Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 12 November 2011 / 14 Heshvan 5772

The Parameters of Pas Paltur

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

In a recent article “Pie Crusts,Pas Paltur and the Aseres Yemei Teshuva”, several contemporary issues related to Pas Paltur, Pas Akum and Pas Yisrael were touched upon. The intent of this article is to provide the basic background, parameters and common applications of these halachos.

In the times of the Mishna[1], Chazal forbade us from eating Pas Akum - bread and bread-like items that were baked by non-Jews (even if said bread does not have any kashrus concerns[2]) in order to deter us from assimilation and intermarriage[3]. This prohibition applies even when intermarriage is not a concern, i.e. eating with a non-Jewish priest who has no children[4].

If however, a Jew took an active role in the baking process[5], including lighting the fire, stoking the coals under the bread being baked, or actually placing the bread on the fire, the bread becomes known as Pas Yisrael and is permitted, even lchatchila. In fact, as long as a Jew took some part in the baking process, even in some small way[6], including increasing the heat level even minutely, by throwing a toothpick into the fire or blowing on it, the bread is considered Pas Yisrael. However, several authorities qualify the latter leniency, maintaining that preferably one should not rely on these leniencies unless under extenuating circumstances; rather, one should strive to be actively involved in the baking process, assuring that the bread was truly baked by a Jew.

Current Application

In later years, due to the fact that many baking ovens were owned or operated by non-Jews, making it difficult to procure Pas Yisrael products, Chazal qualified this prohibition and created a new class of bread products - Pas Paltur, literally “Baker’s Bread”. This refers to bread products baked in a bakery or commercial setting, where there is no personal or direct contact between the baker and customer, thereby drastically reducing the chance of intermarriage, and is therefore permitted[7].

Some authorities, including the Rema[8], maintain that Chazal’s hetter of Pas Paltur applies in all cases, even when Pas Yisrael is readily available. However, many decisors, including the Shulchan Aruch and the Shach[9], maintain that this hetter is only applicable if one cannot purchase Pas Yisrael of similar type, quality or price, and stress that one should otherwise strive to obtain Pas Yisrael exclusively.

However, it must be noted, even according to the lenient opinions, one should do his utmost to be stringent during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva[10] and on Shabbos and Yom Tov, and ascertain that all one’s bread products are Pas Yisrael[11]. Nevertheless, if one is unable to obtain Pas Yisrael products during these special times, one may rely on Pas Paltur[12].

It is said in the name of Rav Moshe Feinstein that bread baked in a factory with absolutely no contact between the non-Jewish workers and the customer, is not included in the prohibition.[13] The Chazon Ish[14], however, was unconvinced, and maintained that a factory setting would not be considered any different than any other type of bakery. Common custom is to accept this leniency when it is combined with other questionable situations[15].

What is Considered "Bread"?

It is accepted that this prohibition pertains exclusively to bread products containing one or more of the five major grains: wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye[16]; although it should be noted that the Pri Chadash[17] advances the notion that in far-off islands where all bread is made out of an inferior grain (ex. rice), this prohibition might possibly apply to it as well.

This din of “Pas” (bread) includes baked goods that have the form of bread (tzuras haPas)[18]. Following are various types of common foods and their status vis-à-vis this halacha:

Cake and cookies[19]- Some authorities are of the opinion that for cake to be included in this category, one must wash and make hamotzi if one eats enough and is koveya a seudah on it[20], while others[21] feel that it must also be made from a thick batter. Contemporary practice is to assume all cake and cookies are included in the category of “bread”[22].

Bagels[23]- Even though true bagels are first boiled, since at that stage they are not fit to be eaten until actually baked, they are included in the category of “Pas”.

Pancakes[24]- Even though pancakes are “fried” in a frying pan, since the only oil used is to make sure they do not stick the pan, they are still considered ‘baked”, not fried, and still share enough similarities with bread to be considered “Pas”.

Pretzels[25]-Since pretzels are made from dough and baked, they are considered to have “tzuras haPas” even though they are twisted into a unique, non bread-like shape.

Doughnuts'[26]inclusion in this category, however, is a matter of halachic debate - whether anything fried is considered to have a “form of bread”, or if it depends on the thickness of batter. Many Poskim[27] maintain it depends on the batter - that a thick batter, even when deep fried, maintains its status as tzuras haPas, while others[28] are of the opinion that once it’s fried it loses its status of “bread” and is therefore subject to the more stringent parameters of “Bishul Akum”. All would agree that a thin batter deep fried would not be considered tzuras haPas. The Shulchan Aruch himself[29] cites both opinions as valid and does not rule conclusively. Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef[30] addressing the issue of buying kosher doughnuts in a restaurant maintains that one may rely on the opinions that they are considered “tzuras haPas” and are Pas Paltur.

Crackers[31] - Since crackers are made from flour and water and baked, they are considered bread-like even though they are much thinner[32]. Although some authorities[33], opine that snacks which are not “Fit for a King’s Table” would not be included in the prohibition, the majority consensus[34] is to include them, as the Tur, Shulchan Aruch and their main commentaries do not seem to make such a distinction.

Noodles, couscous and farfel[35] - Would be excluded from this rule entirely, as they do not have a form of bread at all.

In conclusion, although the idea of buying bread possibly leading to intermarriage may seem farfetched to some, we can clearly see and appreciate to what extent Chazal were concerned about mingling with non-Jews. The message is clear: When one’s goal is preserving the sanctity of the Jewish nation, we take no shortcuts. Just something to think about the next time you run out for some bagels or cookies.

[1] Avoda Zara 35b.

[2] See Pischei Teshuva (Y”D 112, 2).

[3] Shulchan Aruch (Y”D 112, 1).

[4] Rashba (Shu”t vol. 1, 148), Rema (Y”D 112, 1), Shach (ibid. 4), Taz (ibid 1), Chochmas Adam (65, 1) Pri Megadim (ibid.) and Kaf HaChaim (112, 9).

[5] Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 9). These are the three actions mentioned in the Gemara (Avoda Zara 38b) as making the bread into “Pas Yisrael”.

[6] Rambam (Hilchos Ma’achalos Asuros Ch. 7, 13), Tosafos (Avoda Zara 38b s.v. v’assa), Tur, Shulchan Aruch and Rema (ibid. 9 and 113, 7). The Aruch Hashulchan (112, 27), and Kaf HaChaim (ibid. 60) however, hold that one may only rely on these leniencies under extenuating circumstances; rather, one should strive to do the actions mentioned above, since they are actually mentioned in the Gemara. Additionally, several Rishonim, including the Ramban (cited in the Ran 15b s.v. v’assa and v’af) and Rosh (Avoda Zara Ch. 2, 33) disapproved of relying on said leniencies, as throwing a toothpick into a fire does not really add much to the baking process. [This argument is partially based on how these Rishonim understood the hetter in the Gemara. The Rambam understood that the act of throwing a toothpick into the fire makes it recognizable that a Jew added something, albeit small, to the baking process, and that is sufficient. The Ramban and Rosh, however, maintained that the thrust of the hetter in the Gemara was that a Jew needed to be an active part of the actual baking process, and a toothpick’s overall contribution is quite negligible.] This is also the Minchas Yitzchak’s (Shu”t vol. 4, 28, 4) conclusion.

[7] Tosafos Avoda Zarah (35b s.v. michlal), Tur, Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 2). Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe Y”D 1, 48) ruled that if a Jewish-owned large commercial bakery needed to hire non-Jewish workers, even though the bread might actually have been baked by those non-Jewish workers, the bread does not have the status of Pas Akum, and is permitted to be eaten.

[8] Rema (ibid. 2), Gr”a (ibid. 4), Levush (ibid. 3), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (38, 1), Ben Ish Chai (Year 2, Chukas 2).

[9] Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 2, & 5), Shach (ibid. 9), Arizal (cited by the Ben Ish Chai above), Chochmas Adam (65, 2), Aruch Hashulchan (112, 9), Kaf HaChaim (ibid. 23).

[10] Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 603, 1), based on the Tur (ibid.) quoting the Yerushalmi. Also ruled by the Levush (ibid. 1), Shach (Y”D 112, 9), Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 603, 1), Mishna Brura (603, 1) and Kaf HaChaim (ibid.1).

[11] Magen Avraham (O.C. 242, 4), Matteh Yehuda (ibid. 5), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (ibid. 13), Chayei Adam (Shabbos 1, 4), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (72, 6), Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 242, 45), and the Mishna Brura (ibid. 6). The Rema himself (Darchei Moshe O.C. 603, 1) writes that it is proper to follow this minhag as well. See previous article titled “Pie Crusts,Pas Paltur and the Aseres Yemei Teshuva” at length.

[12] Mishna Brura ibid. 1.

[13] Responsa by Rav Nota Greenblatt, published in Kovetz Mesorah (vol.1, pg. 94), who wrote that Rav Moshe agreed to this psak. It is also quoted in Shu”t Rivevos Efraim (vol. 5, 596) where he adds that Rav Reuven Feinstein confirmed that this indeed was his father’s opinion. See also Shu”t Igros Moshe (Y”D 4, 48) where he rules similarly. This is a similar shitta to the Mahr”i Tzahalon (Shu”t 161, brought by the Chida in Birkei Yosef Y”D 112, 9 s.v. v’all).

[14] Cited in Shu”t Shevet Halevi (vol. 6, 108, 6). This is also the opinion of the Chida (above, s.v. v’ani, who does not agree with the Mahar”i Tzahalon’s leniency.

[15] Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak (vol. 3, 26, 6), Shu”t Yabia Omer (vol. 5, Y”D 9, 5), Responsa of the Be’er Moshe in Pischei Halacha pg. 117, Responsa by Rav Tzvi (Herschel) Shachter, dated 24 Cheshvan 5756.

[16] Tur (Y”D 112) quoting his father the Rosh, Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 1), Taz (ibid. 2).

[17] Pri Chadash ibid. 5.

[18] Shulchan Aruch ibid.

[19] Shulchan Aruch and Rema ibid. 6.

[20] Taz (ibid. 6), Gr”a (ibid.15), Pri Chadash (ibid. 17), Beis Meir (ibid.), Rivash and Aruch Hashulchan (see below).

[21] Shach (ibid. 18), Be’er Heitiv (ibid. 9) and Chochmas Adam (65, 1).

[22] Kovetz M’Bais Levi (vol. 8, pg. 24, 40 and Chelkas Binyamin (112, 64) who feel that the halacha here follows the Taz. However, Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 3, 248 s.v. sof) rules that by cake or cookies made from thin, runny batter that was baked by a non-Jew, me’iker din one may rely on the Shach’s hetter, that it is not included in the prohibition.

[23] Aruch Hashulchan (ibid. 31) Shu”t Igros Moshe (Y”D 2, 33 & Y”D 4, 4) Chazon Ish (O.C 26, 9), Shu”t Bais Avi (vol. 5, 7, 7).

[24] Shu”t Rivash 28.

[25] Darchei Teshuva (Y”D 112, 49 - 50), Aruch Hashulchan (ibid. 31).

[26] Tosafos (Pesachim 37a) - between Rabbeinu Tam and Rabbeinu Shimshon.

[27] Including the Rivash (Shu”t 28), Pri Chadash (ibid. 17), and Aruch Hashulchan (ibid. 31).

[28] Including the Tashbat”z (Shu”t vol. 3, 11) and the Yad Efraim (Y”D 112, 6).

[29] O.C. 168, 13.

[30] Shu”t Yechaveh Daas (vol. 5, 53).

[31] Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 168, 8).

[32] Mishna Brura (ibid. 36) Shu”t Shevet Halevi (vol. 8, 33).

[33] Including the Avnei Nezer (Shu”t Y”D 92, 7) and the Matteh Yonason (Y”D 112, 1).

[34] Including the Pri Megadim (Y”D 112, M.Z. 3), Tiferes L’Moshe (ibid. 2), Aruch Hashulchan (ibid. 13, 14, 31), and Kaf HaChaim (ibid. 19).

[35] Rema (O.C. 168, 13), Kovetz M’Bais Levi (vol. 8, pg 24, 4), Shu”t Yabia Omer (vol. 8, O.C. 21, 13).

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author:

Disclaimer: These are just a few basic guidelines and overview of the Halacha discussed in this article. This is by no means a complete comprehensive authoritative guide, but rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issue. One should not compare similar cases in order to rules in any real case, but should refer his questions to a competent Halachic authority.

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.

L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!

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