By Rabbi Sebrow

The Kol Bo writes that there is a custom to eat zironim on Purim night. Zironim is commonly translated as legumes or seeds. The seeds are reminiscent of the food that Daniel, Chananya, Mishael, and Azariah ate when they refused to eat Nevuchadnezzar’s royal food. The Mishnah Berurah notes that Esther also followed this practice when she was in Achashveirosh’s palace. Perhaps her inspiration was Daniel’s practice. The Levush notes that there is another connection between Daniel and the Purim story. According to the Gemara (Megillah 15a), Hasach, who relayed Mordechai’s message to Esther, was none other than Daniel.

This is commonly believed to be one of the sources for hamantaschen. The triangle pastries were typically filled with poppy seeds. Therefore, eating hamantaschen fulfilled the custom first mentioned by the Kol Bo, later codified by the Rema. However, if this really is the source for hamantaschen, it doesn’t explain the dough part of the pastry, only the filling. In elementary school, students are taught that Haman had a triangular hat. But based on the daf, we can offer an alternative, highly speculative reason for the necessity of the pastry part of hamantaschen.

The Gemara (Avodah Zara 35b) lists items that must be made by people who are commanded to keep the kosher dietary laws. Among them are cooked food, bread, and oil. It is clear that nowadays oil manufactured by a gentile is permitted as long as it is kosher. There was a special beis din convened in the times of the Talmud to permit this oil. However, the prohibition against eating food cooked by a gentile remains in full force. The status of the prohibition against consuming goods baked by a gentile is less clear. Certainly, we may not eat otherwise kosher bread baked by an individual gentile. However, kosher bread baked by a non-Jewish bakery, typically referred to as pas palter, is the subject of dispute.

Tosfos notes that in his locale the custom was to be lenient and consume kosher bread baked by non-Jewish bakeries. The Shulchan Aruch writes that this leniency should not be employed unless no pas Yisrael is available. He does, however, note the opinion of the Rashba that pas palter may be consumed if it is superior to pas Yisrael. This ruling is often followed by Sephardim. The Rema, however, writes that even if pas Yisrael is available, one may still purchase pas palter. The Shach recommends following the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch unless pas palter is superior.

It is interesting to note that it is clear that having a Jew turn on the oven renders the resultant bread pas Yisrael. The Rema writes that the same is true regarding cooked dishes. A Jew could simply turn on the flame and thus render the food bishul Yisrael. However, the Shulchan Aruch does not rule this way. When it comes to food cooked by a gentile, Sephardim are hesitant to rely on the leniency of simply having the fire started by a Jew. Rather, the Jew must actually place the food on the fire or otherwise take a more active role in the cooking process. In terms of bread, however, the Shulchan Aruch agrees that a Jew may simply start the fire to render the baked goods pas Yisrael.

The pasuk says in Daniel (1:8), “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the king’s ‘pas bag’ or the wine he drank, so he sought permission of the chief officer not to defile himself.” Some interpret the word “pas” as referring to bread. If that is true, perhaps one can surmise that the prohibition against the consumption of pas palter dates back to the times of Daniel. However, if that were true, the basis of the lenient stance of the Rema would be harder to explain. The Rashbam opines that ‘pas bag’ refers to some type of dish and not bread. He proves this from a different verse (1:15): “So the guard kept on removing their food (pas bag), and the wine they were supposed to drink, and gave them (zironim) legumes/seeds.” The Rashbam opines that it is unlikely that Daniel ate raw legumes or seeds without bread to accompany them.

According to the Rashbam, the seeds that Daniel ate were accompanied by bread. Since the minhag to eat seeds on Purim comes from that pasuk, we also do not eat the seeds alone. We eat them with dough, albeit a tasty one.

Certainly, anyone who eats pas palter products such as Stella D’oro cookies or Levi’s Jewish rye bread should eat hamantaschen. By eating the pastry you are declaring, “Daniel ate the kosher bread baked by a gentile, and I do the same.” ¢

Rabbi Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com.

 

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