Pas Akum (Part 1) – Bread Baked By Non-Observant Jews

The Source-

1. Our Sages forbade all bread baked by a non-Jew. This prohibition is referred to as pas akum. Chazal created this prohibition as a precaution against unnecessary socialization with non-Jews that could lead to intermarriage. (Avodah Zara 35b, Rambam Machalos Asuros 17:9, Tur and Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 112)

2. It should be noted that there is a separate, but similar prohibition against all food cooked by a non-Jew, known as bishul akum. In this chapter we will be discussing the prohibition of pas akum. Although both are foods prepared by a non-Jew and are governed by similar rules, they are different in some aspects. Regarding certain applications, pas akum is stricter than bishul akum, where as with regard to other applications, bishul akum is stricter.

3. Although the poskim use the term akum, which literally translates a worshiper of stars and constellations (avodas kochavim u’mazalos), or idolater, the prohibition of pas akum applies equally to any non-Jew, regardless in his belief. Therefore, bread baked by a Moslem or even a non-Jew who keeps the seven Noahide laws is subject to this prohibition. This prohibition was created to avoid intermarriage and therefore all non-Jewish bread is forbidden. (Darkei Teshuva 112:4, Sefas Emes 112, Halichos Olam vol. 7 page 91)

4. Chazal did not differentiate between different individual situations. Therefore, one may not even eat bread baked by a married old non-Jew who has no children, even though, in this case there is hardly any reasonable possibility of intermarriage. Similarly, even monk’s bread is prohibited, even though a monk is forbidden to marry. (Rama, Shach and Pri Megadim 112:1)

5. It should also be stressed that whenever we “permit” eating bread baked by a non-Jew, we are assuming that the bread is completely free of any non-kosher material and that it has been prepared in kosher utensils with a kosher oven. One who has not checked the ingredients of the bread and the manner in which it was prepared may not eat any bread from a non-Jewish (or an unreliable Jewish) baker.

Non-Observant Jews

6. The Tiferes L’Moshe (cited by Pischei Teshuva 112:1) maintains that bread baked by a Jew who publicly desecrates Shabbos is permissible. The reason for this prohibition is to avoid intermarriage which would not apply to bread baked by a Jew even if he desecrates Shabbos. This is also the view of Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer Y.D. 5:10) and the Tzitz Eliezer (9:41). Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l also seems to be leaning towards a lenient view (Y.D. 45).

7. The Sefer Shivilei Dovid (112:1) disagrees and he rules that bread baked by a public desecrator of Shabbos is forbidden. This is also the view of the Pri Megadim, Avnei Nezer (Y.D. 92), Pri Chadash (See Yabia Omer and Chazon Ish Y.D. 2:23), Chazon Ish and Rav Elazar Hakohen Kahanow zt”l Rosh Yeshivas Torah V’Daas (Mesivta 5753 page 50). The view of these poskim is seemingly problematic, as there is no concern of intermarriage there should be no reason for the prohibiton.

8. To answer this question it is necessary to introduce a similar halachic discussion. Our Sages forbade all non-Jewish wine, or even wine that was touched by a non-Jew, as a precaution to avoid intermarriage (Avoda Zara 29. The Rishonim write that one may not even drink wine that was touched by Jew who publicly desecrates Shabbos (Bahag Shechita, Beis Yosef 119 citing the Rashba).

9. The Chasam Sofer (Y.D. 120, see also Har Tzvi Y.D. 105) wonders why the wine is prohibited if one may marry a Jew who desecrates Shabbos and there is no concern of intermarriage. He explains, based on the Gemara in Chullin (5), that if one serves Idolatry he is punished that he has the hallachic status of a non-Jew. Similarly, one who desecrates Shabbos in the presence of ten Jews has the halachic status of a non-Jew. The reason for this is that we keep Shabbos because Hashem rested on the seventh day after creating the world in the first six days. One who does not keep Shabbos is thereby questioning the fact that Hashem rested after creating the world. Therefore, one who desecrates Shabbos is akin to serving Idolatry and is therefore punished that he strictly treated as non-Jew in halacha. Since he has the status of a non-Jew his wine is forbidden, even though there is no concern of intermarriage. This same line of reasoning can be extended to prohibit the bread baked by a non-observant Jew.

Publicly Desecrating Shabbos:

10. However, as we shall discuss, in many instances even the Chazon Ish, Pri Megadim etc. would permit break baked by a non-observant Jew. The Poskim stress that there are many requirements that one needs to meet to be classified in hallacha as a “public” desecrater of shabbos. And if one fails to meet these requirements he is considered a “private” desecrater of shabbos and keeps his status of a Jew in hallacha. The following are some of those requirements:

11. The Baal Haitur (cited in Beis Yosef Y.D. 44 and Tashbeitz 3:43) writes that only one who violates shabbos through working the fields (planting, threshing etc.) is deemed a public desecrater of shabbos. One who violates shabbos in any other fashion keeps his hallachic status of a Jew. Rav Akiva Eiger zt”l (Y.D. 264 see also Daas Torah Y.D. 2:27) writes that he does not understand the reasoning of the Baal Haitur. He also notes that he no other posek shares the same view and it is therefore difficult to rely upon his opinion for a hallachic ruling.

12. The Chaya Adam rules that if one were to refrain from breaking Shabbos in front of a rabbi (or ones parents) he keeps the hallachic status of a Jew. It is clear that he feels a level of embarrassment for his actions and is not turning his back completely on his religion.17

כתבו הפוסקים דכל שבוש מלחלל שבת בפני אדם חשוב כגון רב וכדו’ אין דינו כמחלל שבת בפרהסיא לענין זה שחשיב כגוי. וכ”כ החיי אדם (כלל ע”ה ס”ק כ”ו): “ישראל מומר או רשע שמחלל שבת בפרהסיא, אפילו אינו מחלל אלא באיסור דרבנן, הרי הוא כנכרי וכו’ ואם מתבייש לחלל בפני אדם גדול, לא מיקרי בפרהסיא”. אולם המנחת אלעזר (ח”ג ס’ כ”ד) חולק עליו. ובספר הליכות שלמה חלק ג’ דף שכ”ה הביא מהג”ר שלמה זלמן אורבך זצ”ל וז”ל: “וה”ה כשבוש בכך בפני אביו או אמו וכדו’ ואינו מחלל שבת במחיצתם, וכהיום רבים מאלה שלצערנו אינם שומרי תומ”צ הריהם בכלל זה”. ועוד שם הביא מתלמידים וז”ל: “ומ”מ מה שנמנע מלחלל שבת בפני אחיו וכדו’ היה נראה מדברי רבינו דאין לראות זאת אלא כנימוס בעלמא ולא מפני הבושה וכו’ ואף לענין הנמנע מלחלל שבת לפני אדם חשוב, הורה רבינו דאם ניכר להדיא שהימנעותו היא אך ורק מפני הנימוס גרידא ולא מפני הבושה, אין להקל”.

13. Rav Akiva Eiger zt”l (ibid.) feels that one is required to violate shabbos in the presence of ten shabbos observant Jews and only then is he considered one who violated shabbos on a public level. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Y.D. 70) disagrees and explains that this hallacha applies even if one breaks shabbos in the presence of ten non-observant Jews.

14. The Achronim disagree if one violates shabbos through a rabbinic act (ex. Muktza) if he then has the status of a public desecrater of shabbos or does the hallacha apply only to those who desecrate shabbos on a biblical level.(see Radvaz 2:796, Rav Akiva Eiger Y.D. 2 and Yabia Omer 1 Y.D. 11:24)

Tinuk Shenishba:

15. Even one who desecrates Shabbos publicly according to all of the authorities may still have the status of a Jew in halacha, as we shall explain. The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva (3:9), after defining minim, apikorsim, and kofrim as individuals who reject one of the many principles of Judaism, writes: “Among Israel, there are two categories of mumarim: a mumar in regard to a single mitzvah and a mumar in regard to the entire Torah. A mumar in regard to a single mitzvah is someone who has made a practice of willfully committing a particular sin [to the point where] he is accustomed to committing it… [This applies] even though [the sin] is one of the minor ones. For example, someone who has made a practice of constantly wearing sha’atnez or cutting off his sideburns so that it appears that, in regard to him, it is as if this mitzvah has been nullified entirely. Such a person is considered a mumar in regard to that matter. This applies [only] if he [commits the sin] with the intent of angering G-d. An example of a mumar in regard to the entire Torah is one who turned to the faith of the gentiles when they enact [harsh] decrees [against the Jews] and clings to them.”

16. In Hillchos Shechita (4:14) he writes that a Jew who serves idolatry or one who publicly desecrates shabbos is considered (in hallacha) like a non-Jew and if he slaughters, the animal is rendered a neveilah.

17. Thus the Rambam has described people who are deficient in their observance of the mitzvos. It would thus seem that all non-observant Jews fall into one of these categories.

18. This would indeed be the case if not for a distinction made by the Rambam. The Rambam in hilchos Mamrim (3:3) writes the following: “To whom does this all apply? Only to a person who denied the Oral Law consciously and instead followed after his frivolous thoughts… The children of these errant people and their grandchildren whose parents led them away and they were born among these Karaities and raised according to their conception, they are considered as ‘children captured amongst the nations and raised by them’ (Tinokos Shenishbu). Such a child may not be eager to follow the path of mitzvot, for it is as if he was compelled not to. Even if later, he hears that he is Jewish and saw Jews and their faith, he is still considered as one who was compelled against observance, for he was raised according to their mistaken path… Therefore it is appropriate to motivate them to repent and draw them to the power of the Torah with words of peace.” The Rambam is thus telling us a very novel concept and that is, in order to determine the hallachic status of any Jew we must first inquire into the many different factors which have determined his development and behavior.

19. The Poskim have employed the opinion of the Rambam and have ruled leniently regarding many Sabbath desecrators that they remain their status of Jews. Rav Yehuda Ettlinger zt”l (Binyan Tzion 23) writes that the derogatory label of a public desecrater of shabbos, which implies brazen rejection of the belief in the Creation of the universe, cannot be attributed to many German Jews who lit candles, made Kiddush etc., yet openly violated the laws of the Shabbos. He writes: “The only reason a Sabbath violator is considered a mumar is because he who denies creation and the Creator as well. However, this person confesses his faith by prayer, Kiddush etc. Certainly the children of these people never knew and never heard of the laws of Shabbos and they are in all respects… like a tinok shenishba bein ha-akum. This is the case unless it is clear to us that a particular individual is familiar with the laws of Shabbos and brazenly desecrates Shabbos in the presence of ten men despite this knowledge. Such a person is definitely considered a mumar.”

20. This heter can obviously not be applied blindly to all non-observant Jews as there are many Jews who do not fall under the category of tinuk shenishba. This, like all halachos, requires discretion and the consultation of a noted posek.

21. It is also worthy to note the opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe 1:33). Rav Moshe was asked how to determine the status of many Jews who believe that G-d Created the universe, however, due to fear of losing their livelihood are forced to work on Shabbos. He ruled leniently regarding the matter and his reasoning may be applicable to our discussion. He begins by explaining that the reason a “public” desecrater of Shabbos has the status of a non-Jew while one who desecrates shabbos privately receives no change of status, even though both acts are inherently the same. He explains that desecrating Shabbos is only considered a brazen act of kefira (heresy) if one does so to attack G-d and Judaism. If one does so for reasons of monetary gain and the like should not be classified as a non-Jew. Therefore, when one violates shabbos privately we are allowed to assume that he is doing so out of necessity and not as an act of aggression towards G-d. This leniency is not given towards a public desecration of Shabbos because the act itself is perceived by onlookers as an act of aggression and even if he is adamant that he is doing so for personal reasons we do not believe him. If that is the case, advances Rav Moshe, the argument can be made that even if one publicly desecrates Shabbos if it is clear to all the onlookers that he is doing so only for monetary reasons (which was the case at the time of Rav Moshe as many Jews would daven Vasikin, make Kiddush and then drive to work) he remains a Jew in halacha. The same argument can possibly be made regarding the vast majority of non-observant Jews. Since the average onlooker excuses their actions as being based on a lack of education of Judaism and its laws and not as an act of aggression towards G-d, we cannot classify them as non-Jews in halacha.

22. Based on the above halachos, not all desecrators of Shabbos have the status of non-Jews in halacha and one would be permitted to eat their bread. It is therefore necessary to consult a competent Rabbi whenever the question presents itself.

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Food Under The Bed (Part1)

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

Section 1: The Source-

1. The Gemara in Pesachim (112a) states that if any foods or beverages are left under a bed, even if they are enclosed in a vessel made of iron, an evil spirit rests on them and it is prohibited to partake of them. This ruling is cited by the Tur and Shulchan (Y.D. 116:5) Aruch as normative halacha.

2. The Toras Chaim (Baba Basra 58b) suggests that this evil spirit is akin to corpse contamination: The Gemara (Berachos 57b) teaches that “sleep is a sixtieth part of death.” The law is that items placed beneath a corpse become contaminated by it. Accordingly, food placed beneath a sleeping person should contract a semblance of impurity as well. This semblance of impurity manifests itself in the form of an evil spirit.

3. The Gemara clearly states that the reason that one should not eat food that was under the bed is because there is an evil spirit that rests on the food. However, the Rambam (Rotzeach 12:5) offers an alternative reason. He writes, “A person should not place a cooked dish under the couch on which he is reclining, even though he is in the midst of his meal, lest an entity that could harm him fall into the food without his noticing.”

4. According to the Rambam if the food is covered it would be permissible since there is no concern of anything falling into the food. However, the Gemara clearly states that one cannot eat the food even if it is sealed, due to the evil spirit. The authorities question why the Rambam does not rule in accordance with the Gemara. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer 1 Y.D. 9) cites several authorities who explain that the Rambam felt that the evil spirit, referred to in the Gemara, no longer applies. Therefore, he did not cite the exact ruling of the Gemara. He does, however, add his own concern of a foreign entity falling into one’s food.

5. Most authorities disagree with the Rambam and maintain that the evil spirit still applies today and one should act accordingly.

6. There is a great debate amongst the poskim whether b’dieved one may eat food that was left under the bed. Many poskim, including the Shvus Yaakov, Rav Yitzchak Elchonon zt”l and the Malbim, maintain that although one should not place food under the bed, if the food was placed there one can eat it. (Shvus Yaakov 2:105, Shemiras Haguv V’Hanefesh page 56 and Yabia Omer ibid.)

7. According to other authorities, including the Vilna Gaon, Chida, Ben Ish Chai and Marcheshes, one must throw the food away. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l discusses this issue and he writes that in case of great financial loss one may rule leniently. The Chazon Ish (Taameh D’Kra 28) would rule leniently for others to eat food left under a bed. In his home, however, he was particular that the food not be eaten. Rather, it was given to poor people.

8. The poskim debate whether one may place an empty pot under a bed. The Gaon of Butchetch (Mili D’Chasidusa 458) writes that the evil spirit does not rest on pots and pans left under a bed. However, it seems that according to Rabbeinu Gershom Meor Hagolah (Baba Basra 58a) the evil spirit does rest on pots left under the bed.

9. The evil spirit does not rest on people under a bed. Therefore, one may sleep on the bottom bunkbed without concern of ruach ra’ah. (Az Nidberu 7:73)

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.

May One Pray For Others To Become More Observant

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

The poskim debate whether one is permitted to pray to Hashem to cause others to become more observant. On the one hand, we know that prayer is one of the cornerstones of Judaism. On the other hand, G-d allows for people to have free will and perhaps asking Hashem to help someone become more observant is a violation of the other person’s free will. [It is worthy to note that one is absolutely permitted and advised to daven for Hashem to help himself become more religious. In this instance it is not a compromise of his free will, since he wishes to become more observant (Yaaros Devash Derush 1, see however Luach Eres 22 for a possible dissenting view).]

The Gemara (Brachos 10) relates that there were a group of people who used to trouble and harass Rav Meir. Rav Meir wished to pray that they should die. However, his wife Beruryah told him that it would be preferable to pray that they stop sinning and repent. And that is exactly what Rav Meir did. He prayed to Hashem to help them repent and they repented. One can deduce from this Gemara that it is permitted to pray to Hashem to help others become more observant, as Rav Meir himself did. A similar lenient view can be found in the Zohar Hakadosh. The Zohar adds that it is actually the responsibility of the righteous to pray for those who are less observant in order to help them become more religious (Zohar Medrash Hanelam Vayerah).

However, the Maharsha (commenting on the aforementioned Gemara) questions how it was possible that Rav Meir prayed for others to repent since this seemingly denies their ability to have free will and choose to sin. The Maharsha does not offer an answer to his question. It is thus clear that according to the Maharsha one may not pray for others to become more observant.

The Chazon Ish (Orach Chaim Hashmatos 156) feels that one may ask Hashem to cause others to repent. He explains that since Hashem is only getting involved because He was asked to do so by the “davener”, using his free will, Hashem’s involvement is not contradicting the sinner’s free will. A person has permission to use his free will to affect other people’s lives and in this case he is “using” prayer and Hashem to affect someone else’s life, which in the Chazon Ish’s view is not a contradiction to free will.

Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe vol. 4 40:13) discusses this issue. He rules in accordance with the Maharsha and maintains that one may not ask Hashem to cause others to become more observant. How then did Rav Meir pray for others to repent? Harav Moshe explains that many times a person will sin, not in order to rebel against Hashem, but because of their circumstance and in their mind they feel that they have no choice. For example, if someone is very poor he may choose to steal because he mistakenly concludes that he has no choice. And if this person were to have sufficient funds he might not sin. Therefore, writes Harav Moshe, one may pray to Hashem to change someone’s circumstance which in turn may lead them to choose not to sin. This was the situation with Rav Meir. The group of people who were harassing Rav Meir were doing so primarily due to their situation in life and Rav Meir felt that if their circumstances were different they would repent on their own, and that is exactly what happened.

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The Mitzvah Of Pidyon Haben: (Assorted Hallachos)

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

The mitzvah of Pidyon Haben, redeeming of the firstborn, is a rare mitzvah than can only be performed once in a lifetime and does not apply to everyone (kohanim, leviim etc.), as we shall discuss. In addition, performing this mitzvah serves as a segula to protect the child from illnesses that afflict children (Sefer Chassidim cited in Yabia Omer Y.D. 6:26). In this article we will discuss many of the relevant hallachos pertaining to the mitzvah of Pidyon Haben and its procedure.

Which Child Requires a Pidyon

  1. The mitzvah is performed once the child reaches thirty days old. The Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 305:11) writes that we should perform the mitzvah immediately on the thirty first day. If that day is Shabbos the mitzvah should be pushed off until Sunday.
  2. The mitzvah applies to the “peter rechem”- first born of the mother, even if the father has children from a previous marriage (Aruch Hashulcan Y.D. 305:2).
  3. A child from a cesarean section is exempt from the mitzvah. The next child born to the parents is exempt as well, even if he was born through a natural childbirth delivery (Shulchan Aruch 305:24).
  4. If the father is a kohen or a levi, or if the mother is the daughter of a cohen or a levi, there is no mitzvah of pidyon haben (Shulchan Aruch 305:18).
  5. If a boy is born from a non-Jewish father and a bas levi, there is also no mitzvah of pidyon haben since his mother is the daughter of a levi. However, if a boy is born from a non-Jewish father and a bas kohen, a pidyon haben is performed. Since the daughter of the kohen has violated her kedusha by having relations with a gentile, she loses her hallachic status as a bas kohen (Shulchan Aruch 305:18). Similarly, if a bas yisroel has a child with a non-Jew, a pidyon haben is performed. The Aruch Hashulchan comments that in this scenario it is difficult to ascertain who is obligated to perform the pidyon haben. The father, who is not Jewish, is obviously not obligated to perform this or any mitzvah. The mother is exempt as well, as this mitzvah is never the obligation of the mother (as we shall explain). Rather, in this case the child should perform his own pidyon when he reached the age of thirteen. Other poskim disagree and feel that the beis din should perform the pidyon right away- see Igros Moshe Y.D. 195 and Sheilas Yeshurun page 140. For normative halacha, a rabbi should be consulted.
  6. We have previously explained that if a bas kohen has relations with a non-Jew she loses her rights as the daughter of a kohen. Therefore, if a yisroel married and had a child with a bas kohen who lived with a gentile before the marriage, a pidyon haben is performed. The Aruch Hashulchan comments that unlike the previous hallacha (where the child is required to perform his own pidyon when he reaches the age of bar mitzvah), we require the father to perform the pidyon after thirty days.
  7. Many Baalei Teshuva face an interesting predicament. After having their first child they wish to fulfill the mitzvah of pidyon haben. However, many of them are unaware if they are kohanim, leviim or yisraelim and are thus unsure if they are indeed obligated to perform the mitzvah at all. For reasons beyond the scope of this article, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Y.D. 188) and Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer 9 Y.D. 25), both advise that they perform pidyon haben without reciting any brachos.

Who Is Obligated To Perform the Pidyon

  1. The Gemara (Kiddushin 29) tells us that the obligation to perform the pidyon haben rests solely on the father. The mother is not obligated to perform the mitzvah. The Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 305:4) writes that the Beis Din is also not required to make sure that the child has a pidyon.
  2. If the father refuses to perform this mitzvah we force him to do so.
  3. Once the child reaches bar mitzvah he is obligated to perform his own pidyon haben. If after the son reaches the age of thirteen both the father and the son both wish to perform the pidyon, the Rashba (cited in Aruch Hashulchan 305:54) rules that the father should perform the pidyon and not the son. However, the Rivash (131) disagrees, he feels that once the child reaches adulthood the mitzvah rests solely on his shoulders and we do not allow the father to do the mitzvah.
  4. The Aruch Hashulchan comments that if the father refuses to perform the pidyon or he is unable to do so we allow others to perform the mitzvah in the father’s stead. He prefers this from the alternative, which is waiting until the child reaches bar mitzvah and having him perform his own pidyon haben. He quotes, however, the opinion of the Taz that if the father dies or is unable to perform the pidyon we should wait until the child reaches bar mitzvah and he should then perform his own pidyon. What’s more, the opinion of the Maadanei Yom Tov is that if the Beis Din or others perform the pidyon they have not fulfilled any mitzvah and the child must repeat the pidyon when he reaches the age of bar mitzvah. The Chasam Sofer rules that one may perform the pidyon for the child without a bracha and when the child reaches adulthood he should reperform the pidyon without a bracha as well. For normative halacha, a rabbi should be consulted.

Which Kohanim Can Receive the Pidyon

  1. The child should be redeemed from a kohen and not from a kohenes (Aruch Hashulchan 305:3).
  2. The poskim differ as to whether a kohen under the age of thirteen can receive the pidyon, (see Rav Akiva Eiger and Aruch Hashulchan 13).
  3. Rav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a (Shevet Halevi 2:172) writes that a kohen who desecrates shabbos publicly cannot be used to redeem the first born. However, since many non-observant Jews do not have the status of public desecrators of shabbos (because they have the status of Tinuk Shenishba etc. see Umekareiv Biyamin 2) and therefore a Rav should be consulted.

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