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Is there any way that I can warm my food for the Shabbat meal on Shabbat itself?

by Rabbi Dovid Cohn

www.OUKosher.org

  

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In warming food on Shabbos, there are three issues to consider – the first is potentially d’oraitah and the latter two are d’rabannanbishul, hatmanah and chazarah.

Bishul/cooking includes, but is not limited to, finishing off the cooking/baking of a food (e.g. baking/warming a Challah in a manner that removes the last vestiges of doughiness) and heating a cold liquid to above 120° F even if the liquid was cooked once before (e.g. gravy). Hatmanah/insulating refers to the prohibition to wrap hot or warm foods on all sides in a manner that preserves the food’s heat. Before Shabbat, hatmanah is only forbidden if the insulation causes the food to become hotter (e.g. wrapping food in extra layers of foil before placing the food into an oven which is on), but on Shabbat hatmanah is forbidden even if it just maintains the food’s heat. Our discussion will focus on the third issue – chazarah.

Putting food onto the fire will give the impression that one is cooking and might mistakenly lead others to think that cooking on Shabbat is permitted
Even if food is fully cooked, hot, and not wrapped, Chazal legislated that it may not be put into the fire or onto a blech. [Right after food it taken off the fire or blech, it may immediately be returned to the blech under certain conditions, but that is a separate discussion]. Thus, on Shabbat morning, one may not take a fully cooked kugel from the refrigerator and put it onto the blech. The Poskim give two reasons for the issur of chazarah. Firstly, putting food onto the fire will give the impression that one is cooking (nirah k’mivashel) and might mistakenly lead others to think that cooking on Shabbat is permitted. Secondly, if the food isn’t warming up fast enough, the person might ‘stoke the coals’ (i.e. raise the flame).

How then can one warm up food for the daytime seudat Shabbat? Traditionally, this was done by either putting the food next to, rather than on top of, the fire or by placing it on top of another pot filled with food that is sitting on the fire from before Shabbat (e.g. the Cholent pot). In both of these cases, the warming is done in such an atypical manner that everyone will realize that he is warming, and not cooking, the food (reason #1), and the oddity of the situation will “remind” him not to raise the flame. In this context, food placed on a counter adjacent to the stovetop is considered “next to” the fire but food placed on the hot parts of the blech are “on top of” the fire even if the food is not directly over the flames.1

Footnotes

  • 1. see Iggerot Moshe O.C. IV:74 – bishul #32.

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Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Challah
A loaf of bread. Usually refers to: 1) The section of dough separated and given to the priest (today that section is burnt). 2) The sweetened, soft bread customarily consumed at the Sabbath meals.
Cholent
A stewed (usually meat) dish served hot on Shabbat afternoon. Since it is forbidden to cook or warm up food on Shabbat, the cholent sits on the stove-top from before sundown Friday evening.
Poskim
Authorities in Jewish law.