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Weekly Halacha

Selected Halachos Related to Parshas Beshalach

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.


QUESTION: How does one make a cup of instant coffee [or instant tea] on Shabbos?

DISCUSSION: There is a well-known halachic principle that is cited when discussing if and how food can be "cooked" or warmed up on Shabbos: Ain bishul achar bishul, which means that once a food has been cooked before Shabbos, it cannot - in halachic terms - be "cooked" again. In other words, a food which has already been cooked cannot be subject to the prohibition of cooking on Shabbos.

As regards making a cup of coffee on Shabbos, one could reason that since coffee beans are first roasted and then cooked while being processed into instant coffee, it is permissible to pour boiling water from an urn directly onto the [already cooked] instant coffee powder(1). But there are two good reasons why this is not so simple a matter:

1. While it is true that generally, coffee beans are cooked before they are made into instant coffee, it is possible that a method other than cooking was used in the manufacturing process(2). If, indeed, a process other than cooking was used, then it would be strictly prohibited to pour water directly from the urn over the coffee, since then the coffee would become cooked for the first time.

2. Some authorities maintain that instant coffee is not considered a solid food since it disintegrates completely and melts upon contact with hot water(3). Thus it would be classified halachically as a liquid. The halachah regarding liquids is that even if they were fully cooked, if they are no longer warm(4) it is prohibited to recook them(5). If so, then water may not be poured directly from the urn over the instant coffee, since cooled-off liquids are subject to bishul.

Practically speaking, are these two issues a concern? While there are dissenting opinions, the general consensus among contemporary poskim is that it is proper to be stringent(6). The poskim advise, therefore, that one first fill the coffee cup with water from the urn, and then put the instant coffee into the cup; this way the coffee is being put into a keli sheini (a "second vessel") which does not have the power to recook liquids which have cooled off, rather than into a keli rishon (a "primary vessel" with maximum cooking power)(7). Some poskim go even further and advise that one pour the water from the cup into another cup, so that the instant coffee will be put in into a keli shelishi (a "third vessel") which has even less cooking power(8).

These halachos regarding instant coffee [or tea] apply also to processed sugar and artificial sweeteners.

QUESTION: May one place cold cooked chicken (in sauce or dry), or kugel, on a blech on Shabbos morning?

DISCUSSION: Once again, it would appear that cooked chicken should not be subject to the prohibition of bishul. This, however, is not the case. It is prohibited to place chicken with or without sauce on a blech on Shabbos morning, each for its own reason:

If the chicken is in sauce, there may be a question of bishul, cooking. This is because sauce is a liquid, and as we mentioned earlier, a liquid - even if it has already been cooked - may not be reheated if it is no longer warm. One is not allowed to put chicken in sauce on a blech even if he is planing to leave it there for just a few minutes to take the chill off it, since one may easily become distracted and forget to remove the chicken before it reaches yad soledes bo [approx. 110 degrees](9).

If the chicken is dry, then there is no issue of bishul since a solid food cannot be cooked twice. But it is still prohibited to place cold chicken or kugel on a blech since it is a violation of the prohibition against chazarah, which forbids returning any food which has completely cooled off to a heat source, even one which is covered by a blech(10).

There are three options to choose from if one wishes to heat cooked chicken [which is not in sauce] on Shabbos morning: Place the chicken on the edge of the blech, far enough away from the flame so that the food will never reach the temperature of yad soledes bo(11). This is permitted because returning cooked food to a section of the blech which cannot reach yad soledes bo is not a violation of chazarah. Place the chicken on top of a pot [e.g., the cholent pot] which is cooking on the fire or on the lid of a crock-pot(12). [The chicken should be partially unwrapped to avoid the prohibition of hatmanah.] Place the chicken on top of a radiator(13).

QUESTION: While sitting at the Shabbos table, a woman realizes that she forgot to separate challah from her challah loaves. What should she do?

DISCUSSION: It is prohibited to separate challah on Shabbos or Yom Tov(14) unless the dough was made on Yom Tov(15). Accordingly, there is nothing that can be done(16) and the challah loaves may not be eaten(17). [If she realizes her oversight during bein hashmashos, and neither she nor the shul where her husband is davening has recited kabbolas Shabbos, she may still separate challah [even if she has already lit Shabbos candles], as long as the family has no other challah loaves for Shabbos(18).]

If this oversight occurred outside of Eretz Yisrael, however, the challah loaves could be eaten so long as the lady intends to separate challah after Shabbos from whatever will remain of the challah loaves she had baked. She must follow this procedure(19): She must make sure that a small piece [e.g., one slice] remains from the loaves the she baked; Separate a designated piece from that remaining slice after Shabbos or Yom Tov is over(20). That piece is then burned like any other separated challah. No blessing is recited over this type of challah separation(21).


1 In addition to roasting and cooking the beans, they are also ground into powder and then "freeze dried" at a temperature of up to 800 degrees F to remove all of the moisture from the beans.

2 See Me'or ha-Shabbos 5:25 that possibly this is current technology in some plants.

3 See Mishnah Berurah 318:71 concerning sugar. The halachah regarding instant coffee may be even stricter, since it is used exclusively in a liquid state.

4 "Warm" means that it is warm enough to be enjoyed as a "warm drink".

5 Rama O.C. 318:15. But it is only prohibited to recook cooled-off liquids in a keli rishon; Mishnah Berurah 318:23.

6 Harav M. Feinstein (Igros Moshe O.C. 4:74, bishul 16) writes that though the halachah permits pouring hot water directly over instant coffee, he himself [for his personal use] is particular to put the coffee in a keli shelishi.

7 Minchas Yitzchak 1:55; 9:27; Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 1, note 135).

8 Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Me'or ha-Shabbos vol. 1 5:25); Shevet ha-Levi 8:63.

9 Igros Moshe O.C. 1:94; O.C. 4:74, bishul 32.

10 Igros Moshe, ibid.

11 According to Igros Moshe, even chicken in sauce can be put on the edge of the blech. Other poskim are hesitant about this leniency; see Otzros ha-Shabbos, pg. 405, written responsum from Harav Y.S. Elyashiv.

12 This option may be used even if the flame is not covered with a blech or if the bottom of the crock-pot has not been lined with aluminum foil.

13 Igros Moshe O.C. 4:74, bishul 34; Otzros ha-Shabbos, pg. 101, quoting Harav S. Wosner.

14 Mishnah Berurah 339:26. B'dieved, if she mistakenly separated challah on Shabbos or Yom Tov, the food may be eaten. If, however, she was aware that it is forbidden to do so and she did so anyway, the food is forbidden to be eaten; Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 339:26.

15 If the dough was prepared on Yom Tov, challah is separated with a blessing but the dough is not burned until after Yom Tov is over. Once the piece is set aside, it may no longer be moved, since it is muktzeh; Mishnah Berurah 506:29.

16 If this occurred on the first night of Pesach or Sukkos when it is a Biblical obligation to eat a k'zayis of matzah or bread, a solution can be found. A rav must be consulted.

17 A possible solution is to prepare on Yom Tov another batch of dough and then separate challah from the new batch for both. See Rama O.C. 506:3 and Mishnah Berurah for the details.

18 Mishnah Berurah 261:4 and 28. Outside of Eretz Yisrael, though, this should not be done, since in the Diaspora it is permitted to separate challah after Shabbos, as explained in the next paragraph.

19 Rama O.C. 506:3.

20 Rama Y.D. 323:1. If she forgot to separate challah from more than one batch of dough, she must follow the same procedure with each batch.

21 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 42, note 57).

Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1999 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

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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