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What is an Eruv Tavshilin?

by Rabbi Yosef Resnick

  

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An eruv tavshilin consists of a cooked food that is set aside before a Yom Tov which falls on a Friday, for reasons I will explain in a minute.

First, it is important to note that Shabbat and Yom Tov have most of their laws in common. In general, whatever we can do on Shabbat, we can do on Yom Tov, and whatever we are not allowed to do on Shabbat, we are likewise forbidden to do on Yom Tov. But there are some notable exceptions.1   One of them is that on Yom Tov we are allowed to cook food and do certain other food-preparation activities which are forbidden on Shabbat.2

Even though we are allowed to cook on Yom Tov, according to rabbinical law we are not permitted to make any kind of preparations on Yom Tov for the next day. But... the exception to that exception is that, in theory, we can prepare food on Yom Tov for the next day if the next day is Shabbat!

Why is that? Because one cannot cook food on Shabbat itself, so preparing on Yom Tov is considered a “pressing need.” There is no other way to be able to get food ready for a Shabbat that immediately follows Yom Tov.3

The eruv tavshilin may not be eaten on Yom Tov until all Shabbat preparations have been completed
Nonetheless, the sages instituted that in order to prepare food on Friday for Shabbat when it is the day right after Yom Tov, or when Shabbat corresponds to the second day of Yom Tov, one must prepare before the onset of the holiday an eruv tavshilin: a piece off bread (traditionally a loaf of Challah) and a cooked food (such as a piece of fish or meat, or a hard boiled egg).

The eruv tavshilin may not be eaten on Yom Tov until all Shabbat preparations have been completed.4   Once the eruv tavshilin is set aside before Yom Tov, we are then allowed to cook whatever we wish during Yom Tov in preparation for Shabbat.5

There are two reasons given why the sages instituted the eruv tavshilin. They have to do with our approach to both Yom Tov and Shabbat.

1) In order to increase one's honor and respect for Yom Tov. People will say, “If we not allowed to prepare on Yom Tov even for the honor of Shabbat unless we cook a specially designated food before Yom Tov, how much more so are we not allowed to prepare on Yom Tov for a simple weekday!”

2) In order to increase one's honor and respect for Shabbat. When we consciously prepare a cooked dish before Yom Tov so that we will be able to prepare our Shabbat foods on Yom Tov itself, we are reminded of Shabbat even before Yom Tov. We then set aside one nice dish for Shabbat, separate from our Yom Tov food (and then we won't eat up all of our food on Yom Tov!).

The eruv tavshilin reminds us of something else: that all of the things our Sages instituted – whether positive acts, such as making a blessing before we eat, or negative, such as not preparing on Yom Tov for a weekday – were instituted only in order to increase our consciousness and respect for G-d’s Torah. With this in mind, we will make our eruv tavshilin in a spirit of joyfulness!6

See also Can you guide me through the Eruv Tavshilin procedure?

Footnotes

  • 1. See “What kind of activities are forbidden on the Shabbat, but permitted on Yom Tov?” . (http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/559,2071144/What-is-an-Eruv-Tavshilin.html)
  • 2. This is a general rule. There are, however, many rules governing the way one may or may not cook on Yom Tov.
  • 3. This was especially true before refrigeration methods were available.
  • 4. Ideally, one should use the bread for the Hamotzie of one of the Shabbat meals. Some have the custom of using the bread as the second loaf of challah for the fits two Shabbat meals, and then actually eat it for the Seudah Shlishit.
  • 5. One important restriction remains: the food preparations must be concluded on the Yom Tov afternoon with sufficient time that theoretically if a host of guests showed up they would be able to finish the food before sunset.
  • 6. Sources: Shulchan Aruch, vol. 4. Kehot Publishers, 1987.

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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.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Yom Tov
Jewish Holiday.
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.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.