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Weekly Halacha

Selected Halachos Related to Parshas Vaera

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: Is it permitted to put cooked kishke, kugel, rice, etc., wrapped in plastic bags or foil sheets into the cholent before Shabbos?

DISCUSSION: Some poskim(1) hold that it is prohibited because it violates the rabbinical injunction of hatmanah. Usually, hatmanah means to insulate a pot of food so that its heat is retained or even intensified [depending on the type of material used for insulation](2). But in the opinion of the Taz, quoted by the Mishnah Berurah(3), to submerge a vessel containing food into another vessel containing food is also a form of hatmanah(4). Thus, a plastic bag containing kishke or a foil-wrapped kugel which is submerged in a larger pot of cholent, may be considered a violation of hatmanah.

Other poskim, however, do not consider this a form of hatmanah(5). They maintain that this is a case of two separate foods - cholent and kugel - that are being kept warm on a fire; it is not a case of one food (cholent) "insulating" the heat level of the lesser food (kishke, kugel)(6). Still other poskim suggest that a foil or plastic wrapping is not considered a "vessel" normally used for "insulation"(7).

But all poskim permit placing wrapped kishke or kugel in a cholent - before Shabbos - if one of the following conditions is met: If the kishke or kugel is not completely cooked before it is placed in the cholent, and it is being put into the cholent to finish cooking(8). This is permitted because the purpose of putting the bag or foil into the cholent is not to insulate the kishke or kugel. Rather, the bag or foil is merely holding food that requires further cooking, which is permitted(9). If the bag or foil is left partially open, or if it is punctured(10), it is permitted to submerge it in the cholent, even if its contents are fully cooked. This is permitted because one would never insulate a food in an open or punctured container; obviously, the foods were placed in the cholent in order to absorb its taste(11).

Note: Some people who cook cholent in a crock pot place the cholent ingredients in a bag and then put the bag in the pot. This is permitted according to all views, since the purpose is not to "insulate" the food but to keep the pot as clean as possible(12).

QUESTION: Is it permitted to take cholent out of the oven on Friday night, dish some out, and then quickly put it back in?

DISCUSSION: In order to return a completely cooked, still-warm dish to the oven on Shabbos, the fire in the oven must be covered especially for Shabbos. There are two reasons why the fire must be covered: The Rabbis were concerned that putting food back on a heat source appears is if one is cooking it.

The Rabbis were concerned that one may notice that the fire is too low and inadvertently adjust the temperature.

In the opinion of many poskim(13), returning food to the oven is prohibited since the flame inside the oven is not covered . Even though in some ovens no fire is visible, still there is nothing that distinguishes the oven from its regular weekday appearance(14). It still looks like someone is cooking and the chance of their adjusting the temperature is still very real.

This prohibition poses a problem to those who want to eat some of their Shabbos cholent on Friday night. They cannot remove the cholent from the oven, since, as we just explained, it is forbidden to put it back in the oven. They cannot dish cholent out of the pot while it is still inside the oven, since it is Rabbinically prohibited to dish out food while it is still on the fire, even if the food is completely cooked(15).

The solution to the problem is the following compromise: The oven rack should be slid part-way out of the oven so that the pot is not directly over the flame. The other part of the pot should remain inside the oven in an area which is yad soledes bo(16). In this manner the cholent is not really being removed from the oven, and "returning" it would be permitted.

Note that a minority opinion maintains that if the stove knobs are covered or removed, the cholent may be returned to the oven(17).

QUESTION: Is it permitted to open a soda can on Shabbos?

DISCUSSION: A previous column quoted the ruling of Harav S.Z. Auerbach who permits opening soda cans on Shabbos(18). Since the publication of that column, a number of prominent Rabbonim have mentioned to me that the custom in the United States is to follow the opinion of the more stringent poskim - whose rulings were cited in the aforementioned column - who prohibit opening soda cans on Shabbos. Accordingly, one should consult a competent halachic authority as to whether or not he should rely on Harav Auerbach's ruling.

QUESTION: How do you wash, dry and put away silverware on Shabbos?

DISCUSSION: Silverware may not be sorted, for sorting violates the prohibition of borer. Accordingly, when silverware is placed in a dish washer, it must be loaded randomly. Even if the pieces of silverware were improperly positioned in the dishwasher, they may not be rearranged according to size and type(19).

Assorted cutlery which has been washed and dried may not be sorted and put away in any type of silverware organizer.

It is prohibited to pick out of the sink several or all of the items of one type, e.g., spoons, wash and dry them and put them away in their allotted compartments.

It is prohibited to pick up assorted pieces of silverware pieces out of the sink or off the drain board, dry each piece individually, and then place it in its allotted compartment.

But it is permitted, in the opinion of several poskim, to pick up and dry each piece of cutlery separately, as it comes randomly out of the sink or drain board, and put it directly in its compartment(20). This is permitted because the individual piece is being lifted out of the sink to be dried, which is an end in itself, and not specifically to be sorted.

It is permitted to pick up a jumble of silverware and throw it across the table so that the pieces scatter and separate. Once the pieces are not mixed in a jumble, they may be sorted and put away into their compartments(21).

QUESTION: How do you set the table with cutlery on Shabbos?

DISCUSSION: It is forbidden to pick individual pieces out of a jumble of silverware and set them on the table in their correct positions. It is permitted, however, to do so if it is done immediately prior to the meal. This means that if the meal(22) is supposed to start at 12:00 o'clock, for example, and it takes about 30 minutes to prepare for the meal, then the table may be set at about 11:30, but not earlier(23). Even if the lady of the house would like to set her table before going to shul or taking a walk, it is forbidden to do so(24).

When the silverware is not mixed together (but is being taken straight out of the organizer), it is permitted to take each type of implement and set it on the table in its desired place. But it is prohibited to take different types of silverware from their individual compartments, allow them to mix together in one's hand, and then set them on the table in their correct place. If it is done immediately before the meal, however, then this, too, is permitted.


1 Aruch ha-Shulchan 258:3; Minchas Yitzchak 8:17; Shevet ha-Levi 3:47. See Igros Moshe O.C. 4:74 (hatmanah 3) who prohibits placing kugel completely wrapped in aluminum foil on top of the cholent pot cover.

2 Insulating a pot which is left on the fire - even prior to Shabbos - is prohibited because the Rabbis feared that if one were to find on Shabbos that the insulation failed to heat the food sufficiently, he would inadvertently adjust the temperature of the fire.

3 258:2 and Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 6. [Chazon Ish O.C. 37:32 disagrees with the basic ruling of the Taz and does not consider a submerged vessel as a violation of hatmanah.]

4 The ruling is based on the argument that when an item is submerged, it is in fact being "insulated", since the submersion causes the temperature of the submerged item to be retained or intensified.

5 Note that the case that the Taz discusses involves a bottle of cold liquid being submerged in a bowl of hot water which is not on a fire. Our case involves a food being submerged in a food which is on a fire. The cases are not comparable for several reasons.

6 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Tikunim U'milluim 42, note 242).

7 See L'ehoros Nossan 7:12; Az Nidberu 6:78; Am ha-Torah, vol. 13, quoting Debreciner Rav.

8 Minchas Yitzchak 8:17.

9 Provided that the item will be fully cooked before Shabbos or the heat source is covered, as explained in detail in The Weekly Halachah DISCUSSION, vol. 1. pg. 207-209.

10 Or if the bag is porous; Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Shevus Yitzchak, pg. 251).

11 Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 42:63; Otzros ha-Shabbos 2:56 quoting Harav S. Wosner.

12 Based on O.C. 257:2 and Igros Moshe O.C. 1:95.

13 Igros Moshe O.C. 4:74-26; Minchas Yitzchak 3:28; Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (Shevus Yitzchak, pg. 89).

14 If there is an insert inside the oven, then it is permitted to return the cholent.

15 Mishnah Berurah 318:117; Igros Moshe O.C. 4:74:9. See Chazon Ish 37:15 who is somewhat more lenient.

16 At lease 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

17 Harav A Kotler (oral ruling, quoted in Sefer Hilchos Shabbos, pg. 354); Shevet ha-Levi 3:48.

18 See The Weekly Halachah DISCUSSION, vol. 1, pg. 137-138 for an elaboration.

19 Igros Moshe O.C. 4-74 (rechitzha 4);

20 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 3:88); Harav N. Karelitz (Ayil Meshulash 11:5). Harav S. Wosner (Otzros ha-Shabbos, borer 74). There are, however some poskim who are hesitant about this leniency (see Ayil Meshulash, ibid., quoting Harav Y.S. Elyashiv).

21 Igros Moshe O.C. 4-74 (borer 11).

22 Zemiros which are sung prior to the meal are considered as part of the meal (Harav S.Y. Elyashiv, quoted in The Laws of Borer, pg. 25 and Harav N. Karelitz, quoted in Ayil Meshulash, pg. 117).

23 Igros Moshe O.C. 4:74-13; Harav S.Y. Elyashiv and Harav N. Karelitz (quoted in Ayil Meshulash, pg. 118). There is a minority view which holds that it is permitted to begin the preparation half an hour before the meal even if the actual preparation does not take that long (Harav S. Wosner, mi-Beis Levi 6, Borer 2).

24 Mishnah Berurah 321:45.

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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