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Shabbat Parashat Yitro | 5768

Permissibility of Food Taken off the Fire on Shabbat

Ask the Rabbi

Question: On Friday night, I took the chulent off the fire, took some out while holding it, and returned it to the fire. While tasting the sampling, I found that it was not fully cooked (but was edible). How bad was what I did, and was it permitted to eat the chulent the next morning?

Answer: According to your description, the food was k’ma’achal ben d’rosai (=kmbd; nominally edible) when you took it out but not mevushal kol tzorko (fully cooked). According to the most accepted opinion, returning such food until it cooks fully is a Torah-level violation of cooking on Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 318:4, based on the Rambam). (See lenient opinion below.) You also previously violated a less severe prohibition of meigis (stirring), which regarding not fully cooked food exists even when one just removes food with a spoon even off the fire (ibid.:18). In general, we urge chulent preparers to make a decision to do one of the following. Either cook it long and/or hard enough to ensure that it is fully cooked before Shabbat or refrain from handling it (including its lid) until the morning.

Is the food forbidden b’dieved (after the fact)? There are differences in this matter between the two issues involved in returning food to the flame on Shabbat. One issue is actual cooking, which may include a Torah prohibition when the food was not fully cooked or it contains liquid that cooled and is forbidden to be reheated according to many. The other is the rabbinic prohibition of improperly putting even cooked foods on a heat source (chazara) in a manner where there is a concern that one will tamper with the fire or it may look like cooking (see Orach Chayim 253).

Regarding cooking, the Shulchan Aruch ( OC 318:1) rules that even if something was cooked unintentionally (=b’shogeg), it may not be eaten on Shabbat. The Mishna Berura (318:7) says that in a case of need one can rely on the opinion that when Shabbat was violated b’shogeg, the result is permitted b’dieved. There is another reason to be lenient b’dieved. The Rashba and several others (see Biur Halacha to 318:4) say that there is no prohibition (from the Torah and, perhaps, at all) to cook food after it is kmbd. The logic is that since the Torah forbids cooking raw food to the point of kmbd, kmbd must be halachically cooked after which there is no prohibition. When we accept a stringent position and one acted according to significant authorities who rule leniently, the Rabbis did not prohibit the result b’dieved (Mishna Berura 318:2). This applies to our case. Even if the Rashba prohibits cooking kmbd food rabbinically, if one violates Shabbat rabbinically b’shogeg, the result product is permitted (Gra, accepted by Mishna Berura 318:3).

Paradoxically, the result of the rabbinic prohibition of chazara is more stringent b’dieved because of the concern that someone will purposely violate these rules which he views lightly and claim that he did so b’shogeg (Shabbat 38a). Therefore, one may not benefit on Shabbat from the fact that he left (or returned) food on the flame even b’shogeg. Thus, if it became fully cooked during that improper time it is forbidden to eat (Shulchan Aruch, OC 253:1).

However, the five basic various requirements of chazara differ in this regard. They are: 1) a covered flame; 2) one kept it in his hand; 3) he intended to return it; 4) the food was fully cooked; 5) the food is slightly warm (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 1:18). The first three are related to chazara per se and are governed by its strict rules regarding b’dieved. However, the fact that it must be fully cooked beforehand is only to avoid cooking, not chazara (Biur Halacha to 318:4; Orchot Shabbat 2:40). In fact, according to the lenient opinions regarding kmbd, chazara was permitted in our case and, in the final analysis, the chulent in question was permitted.


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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of

R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld


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