In the last few issues, we have been focusing on how the gezeirah of sheichar akum applies to the drinking of non-Jewish-made alcoholic drinks. But would it also apply to a non-alcoholic drink such as coffee?
With coffee, there are two issues that need to be addressed: (1) Does coffee fall under the gezeirah of sheichar akum, and (2) Does coffee fall under the gezeirah of bishul akum?
Regarding the applicability of sheichar akum, we already saw that the Shulchan Aruch says that the most common drinks of the day (such as date beer) fell under the gezeirah, while very uncommon drinks, such as apple cider, did not. There is also a grey area in the middle where one could debate about how moderately consumed drinks were treated. Presumably coffee was a very uncommon drink in the times of Chazal and therefore it is difficult to argue that it was included in the gezeirah.
However, this now brings us to the second question of whether or not coffee was included in the gezeirah of bishul akum. There is a lot of debate about this topic and we will have to cover it in two issues.
In addressing this, we need to remind ourselves that there are two criteria that need to be met to make bishul akum applicable:
- The food is not eaten kmo she'hu chai (raw), and
- It is oileh al shulchan melachim (fit to serve at a banquet)
Coffee is not eaten raw and it is served at all types of fancy events, so on face value it should be considered bishul akum.
What about instant coffee, which is seemingly a lower quality type of coffee, would bishul akum apply to it? First of all, in bishul akum, we've seen opinions that say we go after the min (type), so since instant coffee would fall into the general category of "coffee," bishul akum could still apply to it. In addition, you still find that at special events, such as a bris, that they do serve instant coffee, so to say that it is not oileh al shulchan melachim might be difficult to argue.
The Acharonim discuss the applicability of bishul akum to coffee. It is brought in the name of the Arizal that he forbade non-Jewish coffee because of bishul akum. However, the Darchei Teshuvah brings from other sources, that it could be that the Arizal was just being strict on himself and wouldn't protest against others who did drink it. Other Acharonim, such as the Panim Meiros, hold that coffee is forbidden according to the letter of the law, not just as a stringency. On the other side of the spectrum, we have the Be'er Eisek, who says that drinking coffee in coffee houses is permissible even for those people who conduct themselves stringently in all matters. He says that no one is concerned for the opinion of the Panim Meiros.
Are there any halachic arguments to show that coffee does not fall under bishul akum? The Pri Chadash brings a Tosfos in Avodah Zara (35b) where they state proofs that beer (which is cooked) does not fall under bishul akum. One proof is that the brocha on beer is "shehakol" and not "borei minei mezonos." This is because the water is the main ingredient in beer, not the grain, so the grain is thus batel (nullified) to the water. Water is consumed raw, therefore bishul akum doesn't apply to beer. So too, argues the Pri Chadash, water is the main ingredient in coffee, which is why we say the brocha of "shehakol" on it and not "borei pri haEitz." Therefore, bishul akum would not apply to coffee either.
Next week we will see how the Panim Meiros argues against this proof from the Pri Chadash. We will also look at other arguments discussing the applicability of bishul akum to coffee.