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Eye in the Kitchen: Monitoring Kashrut in the Kitchen

Written by שי טחן, 10/4/2024


Eye in the Kitchen: Monitoring Kashrut in the Kitchen


Last week we discussed the monetary concerns of employing a cleaning lady to clean before Pesach, such as snatching a cleaning lady from her place of employment or dealing with her directly, avoiding the cleaning agency that sent her.

Today we would like to address kashrut issues. Let's start with the question of leaving the lady home alone. When we leave her alone in the house, there are concerns, referred to as -בשר שנתעלם מן העין "meat that was covered from the eye".

Chazal prohibited us from leaving the food around the non-Jewish person without supervision, as they might have exchanged our meat, chicken, fish, etc., with non-kosher ones. In the event it was left unattended, the food becomes forbidden(יו״ד סימן קיח) .

There are other concerns, such as she might have cooked with our utensils, rendering them not kosher, or opened the wine bottles, making them unkosher(סימן קיח סעיף יב) .

Chazal also prohibited eating goy’s cooking, even if the food is kosher food. This decree is known as "bishul akum." The reason Chazal didn't allow it is to distance us from the goyim so we don't intermarry with them. Not only does the food become not kosher, but also the utensils used become treif. Thus, when we leave a cleaning lady alone at home, we are concerned that she might have gotten hungry and cooked something to eat or boiled herself an egg, thereby rendering the utensils treif.

She might also have used our oven, toaster, or microwave to heat her food. This is true even if we are certain she didn't bring any food with her.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein(אגר״מ יו״ד ח״א סימן סא)  warned about this and said that one should not leave her alone. But in the event one didn't know and left her alone in the house, the utensils don't require kashering. However, one should wait 24 hours before using them, as after 24 hours if she cooked in them, it becomes rabbinically prohibited. Since it's doubtful if she cooked in them, it's a doubt in rabbinical law. Rabbi Moshe adds that even if the cleaning lady was hired only for cleaning and not for cooking, we are still concerned.

On the other hand, Shevet Hakehati(ח״ו סימן רפא)  argues against this and says that the concern is only if she was hired to cook as well. Otherwise, we aren't worried that if she was only supposed to clean, she'll also cook.

Another concern is that she'll cook meat and dairy together or cook meat in a dairy pot or vice versa.

In the event one must leave his house and can't be around, there are some ways to permit leaving her there. One way is to enter the house every once in a while unexpectedly(הוא היתר לכתחילה ראה כף החיים ס״ק קכג) . One should enter the house for no longer than 18 minutes(גר״א סימן קכט סק״ב)  and make sure the house isn't locked unless he has the keys(ש״ע סימן קיח ס"י) .

This way, she'll be worried about being seen doing something she isn't allowed and potentially be fired. Even if one can't come every once in a while, he should tell her he'll be back shortly, thus creating the same sense of fear(סימן קיח ס״י) .

Of course, when hiring her, we should make sure to inform and warn her that she isn't allowed to cook or warm any food in the kitchen. Otherwise, she might cook without realizing she isn't allowed to do so.

The practice of entering once in a while also addresses the issue of "meat that was not seen" and the problem of wine that was left alone with her.

A more updated solution is to install a camera in the kitchen. When doing that, we should either put the camera in a visible place that she can see it so she'll know she's being observed, or inform her that there is a camera(שו״ת עמק התשובה ח״ט סימן פו) .

Another way to permit leaving her alone in the house is either locking the food in a closet and hiding the keys, or sealing the food in packages so that if she opens them, the seal will break and we will know. This reassures us that the food wasn't handled.

In the event one didn't follow this halacha and left her alone without entering once in a while, the food becomes restricted only if we suspect that she has a gain by changing the meat, fish, etc., for example if we think she changed it with something of lesser quality(סימן קיח ס״י) . Since today it's very unlikely she will have lesser quality meat and change it, we are therefore lenient to permit the food(שו״ת מנחת אשר ח״ב סימן נא) .

Leaving the non-Jewish person in the house with an open bottle of uncooked wine is not permitted, as we are concerned that she might shake the bottle as a form of worshiping avoda zara. However, we can permit this if we enter the house often as explained before.

In the event we forgot we had such a bottle in the house and left for the day, Rav Elyashiv permits it since we don't suspect that the lady would do two things: first, open the bottle, and then shake it.


Yichud with the Cleaning Lady.

Another relevant issue is the question of yichud (seclusion). Can the husband or boys stay home while the wife needs to leave? Here as well there are some ways to permit:

1. There is a debate about whether leaving the front door unlocked saves a person from the prohibition of yichud. The Rashba(אלף רנא)  and Raaved(מובא בפתחי תשובה סק״ח)  permitted, saying that yichud is only if the door is locked since people would not sin if the door isn't locked, as they are constantly afraid that someone might walk in. Some poskim(רע״א סימן ק’)  explained their opinion to forbid closed doors even if not locked.


2. If the wife or other people can walk in at any given time, then the place is not considered a yichud place(שו״ת דובב משרים ח״א ס״ה) .

Therefore, a good idea would be to give keys to a neighbor and ask them to come in once in a while as a surprise visit.

3. As we spoke before regarding the kashrut section, the same solution of placing a surveillance camera would apply here as well. But here, the poskim say that someone else besides the husband should be able to have access, such as the wife or another trusted individual, to view the recorded surveillance, whether in real-time or afterward(חוט שני הלכות מזוזה עמוד תכט, אמנם יש הרבה פוסקים החולקים בזה) .

Another requirement is to make sure that the entire house is covered by the surveillance camera. Otherwise, we are concerned that they might go to a room that doesn't have the camera.



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