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May a Gentile turn on the flame and cook on electric stove. I have a non-Jewish maid which does all the cooking and cleaning at home, and while I am at home I make sure to turn on the flame, or electric stove top before she cooks, I am often not at home, and there is no one available to do so. Am I allowed to have her turn on the electric stove for the sake of cooking for us. Someone told me that since she is our maid and it is electric cooking it is therefore not a problem of Bishul Akum.
You are not to allow your maid to turn on the electric burners and cook food on your behalf or in your pots due to the prohibition of Bishul Akum. Bedieved, if this was already done, the food should not be eaten, although one may be lenient to not require the vessels to be Kashered.
The above question touches upon two points of discussion regarding the laws of Bishul Akum; the first one being as to whether the prohibition of Bishul Akum applies when a Gentile cooks on behalf of the Jew inside the house of the Jew, and the second being if the prohibition of Bishul Akum applies towards electric cooking. Both of the subjects contain obscurity and controversy within Halacha, as we will now explain.
Cooking in the house of a Jew: There is a dispute recorded in both the Rishonim and Poskim regarding whether a gentile maid/housekeeper may cook for her Jewish boss within his home. The Michaber in his Shulchan Aruch records both opinions without arbitrating while the Rama rules that Bedeived if this was done the food is kosher, and that the custom is to even initially be lenient to allow a maid to cook in one’s home since with certainty a member of the household will raise the fire to help the cooking process. However, the Poskim of today point out that this accustomed allowance no longer applies today by the gas stoves since it uncommon to mix into the cooking, and therefore this leniency no longer applies. Likewise, they rule that the whole concept of the maid discussed in the above law does not apply today, as back then the maid was unable to quit her job and was subjugated to her boss, in contrast to today’s times in which a maid can quit whenever she wants. Therefore, even Bedieved, the food is to be deemed not kosher even according to the Rama.
Electric cooking: While arguments of leniencies have been voiced by some regarding the status of electric cooking and its being considered Koach Kocho, especially regarding having a maid cook for a Jew in the Jews house using electric burners, practically, the accepted approach amongst all of the known Poskim, Rabbanim, and Hashgacha agencies, is that one may not be lenient in this matter, and a Jew is to always be particular to turn on the electric stove or oven in order for the maid to cook [and by Sephardim the Jew must actually place the food on the fire] and even Bedieved if this was not done, the food is to be deemed not kosher.
Kashering the vessels: Although it is disputed amongst the Poskim as to whether the vessels which were used for the cooking by a Gentile become prohibited just like the food, practically, in our case one may be lenient regarding the vessels, due to the various debates that exist regarding even the food itself.
Sources: See regarding if a maid cooking for a Jew in his home contains the prohibition of Bishul Akum: Michaber Y.D. 113:4 [records both opinions]; Rama 113:4 [Lenient Bedieved]; Shach 113:7; Rav Poalim O.C. 4:6 and Kaf Hachaim 112:38 [stringent even Bedieved for Sephardim]; Mishneh Halachos 3:116; Teshuvos Vhenahagos 1:439; Vayivarech David 1:94; Shevet Hakehasi 6:280; Pesakim Uteshuvos 113:12 and Poskim in footnotes 139 and 141 that the accustomed allowance is no longer applicable in today’s times; Hakashrus 19 footnote 43; See regarding electric cooking and if it is defined as Bishul Akum: Teshuvos Vehnahagos 1:439; 5:249-2 [completely negates being lenient unlike one rabbi who ruled leniently]; Kashrus Veshabbat Bamitbach Hamoderni [Halprin] p. 169 [contemplates leniency in the house of a Jew, although concludes that this is not the way we rule]; Ama Dabar 1:40 [Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu prohibits]; Koshrot p. 416 [forbidden]; Minchas Yitzchak 7:2-3 [forbidden]; Rav Elyashiv brought Yisa Yosef Y.D. 1:8-5 and Halichos Sadeh 145 [forbidden]; Chayeh Halevi 4:53-4; Shulchan Melachim 9:6-1; Shevet Halevi; Pesakim Uteshuvos 113:12; 28 footnote 230 See also: Shevet Halevi 6:108-6; 9:185 Minchas Yitzchak 3:26; Yabia Omer 5:9; Igros Moshe Y.D. 4:48 rules stringently although says the world is accustomed to be lenient and are not to be protested; Kochavei Yitzchak 3:24-1; Vayivarech David 1:95; Noam Halacha p. 209; Ateres Paz 1:2; Yabia Omer 5 Y.D. 9:3, 10:7; Tzitz Eliezer 9:41 Opinion of Rav Bentzion Aba Shaul: Rabbi Bentzion Aba Shaul argues regarding electric cooking that it does not contain the prohibition of Bishul Akum being that electric current turned on by the Gentile does not have enough power to cook and it is only the power that is added later that cooks it and it is hence the status of Koach Kocho which is permitted by Bishul Akum. [See Or Letziyon 1 O.C. 2; Ateres Paz 1:2; Yisa Yosef Y.D. 1:8-5; Pesakim Uteshuvos ibid] However, his son Rabbi Eliyahu Aba Shaul relays that while he did bring up this argument, he would not practically rule this way; See regarding that only actual fire is considered Bishul Akum: Ramban A.Z. 38b; Ran ibid; Toras Habayis; Rama Y.D. 113;13; See regarding the status of the pot that was used: Michaber Y.D. 113:16; Shach 113:20; Toras Hasham 75:17; Minchas Yaakov 75:27; Kneses Hagedola 113:81; Divrei Yatziv Y.D. 30-9; Pesakim Uteshuvos 113 footnote 137