From the STAR-K BMG Chabura: First Aide – Addressing the Halachic Challenges of Domestic and Special Needs Aides in the Home

Many families find themselves caring for aging parents or a special needs child and require additional assistance. Hiring a live-in, an aide, or full-time cleaning help who is an aino Yehudi can create many real halachic concerns. Here are some of the issues we address in this article:

  • Basar Shenis’aleim Min Ha’ayin: Meat which has been left out of the watch of a Yehudi.
  • Yichud Keilim and Bishul Akum: Kosher utensils which have been left unattended with an aino Yehudi and their change in status when used by an aino Yehudi.
  • Stam Yeinum: Wine which may have been handled by an aino Yehudi in a way that would forbid a Yehudi from drinking it.
  • Yichud: If a Jewish man or woman is left alone with a person of the opposite gender.

Basar Shenis’aleim Min Ha’ayin

The Gemara addresses a concern called basar shenis’aleim min ha’ayin about a bird that may have switched a piece of kosher meat which was not being watched with a non-kosher substitute[1]. In our day, that concern is expressed about an aino Yehudi who may have taken kosher meat and possibly replaced it with a non-kosher piece[2].

A basar shenis’aleim min ha’ayin concern is valid only when an aino Yehudi who took the kosher meat would feel obligated to replace it. For example, if a cleaning lady wanted the last piece of meat in your fridge and she was nervous you might confront her by asking, “Where is the meat that I left in the fridge?” then, obviously, she would feel it necessary to replace it. This creates a basar shenis’aleim min ha’ayin issue[3].

On the other hand, if a friend or relative left meat at your front door, there is no concern of replacement, because if someone wanted the meat they would just take it. In this case, there is no issue of basar shenis’aleim min ha’ayin.

If one recognizes the meat left in the fridge, it is called t’vias ayin (eye recognition) and the meat is allowed to be eaten. An extension of this concept is if the food configuration in the freezer looks like it did previously. This, too, can be considered t’vias ayin[4].

Can a system be put in place to assure the kosher integrity of the meat? If the aino Yehudi is worried that a Yehudi may catch him doing something he is not supposed to be doing, the aino Yehudi will refrain because of the fear factor of being caught. This fear factor is called meirsis. Meirsis is created by telling the aino Yehudi that he may not take any meat and that you will be back soon. The concern of the Yehudi’s imminent return would discourage touching or tampering[5].

A variation of this meiris would be to instruct the aino Yehudi to not take any meat and to install a security camera in your kitchen[6]. This would create a constant worry by the aino Yehudi that you’re watching.[7]

Yichud Keilim and Bishul Akum

The Shulchan Aruch tells us to be careful not to leave kosher keilim (e.g., plates, pots, cutlery) unattended due to the obvious concern that the aino Yehudi might use them with non-kosher hot foods which are forbidden to eat[8]. Included in the concern of unattended keilim are microwaves, toaster ovens, waffle maker, etc.

Furthermore, one must realize that certain foods that are 100% kosher l’hatchila may render your cookware treif when used by an aino Yehudi. For example, if eggs, fish, rice, or potatoes were cooked by an aino Yehudi (defined as bishul akum)in your kosher keilim, the keilim may become treif[9].

Optimally, the most effective way to deal with this problem is to address the issue head on and set up a system of oversight in the kitchen. This might include intermittent visits to the kitchen (yotzei v’nichnas) or a security camera connected to your phone. Anytime an aino Yehudi is involved in food preparation in your kitchen, the do’s and don’ts need to be clearly stipulated.

Stam Yeinum

Chazal forbade a Yehudi from drinking wine which was handled by an aino Yehudi for two reasons:

  1. Chasnus – minimizing socialization.
  2. That we should not come to drink wine which was poured for avoda zara (idolatrous libations)[10].

It is important to understand that the prohibition of stam yeinum applies only to wine that was not cooked (aino mevushal). Cooked wine, commonly known as mevushal, doesn’t have any issue of stam yeinum[11].

The exact concern of Chazal were that an aino Yehudi might:

  • Lift an open bottle and shake it.
  • Drink from the bottle.
  • Touch the actual wine and shake his finger even slightly[12].

The problem arises in the following scenario. If aino mevushal wine and the aino Yehudi were left unsupervised for hours in a Jewish home, we have no way of knowing what he/she may have done to the wine while no one was looking. Therefore, we need to treat the situation as if the wine was touched, and the wine is forbidden.

Today, quality non-mevushal wines abound in Jewish homes. How do we resolve this very real dilemma? Again, the optimal way is, as mentioned previously, to create a meirsis by telling the aino Yehudi that he/she may not touch these wines and then have someone walk in occasionally or to install a security camera.

Purchasing only mevushal wines will definitely eliminate many halachic questions. Other possible solutions include: to double-seal the aino mevushal wine; to lock the bottles away; or to employ a recent invention of placing a cap lock on the top of the bottle which can only be removed if the code is known.

Yichud

There is an issur for a man and woman not married to one another to be secluded by themselves at any time[13]. A typical scenario is of an elderly man with a female nurse or aide left alone in the house; this could pose a real halachic problem.

Some solutions to avoid yichud include:

  1. Leaving the front door open at all times. The screen door may be kept closed[14].
  2. Installing a camera[15]. Note that the camera is only halachically effective if the patient is always in the camera’s field of vision.
  3. Establishing an understanding of ‘open entry.’ It is clear that someone else has access to the house and can enter it at any time[16].

If the parent is elderly and unwell, however, a rav must be consulted because various factors have to be weighed and addressed.

Final Recommendations

It is strongly recommended never to indicate to an aino Yehudi that you will be out for a specific amount of time, for example by stating, “I’ll be back in an hour.” It is more preferable to just say, “I’ll be back soon,” giving the aino Yehudi the impression that your imminent return is likely[17]. As always, in each individual case, a halachic authority should be consulted.


[1] Chullin 95B.

[2] Yoreh De’ah 118:10.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Y.D. 63:1.

[5] Ibid., 118:10

[6] Some people have asked whether they could install a decoy camera instead, making the aino Yehudi believe they are being watched on their phone, even though they’re not. This should be asked to your Rav. The opinion of Rav Moshe Heinemann shlit”a, is that you can do so for a short period of time, but the aino Yehudi eventually would likely figure out it’s a dummy and the meirsis would be over.

[7] Heard from R’ Moshe Heinemann shlit”a.

[8] Y.D. 122:9.

[9] Ibid., 113:16

[10] Chochmos Adom 75:1.

[11] Ibid., 75:10.

[12] Ibid., 76:7.

[13] Even Ha’ezer 22:1.

[14] Ibid., 22:9.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Y.D. 118:10.