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Shabbat Parashat Korach| 5765
Ask the Rabbi
Question: Is it permitted on Shabbat to take hot food in a pan from an oven and transfer it to an insulated or thermal container to keep it warm?
Answer: This response does not relate to use of an oven on Shabbat, which has potential pitfalls and solutions beyond our present scope. We are also assuming that the food is fully cooked.
Hatmana (insulating food) is rabbinically forbidden in two basic circumstances: 1) when it takes place on Shabbat; 2) even if the hatmana is done before Shabbat, if it is done in a medium where heat is being added (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 257:1). You refer to hatmana on Shabbat, so we will have to find situations where the prohibition of hatmana does not apply.
In order to be considered hatmana, the food or its utensil must not only be covered but must be surrounded relatively tightly by the insulating material (ibid.:8) on all sides (at least for Ashkenazim- Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 1:66). Only then is it similar to hatmana in remetz (a mixture of sand and coals), the prototype of the prohibition. In some cases, an insulating container gives a relatively snug fit, while in others, the food’s container and the insulation does not come in such close contact. In the latter case, there is no problem. We will continue to look for solutions for cases that meet the general description of hatmana or are borderline.
The gemara (Shabbat 51a) cites Rashbag, who says that if one has moved food from the utensil in which it was heated into another one, he can do hatmana (that does not add heat) to the second utensil. It explains that since the person cooled down the food, we do not have to fear that he will now reheat it in violation of Shabbat, which is our usual fear. Thus, the following system should solve all problems. Before putting the hot food into the insulation, first transfer the food into another pan or container, using Rashbag’s leniency, which is accepted as halacha (Shulchan Aruch, ibid.:5). But is our case a legitimate application of Rashbag’s leniency? An important machloket exists between the Rambam and Rashi whether Rashbag’s logic applies in a case where the food was moved to a second utensil without intention to cool it off. The Rambam (Shabbat 4:5) says that the prohibition exists only in the “kli rishon shenitbashel bo” (the utensil that the food was cooked in), without further distinction, as Rashbag’s statement implies. Rashi implies that there must be intention to cool off the food for the leniency’s logic to apply. The major poskim accept the Rambam’s view (Beit Yosef, OC 157; Magen Avraham 157:14; Mishna Berura 257:29). A possibly more stringent application is heated water that is poured into a thermos, where the transfer was done specifically to maintain the heat for as long as possible. Still, most poskim permit the matter based on the Rambam, as the hatmana occursin a kli sheni (a utensil that was not on the flame). Additional factors are raised that might allow even Rashi to be lenient by a thermos (see Chazon Ish, OC 37:32; Igrot Moshe, OC I, 95; Minchat Shlomo II, 10).
We must consider whether our case is more stringent than that of a thermos. Liquids that are poured into a new utensil cool off significantly and are said to be in a kli sheni, where several halachic leniencies exist. However, many rule that solids (davar gush) maintain their heat, are not very affected by a kli sheni’s cold walls, and maintain the status of kli rishon (Shach, YD 94:30, arguing on Rama 94:7). Thus, one could claim that Rashbag’s leniency does not apply to solids, as in our case. However, the Rambam’s language (ibid.) implies and the Pri Megadim (MZ 257:5) states clearly that hatmana is forbidden only in the actual utensil where the food was heated and not in another utensil, even to food that is kli rishon (see Minchat Shlomo, ibid.).
In summary, if one wants to put food heated in an oven pan into a tight-fitting insulating container, it is necessary and sufficient to transfer it into another utensil before insulating.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated
to the memory of R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.,
Yitzchak Eliezer Ben Avraham Mordechai Jacobson o.b.m.