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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa| 5764
Ask the Rabbi
Question: Last Friday night, my electricity blew. To save my chulent, which was on an electric hot plate, I brought it to a neighbor and put it on her blech. Was that okay?
Answer: In order to take a pot from off the fire and place it on the fire, there are several requirements. Among them is that one must remove the pot from the fire with the intention to return it and/or (see different opinions in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 253:2) that the pot remains in his hands the whole time.
The application in your case depends on a simple chakira (analytical dilemma). Does one need a positive connection between past and future stays on the fire by holding the pot and planning to return it? In your case, when the electricity went out, nothing positive demonstrated the pot would be going to your neighbor’s blech. But perhaps food that was on a fire may remain or be transferred to another fire unless it was actively removed in a way that makes it unfit for return. Over here, you never removed it at all.
Explicit discussion of equivalent scenarios, which include age-old cases like a flame going out or a pot falling off the blech, is found primarily in the latest poskim. Harav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, OC IV 74.39) and Harav Sh. Z. Orbach (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hichata ch. 1, footnote 69) support the position that one’s intention when putting up the food that it remain on the fire, is sufficient unless one consciously removed the pot. Shmirat Shabbat K’hilchata (in the body of the work, 1:23) prefers that one not rely on this logic without additional room for leniency. He suggests that one put the pot on the new heat source, not directly on a blech, but separated by an overturned pot or plate.
There are other points of leniency and stringency that one should consider. The Rama (OC 253:2) says that it is possible to rely on the Ran’s novel opinion, that if food is removed on Shabbat from a flame without intention to return it, he can return it to a blech (or a non-adjustable hot plate), in case of great need. Also, if one acts quickly, he can obviate the problem. Although the electricity is the cause of the heat, halachically, the hot plate’s surface is the heat source for the pot. Thus, if one takes the pot into his hands to bring it to the neighbors when the hot plate is still hot, then it is permitted, like moving any pot from one blech to another. The fact that the surface would have cooled off soon does not change that. (Some Sefardic poskim never allow moving food from one heat source to another- see Yalkut Yosef 253:(10)).
One must make sure that all of the food in the chulent pot, including beans and bones that are eaten, are fully cooked before returning them to a blech and that the food is still hot (slightly, for Ashkenazim; yad soledet bo, for Sefardim).Otherwise, there would be actual cooking, not just rabbinic issues of hachzara.
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