Volume 64 Number 74 
      Produced: Wed, 15 Jul 20 01:48:28 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Bishul akum with induction stoves (4)
    [Michael Rogovin  Robert Israel  Michael Mirsky  Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
Camel domestication (was Bible criticism) (3)
    [Martin Stern  Arthur G Sapper  Ben Katz, M.D.]


From: Michael Rogovin <michael@...>
Date: Tue, Jul 14,2020 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Bishul akum with induction stoves

Martin Stern asks (MJ 64#73) about bishul akum and its impact on cooking
with induction stoves (with some side notes about the rabbinate). 

This is actually something of great interest to me. First an intro to induction
cooking (apologies to any physicists or electrical engineers on the list for any
oversimplification).Then the halachic issues. And finally some thoughts about
the rabbinate.

1. Gas stovetops burn a fuel that directly heats the pot. Electric burners
convert electricity to heat through resistance, causing a coil (sometimes hidden
behind a glass or metal surface) to heat up and transfer heat to the pot through
contact. Both are forms of radiant heating of the pot. Induction works by
converting electricity to a magnetic field, which when in contact with a pot
containing iron (including steel) causes it to heat up. Unlike conventional
stoves, a pot without a conductor or even your hand placed on the stovetop when
it is on will not heat up. The only time the stovetop gets hot is when heat is
transferred back from the pot. You could leave the stove on 24/7 and unless the
iron pot is placed on the stove, nothing happens (no electricity is used), The
advantages are that it is an extremely energy efficient system; no fuel is
wasted heating the air, there is minimal energy loss, and pots and their
contents heat very quickly.

2. The question is what constitutes turning on the stove? Is it the flipping of
a switch? Or is it the placing of the pot. I do not know about the difference
between Ashkenazi and Sepharadi rules on this and how it would be applied, but
when I ran a kosher cafe under the OU, I was told that we could not use
induction burners unless the person placing the pot was Jewish. I recently read
an article in a publication by the Star-K that stated that induction was not a
type of cooking covered by the rule on bishul akum since it did not use heat.
(The OU similarly did not allow a microwave;  the Star-K says that bisul akum is
not applicable).

3. The difference between the opinions leads to another point Martin mentioned
that was raised by the article in question. In Israel, not only does the state
have a monopoly on kashrut certification, but it limits who can even use the
word kosher. If I do not have permission from the rabbanut, I cannot sell an
item that is certified kosher (or that does not require certification, like raw
nuts) and claim it is kosher. I cannot use the word at all. Of course there is
no true monopoly since there are competing hechshers ON THE RIGHT, just not on
the left. (It should be noted that as strict as they are on restaurants, they
are very lenient on packaged goods. I once saw a cheese made in Denmark that
stated it was under the Triangle-K hechsher of NY with permission of the
rabbanut; such a cheese would never be sold in any local va'ad supervised
marketplace in the US). While I understand the advantages of a system that
enforces a single set of standards, I do not think it is healthy. It is all well
and good to have a baseline standard designed so that anyone who keeps kosher
will be able to eat in a place under under this supervision, but the rabbanut
does not meet this standard since many people do not rely on it. It is time for
Israel to allow hechshers from competing organizations, perhaps with some
minimal universal standards, with a disclosure law that lets people know
how one hechsher differs from another. The word kosher should not be the
property of one set of rabbis. Or perhaps the government should get out of the
kosher supervision business and leave it to the market.

4. Finally regarding bishul akum. My understanding is that this law, like rules
on stam yayin (as opposed to yayin nesech which barely exists anymore) and
gevinat akum, are intended to prevent social mixing of Jews and (depending on
one's understanding) idolators or non-Jews. There is nothing intrinsic to the
food itself The reality is that we have found so many ways to get around these
rules in order to permit socialization that these rules have become not only
ineffective but silly. We boil wine by passing an electric current through it
that barely affects the taste (other than to a few oenophiles) or we require a
Jew to pour the wine; we require a Jew add the rennet; we have a Jew light the
pilot. These simply become problems to be overcome with no practical benefit or
impact. We invite non-Jews to dine with us all the time. Even some of Hazal seem
to have business or social relationships with idolators. And we are not even
dealing with true idolators today anyway, other than some scattered wiccans.
While this might be an unorthodox suggestion, perhaps we should rethink the
applicability in general of these rabbinic rules.

Michael Rogovin

From: Robert Israel <israel@...>
Date: Tue, Jul 14,2020 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Bishul akum with induction stoves

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 64#73):

> However, I suppose that the underlying problem, which the ToI did not 
> choose to explain, was somehow connected to the process by which 
> induction stoves cook and how it impinges on bishul akum. Can anyone 
> explain how they work and why they might present a halachic problem, even 
> for Ashkenazim?

I found the following in an article by Rabbi Zushe Yosef Blech in the
newsletter of the MK kashrut certification agency from 2013:


> Another practical Halachic concern would involves the prohibition of Bishul
> Akum. In general, the cooking of important foods that are inedible and raw
> must involve some Jewish participation and, as noted in the above T'shuvah of
> Rav Moshe Feinstein, microwave ovens do, indeed, cook. On the other hand, 
> some authorities argue that the absence of a flame obviates Bishul Akum
> concerns, based on the Yerushalmi (N'darim 7:1) and the language of the Ramo
> (Y.D. 113:13) and other Rishonim. 
> Technology, however, is insidiously creative, and induction cooking adds two
> new wrinkles to Bishul Akum concerns. Induction cooking relies on an electric
> coil to create an electric field in a ferromagnetic pot, causing the pot to
> act as a heating element. It may be argued that even if we accept microwave
> ovens to be free of Bishul Akum concerns, that is because no external heat is
> created - only the food itself becomes hot. Induction, while also relying on
> magnetic waves, heats the pot that then heats the food, which may be
> analogous to a conventional heating element. A second concern is a practical 
> one. Bishul Akum can be obviated (at least for Ashk'nazim) by having a Jew
> turn the fire on, after which the non-Jew can place the pot of food on the
> existing fire. This arrangement works equally well for fire or conventional
> electric elements since, in both cases, the heat was created by the Jew. In
> an induction range, however, turning the circuit on creates no heat
> whatsoever - it merely creates a magnetic field. Heat is only created when the
> pot is placed over this field, and if the non-Jew places the pot on the
> "burner", he is the one who is turning the "fire" on. Indeed, the circuitry is
> designed so that merely lifting the pot off the burner causes an interruption
> of the magnetic field, and only returns when the pot is replaced. Such ranges
> should therefore not be used unless a Jew actually places the pot on the
> burner every time.

Robert Israel                                <israel@...>
Department of Mathematics        http://www.math.ubc.ca/~israel 
University of British Columbia            Vancouver, BC, Canada

From: Michael Mirsky <mirskym@...>
Date: Tue, Jul 14,2020 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Bishul akum with induction stoves

In response to Martin Stern (MJ 64#73):

I am an electrical engineer. Induction stovetops have a coil under each spot
where the pan is placed on the stove. That coil produces a high frequency
alternating magnetic field. Special pots and pans must be used on these stove
tops which are made such that when the pan is placed on the stovetop, the
magnetic field from the coil induces internal electric current flow inside the
pan. These currents cause the pan to get hot. There is no direct contact with
the coil, the magnetic field flows through the air. This is similar to how
transformers work.

The result is that the pan gets hot, but the surface of the stovetop remains
fairly cool. The halachic issue, I believe, is that every time the pot is lifted
from the stove, the magnetic field turns itself off. When placed back on it
starts again and the pan reheats.  So some feel that this is in effect madlik
aish, so according to Ashkenazim they feel that  a Jew would have to always
replace the pan on the stovetop every the non-Jew removed it.  As he mentions,
for Sephardim they w/should never eat at a place with a non-Jewish cook
regardless of the cooking technology.

The issue for Ashkenazim is whether bishul akum applies when the heat is not an
actual flame or heating element.  An analogous issue would be whether heating in
a microwave by a non-Jew is bishul akum.

Michael Mirsky

From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Tue, Jul 14,2020 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Bishul akum with induction stoves

In response to Martin Stern (MJ 64#73):

An induction oven does not heat the stove top as does a regular burner. There is
a magnetic field under the top which starts to heat the specially designed
cookware when the magnetic field interacts with the metal of the cookware. As a
result, it is as if the cook is "turning on" the "heating element" by placing
the skillet on the stove top. Thus, it is as if the non-Jew was the only person
involved in the cooking process.

The following article gives the possible problems with this type of stove.



>  1. Yom Tov: With gas or electric cooktops, one can leave a burner
>     on before Yom Tov and then cook as needed for that Yom Tov. With
>     induction however, leaving a burner on before Yom Tov will be of
>     no use as the cooking connection is only made when the pot is set
>     on the burner. Each time a pot is placed and removed from the
>     burner the current is consequently connected and disconnected.
>     This obviously makes the use of induction cooktops assur for Yom Tov.
>  2. Shabbos: One cannot put a blech on any glass cooktop. Doing so
>     would cause the glass to shatter. Additionally, the blech would
>     interrupt the magnetic connection between the element and the pot.
>  3. Bishul Akum: In a household where there may be a non-Jew doing
>     the cooking, induction cooktops can prove problematic. Leaving a
>     burner on will not produce any heat and therefore cannot be
>     considered starting the cooking process. A Jew would need to place
>     a compatible pot on an activated burner to avoid this problem.
>     Additionally, removing a pot from an induction element fully cuts
>     off the magnetic current. Therefore, if a Jew initially placed a
>     pot on the burner and it was removed for any reason, a Jew would
>     need to re-place it on the element once again. Obviously this
>     presents problems if a Jew will not be around during the entire
>     cooking process.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jul 12,2020 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Camel domestication (was Bible criticism)

This submission is based on information provided by a member who for personal
and professional reasons is unable to submit it under his own name. I wish to
thank him for his help.

(Though we do not usually allow anonymous postings, we know the informant's
identity and are aware of his peculiar situation so this exceptional case should
not be thought of as being a precedent - MOD)

I wrote (MJ 64#72):

> One argument put forward by modern Bible scholars that the Torah must have
> been written much later than the events described is that it contains
> anachronisms. A favourite is that several stories regarding Avraham Avinu
> refer to camels - but it is claimed that they were not domesticated at the
> time he was supposed to have lived.
> Does anyone know what evidence there is to support this claim or is it based
> only on the fact that no reference to domesticated camels has been found?

There is a very interesting article "Biblical Views: Did Abraham Ride a Camel?"
by Mark W. Chavalas in Biblical Archaeology Review (Vol. 44:6, Nov/Dec 2018)
which discusses this issue:


> Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef in a recent study in the Israeli journal
> Tel Aviv claim that the camel was not domesticated in the southern Levant
> (i.e., Israel) until the late 10th century B.C.E. While Sapir-Hen and
> Ben-Yosef do not discuss the Bible, Mairav Zonszein concluded in a 2014 piece
> for National Geographic News that the accounts in Genesis concerning camels
> are anachronistic. The camel had not yet been domesticated.
> This, of course, is not a new idea. More than 70 years ago, William Foxwell
> Albright, the greatest Biblical scholar of the 20th century, proclaimed on
> many occasions that the narratives concerning camels in the period of Abraham
> were a blatant anachronism, as they were not domesticated until centuries
> later. Albrights strong statements have, over the years, become accepted
> dogma and have rarely been critiqued.
> While I find no fault with the findings of Sapir-Hen and Ben-Yosef, it is not
> the whole story. A close inspection of Genesis 1112 leads to the conclusion
> that Abraham was not from Israel, but Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and inland
> Syria). Scholars studying this area know of textual, artistic, and
> archaeological evidence for camels long before the supposed time of Abraham
> and his family. Moreover, the sporadic accounts in Genesis concerning camels
> usually occur outside Israel in northern Mesopotamia (and occasionally when
> they travel to Egypt), precisely where much of our external evidence comes
> from. ...

The article continues by describing these archaeological finds, in particular a
sherd from Tepe Sialk in eastern Iran dating to the fourth millennium B.C.E.,
depicting a Bactrian camel, and skeletal remains of camels found at Shahr-i
Sokhta in southeastern Iran dating to the mid-third millennium B.C.E. From these
and various other pieces of evidence, the author concludes: 

> Though not exhaustive, these examples provide evidence that at the very least,
> the Bactrian camel was already known and domesticated in Mesopotamia by the
> time of Abraham. The relatively poor representation of camels in these texts
> does not imply their relative rarity; they may have been prestigious. So the
> Biblical writers may have been highlighting Abrahams great wealth by
> mentioning camels. I think this evidence is more than enough to discount the
> idea that the Genesis source superimposed camels in the patriarchal
> narratives. The writer of Genesis wrote about camels anecdotally; they add
> little to the narrative, except for implying Abrahams wealth.

Of course, it must be pointed out that the existence of domesticated camels in
second-millennium Mesopotamia enhances the verisimilitude of the Abraham story
but provides no proof of its historical accuracy. On the other hand, it exposes
the sort of dogmatic approach that some people seize on to 'prove' that the
story is anachronistic and therefore could not have been written at the time it
was purported to have taken place.

Martin Stern

From: Arthur G Sapper <asherben@...>
Date: Sun, Jul 12,2020 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Camel domestication (was Bible criticism)

In response to Martin Stern (MJ 64#72):
Martin is right that the "evidence" to support this claim was the absence of
bones showing domestication (domesticated animals show a decrease in bone mass)
that could be dated from the relevant period.  So the claim was fragile and
could be shattered with new discoveries.  And it was.    In Biblical Archaeology
Review 44:6, November/December 2018, "Biblical Views: Did Abraham Ride a
Camel?," by Mark W. Chavalas, the author makes the following points, according
to this summary

Chavalas explains that the events in the Biblical accounts of the Patriarchs and
Matriarchs (Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Israel and Rachel) have
been traditionally dated to c. 20001600 B.C.E. (during the Middle Bronze Age).
Camels appear in Mesopotamian sources in the third millennium B.C.E. before this
period. However, the mere presence of camels in sources does not necessarily
mean that camels were domesticated.

The question remains: When were camels domesticated in Mesopotamia?

In his examination of camel domestication history, Chavalas looks at a variety
of textual, artistic, and archaeological sources from Mesopotamia dating to the
third and second millennia, of which these are five:

1. One of the first pieces of evidence for camel domestication comes from the
site of Eshnunna in modern Iraq: A plaque from the mid-third millennium shows a
camel being ridden by a human.

2. A second source is a 21st-century B.C.E. text from Puzrish-Dagan in modern
Iraq that may record camel deliveries.

3. A third is an 18th-century B.C.E. text (quoting from an earlier third
millennium text) from Nippur in modern Iraq that says the milk of the camel is

Chavalas explains why he thinks this likely refers to a domesticated camel:

"Having walked in many surveys through camel herds in Syria along the Middle
Euphrates River, I believe that this text is describing a domesticated camel;
who would want to milk a wild camel? At the very least, the Bactrian camel was
being used for dairy needs at this time."

4. A fourth is an 18th-century B.C.E. cylinder seal depicts a two-humped camel
with riders. Although this seals exact place of origin is unknown, it reputedly
comes from Syria, and it resembles other seals from Alalakh (a site in modern
Turkey near Turkeys southern border with Syria).

5. Finally, a 17th-century text from Alalakh includes camels in a list of
domesticated animals that required food.

All the above suggest that camel domestication had occurred in Mesopotamia by
the second millennium B.C.E.

Although domesticated camels may not have been widespread in Mesopotamia in the
second millennium, these pieces of evidence show that by the second millennium,
there were at least some domesticated camels. Thus, camel domestication had
taken place in Mesopotamia by the time of Abraham. Accordingly, Chavalas argues
that the camels in the stories of Abraham in Genesis are not anachronistic.
Arthur G. Sapper

From: Ben Katz, M.D.<BKatz@...>
Date: Wed, Jul 15,2020 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Camel domestication (was Bible criticism)

In response to Martin Stern (MJ 64#72):

The late Nahum Sarna, of blessed memory, discussed this issue in the JPS Torah Commentary 
volume on  Bereshit/Genesis 12:16.  To summarize his discussion: Camels do not appear in 
Egyptian texts and art till the Persian period and they are absent from Mari texts which describe 
nomadic/pastoral life and from thousands of texts from the Old Babylonia period.  They apparently 
were not domesticated as beasts of burden till the 12th century BCE, long after the time of Abraham.  
Yet they play a prominent role in several patriarchal narratives.  
Sarna suggests that perhaps the text is referring to a dromedary or that the domestication of camels 
spread very slowly and was rare but not unheard of in patriarchal times, thus making its prominent 
display in Abraham's entourage even more dramatic as a sign of wealth and prominence.  


End of Volume 64 Issue 74