In this issue, we will examine two important topics regarding Bishul on Shabbat. These are Hagasa (stirring food) and Shehiya (placing food on the fire before Shabbat begins). Hagasa is the last topic involving a biblical prohibition that we shall review in this series. Shehiya will be the first rabbinical prohibition that we shall address.
Hagasa – The Astonishing View of the Kol Bo
It is biblically prohibited to stir food that has not been fully cooked (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 318:18 and Mishna Berura 318:114). This is because stirring contributes to the cooking process, as it makes the food cook faster. The Bait Yosef (Orach Chaim 253 s.v. Uma Shekatav Rabbeinu Uvetanur Asur) cites the surprising opinion of the Kol Bo, who forbids stirring food while it is still directly on the fire even if the food is fully cooked. The Shaar Hatziyun (318:148) notes that he finds the opinion of the Kol Bo to be astonishing and does not understand the basis of this opinion.
Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (cited in Mesora 7:15-16) offers the following explanation of the Kol Bo. The Rav points to the Rambam (Hilchot Shabbat 9:11), who compares stirring food (Hagasa) to wringing out water from clothes after they have been washed. The Rambam explains that one violates the prohibition of washing clothes on Shabbat by wringing out the water because, “Wringing the water out is part of the process of washing, just as stirring is part of the process of cooking.” The Rav explains that although wringing out the water does not clean the clothes, it constitutes a biblically forbidden act because it is part of the cleaning process. Similarly, although stirring food after it is fully cooked does not contribute to the cooking of the food, it constitutes a biblical prohibition because it is part of the cooking process.
Based on The Rav’s insight, we can explain why the Kol Bo prohibits Hagasa of fully cooked food only when the food remains on the fire. It is because one usually stirs completely cooked food only while the food is still on the fire.
Hagasa – Practical Implications
Rav Yosef Karo (Shulchan Aruch 318:18) rules that if the food is not completely cooked then even removing food from the pot using a spoon constitutes a forbidden act of Hagasa. Nonetheless, Rav Karo does not rule in accordance with the opinion of the Kol Bo. Rav Karo rules that one may stir food that has been completely cooked. The Rama (318:18 as understood by the Mishna Berura 318:117), however, rules that Lechatchila (ab initio) one should not remove food from a pot while it is yet on the fire even with a spoon.
Accordingly, Ashkenazic practice seeks to accommodate the stringent opinion of the Kol Bo. What if it is impractical to remove the pot from the fire in order to remove its contents? A common example is a one-piece crockpot where there is no alternative but to remove the food while it is yet on the fire (unless one attaches the crockpot to a timer, which will shut off the crockpot when it is time to serve its contents). Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe 4:74:Bishul:9) rules that one may not be lenient in such a situation. The Chazon Ish (O.C. 37:15), though, rules that one may be lenient if one finds it very difficult to accommodate the strict view of the Kol Bo. The Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata (1:32), Rav Yehuda Amital (through personal communication), and Rav Mordechai Willig (through personal communication) all agree that one may follow this ruling of the Chazon Ish. Those Yeshivot where the practice is to enjoy late Friday night Chulent commonly rely on this lenient ruling of the Chazon Ish.
Chazal issued a decree forbidding one to place food on the fire before Shabbat begins (Shehiya). Their concern was that one might be tempted to stir the coals to make the food cook faster (Shabbat 18b). The Gemara (Shabbat 36b) records a great controversy between the Chachamim and Chanania regarding the scope of this prohibition. The Chachamim forbid Shehiya unless the food is cooked entirely and any further cooking will detract from the quality of the food (Mitztamek Vera Lo). Chanania limits the decree to where the food is not cooked to the extent that it is marginally edible (Maachal Ben Drosai).
The Rishonim vigorously debate whether the Halacha follows the opinion of the Chachamim or Chanania. The Rif, Rambam, and Ramban rule in accordance with the strict view of the Chachamim. Rashi, Tosafot, and the Baal Hamaor rule in accordance with Chanania. Rav Yosef Karo (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 253:1) rules in accordance with the Chachamim. This is hardly surprising as the major Sefardic Rishonim follow the opinion of the Chachamim. The Rama (ibid.), on the other hand, notes that the accepted Ashkenazic practice is to follow the opinion of Chanania. The Rama, in turn, notes the common Ashkenazic practice to follows the great Ashkenazic Rishonim, who ruled like Chanania.
Interestingly, the Biur Halacha (253:1 s.v. Venahagu) writes that it is certainly preferable to follow the opinion of the Chachamim. He bases this approach on the fact that the Bait Yosef cites the Rosh (Shabbat 3:1), who seems to tolerance the Ashkenazic practice to follow Chanania very reluctantly. The Rosh writes that “since there are many opinions on this matter and the Jewish People are highly committed to observe the Mitzva to enjoy Shabbat and they will not listen to follow the stringent view, let them follow their custom to follow the opinion of Chanania.”
The Chazon Ish (O.C. 37:3) understands the Rosh very differently. The Chazon Ish understands the Rosh as initially positing that since this is a complex dispute, in principle one should be strict and avoid attempting to resolve the dispute. However, since one will often impinge on Oneg Shabbat if he avoids resolving the dispute, one’s reaction will be that he wishes to follow the basic Halacha and not be strict. Indeed, the people have the right to do so because this is only a matter of a rabbinical law and they are the descendants of those who followed the lenient view based on the rulings of their rabbis. Thus, the Chazon Ish concludes that one may follow the Rama without any reservations. Indeed, this seems to be the intent of the Rama, as he does not say that it is best to be strict about this point (contrast this with the Rama’s assessment of the Minhag he cites in O.C. 253:2). Common practice appears to accept the Chazon Ish’s approach to this matter.
Does a Blech Help? Shulchan Aruch vs. Rav Akiva Eiger
The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) clearly indicates that the aforementioned dispute pertains only if the food is placed on a fire not covered by a Blech. Shehiya is prohibited due to concern that one may come to stir the coals. However, a Blech remedies this concern. Thus, Shehiya should be permitted if a Blech covers the fire. Nevertheless, Rav Akiva Eiger (ibid. s.v. Oh Nitbashel) posits that Chanania does not permit Shehiya if the food is not cooked to the point of Maachal Ben Drosai even if there is a Blech. The Mishna Berura (254:50) accepts the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch. He merely notes the view of Rav Akiva Eiger (Biur Halacha 253:1 s.v. Ve’im). For a critique of Rav Akiva Eiger’s opinion, see Rav Mordechai Willig, Bait Yitzchak 20:66-68.
Common practice seems to follow the Shulchan Aruch and the Mishna Berura on this point. People commonly put a kettle filled with cold water on the Blech moments before Shabbat begins, in accordance with the lenient view. However, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (cited by Rav Hershel Schachter in Bait Yitzchak 28:18) reports that the practice among the Jews in pre-war Galicia was to follow the stringent viewpoint of Rav Akiva Eiger on this issue. The cousin of this author, Rav Yosef Singer of the Lower East Side (who served as a Rav in pre-war Galicia) confirms the authenticity of Rav Soloveitchik’s report. My fellow “Galitzianers” should consult with their rabbis as to whether our Galician heritage still binds us to this practice of our ancestors.
The Gemara (Shabbat 18b) and Shulchan Aruch (253:1) permit Shehiya if there is some raw meat placed in the pot immediately before Shabbat. The reasoning for this leniency is that the concern for stirring the coals is not relevant if there is some raw meat added to the food. This is because the food will not be ready for the Friday night meal no matter how much the food is stirred since it takes a very long time for the food to cook. Moreover, the food will be ready for the Shabbat afternoon meal even if the food will not be stirred. The Mishna Berura mentions no objection to following this rule. Similarly, the Aruch Hashulchan (253:8-9) notes this practice and does not express any reservations about relying on this rule.
Nevertheless, Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin (Kitvei Harav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin 2:19) ruled emphatically that this should not be relied upon in the modern era. Among his concerns were that modern ovens are much more efficient compared to those used in pre-modern times. Rav Henkin notes that raw meat cooks relatively quickly in modern ovens. Hence, he argues that the concern that one may come to stir the coals (or adjust the flame) is relevant today even if raw meat has been added to a dish. Recall that Rav Henkin arrived in America in the early twentieth century and lived a generation after the Mishna Berura and Aruch Hashulchan were written.
Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (cited by Rav Hershel Schachter, Nefesh Harav pp. 156-157) agrees with this ruling of Rav Henkin. Rav Moshe Feinstein (cited by Rav Shimon Eider, Halachos of Shabbos p. 336, note 783), however, believes that we still may rely on the Kedeira Chaita rule even when using a modern oven. We should note that some have suggested that the Kedeira Chaita rule may have reemerged with the advent of the crockpot. Since crockpots cook so slowly, the concern that one may come to adjust them might not be relevant. One should consult with his Rav about this issue.
There are many issues concerning the question of Hagasa of items that are fully cooked and the rabbinical decree of Shehiya. One should develop with a protocol for managing these issues on Shabbat with his Rav.