Parsha Halacha

Parshat Vayetze

Bread to Eat and Clothes to Wear
Pat Yisrael Issues
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In the Torah portion of Vayetzei, we read about how Yaakov fled Be’er Sheva and went to Charan. On the way he stopped in Bet El to daven (pray). (See Rashi and Ramban as to where this is.) After sleeping there at night and having an inspiring and prophetic dream, Yaakov got up in the morning, set up a stone monument, and poured oil on it as an offering to G-d. He then prayed and said, “If G-d will be with me and will protect me on this journey that I am undertaking and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear and I return safely to my father’s house and the L-rd shall be my G-d, then this stone, which I have set up as a monument, shall be a house for G-d; and of all that You give me, I will set aside a tithe for You.”

Bread and Clothes
In the simple sense Yaakov was praying for actual bread and clothes as he was completely impoverished having had to flee suddenly out of fear of his brother Eisav (Ramban). Some say that his money was taken by Eliphaz (Eisav’s son) who was sent by Eisav to kill him (Rashi). Yaakov did not ask for water as this is available for free wherever one goes (Radak).
Rabbeinu Bachaye points out that, despite Yakov’s abject poverty at the time, he did not request wealth. Instead he asked only  for the basic necessities as this is the manner of tzadikim (righteous people). They are content with what they have even if it is only the bare minimum and do not seek extravagances.
One who indulges in unnecessary pleasures increases the appetite of his yetzer hara(evil inclination). This will ultimately lead one to be attracted to sinful pleasures.

Deeper Meanings
According to the Midrash (Berieshit Rabbah 70:5) Yaakov was also praying for other matters. (The Midrash gives the first two interpretations below on a similar verse in Deut. 10:18, but they can be applied to this verse as well.)
  • Torah and Tallit
Bread refers to Torah, as it says (Mishlei 9:5), “Come dine on my bread.” (See Chagigah 14a that this refers to the Torah.) Garments refer to the tallit, i.e., the special garments that Torah scholars used to wear (Pirush Maharzu). Some say that the tallit refers to garments of the soul that will allow it to gaze at the glory of G-d in the future world (Etz Yosef).  Yaakov was thus praying that he (and his descendants) should merit a deep understanding of Torah and that his soul (and those of his descendants) should merit to ascend to spiritual heights in the next world.
  • Privileges of the Kohen
In addition, “bread” can be referring to the showbread of the Kohanim (lechemhapanim) while “garments” can be referring to the garments of the Kohen. Thus, Yaakov was praying that his descendants merit to be kohanim and serve G-d in His holy sanctuary.
  • Protection from Sin
Another interpretation of the Midrash is that Yaakov was praying for protection from sin.
Thus, when he said, “And G-d will guard me,” he was referring to being guarded from sin in the house of Lavan. Specifically, he was asking for assistance with overcoming the following four sins.
  1. Lashon hara (gossip or slander). This is alluded to by the words “בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי הוֹלֵךְ – on the path that I am going” as the prophet Yirmiyahu (9:2) uses the word וַֽיַּדְרְכוּ (they bend) which is similar to דֶרֶך (path), to refer to lashon harah. (The verse in Yirmiyahu say, “They bend their tongues like bows” – to lie about people.)
  2. Sexual immorality. The words “bread to eat” allude to purity in relationships as “bread” can refer to a wife. (See, for example, Gen. 39:6 and Rashi that “He paid attention to nothing save the bread that he ate” is referring to Potiphar’s wife.)
  3. Murder. Yaakov alluded to this when he said, “And I will return in peace to my father’s house.” “Peace” indicates that he would not have any murderous encounters.
  4. Idolatry.  When Yaakov said, “The L-rd will be my G-d,” he was praying that he worship G-d exclusively and no foreign gods.

Small Sins
One would think that a tzadik (righteous man) on the level of Yaakov would not have to pray to be saved from the reprehensible sins listed above (with the exception of avaklashon hara – a mild form of gossip – which is a difficult sin to escape, see Bava Batra 165a). Yaakov meant that he should be protected even from sins that resemble the above – mentioned sins. These include embarrassing others in public, getting angry, or chatting frivoulously with members of the opposite sex (Yefeh To’ar).

Prayers Answered
It seems that Yaakov’s prayer was answered and that he was protected from sin in Lavan’s house. Thus, after leaving there he was able to proclaim, “I dwelled with Lavan and I observed the 613 mitzvot” (see Gen. 32:5 as explained by Rashi). (But see Yefeh To’ar for a different approach.)
It is interesting to note that our sages were concerned that eating gentile bread may lead to forbidden relationships with gentile women, which is why they established the rules of eating pat yisrael (see Avodah Zarah 35b). This may be related to the fact that, as mentioned above, bread can be used as an allegory for relationships.
The rest of this article will address some of the laws of pat yisrael (bread baked by a Jew) and pat akum (bread baked by a gentile). For the background and history of these laws see here.

Assorted Laws of Pat Yisrael
Since there are many laws relating to pat yisrael, I will try to focus on the ones that are most practical.
Please note: Ashkenazim may be lenient and consume pat palter (bread baked by a non-Jewish baker). As such, much of this article will be only relevant for
A) Sefardim who should be strict regarding pat palter unless there is no Jewish baker in town (see the article in the link above);
B) for chassidim (who, generally are strict about pat yisrael);
C) for any other Ashkenazim who are strict regarding pat yisrael;
D) it is also relevant for Ashkenazim who are customarily strict regarding pat yisraelon Shabbat, Yom Tov,  and during the Ten Days of Repentance.

Egg on the Bread
The Rama writes (Y.D. 112:5) that even one who eats pat palter should not eat bread made by a non-Jewish baker if the bread is glazed with eggs. The reason for this is that the eggs fall under the category of bishul akum (foods cooked by a gentile) as opposed to pat akum (bread baked by a gentile). The laws of bishul akum are more strict than those of pat akum in the following respect. Whereas regarding pat akum many opinions are lenient and allow one to eat bread baked by a gentile baker (pat palter) as such consumption does not lead to social interactions with the baker, there is no such leniency regarding bishul akum.  So even food made by a gentile caterer is forbidden as bishul akum. As such, while a loaf of bread baked by a gentile baker may be consumed as pat palter (according to the lenient opinions), the egg on that bread would be forbidden as bishul akum.
Rabbi Yosef Karro is lenient in this regard as he considers this thin layer of eggs to be an inseparable part of the bread.
In theory, ashkenazim should be strict in accordance with the ruling of the Rama.
In practice, the major kashrus agencies are lenient in this regard. They rely on the following three opinions who are lenient:
  1. Rabbi Yosef Karro as mentioned above.
  2. The Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 112:21), who is lenient regarding a very thin layer of eggs. And
  3. The Avnei Nezer (Y.D. 94:1), who disagrees with the Rama and says that a thin layer of egg is not forbidden under the rules of bishul akum since it is not worthy of being served on a king’s table (see Y.D. 113:1). I.e., the thin layer of egg on the bread is not a dish that would be served to a king.

Cookies, Pretzels etc.
Generally, baked goods made out of the five major grains (wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye)  fall under the category of pat (bread), and the laws of pat akum apply to them. This also applies to foods on which the bracha (blessing) of mezonot should be recited (such as cakes, cookies and pretzels). These foods are also considered to be pat(bread) because if they are eaten in large quantities, the blessing on bread (hamotzie) should be recited before eating them and the Birkat Hamazon afterwards (see Seder Birchot Hanehenin, 2:1-5).  As such, they are considered to be bread (Y.D. 112:6).
In light of this, one who does not eat pat palter should refrain from eating such products unless a Jew was involved in the baking process in which case they become pat yisrael.
Some are lenient in the case of snack foods (such as pretzels) that are not fit to be served at a king’s table (Avnei Nezer Y.D. 92:7). Although this is not the main halacha (see biurim of the Chelkas Binyamin on the end of Y.D. 112:1), some rely on it.

Breakfast Cereals
Some say that breakfast cereals made from the above-mentioned grains do not have the appearance of bread due to their small size and that one would never have to say hamotzie when eating them even if consuming them in large quantities. Since the bracha of bread is never recited on them they are not considered pat and, as such, the laws of pat akum would not apply. Rather, they fall under the category of bishul akum. The prohibition of bishul akum applies only to foods that would be served at important dinners (literally, עולה על שלחן – fit for a king’s table). As such, since one would not serve breakfast cereals at an important dinner, they are not forbidden as bishul akumeither.
Others say that cereals are no different than pretzels and one would say hamotzie if consuming them in large quantities. As such they fall into the category of pat and one who is careful regarding pat palter would not consume such cereals unless a Jew was involved in the baking process. (See Pas Yisroel and Bishul Yisroel by Rabbi Dovid Cohen, page 51).

The bracha on wraps is hamotzie. (See Seder Birchot HaNehenin 2:5 that a liquidy dough which is baked as a thin pancake is mezonot. The implication is that a firm dough – as is used to wraps – is hamotzie even if it is baked as thin as a pancake.) As such they fall under the category of pat akum and one who does not eat pat palter will not eat wraps unless a Jew was involved in the baking process (see ibid).

Glow Lamps
The halacha states that bread can be considered pat yisrael if a Jew contributed to the baking process even if his contribution was minute (Y.D. 112:9). For example if a Jew tossed a twig into the fire in an oven, all of the bread baked in that oven would be pat yisrael. The Rama extends this to include any bread baked in that oven until such time that the oven cools off in between the baking runs.
As such, many of the kashrut agencies will install a glow lamp into an oven and have a Jew turn on that lamp. Since the lamp contributes some heat to the oven, they consider all products baked in that oven to be pat yisrael as long as the lamp is continually on.
There are several reasons to question the efficacy of such lamps:
  • Some say that a Jew must do an action to enhance the baking at least once a week (Knesset HaGedola, cited in Chelkat Binyamin, Tziyunim 283). A possible explanation for this opinion is that the reason a small contribution to the baking is sufficient to make bread into pat yisrael is that it acts as a reminder that Jews and gentiles must remain socially apart (see Rambam, Hilchot Ma’achalot Assurot 17:13). An action that is only done once in a very long while cannot serve as a reminder.
  • Some say that the heat added by the Jew must be part of the same heat that is actually baking the bread, as is the case when one throws a twig into a fire. But a glow lamp that is on the side of the oven and is not integrated into the actual heating system of the oven would not help for this.
In practice, some kashrut agencies accept the use of such lamps while some do not. (See here and chapter 16 of Pas Yisroel and Bishul Yisroel by Rabbi B Cohen). As far as the consumer goes, one should discuss this question with one’s Rav. (Rabbi Yosef Heller of Crown Heights told me that even if a glow lamp is an acceptable type of heat increase, it would only last for one week.)

Shain Machine
Some kashrut agencies consider a product to be bishul or pat yisrael if the oven is turned on remotely by a mashgiach who can punch certain numbers into a phone and turn the oven on (see ibid, page 80). This method is called a Shain machine as it was invented by a rabbi with that name.
Others question this method as they consider this an indirect form of turning on a fire (grama) which is not sufficient to turn bread into pat yisrael (see Chelkat Binyamin 112:91).
One should consult one’s Rav as to whether or not one may rely on this method.  (Rabbi Heller indicated that a person who is careful should not rely on this method.)

May we be blessed with bread and water, Torah and mitzvot and protection from all sins,   large and small!

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!

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