The Mishna in Avoda Zara (35b) tells us that Chazal forbade pas akum. The Gemara (36b) explains that this was done as a geder to avoid intermarriage. However Tosfos1 bring a Yerushalmi that says that a later Bes Din removed this issur. The exact extent of this retraction is a disagreement between the Mechaber and the Rama. While all agree that bread baked by an akum for personal use is still forbidden, there are differing opinions as to how careful one must be to avoid eating pas palter, bread baked by an akum for the purpose of selling.
The Rama (Toras Chatas 75:1) says that the general custom is to permit pas palter even if pas Yisroel is readily available, except during Asseres Yimay Teshuva when one should try to be as strict as possible2. In Darchei Moshe (O.C. 242) the Rama extends this to Shabbos and Yom Tov as well. The minhag of Ashkenazim is to follow the opinion of Rama.
However, the Mechaber (Y.D. 112:2) says that one may only be lenient to purchase pas palter if pas Yisroel is unavailable or of inferior quality. The minhag of Sefardim is to follow the opinion of the Mechaber.
How does one create pas Yisrael? If a Jew has some involvement in the baking of the bread then this bread can be considered pas Yisroel. Therefore it is considered pas Yisroel:
• If a Jew places the bread into the oven (אפיה)
• If a Jew turns on the oven (שגירת התנור)
• If a Jew raises the temperature of the oven causing more gas to flow3, even if he subsequently lowers it. (השלחת קיסם)
Rav Belsky has said that if a Jew turned on the fire or raised the temperature, even if the oven is subsequently turned off and turned back on by a non-Jew, the bread baked in the oven can still be considered pas Yisroel, so long as the oven did not cool down to below 176 F (80 C). This is the approximate lowest temperature at which foods will still cook. Since the dough will eventually cook in this oven even without the akum turning back on the fire, it is considered pas Yisroel. The OU does not accept the use of a light bulb or glow plug in maintaining pas Yisroel, since this will not cause the oven to maintain 176 F. If a heating rod can be installed that will permanently heat the entire oven to 176 F then this is acceptable.
When installing a heating rod in a tunnel oven, how much of the oven must be continuously heated to 176 F? Recently a bakery was interested in producing pas Yisroel in a tunnel oven. Rabbi Belsky ruled that only the section of the oven in which krimas hapas takes place must always be heated to 176 F. Krimas hapas is the point when the dough no longer remains stringy but begins to harden like bread. Although this particular oven was 60 feet long, only the few feet of oven in which krimas hapas took place needed to have a heating rod installed.
The pas palter leniency only applies to breads or pas haba b’kisnin (cakes, cookies, etc…). Pastries that are cooked or fried, even though they are Mezonos, may be subject to the halachos of bishul akum. Therefore, one must make sure that there is no issue of bishul akum before certifying blintzes and cannolis.
Although the Taz (Y.D. 112:7) says that the leniency of pas palter does not apply to Jewish owned bakeries in which an akum bakes the breads without involvement of a Jew, Igeros Moshe (Y.D. I:45) explains that this is only applicable to small bakeries in which the bread could have been baked by the Jew without the need for hiring employees. In an industrial bakery that has many employees this rule does not apply.
Summary of halachos:
• There is a machlokes Mechaber and Rama as to whether one may eat pas palter when pas Yisroel is available.
• It is proper to only eat pas Yisroel on Shabbos Yom Tov and Asseres Yimay Teshuva
• It is pas Yisroel if the Jew puts the dough in the oven
• If the Jew turns on or adds fuel to the fire, bread baked in the oven will be considered pas Yisroel so long as the temperature doesn’t drop below 176 F
• Light bulbs and glow plugs do not maintain an oven temperature of 176 F, so they cannot be used to create pas Yisroel
• Only the section of a tunnel oven where krimas hapas takes place needs to maintain 176 F
• Fried or cooked dough is not considered pas and is therefore subject to the laws of bishul akum
• A Jewish owned bakery is eligible for the leniency of pas palter provided it requires many workers to operate.
1. Tosafos A.Z. 35b s.v. Michlal
2. Many cereals may be eaten during Asseres Yimay Teshuva because they lack tzuras hapas (for example shredded wheat and flakes). Rav Belsky and Rav Schachter also maintain that Cheerios is not considered pas, because of its small size and the way it is dried.
3. Although one may argue that turning up the thermostat and allowing more gas to flow is simply a gramma and should not be considered a full involvement of a Yisroel, still Rav Belsky explained that since this is the ordinary way in which people bake, for the purpose of pas Yisroel it is adequate.