Pat Akum: Bread Baked by a Non-Jew

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Aug 30, 2007
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The Mishna, Avodah Zarah 35b, prohibits eating bread that was baked by a non-Jew. This prohibition is known as Pat Akum. The Gemara, Avodah Zarah 35b, explains that the prohibition was instituted in order to prevent intermarriage. This week's article will discuss the parameters of the prohibition, its applicability nowadays and some practical applications of this prohibition.

Was the Prohibition Revoked?
There is a lengthy discussion in the Gemara, ibid, whether the prohibition against Pat Akum was revoked. One opinion is that it was not revoked. One opinion is that the rabbis permitted one to eat the bread of a non-Jewish baker (pat palter) but not of a private individual, so long as there is no bread baked by a Jew (pat Yisrael) available. One opinion is that in rural areas one may eat pat palter, but not in urban areas. The Talmud Yerushalmi, Avodah Zarah 2:8, states that pat palter is permitted but privately baked bread is still subject to the prohibition.

There is a dispute among the Rishonim regarding which opinion one should follow. Tosafot, Avodah Zarah 35b, s.v. Michlal, note that the entire discussion regarding whether the prohibition was revoked implies that the prohibition itself is revocable. Tosafot add that the widespread practice to eat bread that was baked by a non-Jew relies on the assumption that the prohibition was revoked in a generation subsequent to the Talmudic discussion. Rabbeinu Asher, in his responsa (19:20), notes that there are communities who have adopted the position of the Talmud Yerushalmi and permit pat palter. Rashba, Torat HaBayit HeAroch 3:7, rules in accordance with the opinion that pat palter is permitted, but only if there is no pat Yisrael available. Rashba adds that if there is pat Yisrael available but the pat palter is qualitatively superior, one may eat pat palter.

Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 112:2, rules in accordance with the opinion of Rashba and only permits pat palter when there is no pat Yisrael available. Rama, ad loc., (and in Torat Chatat 75:1) rules in accordance with the opinion of Tosafot that the prohibition was revoked and all bread is permitted (assuming the other rules of kashrut are followed). Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 112:5, also codifies the opinion of Rashba that if the pat palter is qualitatively superior, one may eat it. Shach 112:9, rules that even Ashkenazic Jews should follow the opinion of Rashba and refrain from eating privately baked pat akum, and from eating pat palter when there is pat Yisrael available. Shach adds that one may rely on the opinion of Rashba that one may eat pat palter when it is qualitatively superior to pat Yisrael. [Many pious individuals eat pat palter even though pat Yisrael is available in most Jewish communities. Furthermore, many kashrut organizations certify breads that are pat palter. This may be due to one of three reasons (or a combination of these reasons). First, they may follow the Rama despite Shach's recommendation to follow Shulchan Aruch. Second, they may consider the pat palter to be qualitatively superior to the pat Yisrael that is available. Third, it is arguable that if the pat Yisrael is more expensive, it is the equivalent of a case where pat palter is qualitatively superior.]

Bread Baked by a Non-Jew in a Jewish Home
One would logically think that if pat palter is permissible, it is certainly permissible to allow a non-Jew to bake bread in a Jewish home. Nevertheless, Tur, Yoreh De'ah no. 112, rules that if a non-Jew bakes bread in a Jewish home, the bread is prohibited. R. Moshe Feinstein, Igrot Moshe, Yoreh De'ah 1:45, asks: Why should bread that is owned by a Jew have a more stringent status than bread that is owned by a non-Jew? He answers that any leniency that applies to pat akum is due to the necessity to have bread available. Therefore, the rabbis relaxed or revoked the rules. However, if the bread is being baked in a Jewish home, there is no reason to relax the rules and the original pat akum rule remains intact. R. Feinstein notes that based on the comments of Tur one should not allow non-Jews to bake bread in a Jewish bakery or factory. Rather, the Jewish owner should either ignite the ovens or place the bread in the ovens himself. However, if the factory is so large that it would be extremely difficult to have the owner light the ovens himself, the reasoning of Tur no longer applies and one may be lenient and allow the non-Jews to bake the bread.

Glazed Bread
In a previous issue, we discussed the prohibition of bishul akum, the prohibition against eating food that was cooked by a non-Jew. Rabbeinu Asher, in his responsa (19:21), notes that any food that has the halachic status of bread is subject to the rules of pat akum and any other food is subject to the rules of bishul akum. Rabbeinu Asher's comment is codified by Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 112:1.

Tosafot, Chullin 64a, s.v. Simanim, also note that some foods are subject to the rules of pat akum and some are subject to the rules of bishul akum. Based on this categorization, Tosafot note that if bread has a glaze on it, the actual bread is subject to the rules of pat akum (and would be permissible in most situation based on the leniencies presented previously) and the glaze is subject to the rules of bishul akum. For this reason, Rama, Yoreh De'ah 112:6, rules that bread that was made by a non-Jew and that is glazed with an egg is prohibited (assuming none of the leniencies of bishul akum apply). Rashba, op. cit., implies that glazed bread is only subject to the rules of pat akum because the main ingredient in the bread is the flour and all of the other ingredients are secondary. For this reason, R. Avraham Borenstein, Avnei Nezer, Yoreh De'ah no. 94, rules that if one is lenient on this matter "he does not lose out."

Aseret Yemei Teshuva
The Talmud Yerushalmi, Shabbat 1:3, states that ideally, one should exclusively eat food that is ritually pure. Since, this is very difficult, one should endeavor to eat ritually pure foods seven days of the year. Ran, Rosh HaShanah 12b, s.v. Garsinan B'Yerushalmi, notes that since nowadays it is impossible to eat ritually pure foods, many have adopted the custom to eat pat Yisrael exclusively during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, the ten days starting on Rosh HaShanah and concluding on Yom Kippur. Ran notes that there is no need to include Rosh HaShanah in this stringency because most people bake their own bread for Rosh HaShanah regardless of this stringency. Thus, the seven days between Rosh HaShanah are days designated as days of stringency when many people do not eat pat palter. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 603:1, writes that even one who does not normally refrain from pat akum should do so during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva.

One might argue that Shulchan Aruch is simply following his own opinion that the prohibition against pat akum was never revoked and one may only be lenient and eat pat palter if there is no pat Yisrael available. Therefore, during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, it is appropriate to be stringent on the matter. However, Rama, who is of the opinion that the prohibition against pat akum was revoked, might not require one to be stringent during Aseret Yemei Teshuva. Nevertheless, Rama himself (Torat Chatat 75:1) recommends refraining from pat akum during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva. Apparently he too is of the opinion that the issue of whether the prohibition was revoked is itself the subject of a dispute and although he generally adopts the lenient position, during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, he favors following the stringent opinion.

Halacha:

References: Avoda Zara: 35a 

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