלחן הלוי שם
  17. 42 אמת לעיקב על שו”ע יו”ד סי’ קיג הערות מפי השמועה אות
  18. שיעור מאכל בן דרוסאי הוא שליש בישולו לדעת רש”י שבת דף כ ע”א (ד”ה בן) וחצי בישולו לדעת הרמב”ם פ”ט מהל’ שבת הל’ ה, ועי’ בחלקת בנימין סי’ קיג סעי’ ט ביאורים ד”ה כמאכל מש”כ בזה
  19. רמ”א סי’ קיג סעי’ ט
  20. עי’ בחלקת בנימין שם ס”ק צב ובציונים שם ס”ק רנח
  21. כן כתבו בשו”ת חשב האפוד ח”ג סי’ כט ובחלקת בנימין סי’ קיג ס”ק ח
  22. כ”כ התפארת למשה סי’ קיג סעי’ ט, וז”ל, “בשו”ע סעי’ ט אם בישל גוי כמאכל בן דרוסאי וגמרו ישראל יש לאסור [והרמ”א כתב] ויש מתירין כו’ ע”ש, וכן נראה לי עיקר דהא אינו עולה על שלחן מלכים כשהוא כמאכל בן דרוסאי כל זמן שלא נגמר בשולו, ולדעת המחבר צ”ל דעולה על שלחן מלכים אף שלא נתבשל רק כמאכל בן דרוסאי ודוק, וכ”מ דאי לא גמרו ישראל רק בישל גוי כמאכל בן דרוסאי לכו”ע אסור”, ועי’ בחלקת בנימין שם ביאורים ד”ה ‘אם בישלו’ מש”כ בזה
  23. כן שמעתי ממו”ר ר’ היינעמאן שליט”א
  24. בשו”ת שבט הלוי ח”ט סי’ כג הסיק שיש להחמיר בזה, אמנם בתשובה אחרת שם ח”י סי’ קכד כתב שאין למחות בחוזק יד על המקילים ומכל מקום לבעל נפש יש מקום להחמיר. ובספר אשרי האיש יו”ד ח”א פ”ה אות א הביא בשם הגרי”ש אלישיב זצ”ל בזה”ל, “בחטיף צ’יפס שייך בישול עכו”ם שעולה על שלחן מלכים, כי מלבד שנעשה מתפוחי אדמה אפשר לאוכלו עם גבינה רכה ללפת את הפת, ואין בו חסרון מצד חשיבות”
  25. וכן פסק מו”ר ר’ היינעמאן שליט”א