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By: Rabbi Dovid Cohen
cRc Administrative Rabbinical Coordinator
In the times of the Mishnah, and possible even earlier, Chazal forbade us from eating bread-like items that were baked exclusively by non-Jews. [The bread-like items are referred to as pas and that term will be defined more clearly below]. If however, a Jew baked the pas, or even participated in some small way in the baking process, the food items are permitted and are known as pas Yisroel. In later years, Chazal partially retracted this prohibition because the baking ovens were controlled and/or owned by non-Jews, and the aforementioned restriction made it overly difficult for Jews to obtain “kosher” pas.
In partially retracting the prohibition, Chazal created a new class of pas called “pas paltar”, whose literal translation is “baker’s pas”. Whereas pas baked by a non-Jew in his home remained forbidden, pas sold in a bakery or other commercial setting where the non-Jewish baker and the Jewish customer don’t have personal contact was now permitted even if no Jew had a hand in the baking. However, there are two opinions in the Rishonim as to how this retraction was structured.
Some say that since the prohibition was only retracted due to the difficulty in obtaining pas Yisroel, pas paltar is only permitted when pas Yisroel isn’t readily available. However, in situations where pas Yisroel can be purchased, the original rules apply and pas paltar remains forbidden.
Others hold that the retraction applies to all cases, and pas paltar is permitted even when pas Yisroel is readily available.
The accepted practice is to follow the latter, more lenient, opinion but there are those who have the commendable practice of following the stricter approach (and some do so on Shabbos – see Mishnah Berurah 242:6). To help these consumers, (a) all bread products served at cRc certified restaurants are pas Yisroel, and (b) we strive to guarantee that all cRc certified bread products are pas Yisroel. Consumers who choose to be careful about this halacha should be cautioned to not assume that all foods sold by Jewish companies with “heimishe” sounding names are pas Yisroel, and should rather check the packaging and/or speak to the Rav HaMachshir.
However, the time of year when most people are machmir regarding pas Yisroel is during the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (Aseres Y’mei Teshuvah), based on Shulchan Aruch OC 603:1 who records such a custom. During those 10 days, Jews who otherwise rely on the lenient opinion that permits pas paltar in all cases, are careful to only eat pas Yisroel when it reasonably available. It is worth noting that in this context, Mishnah Berurah (603:1) defines “reasonably available” as requiring less than 72 minutes of travel to obtain.
Which Foods are Pas
As noted, the term “pas” refers to bread-like foods, and to qualify as pas the food must meet the following criteria: