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Bishul Yisroel For Blintzes

Rabbi Dovid Cohen
Administrative Rabbinical Coordinator of the cRc

May 2009

This document will discuss whether blintzes require bishul Yisroel. It will begin with a description of the process of creating a blintz at one specific company, which is reasonably representative of how blintzes are created elsewhere.


Producing a blintz requires creating a wrap, creating a filling, and wrapping the dough around the filling.  Each of these steps will be discussed separately below.

Wrap creation

A small mixing tank is filled with ingredients and allowed to mix for about 40 minutes to create a watery, pancake-like batter.  [Ingredients used in this mix will be discussed below in a separate section.]  The batter is pumped over to a surge tank which is attached to the “wheel” which is at the center of the wrap-creation.  [See diagram below.]  The wheel is about 2 feet in diameter and is heated by electric coils that go through ceramic “bricks” which are located inside the wheel.  The use of ceramic bricks means that the wheel takes about 45 minutes to heat up and an hour to cool down (both of which are good news for us, see below), but has the advantage of providing consistent, low-level heat to the wheel.  The wheel turns clockwise and a very thin layer of batter is continuously sprayed onto the bottom of the wheel.  Amazingly, the batter does not drip off, and the batter bakes as the wheel rotates.

When the batter reaches the 3 o’clock position, it is scraped off of the wheel and falls onto a perforated belt which is 3-5 feet long.  The finished wrap comes off the wheel as a long strip and as it passes along the belt it is sliced to size, blown by a small set of fans, and is so thin that it cools to ambient temperature before it reaches the person operating the machinery.  Before it reaches this operator, a machine deposits the filling into the wrap, and the operator then folds it into the shape of a blintz and packs it into a tray.

The diagram shows that there is a shield around the wheel, which serves to protect and insulate the wraps and wheel.  In the shield that we saw there is a 6-8 inch opening at the top of this shield, and we understood that this is to allow vapors (evaporating off of the wrap-batter) to escape.  The opening also cools off the wheel somewhat, and to compensate for that there are 4 small heating rods near the opening (which are shown as small circles Ÿ in the diagram).  The presence of these heating rods may help bishul Yisroel if we would just make one of them stay on permanently (after being lit by a Jew).

Filling creation

Fillings are blended separately and pumped over to the blintz area where they are deposited into the wrap dough.  Then an operator folds the wrap around the filling in the classic blintz manner.  The wrap is tucked under itself and is not really held down in any way.  [At home this practice is also common, but the blintz is immediately fried, which helps to hold the blintz together; at this company there is no frying of blintzes.]  The finished blintzes are packaged and frozen for retail sale.

Bishul Yisroel

There are a number of parts to the question of whether a blintz factory requires bishul Yisroel.

Pas or tavshil?

The wrap is a reasonably bland mixture of flour and water which is baked on a hot surface.  If the wrap is considered pas, then the blintzes could be certified without a Jew’s participation since pas paltar is permitted,1 but if the wrap is considered a tavshil then the halachos of bishul akum apply.  So the first question we must consider is whether blintz wraps are pas or tavshil.

Magen Avraham 168:40 (per Shulchan Aruch there and Magen Avraham 168:41) says that pancake-thick bread-like foods are lechem (and he and Shulchan Aruch argue whether they are always hamotzi or only if one is koveah seudah) but paper-thin foods produced by sandwiching a thin layer of batter between two hot irons are never hamotzi even one is koveah seudah, since they do not have toar lechem.  Blintz-wraps seem to exactly match this description,2 and accordingly such foods are not included in the leniency of pas paltar.

If so, blintz wraps must be considered a tavshil and therefore judged by the criteria of bishul Yisroel.

Oleh al shulchan melachim

On the simplest level, it would appear that bishul Yisroel is not required, because caterers have told Rabbi Eisenbach that blintzes would not be served at a wedding or fine dinner (and are just reserved for fancy breakfasts or casual brunches) and are therefore not oleh al shulchan melachim.  Although there appears to be consensus on this, Rabbi Fishbane did not think we should simply rely on the information from the caterers because some consumers do not agree with this approach and would be surprised to learn that cRc blintzes are not bishul Yisroel.

On a more sophisticated level we must consider that the wrap by itself is surely not oleh al shulchan melachim before the filling is added.  If so, should we say that since at the cooking stage bishul Yisroel was not required (since the item produced by that bishul isn’t oleh), we can ignore the fact that later it becomes oleh as a result of adding the fillings?

At first glance, the answer to this question is that it makes no difference whether the wrap per se is oleh, but rather we judge the blintz based on its final status.  Proof to this position is commonly brought from the halacha that if a non-Jew cooks a food until it is passably edible (כמאכל בן דרוסאי ) all opinions agree that the food is forbidden.3  Clearly, a potato (or other food) which is only passably edible is not oleh al shulchan melachim in its current form, yet the potato is forbidden because fully cooked potatoes are oleh.  This indicates that in deciding whether a food is oleh we should consider the way the food will be served once it is finished being prepared.  Accordingly, it would seem that the blintz should be considered oleh even though the cooked wrap is not.

Rabbi Eisenbach accepted the aforementioned proof but questioned its application to our case.  He argued that in the case of Shulchan Aruch, the food which is passably edible and the food which will be served at shulchan melachim are one and the same.  In our earlier example, a partially cooked potato and a fully cooked potato are both essentially “baked potatoes” even if the former is somewhat hard and the latter is tastier and spiced with salt and margarine.  Therefore, we judge the (passably edible) baked potato as being oleh al shulchan melachim.  However, in our case, blintzes are served at shulchan melachim but empty wraps are not.  If so, it may be that the cooked-wrap does not require bishul Yisroel since it is not oleh regardless of the fact that the finished blintz is oleh.  Although Rav Friedman thought that Rabbi Eisenbach’s sevara has merit, it is generally accepted to follow the strict interpretation and assume that since the non-Jew’s cooking created the item which will eventually be oleh al shulchan melachim, the wrap/blintz is not kosher unless the Jew participates in the cooking of the wrap.

Consumer finishes the cooking

The blintzes leave the factory fully edible, but most consumers will fry the blintzes before eating them.  [The blintzes are not fried in the factory and the outside is a pale-white color.]  If so, maybe we can allow the company to sell the blintzes as bishul akum, and rely on the consumer to finish the cooking/frying thereby rendering them bishul Yisroel?4  The fallacies with such a position are:

    • The cooking instructions on some5 of this company’s blintzes state that they may be eaten after warming in the microwave, and we must assume that some consumers will actually follow those directions.  Accordingly, by certifying the blintzes without bishul Yisroel we will cause those consumers to eat bishul akum.
    • Since the blintzes are fully edible before the Jew fries them, the Jew is not participating in the final stages of cooking but is rather improving the taste of a fully-cooked (bishul akum) item.  Many Poskim hold that in such cases, even Rema agrees that the Jew’s participation comes too late to render the food bishul Yisroel.6

In conclusion, blintzes require bishul Yisroel in the factory because (a) they are not subject to the leniency of pas paltar, (b) we consider them to be oleh al shulchan melachim and (c) we cannot count on the consumer finishing off the cooking at home.

How will we create bishul Yisroel?

We had two suggestions for how to create bishul Yisroel, as follows:

  1. Shain Machine

As noted, the blintz wheel is heated via an electric coil running through a ceramic brick which takes a very long time to heat up and cool down.  As a result, the wheel is turned on once in the morning and is not turned off until all of the cooking for the day is finished.  This means that this company is well-suited for a Shain machine.7  [In our case, the company thought this was a good idea, and was not concerned with the fact that they will not be able to create blintzes on Yom Tov.]

  1. Heating Rods

The diagram of the blintz wheel (at the beginning of the article) shows that the guard around the outside of the wheel has an opening between the 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock positions.  To counteract the heat which escapes through that opening, there are 2 heating rods on each side of that opening (across the 10, 11, 1 and 2 o’clock positions).  [The heating rods are shown by small dots Ÿ on the guard.]  Those rods stay on for the entire time the wheel is on, and if one or more of those heating rods would be changed to stay on 24/7 (and lit by a Jew) they could be the kisem to create bishul Yisroel.  A disadvantage to this suggestion is that it would involve a serious change in how the machinery operates and would necessitate all types of controls to make sure the rods always stay on.

1 The general policy of the cRc is not to certify pas paltar.  One exception to that rule is for that items which are dairy and not chalav Yisroel, based on the assumption that most people who are particular to only eat pas Yisroel will not consume a chalav stam product.  Accordingly, since the blintzes in question are dairy (due to milk in the wrap), we can rely on the leniency of pas paltar if the wrap qualifies (as will be discussed in the coming text).

Magen Avraham’s case is of a belilah rakah batter and there are those who suggest that he would be machmir if the batter was belilah avah.  While there are reasons to disagree with that suggestion (as was discussed elsewhere), in our situation all would agree to be lenient since the blintz batter is in fact belilah rakah.

3 This is the clear inference from Shulchan Aruch 113:9.  [Rema 113:9 adds that if a Jew participates in the end of the cooking then the forbidden food can revert to being bishul Yisroel but agrees that until a Jew participates in the cooking the food is forbidden as bishul akum.]

4 This position would be based on Rema 113:9 noted in the previous footnote.

5 Interestingly, the company told us that they are slowly removing the microwave instructions from all packages, because microwaved blintzes do not taste as good and customers who follow those directions might be discouraged from buying them again!  So, the microwaved blintzes are fully edible, but for marketing purposes they will stop informing consumers of the microwave option.

6 See Darchei Teshuvah 113:65.

7 A “Shain Machine” is a device invented by R’ Yehuda Shain (Lakewood) which (a) allows a Mashgiach to call a special number and turn on the given oven or electrical appliance, thereby creating bishul yisroel, and (b) prevents the company from turning on the equipment (although they can turn it off).