And so we finish the 4th chapter of Tractate Shabbat.
The Talmud (51a) discusses the case of food which can be eaten raw and concludes that such food, in our case – water, is not subject to the prohibition of Bishul Akum. The Koren makes an interesting note:
“Among the measures introduced by the Sages to prevent assimilation with gentiles was the decree prohibiting a Jew to eat food cooked by a gentile. The decree was not motivated primarily by concern that the food contained non-kosher ingredients. Rather, it was a measure specifically intended to distance Jews from gentiles. Therefore, the Sages did not issue the decree in situations where the cooking was insignificant, e.g., where the food can be eaten without being cooked.”
This raises a few questions:
1. We now live in a society where we mix all of the time with gentiles. We do this both professionally and socially. Should the decree still stand?
2. The Koren note states that the decree was not primarily due to concern over non-kosher ingredients. Clearly this was part of the calculation and may be the reason for the continuation of the decree…..
For an excellent article on this subject see Rabbi Jachter’s article here.