Q: May one enter a non‐kosher restaurant to get a drink of water, use the restroom or attend a business luncheon? If a person does enter such an establishment, may he eat kosher items such as whole fruit? May one buy a cup of coffee at a non‐kosher facility, such as a highway rest stop or Starbucks?
A: There are a number of activities that, although not inherently wrong, are forbidden by Chazal. This is because it may appear as if he is performing a seemingly different act that is halachically forbidden. For example, a person whose clothes got wet on Shabbos should not hang them out to dry as it will appear to the onlooker as if he washed them on Shabbos.1 Even though the viewer should be ‘don lekaf zechus’ and judge him favorably, in reality not every person is so charitable in this respect, and we should not do things which could lead to suspicion. This type of prohibition is known as ‘maaris ayin’.2
The Rema discusses the prohibition of maaris ayin regarding almond milk. Soaking ground almonds in boiling water produces a drink known as almond milk, which looks similar to regular milk. The Rema states that if meat was cooked in almond milk, some almonds should be placed nearby in order to avoid maaras ayin and the suspicion that the meat was cooked in animal milk.3 He bases this upon the statement of the Rashba, which indicates that one should not prepare a dish which may appear to contain a mixture of cooked meat and milk, due to maaris ayin.4 Some poskim have questioned the Rashba’s creation of a new category of maaris ayin which was not previously mentioned in the Gemora.5 Nevertheless, as previously noted, the Rema paskens in accordance with the Rashba.6
Another example of maaris ayin mentioned by Chazal concerns wearing clothing that contains both wool and silk, as it may appear to be made from wool and linen, which would be considered kilayim.7 However, the Shulchan Aruch states that nowadays silk is commonly available and maaris ayin is no longer an issue in this regard.8 One may deduce from this that maaris ayin is no longer a concern when the action in question has become common practice.
Some poskim contend that margarine and soy milk should be considered comparable to almond milk, and that there would be an issue of maaris ayin when eating them with meat.9 However, most poskim state that since margarine and soy milk are commonly available and well known products, there is no longer an issue of maaris ayin.10
Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, was questioned regarding the permissibility of eating in a restaurant which serves both kosher and non‐kosher items. His response was that even if a person ordered only ostensibly kosher items, he would not be permitted to eat them in such an establishment due to maaris ayin.11 Rav Moshe continued that in cases of suffering, Chazal did not impose the prohibition of maaris ayin.12 Therefore, if a person was painfully hungry and had nothing else to eat, he would be permitted to enter the restaurant and eat the kosher items. In such a case, if a person outside the store recognizes him, he should then explain why he was eating there.
It would seem that Rav Moshe views eating kosher food in a non‐kosher restaurant as an extension of the prohibition of maaris ayin, as outlined by the Rashba and Rema in regards to almond milk. Here, too, it may appear to a bystander that one is eating treif. However, it is a well known fact that people do buy coffee at a rest stop when they are travelling. Therefore, this would be similar to the case of margarine, and maaris ayin would not apply. The same would hold true when buying a drink at a popular coffee shop, such as Starbucks.
Although eating in a restaurant is considered maaris ayin, Rav Moshe has told us that in cases of necessity one would be permitted to enter. Therefore, if a person urgently needs to use the facilities or if his job necessitates his attending a business meeting, he would be permitted to do so. If anyone outside of the store recognizes him, he should explain to them why he was seen there.
It could be argued that maaris ayin is primarily an issue when the person is seen actually eating in the restaurant. Possibly, merely entering the restaurant to attend a business meeting without eating would not constitute a maaris ayin concern. It could also be argued that nowadays, when a frum person is seen in a non-kosher restaurant with a group of non-Jews in a business-like setting, it is commonly understood that he is attending a business meeting and maaris ayin would not be an issue. As this is not always necessarily the case, one should rely upon the common customs of the geographic location involved.
In conclusion: (i) One may buy coffee at a facility if it is the norm for frum Jews to do so, such as at a rest stop on the highway. (ii) One may use the restroom of an establishment that is not normally entered, if there is an urgent need. (iii) One whose job necessitates his attending business meetings in such an establishment would be permitted to do so. In other instances, doing so would raise the issue of maaris ayin.
The Torah (Bamidbar 32:22) obligates us to be “innocent in the eyes of G‐d and man.” The Chasam Sofer13states that the first obligation is easier to fulfill than the second, because not all people are fair minded. Even in a case where one acts acceptably, it is almost impossible to account for another’s perception of that action, or the potential chilul Hashem associated with it. For this reason, it would seem to be appropriate to refrain from entering non‐kosher establishments, unless it is imperative to do so.
Halachic queries regarding all topics may be presented to The Institute of Halacha at the Star-K by calling 410-484-4110 ext. 238
1.שבת דף קמו ע”ב, שו”ע או”ח סי’ שא סעי’ מה
2.עי’ בשו”ת אגרות משה או”ח ח”ד סי’ פב ביאור הדברים האסורים משום חשד ומשום מראית עין
3.רמ”א יו”ד סי’ פז סעי’ ג
4.שו”ת הרשב”א ח”ג סי’ רנז
5.עי’ בפרי חדש סי’ פז ס”ק ז שהקשה על הרשב”א שאין לנו לגזור ולאסור מדעתנו מפני מראית עין, אלא שבסוף דבריו כתב “וכבר הורה זקן”
6.הפלתי שם ס”ק ז הקשה על הרמ”א וכתב שיש לחלק בין הנידון של הרשב”א ושל הרמ”א, ומ”מ סיים “ומשה ותורתו אמת”
7.כלאים פ”ט משנה ב
8.שו”ע יו”ד סי’ רצח סעי’ א
9.עי’ בבדי השלחן סי’ פז סעי’ ג ביאורים ד”ה משום
10.עי’ מש”כ המהרש”ם בדעת תורה יו”ד סי’ פז סעי’ ג, שו”ת חשב האפוד ח”א סי’ כ, שו”ת משנה הלכות ח”ה סי’ צו, שו”ת יחוה דעת ח”ג סי’ נט
11.שו”ת אגרות משה או”ח ח”ב סי’ מ
12.בשו”ת אג”מ שם כתב “במקום צערא ופסידא לא גזרו רבנן כדאיתא בכתובות דף ס” ע”א, ולכאורה ר”ל צער הגוף או פסידת ממון, ועי’ בכתובות שם
13.שו”ת חתם סופר ח”ו סי’ נט