Different Types of Bishul

  • Rav Moshe Taragin


In a previous shiur, we explored the nature of the melakha of bishul. Is it defined as the processing of food to improve it? Or should it be viewed as a more formal cooking process, independent of the improvement it imparts? We explored a unique situation in which a cooking process has been performed but a classic improvement has not taken place. In this shiur, we will address various forms of cooking and probe the degree to which they are integrated into the standard issur of bishul.

The closest derivative of cooking is baking. The two are generally viewed as indistinguishable, and we would expect them to be grouped together within the general prohibition of bishul. Interestingly, the mishna lists baking (ofeh) AND NOT cooking in its list of 39 melakhot. Since the melakhot performed in the Mishkan serve as the paradigms for the list of 39 melakhot, we would expect cooking (bishul) to appear in the list; the various dyes used to color Mishkan materials were cooked. The gemara explains the insertion of baking in place of cooking based on the interest of presenting the preparatory process of baking bread (sidura de-pat). The simple reading of the gemara suggests that cooking (bishul) and baking (ofeh) are equivalent; either term could have been employed, but ofeh was chosen for stylistic reasons. Almost all Rishonim maintain this parity, designating cooking and baking as identical and part of a broader av melakha.

However, an interesting Yerushalmi (Shabbat, perek 7) may indicate a machloket Amora’im as to whether ofeh is actually an av or a tolada. Presumably, it would be considered a tolada since it did not contribute to the construction of the Mishkan. If the issur of bishul is defined as the improving food, it would be exceedingly difficult to distinguish between cooking and baking. If such a distinction exists, it may confirm that bishul is a formal process, independent of any improvement. Since cooking and baking entail different processes, they cannot be incorporated into one av melakha.

As noted above, all the Rishonim equated cooking and baking. However, this question still applies regarding other cooking processes. The Bavli does not mention other forms of cooking, but a different statement of the Yerushalmi (7:2) probes the status derivative forms of cooking, such as frying, roasting, and smoking. The Yerushalmi describes them all as categories of bishul, suggesting full integration and consequently full status as part of the core av melakha of bishul. This would seem to challenge the earlier statement of the Yerushalmi, which (at least according to one opinion) distinguishes between baking and cooking. Perhaps one could argue that baking is less similar to cooking than frying, as baking does not employ any liquid base.

There is a fascinating Pri Chadash (87:2) that defends the inclusion of roasting in the av melakha of cooking. The korban Pesach must be roasted and not cooked, yet the Torah commonly refers to this roasting process with the verb typically associated with cooking (u-bishalta). This syntactical association establishes a logical parity between the two.

Ironically, the need to “textually” defend the inclusion of roasting within bishul may indicate that the prohibition of bishul is, in fact, a very formal process. If bishul were merely a process of improvement, there might not be a need to textually justify the inclusion of roasting.   Perhaps bishul is a formal process of cooking (excluding baking, which may be relegated to a tolada), and roasting is incorporated because the Torah deems it a sub-form of cooking.

An interesting Yerushalmi (Nedarim 6:1) raises three questions that appear to be related. Is it permissible roast or fry meat and dairy together? Does the prohibition of bishul performed by a gentile (bishul akum) apply to smoking or frying? Finally, do smoking and frying violate bishul on Shabbat? This is a surprising series of questions, as we would have expected all these varieties of cooking to be equivalent to actual cooking, and thus prohibited in all three instances.  Furthermore, these questions appear to clash with the aforementioned Yerushalmi, which equated the varieties of cooking.

The very possibility that smoking or frying should not prohibited on Shabbat reflects that the PROCESS, and not the improvement, is prohibited. Since these processes are all different, they may not be forbidden on Shabbat. Additionally, comparing the status of frying and smoking on Shabbat to these processes when performed on milk and meat or by a gentile reinforces the point that this statement of the Yerushalmi views the process as the core of the prohibition, just as the process constitutes the prohibition of cooking meat and dairy and the prohibition of bishul akum.

A final variety of bishul surrounds the process of salting food. Salting is generally comparable to cooking in creating taste-transfers. For example, if kosher meat is salted together with non-kosher meat, the taste transfers and the kosher meat becomes forbidden. The gemara declares that melicha is like “rotei'ach” (salting is like heating), suggesting the parity between cooking and salting.

The gemara (Shabbat 75a) discusses potential prohibitions violated by salting on Shabbat. Since the gemara does not mention the prohibition of bishul, the Ramban (Avoda Zara 74b) claims that salting is not a bishul violation on Shabbat. The Ran (Avoda Zara 38b in the pages of the Rif) disagrees, claiming that salting would indeed violate bishul. Even though salting processes the food, it is a completely distinct process from bishul. If salting does entail a prohibition of bishul on Shabbat, as the Ran suggests, the issur must be defined as rendering change or improvement. The process of salting bears absolutely no comparison to cooking!