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Weekly Halacha

Selected Halachos relating to Parshas Vayakhel

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.


You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day (35:3)

COOKING CHOLENT ON SHABBOS

Of all of the thirty-nine forbidden melachos of Shabbos, the Torah mentions only one explicitly: Do not kindle a fire. This prohibition is singled out to disabuse us of the notion that cooking may be permitted on Shabbos since, after all, Shabbos is a day of oneg, pleasure (1). In fact, as we know, regular cooking is a forbidden melachah, and anything akin to cooking which is permitted on Shabbos is governed by complex halachos, with modern technology only increasing their complexity. As cholent is the classic example of a food which is partially cooked on Shabbos, we will outline the relevant halachos:

There are three possible methods of preparing cholent for Shabbos: on top of the stove, inside the oven and in a crockpot (2), and all three are susceptible to the following Shabbos violations:

  1. The Biblical prohibition of cooking on Shabbos;

  2. The rabbinical prohibition of putting food on a heat source before Shabbos and leaving it on during Shabbos. The reason for this ordinance is to prevent one from inadvertently "stoking the coals," or its modern equivalent, adjusting the knobs to raise the temperature.

  3. The rabbinical prohibition of returning [on Shabbos] food to a heat source, since then, too, one would be inclined to adjust the temperature. In addition, this is prohibited because it appears to be "cooking".

To avoid these potential violations, the following guidelines must be followed:


ON TOP OF THE STOVE

On Friday:

Although not halachically mandated, it has become customary that the fire is covered by a blech, even if the cholent is already cooked completely before sunset (3). If cholent is less than half-cooked [or under extenuating circumstances it may be only a third cooked], a blech is halachically required. Some poskim recommend covering the knobs which control the flame in addition to a blech (4), while other poskim require it (5).

On Shabbos:

To remove a cholent pot from the fire with the intention of putting it right back on, e.g., to add water to it or to serve it at a kiddush before a meal, the following conditions must be met:

  1. The fire [and knobs (6) ] must be covered with a blech [a blech may be placed over the fire on Shabbos (7) ];

  2. The cholent must be completely cooked and still warm when returned to the flame;

  3. L'chatchillah, one should not rest the cholent pot on any surface.


INSIDE THE OVEN

On Friday:

It is advisable that cholent be completely cooked before Shabbos begins. If it was not, or b'dieved, as long as the cholent is half cooked [or under extenuating circumstances it may be a third cooked], it may be left in the oven. If the cholent is not cooked to even this extent, then the cholent may not be left inside the oven - unless an oven insert is placed inside it.

On Shabbos:

In the opinion of many poskim, if cholent was removed from inside the oven it may not be returned to the oven - unless there is an oven insert inside (8). A minority opinion holds that if the stove knobs are covered or removed, then the cholent may be returned to the oven even without an insert, if the conditions listed above are met (9).


CROCKPOT

On Friday:

It is advisable that cholent be completely cooked before Shabbos begins. If it was not, or b'dieved, as long as the cholent is half cooked [or under extenuating circumstances it may be a third cooked], the cholent may remain in the crockpot and continue cooking. If the cholent is not cooked to even this extent, then the cholent may be left in the crockpot only if heavy duty silver foil covers the heating element (base) of the crockpot (10) and the control knobs are covered (11).

On Shabbos:

Cholent may be taken off the heating element and returned to the crockpot later on Shabbos provided that the conditions listed above are met. The heating element of the crockpot must be covered with aluminum foil (12) .


ADDING WATER TO CHOLENT

Boiling water may be added to cholent under certain circumstances - if the cholent is completely cooked and the source of heat is covered with a blech or aluminum foil. Since there are several permissible methods of adding boiling water to cholent, we will list them in order of their halachic preference:

Where should the cholent be when the water is added?

  1. Removed from the heat source and held in the air, not resting on any surface at all (13);

  2. Removed from the heat source and balanced partially on a surface (14);

  3. Removed from the heat source and placed on a surface without releasing one's grip on the pot (15);

  4. Removed from the heat source and shifted over to an area of the blech that is still hot (16);

  5. On the heat source itself. This method should be utilized only as a last resort when the other options are not available (17). The water must be poured in slowly and gently.

How Should The Water Be Transferred From The Kettle or Urn To The Cholent Pot?

  1. Directly from the urn to the pot.

  2. Insert a [parve] ladle into the urn [leave it in for several seconds (18) ] and then ladle the water into the pot (19). Either of these methods is preferred.

  3. Pour the water into a cup and empty immediately into the pot (20) . This should be done only as a last resort when other options are not available, since some poskim do not approve of this method (21) .

General notes concerning adding water to the cholent:

Water from a Shabbos urn often does not reach the boiling point. When added to the boiling cholent, however, the water will be boiled - a possible violation of the Biblical prohibition of cooking (22). One must be sure that the temperature of the water in the urn reaches 212 degrees (23), or at the very least 175 degrees (24), or else the water may not be added. [If, however, the water had previously reached 212 or 175 degrees, it is permissible to pour it into the cholent even though it has cooled off a bit (25) .]

When pouring directly from an urn into the pot, one must be extremely careful not to make the kettle or urn fleishig from the steam which rises from the cholent. When uncovering the cholent pot, first allow the steam to escape before bringing the urn next to the pot (26).

L'chatchillah, water should be added to the cholent before it has completely dried out, since some poskim hold that a dried out cholent is considered to be roasted, tzli. If so, pouring water into the pot recooks this "roast", which is prohibited (27). Other poskim, however, hold that one need not be concerned about this issue (28).

After the water is poured in, the pot cover should be replaced before the pot is returned to the fire, since some poskim (29) hold that one may not place a cover on a pot while its on the fire even if the item is completely cooked. Many other poskim are not particular about this (30).



FOOTNOTES

1 Ramban 35:3.

2 This discussion will not address the problem of certain crockpots which may be prohibited to use because of the issue of hatmanah. See Weekly Discussion to Parshas Vaeschanan 5756 for a complete analysis of that issue.

3 The custom is based on the ruling of the Rama 253:1 according to the explanation of the Biur Halachah. See Chazon Ish OC 37:3 who disagrees and holds that a blech is not required when the cholent is completely cooked nor does it help when the cholent is not cooked Most poskim do not agree with his view, see Kaf Hachayim 253:11; Igros Moshe OC 1:93; Tzitz Eliezer 7:15.

4 Igros Moshe OC 1:93; Be'er Moshe 7:3-4.

5 Harav Aharon Kotler (quoted in Sefer Hilchos Shabbos pg. 338); Shevet Halevi 1:93.

6 According to the various views quoted earlier.

7 Igros Moshe OC 1:93; 4:74-29; Minchas Shlomo 46; Shevet Halevi 1:91.

8 Igros Moshe OC 4:74-26; Minchas Yitzchok 3:28; Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (Shvus Yitzchok pg. 89).

9 Harav Aharon Kotler (quoted in Sefer Hilchos Shabbos pg. 354); Shevet Halevi 3:48.

10 Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (Shvus Yiztchok pg. 96; Otzros Hashabbos pg. 404).

11 According to the various views quoted earlier

12 Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (Shvus Yiztchok pg. 96; Otzros Hashabbos pg. 404).

13 This is the preferred halachic method but not always practical, particularly when only one person is available for the job.

14 Ruling of Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in Shvus Yitzchok pg. 161) and Debreciner Rov (Am Hatorah vol. 2 # 1 pg. 13) that a pot held in this manner is not considered as having been "put down" and returning it to the fire is permissible.

15 Igros Moshe OC 4:74-33 rules that even when the pot is held this manner it is not considered as if it was "put down". Other poskim disagree, see Meleches Shabbos pg. 128.

16 Igros Moshe OC 4:74-12 (see also 4:61); Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 1: fn. 111); Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (Shvus Yiztchok pg. 78; Otzros Hashabbos pg. 405). In order to satisfy all views, it is best to place the pot on a place on the blech which is 160 degrees or more. If this is difficult, the pot may be placed on any hot area of the blech.

17 Although several poskim do not recommend this method (Harav S.Z. Auerbach at first permitted this but later hesitated - see Tikunim U'milluim pg. 1 and Meor Hashabbos pg. 455; Igros Moshe OC 4:74-13 also seems to prohibit this), Harav S. Y. Elyashiv rules that when no other possibility exists one can rely on this method, so long as the water is poured in slowly and gently (Shvus Yitzchok pg. 198). See also Ktzos Hashulchan (Badei Hashulchan 243:10) who is lenient.

18 Based on Mishnah Berurah 318:87.

19 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasah pg. 6).

20 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasah pg. 6 and Tikunim U'milluim); Harav Shmuel Auerbach quotes the Steipler as permitting this (see haskamah to Masas Binyomin).

21 Minchas Yitzchok 6:20;10:18; Shevet Halevi 3:93-2; Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (Shvus Yitzchok pg. 204-206); Zachor V'shamor (section 11 pg. 46).

22 In the view of many poskim, it is Biblically forbidden to boil water even if the water is already at the temperture of yad soledes bo - see Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 1: fn. 15 and fn. 96).

23 Minchas Yitzchok 10:28; Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (Shvus Yitzchok pg. 142); Shevet Halevi 7:42-3.

24 Igros Moshe OC 4:74-1. The Shiur of 175 degrees is based on Igros Moshe YD 2:52.

25 Igros Moshe OC 4:74:1,13; Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasah pg. 13); Shevet Halevi 7:42-3. "Cooled off a bit" means that it is hot enough that one who wants a hot drink would consider it hot.

26 See YD 92:8 and Badei Hashulchan; Minchas Yitzchok 5:81;6:20; Meleches Shabbos pg. 98

27 Kinyan Torah 2:106; Tshuvos V'hanagos 2:173.

28 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasah pg. 5); Meleches Shabbos pg. 99

29 Shvisas Hashabbos (Mevashel 26:81); Igros Moshe OC 4:74-10; Meleches Shabbos pg. 101.

30 Ktzos Hashulchan (Badei Hashulchan 124:10); Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasah pg. 5); Harav S. Wosner (M'bais Levi 6); Tzitz Eliezer 7:15-4; Eimek Hateshuvah 42; Be'er Moshe 6:115.


Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc. Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross jgross@torah.org.

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra


 
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