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Pas Akum –Part I
By: Rabbi Shmuel Silber
KOF-K Educational Administrator

Reprinted with permission from the KOF-K, this article origionaly appeared in two parts in the KOF-K Kashrus Newsletter, 2002.

The Gemara in Avoda Zara 35b explains that there are certain items that are not prohibited on a Torah level but are prohibited by Rabbinic decree. Among the items listed is bread made by non-Jews. Rashi and the Rambam explain that the reason for this decree is to prevent intermarriage. The sharing of bread can create an atmosphere of friendship which can God forbid end up in intermarriage. The Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 112:1 quotes the Rashba who explains that this Rabbinic decree applies even when there is no fear of intermarriage, e.g. the bread of priests who themselves can’t get married and they don’t have children who could marry my children, nevertheless, the Rabbinic decree still stands (Shach (4)). Furthermore, the Shulchan Aruch explains that this decree only applies to bread made from the five primary grains: wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye. Bread made from lentils, rice or millet is not included under the prohibition of Pas Akum. The Taz (2) explains that the reason for this distinction is that bread made from the five primary types of grain is a “davar chashuv” an important item – i.e. only an item of relative importance can engender those feelings of friendship that could lead to intermarriage.

There is another issue that comes to mind, namely, why aren’t we concerned about the fact that the non-Jew made this bread in his utensils, which presumably were used for “tarfus” – non-kosher food? I.e. it is not enough that the ingredients are kosher, the utensils must also be “kosher”. The Shach (3) explains that you don’t have to worry about tarfus (non-kosher absorptions) because there is a presumption that the utensils are not “biney yoman” (used that day), i.e. they have not been used within the last 24 hours. I.e. the absorptions in the pot are only potent for 24 hours after use. After 24 hours, anything absorbed in the walls of the pot has no effect.

Why do we assume that “stam keylim ayno biney yoman” – that a utensil used by a non-Jew has presumably not been used within the last 24 hours? In order to make this assumption, we must create a double doubt or a “sfek sfeyka”. What is the double doubt?

The Rashba says that the first safeyk (doubt) is that maybe the utensil that the bread was baked in wasn’t used in the last 24 hours at all and therefore there are no absorptions that can be transferred to the bread. Even if it was used perhaps, it was only used for water (which would not impart a non-kosher taste into the bread. Based on this “sfek sfeyka” – double doubt, the bread baked by a non-Jew will not create a kashrus problem but will still be prohibited by Rabbinic decree.

Tosafos in Avoda Zara 35b discusses the fact that the Rabbinic decree against Pas Akum did not enjoy overwhelming acceptance. This was because in many areas this decree caused undue hardship for the general populace (there was not necessarily Pas Yisroel (bread baked by a Jew) available). The Gemara states that any Rabbinic decree that a sizable amount of the population cannot abide by, is not as binding as a typical Rabbinic decree. In Yoreh Deah 112:2 there is a dispute between the Mechaber and Rama when it comes to bread that is baked by a gentile baker (Pas Palter or Pas Nachtum). The Mechaber says you can eat this bread when there is not a Jewish baker to buy from in town. The logic is that since the gezeyra (Rabbinic decree) was not universally accepted we can be lenient in this case of a gentile baker because the major fear of intermarriage, which was the catalyst for this decree, does not exist, i.e. the baker is not baking the bread for me, he is baking it for his business. This will not engender those feelings of friendship that the Rabbis were worried about. However, the Rabbis only allowed it if there is not a Jewish baker. The Rama permits this Pas Palter even if there is a Jewish baker in town. His logic is that the Rabbis never included this type of bread in their decree and therefore it is one hundred percent permitted even if there are numerous Jewish bakeries in town.

In the next issue we will discuss Pas Yisroel issues in a commercial setting.

Pas Akum –Part II
By: Rabbi Shmuel Silber
KOF-K Educational Administrator

Reprinted with permission from the KOF-K, this article origionaly appeared in two parts in the KOF-K Kashrus Newsletter, 2002.

In the last article, we discussed various issues involved with the Rabbinic decree prohibiting the consumption of Pas Akum, bread baked by a non-Jew. In this article, I would like to focus on what measures are necessary to make something into Pas Yisroel. What can I do short of doing the entire baking myself? Gemara in Avoda Zara 38b explains that there are essentially three parts to the baking process:

1. The heating of the oven.

2. The placing of the dough into the oven/baking.

3. The secondary stoking of the coals (to maintain heat in the oven).

The Gemara explains that as long as a Jew did one of these acts (i.e. something integral in the baking process) the bread will be Pas Yisroel. The Tur in Yoreh Deah 112 quotes the Rosh in Chullin 2:32 who was very perplexed about the practice of having a Jew throw a small twig into the fire (hashlochas kiseym) and allowing this act to turn the bread into Pas Yisroel (i.e. throwing the twig into the fire is like stoking the flame). However, the Rosh says it is better that people should be “shogigin” and not “mizidin”. The Rambam in Maachalos Asuros 17:13 justifies this practice of simply throwing in a piece of wood. His svara is that the reason the Gemara requires a Jew to participate in one of the three bread making activities is that it serves as a “heker” (recognizable distinction). Therefore, the throwing of a twig satisfies this requirement of heker. The Rashba in the Toras HaBayis and the Ramban in Avoda Zara 35b explain that the stoking of the coals is only effective if it actually facilitates the baking process (e.g. before the Jew stoked the flame it would take two hours to bake, now it will only take one hour to bake). However, if the Jew just simply stoked the flame but didn’t intensify or create new heat, his act is insignificant. The Beis Yosef (quoting his Rebbe) explains that logically “hashlochas kiseym” shouldn’t work. The Gemara says that you need the Jew to do one of the steps of the baking; “hashlochas kiseym” is a “miut melacha”, i.e. it is a part of stoking the flame but not an actual act of stoking the flame. However, he explains the practice to rely on “hashlochas kiseym”. In areas where they had the practice to eat Pas Palter (see Part I) they were meykil and relied on Hashlochas Kiseym. In areas where they were stringent and would not even eat Pas Palter, they were machmir and didn’t rely on hashlochas kiseym. However, he concludes by saying that every twig adds some degree of heat and accelerates the baking process and therefore, “minhagan shel Yisroel Torah hi” – it is the custom of the Jewish people to rely on this leniency and therefore, it is accepted.

The Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah 112:9 echoes this sentiment and explains that even if the Yisroel throws in a twig it is acceptable because this still serves as a heker. The Rama explains that blowing on the fire has the status of stoking.

KOF-K policy is to use an electrical heating element referred to as a “glow plug” to make products Pas Yisroel. The device is wired by an electrician into the oven and gives off a significant amount of heat into the baking chamber of the oven. The advantage of using this type of heating element is that it is not considered hashlochas kiseym, rather it is considered as chitui or Heseyk (kindling of the fire). The “glow plug” is viewed as an additional fire within the oven and when the Yisroel turns it one, he is a direct part of the baking process.

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