Prof. Levine llevine at stevens.edu
Tue Jan 15 07:02:31 PST 2013

>From yesterday's Hakhel email bulletin



The following questions were posed to Rav Shmuel Fuerst, Dayan of Agudath
Israel in Chicago at a kashrus symposium in Detroit on December 30,
2012. Some of the answers below have been edited and modified to reflect
the position of the Vaad Harabbonim of Greater Detroit.

May a housewife have a non-Jewish cleaning lady clean her kitchen if no
frum person is at home?

It is never a good idea to allow a person who does not keep kosher­Jewish
or not­to have free access to your kitchen. It is quite common for a
cleaning lady to bring her own non-kosher food into your kitchen and
use your oven or microwave to warm it up, or use your kosher utensils
to stir or serve her non-kosher food. Even if the cleaning lady does not
bring her own food into your home, there remains the likelihood that she
will prepare something for herself in your kitchen in a manner which will
render your oven, pots, pans or dishes non-kosher. Mixing meat and milk
together, transgressing the laws of bishul akum or gaining access to
unsealed meat and fish are just some of the things that could go wrong
when a kitchen is accessed by an individual who is not knowledgeable
or reliable concerning kashrus. Whenever possible, such a person should
not be left in your kitchen unsupervised.

In the event that this truly cannot be avoided, there are a number of
safeguards that can be instituted to lessen the likelihood of making
your kitchen non-kosher. First and foremost, the cleaning lady must
be told in no uncertain terms that she may not bring any of her own
food into the house, nor may she cook, bake or warm any food in the
kitchen­not for herself or for anyone else. The slightest infraction of
this rule will result in her immediate dismissal. Secondly, all unsealed
food which cannot be clearly identified as kosher, e.g., meat, chicken,
skinned fish, cheese or wine, should either be resealed or stored under
lock and key. Thirdly, the microwave oven should be sealed with a tamper
proof seal. In addition, one of the following two procedures must be

1. A neighbor or a relative must drop in at random times throughout the
day to check up on the cleaning lady. The cleaning lady should be told
in advance that someone will be checking up on her.

2. A video camera must be installed to monitor the kitchen area. The
cleaning lady should be told that a camera is operating at all times. The
tape should be periodically reviewed to verify that no cooking, baking
or warming has taken place anywhere in the kitchen and that no outside
food has been brought in.

In the event that the above precautions were not followed and a cleaning
lady was left alone in the kitchen without any supervision, a Rav should
be consulted to decide the status of the kitchen appliances, pots and
pans, and dishes. Depending on the exact circumstances, the Rav may decide
that nothing at all needs to be done and everything in the kitchen remains
kosher, or he may decide that the ovens must be koshered, and that the
pots and dishes­or at least some of them­may not be used for 24 hours.

A related question arises when a wife needs to step out for a few hours,
but does not wish to leave her kitchen unsupervised while the cleaning
lady is working there. May she ask her husband to remain at home to
supervise the cleaning lady? Depending on the circumstances, that may
entail a gross violation of the laws of yichud or other restrictions
pertaining to modesty and purity. Cases such as these, ostensibly
commonplace and innocuous, do, in fact, have to be carefully weighed
and balanced and, if necessary, presented to a Rav for a ruling

If a microwave was mistakenly used for both meat and dairy dishes,
what could be done?

It is forbidden to use the same microwave to warm or cook both dairy
and meat if both the dairy and meat dishes are uncovered. It is strongly
recommended not to use the same microwave for meat and dairy even if one
is careful to keep all of the food covered while being cooked or warmed.
One should make every effort to get two separate microwave ovens and
designate one for meat and the other for dairy.

In the event that uncovered dairy food was heated in a meat microwave or
vice-versa, the microwave is considered not-kosher, especially if there
was a substantial amount of liquid in the food being warmed. Whether
or not the microwave can be koshered is a subject of debate among
contemporary poskim: Some hold that it can be koshered using a modified
hagalah procedure, which entails scrubbing the roof, walls and turntable
of the microwave clean, waiting twenty-four hours, placing a cup of
water inside the microwave and heating it for 5-10 minutes until thick
steam fills the oven. If the food being warmed touched the turntable
directly (without a plate or napkin in between) then the turntable
should be koshered through hagalah in hot water. Other poskim, however,
are wary of koshering a microwave using this procedure. The practical
halachah will depend on the specific details of the case which should
be presented to a Rav for a ruling.

If an item is labeled DE, may it be eaten in a fleischig meal?

An item which is labeled DE means that pareve food was processed on
hot equipment that was previously used for dairy and no koshering took
place between the dairy run and the pareve run. [Sometimes, DE means
that the pareve product was processed on dairy equipment which was not
totally clean of dairy residue.] There is no way for the consumer to
tell whether or not the dairy equipment was ben yomo at the time the
pareve food was processed or not. Therefore, we are careful not to eat
any DE products together with meat or chicken, since it is forbidden
LeChatchila to eat meat or chicken together with pareve foods that were
processed in hot ben yomo dairy equipment. It is, however, permitted to
eat DE products after eating meat or chicken, even during the same meal,
and even without cleaning ones mouth in between.

If onions cut with a clean meaty knife are ground in a food processor,
does the food processor become meaty?

The answer to this question is a matter of dispute. Some poskim hold
that the absorbed meaty taste that was transferred into the onion from
the meaty knife is further transferred into the blades of the food
processor, thus rendering the blades of the food processor meaty. Other
poskim disagree and maintain that the taste cannot be transferred further
and the food processor remains pareve. Although LeChatchila one should
avoid this problem by taking care to cut onions with a pareve knife or
by designating a food processor for meaty items only, when necessary,
one may rely on the lenient poskim who rule that the processor does not
lose its pareve status.

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