A more religious neighbor does not allow her housekeeper of 5 years to turn on her stove when cooking for her; she says it breaks some law of non-Jews cooking for Jews. Can you possibly explain this very offensive rule? Is my neighbor correct?
Frankly, I do not understand your revulsion at what you brand as offensive. In the same breath as you say the housekeeper has cooked for 5 years, you are upset that the Jewish person turns on the stove. Is that such a big deal?
As to the issue itself, it is rooted in the concerns that the Rabbis of yesteryear had that certain types of interaction with non-Jews might lead to Jews leaving the fold and marrying outside the faith. They therefore instituted hedges against this happening. No hedge is foolproof, but the hedge itself is a reminder to put the brakes on social interaction that is of a more intimate nature.
One hedge is a clamp down on food cooked by a non-Jew. The rules about this are quite intricate, as is the case with rules in general. Understanding that there might be circumstances when the issue of "leaving the fold" might not be as serious, the Rabbis also built in exceptions, such as the case of housekeepers, for whom even a minimalist involvement in the cooking by the Jewish party (i.e., turning on the stove), is sufficient to remove it from the category of prohibited cooking.
The rules combine the corcern for the Jewish future with the awareness of pressing issues in the present. In the big picture, there is a delicate balance which I hope you now better appreciate.
I know of no such law that would prohibit the non-Jewish housekeeper from turning on the stove for anor do I know of a law that would prohibit a non-Jew from cooking for a Jew.The onlycaveat I would offer is that perhaps the issue you are questioning involves Shabbat, the Sabbath.
According to the Torah, (Exodus 35:3): “You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements on the Sabbath day.”Our tradition has taken that to mean we cannot start or extinguish a flame on Shabbat.That rule coupled with the injunctions to keep the Sabbath day has given rise to the law that no food may be cooked on Shabbat.Food may be warmed up under very strict guidelines, as long as the fire, or warming implement, has been left on and unadjusted from before the onset of Shabbat.
It would seem to me that perhaps the incidents you describe occur on Shabbat.On Shabbat, a Jew is not permitted to cook, nor is a non-Jew permitted to cook for a Jew.The thought behind this law is that on Shabbat, when we are prohibited from cooking for ourselves, we do not allow non-Jews to cook for us.
Let’s clarify terms. Just because one thinks that he or she is more halachically (legalistically) observant does not make one more religious. More often than not, it merely makes one ritually compulsive.
Many such people base their practice on folk observance which has no basis in rabbinic law. This is a perfect example of that principle. Unfortunately, in our Jewish community, ignorance reigns supreme.
However, all the arguing in the world will not convince your neighbor of this reality.
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