This week, we shall conclude our five-part series on the Halachot concerning Bishul with a discussion of the topics of Hachazara and Hatmana.
Hachazara refers to returning food to the fire and Hatmana refers to insulating food for Shabbat to keep it warm. There are numerous disputes regarding these actions. Some of these are ancient controversies and some are relatively new. These Halachic disputes account for the variety of practices in the observant community regarding heating food on Shabbat.
The Prohibition of Hachazara
Last week we discussed at some length the parameters of the rule of Ein Bishul Achar Bishul (one cannot cook something that has already been cooked). Nevertheless, the rabbis forbade returning food to the fire even if the food was totally cooked and the Ein Bishul Achar Bishul rule was in effect. Thus, one cannot take fully cooked chicken from the refrigerator and place it directly on a lit stove on Shabbat afternoon. Although one who does so does not violate any prohibition on a biblical level, he nevertheless violates the rabbinical prohibition of Hachazara.
There are two basic approaches among the Rishonim for why Chazal created the Hachazara prohibition. Rashi (Shabbat 36b s.v. Lo Machzirim) explains that Hachazara is prohibited because it “appears as if it is cooking” (Meichzi K’Mevashel). Rabbeinu Tam (Sefer Hayashar 235) adds that Chazal were concerned that one may come to stir the coals. Any manner of reheating food on Shabbat must properly address these two concerns in order to be permissible. We must emphasize that one may only contemplate reheating food on Shabbat if the food is entirely cooked and the Ein Bishul Achar Bishul rule is applicable.
Permitted Ways To Heat Food on Shabbat – The Blech
The Mishna that appears on Shabbat 36b teaches that one of the requirements to permit reheating food on Shabbat is that the fuel source of the stove is either removed or covered with ashes (גרוף או קטום). This alleviates the concern that one may come to stir the coals. Rashi (ibid., s.v. Oh Ad) explains that placing ashes on the coals cools down the coals. The Ran (15b in the pages of the Rif, s.v. Oh Ad) explains that by removing the coals or covering them with ashes one demonstrates that he has resolved not to stir the coals. (For an analysis of Rashi and the Ran, see Teshuvot Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 1:93.)
The Mishna Berura (253:81) cites the Magen Avraham, who rules that placing a Blech over the fire is the equivalent of placing ashes on the coals. The Blech both cools the fire by diffusing the heat and serves as a concrete expression that one has resolved not to stir the coals. The Chazon Ish (Orach Chaim 37:11) appears to be the lone authority to question this. He argues that the Blech merely covers the stove and serves no Halachic purpose. The Chazon Ish’s opinion on this matter has not been accepted in practice, except in certain circles in Bnei Brak.
There is some question, though, about the structure of the Blech for modern gas ovens. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe O.C. 1:93) writes that covering the fire suffices, even if the knobs are not covered. Simply covering the fire is sufficient to demonstrate that one will not adjust the flame. He writes, however, that it is preferable to cover the knobs as well because this further serves to eliminate concern that one will come to adjust the flame. Rav Moshe firmly asserts, though, that it is insufficient to cover only the knobs.
On the other hand, Rav Aharon Kotler (cited by Rav Shimon Eider, Halachos of Shabbos p. 338 note 800) adopts the opposite approach. Rav Kotler believes that while it is preferable to cover the fire as well as the knobs, it is vital to cover the knobs. Rav Kotler rules that in case of difficulty, covering only the knobs suffices. Rav Yosef Blau informed this author that Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik adopts the same approach as Rav Aharon Kotler.
A major ramification of this dispute is if covering the knobs of a crockpot suffices to permit Shehiya and Hachazara. Rav Mordechai Willig has told this author that he believes that covering the knobs of the crockpot is insufficient.
Additional Requirements to Permit Hachazara
The Shulchan Aruch (O.C.253:2) rules in accordance with the opinions recorded by the Gemara (Shabbat 38) that there are two other requirements to permit Hachazara in addition to the presence of a Blech. These requirements are that the pot remains in one’s hand and that one intends to return the food to the fire when he removes the food from the fire. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe O.C. 4:74:Bishul:33) clarifies that based on the Rambam (Hilchot Shabbat 3:10) one is not required to keep the pot from touching the ground in order to permit Hachazara. Rather, it suffices to keep one’s hand on the pot, even if the pot touches the ground.
The Magen Avraham (253:36) believes that there is another requirement necessary to permit Hachazara. He requires that the food not cool down completely, even if the food is fully cooked and solid and there is no concern for violating a biblically prohibited act of Bishul. The Vilna Gaon (Biur Hagra O.C. 253:5 s.v. U’bilvad, as explained by Biur Halacha s.v. U’bilvad) disagrees. He believes that Hachazara is permitted for a completely cooked solid food that remains in one’s hand if he intended to return it to the fire, even if it is completely cooled down. The Mishna Berura (253:68) and Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe 4:74:Bishul:31) rule in accordance with this view of the Magen Avraham. Rav Yosef Adler reports that Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik rules in accordance with the Vilna Gaon. Indeed, the Magen Avraham appears difficult, as he does not marshal any textual support from the Gemara or Rishonim to support his contention.
Permitted Means to Reheat Food – The Controversial Ran
The Rama (O.C. 253:2) cites a great leniency from the Ran (Shabbat 17b in the pages of the Rif, s.v. U’mihu). The Ran derives from the Jerusalem Talmud that the requirements that the pot must remain in one’s hand and that one must intend to return the food to the fire apply only when the food was removed from the fire before Shabbat. However, if the food was on the Blech at the beginning of Shabbat, one may return it to the fire later on Shabbat even if the food did not remain in his hand and he did not intend to return the food to the fire. The Ramban (Shabbat 38b, s.v. Machzirin) also adopts this lenient approach. However, the Rambam, Rif, and Rosh do not record this leniency.
The Rama (ibid.) records that common practice is to rely on the lenient approach articulated by the Ran. However, the Rama recommends that one should be strict and not rely on this lenient ruling. This is primarily because most Rishonim do not subscribe to this leniency. Similarly, the Aruch Hashulchan (253:19) notes that the common practice is to rely on the Ran, but he recommends following the strict approach because most Rishonim reject the Ran. Rav Yosef Adler quotes Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik who rules that one may rely on the lenient approach of the Ran. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe O.C. 1:94) does not permit relying on the Ran.
According to Rav Soloveitchik, one may remove fully cooked solid food from the refrigerator and place it on the Blech if the food was on the Blech at the beginning of Shabbat. This is because the Rav rules in accordance with the lenient rulings of the Ran and the Vilna Gaon (who rejects the aforementioned stringency of the Magen Avraham).
The Kedeira Al Gabei Kedeira Approach
The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 253:5) rules that one may place fully cooked solid food on top of a pot filled with food cooking on the fire “because this is not the way of cooking.” This permitted method of Hachazara is referred to as Kedeira Al Gabei Kedeira. Since people do not cook food this way, this obviates any concern for Hachazara. It does not appear like cooking, and the fact that one is reheating the food in this unusual way demonstrates that he is not interested in stirring the coals (or adjusting the flame).
The “Kedeira Blech” that has been introduced in the past few years seeks to present a convenient way to practice the Kedeira Al Gabei Kedeira method. It is a rectangular metal box with a flat surface. One places water in it before Shabbat so that it is considered a pot that contains cooking food. Placing food on its flat surface is a much easier way to warm fully cooked solid food than putting the food on top of a cooking pot. One should consult with his Rav if he believes this is a viable Halachic option.
Contemporary authorities debate whether a non-adjustable hot tray or warming table constitutes a permissible method for reheating food on Shabbat. Those who adopt the lenient approach argue that since people do not cook on a hot tray or warming table it is a permissible method to reheat food, similar to the Kedeira Al Gabei Kedeira method. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe O.C. 4:74:Bishul:35) and Rav Mordechai Willig (Bait Yitzchak 20:72) rule leniently, and the Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata (1:25) rules strictly.
Hatmana and Crock-pots
We will conclude our discussion of the topic of Bishul with a brief look at the rabbinical prohibition of Hatmana. Chazal forbade us from enveloping a pot of food on Shabbat because it may lead to stirring coals. In addition, Chazal forbade us from enveloping a pot of food even on Erev Shabbat if the material used to envelop the pot warms the food. See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 257 for a full discussion of these laws.
Until 1995, many people used a two-piece crock-pot to cook Chulent for Shabbat. In 1995, some changed their practice when Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Teshuvot Minchat Shlomo 2:34:5) ruled that using a two-piece crock-pot violates the rabbinical prohibition of Hatmana. Since the outer pot contains the electric coils that heat the inner pot, Rav Shlomo Zalman asserts that one is Matmin (enveloping) the inner pot with the outer pot, which warms the food in the inner pot. This ruling resonated in many circles, as reportedly this was the last ruling issued by Rav Shlomo Zalman before his passing. There is even some folklore associated with this ruling: the crock-pots of many leading rabbis suddenly became inoperable on the Shabbat after Rav Shlomo Zalman issued this ruling.
Nevertheless, some people still use a two-piece crock-pot to prepare Chulent for Shabbat. Their Halachic basis is that the outer pot does not completely envelop the inner pot, as the former does not cover the latter on its top. The Rama (O.C. 253:1) rules that one violates Hatmana only when the material completely envelops the pot, including its top. The cover of the pot is not considered to be “enveloping” the pot since its function is simply to cover the pot and not especially to add warmth to the food. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe O.C. 1:95) presents a similar line of reasoning in his ruling that storing hot liquids in a thermos does not constitute Hatmana.
We have reviewed many areas of controversy in this series and especially in this last essay. One should consult with his Rav to develop a protocol on how to manage the many issues that we have raised in this series.