Bishul and Pas Yisroel, Kosher Participation and The Twig
The Gemara (Avoda Zara 38b) explains that in order to promote social isolation, our Sages prohibited eating bread if baked by a Gentile for his own personal use (Pas Akum). Pas Palter which is permitted, is the identical bread but baked for commerce.
So, when your neighbour, Peter, invites you over for a Kosher BBQ [he has bought a new BBQ, has sealed packages of Kosher salads, and sealed Kosher packaged meat, for you to open and BBQ, and also provides bread that he baked in a rabbi’s house using the rabbis ingredients and utensils, and under the rabbis supervision – but the rabbi did not participate at all in the baking] you can enjoy the meal but may not eat the bread. The bread is Pas Akkum. However, if the bread is baked in Peter’s own non-Kosher home kitchen but is baked for his small home business, this bread is Pas Palter and is Kosher.
Pas Yisroel is bread baked by a Jew.
For the same consideration, our Sages decreed Bishul Akum, which prohibits various foods cooked by a Gentile. Food cooked by a Jew is known as Bishul Yisroel. There is however, no intermediate step, Bishul Palter as there is with bread. Our Sages understood that not providing this intermediate step of Pas Palter, would have been beyond the ken of the population. Similarly, imposing Bishul Yisroel restrictions upon all foods would have been beyond their ken, and therefore, its regulations permitted most foods and restricted only those that are both not eaten raw and also are foods served at a sophisticated banquet.
Pas Akum permits breads baked for commercial purposes; a leniency not applied to Bishul Akum. Bishul Akum permits non-stately foods, a leniency not applied to Pas Akum. For example, Pita and hamburger buns are not prohibited as Bishul Akum, since they are not stately enough to be served at a royal banquet, yet they are prohibited as Pas Akum.
A Yisroel can make Pas Yisroel, by participating in any one of the following three aspects of a Gentile’s baking or cooking process:
1) Firing up the oven or stove.
2) Stoking the fire to maintain heat. (this appears to be identical to the previous point and will be discussed later)
a. Either of these can be accomplished via remote control [This is opposed by some but supported by others including OU]
3) Placing the dough into the oven.
a. This too, can be accomplished via remote control.
All Jews can provide this participation, since the decree was promulgated to discourage marriage with Gentiles. There is however a floating misconception that only an orthodox Jew can make Pas [and Bishul] Yisroel. (this is probably a throwback from the times when a Jew who publicly violated Shabbos was for all intents and purposes renouncing his commitments. It was the equivalent then, of what today would require marching into Shule on Yom Kippur, during the Rabbi’s sermon, whilst munching a great big ham sandwich. This is not an act of eating but an act of defiance.)
The Rambam (MaAchalos Asuros 17:13) and Tosafos, rule in accordance with the Talmud Bavli, that participation of the Jew is a “Heker” – a symbolic but not a practical participation - which is accomplished through HaShlochas Kiseym, adding a twig to the fire. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 112:9) agrees. The Rama adds that even fanning the fire will suffice.
Bishul Akum has similar leniencies. The Rama mentions that if the cooking fire is lit from a fire, a pilot for example, lit by a Jew, that will suffice. The Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 113:44) urges that one should not rely on this other than in cases of great need and when the cooking occurs in a Jew's home.
Kashrus agencies employ another leniency, despite the opposition of HaRav Wosner, Shevet Halevi 2:45 and Minchas Yitzchak 3:26:6. They certify foods cooked through steaming (tuna is one example) without any Jewish participation, relying on two considerations. One leniency is based on the understanding that food prepared in a factory [especially if it is located in another country] is not included in the Bishul Yisrael decree (Maharitatz Siman 161) since there is little to no risk of intermarriage. Additionally, steaming is not deemed to be a process that was included in the decree. The Shach (112:6) rules leniently when both these considerations apply.
HaRav Wosner and HaRav Weiss however, permit Bishul Yisrael via a time clock commissioned by a Jew.
Since the intervention required is symbolic, minimal action is adequate. This is called HaShloChas Kiseim – referring to the insignificant contribution of throwing of a [wood] chip [into a fire]. Similarly, a Jew can merely fan the fire to make Pas Yisroel. (ShO YD 112)
How is Pas Yisroel achieved in a non-Jewish bakery?
1. A pilot light lit by a Jew from which the main burner is ignited, will produce Pas Yisroel, even if the pilot does not heat the oven.
2. Once an oven is heated by a Jew, it will continue to produce Pas Yisroel until it cools.
3. A Jew can also produce Pas Yisroel by fanning the flame of the oven, or turning up the thermostat even if only momentarily.
4. Glow plugs or light-bulbs activated by a Jew are the equivalent of (or perhaps even better than) HaShloChas Kiseim, and can be used to produce Pas Yisroel. This system is accepted and used by Star-K, Kof-K, OK and as best I can discern by all Rabbonim and K authorities other than OU.
a. KOF-K use glow plugs and claim they are superior to HashLoChas Kisem, since they are considered an additional fire within the oven and are akin to the Jew kindling or adding to the oven fire.
b. The OU does not accept the use of such devices, insisting that the entire oven be maintained at a minimum of 80ºC through the Jew’s intervention. (OU claims that 80ºC is the minimum temperature at which food will cook. However, slow, low temperature cooking uses far lower temperatures, 55°C, a technique developed in the 70s by Georges Pralus and favoured by avant-garde chefs.
In the comprehensive and well documented publication, “Halachically Speaking” (see links below) which is compiled by Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits, reviewed by Rabbi Benzion Schiffenbauer and by Harav Yisroel Belsky Shlita; I have found two reasons for the OU’s stringency; neither reason being ascribed or attributed.
a. A twig must be thrown in daily whereas the glow plug is placed in the oven only once.
b. Since the glow plugs are not placed within the baking area or near the fire, it is not considered “adding a twig.”
These reasons are inconsistent with the Halacha.
a. Halacha does not require that a twig be added every day. In fact, an oven whose fire is supplemented with a single twig will continue to produce Pas Yisroel for many years as long as the oven remains warm.
Why would this not apply to a glow plug?
b. If there is any consideration at all, it must be that a glow plug or incandescent lamp is superior since it is a continuous heat source unlike the momentary flare of a twig.
c. The supplementary heat of a twig does not raise the temperature in any measurable degree. It certainly does not raise the oven temperature to 80ºC, yet it is adequate to produce Pas Yisroel.
Why should a glow plug need to maintain a far higher temperature than a twig?
d. If blowing the flame is adequate to satisfy the requirements for Pas Yisroel, then an incandescent lamp or glow plug, which is far more significant, will certainly suffice.
e. Glow plugs and electric incandescent lights are usually positioned to add heat to the baking and their radiated and convected heat certainly contribute to the baking and cooking of the product.
f. The Rosh (AZ 2:33) argues that although adding a twig is unsatisfactory according to some, it is significant when used to initiate heating the oven.
In this case glow plugs and incandescent lamps qualify even according to the Rosh since they not only constantly contribute to the baking but also are present when the baking is initiated.
g. Perhaps this explains why the Halacha lists lighting the oven and stoking the oven as two distinct and separate activities that can be performed by a Jew to make Pas Yisroel. Lighting the oven will suffice although it is a less significant activity than stoking the already heated oven, since it is the initiation of the fire. However, the Rama’s suggestion of blowing on the fire suggests that even stocking requires extremely minimal participation.
Pas Yisroel A, B; Bishul Akkum A, B