Shiur #05: More on the Fundamental Definition of Bishul
The Laws of Shabbat
Yeshivat Har Etzion
Shiur #05: More on the Fundamental Definition of Bishul
By HaRav Baruch Gigi
Translated by David Silverberg
This shiur will discuss the following two points regarding the fundamental definition of the melakha of bishul:
- The issue of cooking that began on Shabbat and continues into Motza'ei Shabbat;
- The minimum duration of cooking that constitutes bishul, and the halakhic status of bishul achar bishul cooking a food that had already been cooked.
Cooking that Began on Shabbat and Continues Into Motza'ei Shabbat
This issue is not discussed either in the Gemara or in the writings of the Rishonim, but it is addressed by the Acharonim on the basis of a comparison between bishul and a different melakha zorei'a (sowing). In both cases, the person is directly involved in the first stage either embedding the seed in the ground, or placing a pot over the fire but the rest of the process the seed's taking root, or the cooking of the food occurs independently. Regarding both these melakhot, therefore, the question arises as to whether one bears liability for the action performed in beginning this process, irrespective of when the end result of the cooking or taking root of the seed occurs.
When it comes to zorei'a, one is clearly liable even when the process is completed only after Shabbat, since this is necessarily the case in every instance of sowing: a person sows today and the seed takes root only several days later. The same concept would perhaps apply to baking and cooking, and one would therefore violate this melakha if he places bread in the oven just minutes prior to the end of Shabbat. The Rashash writes this explicitly in his chiddushim to Masekhet Shabbat (73b).
Conversely, the Gemara (Shabbat 3b) establishes that if a person placed bread in an oven on Shabbat and removed it before it is baked, he has not violated the melakha. Here, too, the Rashash equates bishul with zorei'a, claiming that if a seed planted on Shabbat was removed from the earth before it took root, no violation has been committed. According to the Rashash, then, the melakha depends on the taking root and the baking, but the individual's role involves only the beginning of the process. Therefore, if the action occurred on Shabbat and ultimately reached its final result, then even if this final result took place only after Shabbat, a violation has been committed. If, however, the final result was never achieved, no violation has occurred.
The Chelkat Yoav brings two proofs to this position, that one bears liability even if the cooking process continues after Shabbat. The first stems from a cryptic passage in the Yerushalmi (Shabbat 1:6): "Beit Hillel infers [the halakha concerning] a permissible activity from [the halakha concerning] a forbidden activity: had he done this on Shabbat, would it not be forbidden? Similarly, if he did so before the end of the day, it is permissible." According to the Chelkat Yoav, this means that in Beit Hillel's view, since one bears liability when he begins a melakha on Shabbat and it concludes on Motza'ei Shabbat, it should be permitted to begin a melakha before Shabbat and have it continue on its own into Shabbat, since we follow the initial action. In my humble opinion, however, this does not appear to be the intent of this sugya. Indeed, the classic commentaries on the Yerushalmi explained this passage differently. According to the commentaries, Beit Hillel claimed that any action forbidden to perform on Shabbat itself may be performed before Shabbat, even if the process will then continue into Shabbat. In fact, the Chelkat Yoav's reading is very difficult to sustain, since it interprets Beit Hillel as inferring a clear and undisputed halakha that one may perform a melakha before Shabbat, even if the process continues into Shabbat from a halakha that is far from simple and certainly not undisputed, namely, that a melakha begun on Shabbat is forbidden even if the process will be completed only after Shabbat.
The Chelkat Yoav's second proof comes from a Gemara in Masekhet Beitza (22a), which holds one liable for mekhabeh (the prohibition against extinguishing a flame on Shabbat) if he removes some oil from a burning lamp. The Rosh writes the following in explaining this halakha:
The reason, it seems to me, is that one who removes some oil hastens its extinction In this instance, both the oil and the wick facilitate the flame, and thus one who diminishes from one of them and hastens its extinction is liable. And this is also the reason for [liability in a case of] one who adds oil to a lamp because he extends the kindling: had he not added oil to the lamp, it would have extinguished once the oil in the lamp was depleted. And its kindling from this point henceforth is considered as if he had kindled it. The same applies to extinguishing, as well: one hastens the extinguishing process by removing [oil] from the lamp, and he is thus considered as having himself extinguished.
The Rosh implies that one who removes oil from a lamp violates mekhabeh even if the lamp had enough oil to continue burning until after Shabbat. The Chelkat Yoav proves from this position that one violates Shabbat by performing the first stage of a given melakha, even if the process will be completed only after Shabbat. Here, too, I believe that the proof is hardly compelling. These comments of the Rosh have no connection at all to the issue of when the extinguishing occurs. The Rosh here simply posits a new definition of mekhabeh, namely, that even diminishing from the substance sustaining the flame constitutes mekhabeh. Moreover, even if the Rosh indeed meant that one is liable for hastening the moment of extinction, which will occur on Motza'ei Shabbat, nevertheless, he speaks of a unique feature of mekhabeh: had the removed oil been the only oil in the lamp, the flame would have extinguished immediately, and one therefore violates mekhabeh by removing this oil, even if the flame will extinguish only some time in the future. This would not necessarily apply to cooking, which by definition is a melakha that entails an extended process, and thus its violation quite possibly depends on the process's completion before the end of Shabbat.
Sure enough, many Acharonim disputed this position of the Rashash and Chelkat Yoav, and distinguished between cooking and sowing in this respect. In their view, one violates mevashel only if the cooking/baking process was completed before the end of Shabbat. We find several different approaches taken in defining the distinction between zorei'a and bishul:
- The Arukh Ha-shulchan (252) writes:
In truth, there is no comparison, because regarding sowing, the act of sowing was performed in the manner in which people generally sow, whereas this is not the case regarding baking; it is considered "cooking" only if it is baked or cooked such that it will be suitable for consumption, and therefore, one has not done anything on Shabbat.
His intention is not entirely clear, but we might explain as follows. In the case of zorei'a, the action performed by the human being ends with the act of planting, and we thus follow that moment when the process was begun. When it comes to cooking, by contrast, the person generally remains involved throughout the process (such as by supervising the cooking, adjusting the fire, and stirring when necessary), until the point where he removes the pot from the fire. We must therefore view the entire process as part of the melakha, and thus it cannot be violated if any part of the process occurred after Shabbat.
- In the case of zorei'a, the process cannot possibly conclude on Shabbat, since the seed takes root only several days later; by definition, then, the melakha is transgressed through the act of sowing itself. The Iglei Tal (Zorei'a, 8) adds that for this reason one would violate zorei'a even if the seed never takes root, so long as one planted it in a place suitable for this process. Regarding bishul, by contrast, since the result generally occurs just a short while after the initial stage, the entire process is included in the definition of this melakha, and therefore the results must take place on Shabbat for a violation to be committed.
- The Minchat Chinukh (298) writes:
This stands to reason with regard to cooking or baking the completion of the baking or the cooking is referred to as "baking" But before it is baked, this is not referred to as "baking" at all, even if he placed it in the oven. The term "planting," however, becomes relevant immediately once one scatters the seed on the ground; it is then zorei'a.
This distinction suggested by the Minchat Chinukh is essentially a linguistic one. The term "planting" refers to the act, whereas the word "baking" denotes the result. However, this linguistic distinction reflects the more fundamental distinction between zorei'a where the emphasis is on the act (as in the famous verse, "Those who plant with tears will harvest with joy") and bishul, where specifically the result receives emphasis.
Indeed, Halakha appears to follow this second view, that one does not violate the melakha of bishul if the cooking process is not completed before the end of Shabbat, whereas one violates zorei'a even if he decides later to remove the seeds before they take root, since there the violation stems from the act of planting itself.
The Minimum Duration of Cooking
The Mishna in Masekhet Shabbat (19b) forbids placing meat, onions or eggs on the fire before Shabbat unless they will be roasted before the onset of Shabbat. The Gemara (20a) comments on this Mishna:
Rabbi Elazar said in the name of Rav: [The Mishna means] "unless they will be roasted" to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai [either half or one-third cooked; see below]. It was likewise said: "Rav Asi said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: any [food] that is [already] at the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai it is not subject to [the prohibition against partaking of] food cooked by gentiles." A Berayta states: "Chananya says: any [food] that is [already] at the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai one may leave it on the stove [before Shabbat], even if it is not cleared of its ashes or covered."
Thus, the stage in the cooking process known as ma'akhal Ben Derusai constitutes the determining point in two areas of Halakha:
1) food cooked by a Jew to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai may be eaten even if a gentile cooked it further, and it does not attain the status of bishul akum;
2) food already cooked to this point may be left on an open flame before Shabbat to finish cooking on Shabbat.
The Rishonim also deduced from here the minimum duration of cooking that constitutes bishul.
Furthermore, the Gemara comments in Masekhet Menachot (57a):
Rabbi Yochanan said: If one placed meat on coals if he turns it over, he is liable; if he does not turn it over, he is not liable This applies when had he not turned it over, one side would have been cooked to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai, but now that he turns it over, both sides are cooked to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai. And it comes to teach us that whenever only one side reaches the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai, this is not considered anything.
Thus, one violates the melakha when the item reaches the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai on both sides; if only one side is cooked, it must be cooked completely to qualify as bishul.
As for the definition of ma'akhal Ben Derusai, Rashi writes that it refers to one-third of the cooking process, at which point one can eat the food under extenuating circumstances, as the outlaw Ben Derusai ate his food. The Rambam, however (Hilkhot Shabbat 9:5), defines it as referring to the halfway point in the cooking process, and many consider this a clear dispute between Rashi and the Rambam. The Mishna Berura (253:38) brings both views and concludes that under pressing circumstances one may rely on the more lenient position. However, one might argue that when the Rambam uses the term chatzi bishul ("half-cooked"), he does not refer to the precise halfway point, but rather more generally to partial cooking to the point where the food can be eaten under dire circumstances, without embarking on a precise definition. Of course, this would require further analysis.
The Acharonim debate the point of how precisely we calculate the halfway or one-third point in the cooking process. The Chazon Ish (37:6) held that we measure the time needed for the food to fully cook after the water boils. For example, if a piece of meat would require an hour to fully cook once the water boils, then the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai would occur twenty minutes after the water boils according to Rashi, or a half-hour according to the Rambam. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l, however, reportedly held that we calculate ma'akhal Ben Derusai based on the softness of the food. In my opinion, however, it is difficult to understand how one would determine the halfway or one-third point of a food's softening. It is far more likely that, as mentioned earlier, the issue depends mainly on the point where the food could be eaten under pressing circumstances, without requiring us to precisely define different stages of softness.
With regard to cooking liquids, it emerges from the Gemara in Masekhet Shabbat (40b) and elsewhere that one violates bishul by heating the liquid to the point of yad soledet bo (literally, this means the point at which one's hand would instinctively recoil on contact). The Gemara there explains more precisely, "What is yad soledet bo? Rechava said: whenever an infant's belly would be burned." Rashi and the Ritva there explain that the Gemara did not determine this point based on the human hand, in accordance with the straightforward implication of the term, because different people's hands have different levels of sensitivity. They therefore determined this point based on an infant's belly, which has a generally standard sensitivity level. The Ben Ish Chai (second year, Parashat Bo, 5) establishes the following principle in clarifying this point:
So long as the hot liquid is suitable for drinking or eating, that a person would not refrain from it due to its intense heat, this does not qualify as yad soledet bo. But if one will refrain from drinking it or eating it because of its intense heat, this is considered yad soledet bo.
Even this definition, however, requires further clarification. The Poskim struggled to reconcile the discrepancy between the point at which an infant's belly would be burned, which is a relatively low temperature, and the heat level required for cooking, which is considerably higher (and it emerges clearly from the Gemara that water at the temperature of yad soledet bo has the capacity to cook). Rav Feinstein, in Iggerot Moshe (4:74), establishes the following temperatures as the point of yad soledet bo to cover all stringent possibilities: no lower than 43 degrees Centigrade, and no higher than 71 degrees Centigrade. (For more on this subject, consult Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata, chapter 1, note 15.)
Bishul Achar Bishul Cooking a Previously-Cooked Item
The Mishna (145b; cited as well on 39a) establishes that "any food that had been cooked in hot water before Shabbat may be soaked in hot water on Shabbat." The Gemara brings as an example the case of "Rabbi Abba's chicken." Rashi explains that Rabbi Abba would eat chicken for medical purposes, and would prepare it by cooking it and then letting it soak for several days in hot water so that it would dissolve.
The Rishonim argue in explaining the halakha established in the Mishna. The Ramban, the Rashba and most other Sephardic Rishonim interpret the Mishna as referring to a food that had been cooked before Shabbat to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai. The Mishna allows cooking such a food on Shabbat because once a food reaches the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai, additional cooking does not violate bishul. This halakha would thus correspond to the halakha established in Masekhet Avoda Zara that the prohibition of bishul akum does not apply to food cooked by a gentile only after it had already reached the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai. The Rashba (39a, s.v. gemara) writes, "Meaning, that it was cooked in hot water before Shabbat to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai; it is then no longer subject to bishul, and therefore one may soak it [on Shabbat] even in hot water in a keli rishon [the original utensil that had been on the fire]." Bear in mind that even according to this view Chazal forbade cooking previously-cooked food directly over a flame.
By contrast, the Rambam (Hilkhot Shabbat 9:3) rules that one who cooks over a flame an item that had been fully cooked does not violate bishul, implying that if the item had not been cooked completely, cooking it further indeed constitutes bishul. Most commentaries to the Mishneh Torah indeed make this inference; see Maggid Mishneh and Kesef Mishneh. The Rambam writes that in this case one is patur (exempt from punishment), implying that this is still forbidden by force of rabbinic enactment, because he speaks of cooking directly over the fire, which Chazal forbade even if the item had been previously cooked. However, the Rambam would permit cooking such an item in a keli rishon that is not over a fire.
A number of difficulties arise in trying to determine the position of other Rishonim regarding this sugya:
1. The Chiddushim Ha-meyuchasim La-Ran (Shabbat 145b) writes:
Some explain that even if it had not been fully cooked before dark, and [was cooked] only to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai or more, this suffices. But this is difficult, because a food which is improved by continuing to cook may not be placed on a stove [before Shabbat] The correct [reading is that the Mishna refers to a food] that had been fully cooked before dark and one soaks it in hot water to dissolve.
Earlier (40b, s.v. shemen), however, the Ran himself wrote:
Any [food] that had been cooked before dark even to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai it is permissible [to cook it further] on Shabbat even at the point of yad soledet bo. And any [food] that had been cooked before dark would have been permitted to be cooked le-khatechila [even on the optimum level of observance] on a stove, if not for the concern of mar'it ha-ayin [the mistaken perception that one cooks on Shabbat].
The Ran appears to contradict himself in these two passages. It would seem that in his view the Torah prohibition of bishul does not apply if the food had been cooked to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai, but Chazal forbade placing such a food over fire out of concern for mari't ha- ayin. According to the Ran, this prohibition applies even to soaking food in hot water, and he was therefore compelled to explain the sugya on 145b, which permits soaking previously cooked food in hot water, as referring specifically to food that had been fully cooked.
2. The Meiri, commenting on the Mishna on 145b, writes:
Some explain that "Any [food] that had been cooked in hot water" means that it was cooked to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai. But this seems incorrect, because it is still [a case where] continued cooking enhances it In all these [cases] regarding which we mentioned that soaking them or rinsing them is forbidden, one who soaked or rinsed [inadvertently] is liable for a chatat [sin offering].
It emerges from the Meiri's comments that cooking a previously cooked food violates the Torah prohibition of bishul unless it had been completely cooked. This ruling appears to contradict the Meiri's own remarks towards the beginning of the third chapter of Masekhet Shabbat, in his commentary to the Mishna that allows returning a pot to the fire on Shabbat:
You should not explain it as referring to a food that has not even been cooked to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai for regarding this, how could Beit Hillel allow even returning [it to the fire]? Undoubtedly, then, [it refers] to food that had been cooked to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai.
This passage, of course, suggests that one may cook food if it had previously been cooked to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai, whereas in the first passage he writes that doing so violates the Torah prohibition of bishul.
It seems that the Meiri was well aware of this seeming inconsistency and sought to explain his position, but his explanation is ambiguous:
And since it has been cooked, its continued cooking does not concern us, since he has covered [the fire], because a covered [fire] does not constitute bishul for that which had already been cooked, as it merely retains [its heat]. And even though it visibly continues to cook, this is true even with heat that merely retains, and this is due to the length of time, and not as actual cooking.
The Meiri was clearly aware of the problem, but it is difficult to fully understand his answer. His main point seems to be that a covered stove cannot advance the cooking process, and can only retain the food's heat; and even though we see the food continuing to dry, this results from the retention of its heat, and not from additional cooking.
Let us now examine the rationale underlying the two positions, as to whether bishul applies to food that has been cooked to ma'akhal Ben Derusai but not to completion.
We might suggest the following explanation for the view that allows cooking a food that had already reached the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai. The melakha of bishul entails preparing a food item for consumption, and so the moment a food reaches the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai, it is suitable for consumption and hence no longer subject to bishul. Said otherwise, a food that has reached the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai takes on the formal status of mevushal (a cooked food), to which we would apply the rule established in the Tosefta (Shabbat, end of chapter 15), "One may bake a baked food and cook a cooked food."
As for the stringent position, that one violates bishul by cooking foods that have already reached ma'akhal Ben Derusai, we might suggest two explanations:
1) Even once a food has reached ma'akhal Ben Derusai, it is still unsuitable for normal consumption until it is fully cooked. According to this approach, Halakha acknowledges two levels of preparation for consumption: preparing a food for the possibility of eating under extenuating circumstances ma'akhal Ben Derusai; and preparing a food for normal consumption or cooking a food completely.
2) The melakha of bishul involves the process of enhancing a food, and thus one violates this melakha through any substantive improvement in the food's taste resulting from the cooking process.
These two approaches to understanding the stringent position will yield practical ramifications. Firstly, they will impact the question of whether one violates bishul if he cooks a food that had already reached ma'akhal Ben Derusai, but he does not cook it fully. According to the first approach, one violates bishul only if he brings the food to the point where it becomes suitable for normal consumption, whereas the second approach would hold one liable for any significant improvement that occurs through cooking, even if the food is not fully cooked.
Indeed, this issue is subject to a debate among the Acharonim. The Shulchan Arukh (318:6) rules, "A utensil containing a hot item at the point of yad soledet bo one may place it on Shabbat on a covered pot so that it will retain its heat and not cool." The Taz permits doing so even for a food that has not been fully cooked, since in this position it will never be cooked to completion. The Mishna Berura (50), however, forbids doing so, because the heat might nevertheless advance the cooking process. Clearly, these authorities debate the question of whether any additional cooking violates the prohibition, or only cooking an item fully.
In light of this discussion, we can return to the comments of Meiri cited earlier, permitting one to place on a covered flame a food that had been cooked to ma'akhal Ben Derusai. He perhaps held that since over a covered fire the food will never reach the point of "fully cooked," it may be placed there, even though it will undergo further stages in the cooking process.
Secondly, this issue will affect the question of whether Halakha forbids cooking an item that has already been fully cooked. According to the first approach, bishul would not apply once an item has reached the point of suitability for normal consumption. According to the second understanding, however, there is room to discuss whether the effect of additional cooking constitutes a significant improvement in the food's taste to violate bishul.
We indeed find one view in the Rishonim that appears to apply bishul even to a fully cooked food. The Tosefot Yeshanim (Shabbat 37b) write: "If so, why is it forbidden to return [to the fire] a fully cooked food? Bishul does not apply to such a food! We must explain that bishul certainly does not apply to oil, but bishul does apply to a food even if it was cooked before dark."
The Or Zaru'a (62) likewise addresses the question of whether bishul can apply once a food is fully cooked, and appears undecided on the issue: "Only if it had been fully cooked on Erev Shabbat is it permissible to soak it in a keli sheni [a utensil into which water was poured from its original utensil], for perhaps bishul applies even after a previous cooking."
In light of what we have seen, we can understand the discussion in the Tosefot Ha-Rosh concerning the Mishna (145b) that permits soaking a previously cooked food in hot water. According to the Tosefot Ha-Rosh, the Mishna seeks to dispel the possible notion that "since it is prepared through this soaking, it constitutes its gemar melakha [final stage of preparation] and is forbidden." The Rosh apparently understood that one might have forbade the prolonged soaking of previously cooked food because of the significant enhancement that results from this process, which would render it forbidden even if the food had already been fully cooked. In conclusion, however, he maintains that bishul would not apply in this case either because bishul is never applicable once a food has reached the point of suitability for normal consumption, or because any further enhancement beyond that point is not sufficiently meaningful to warrant a violation of bishul.
The Shulchan Arukh (318:4) rules that the Torah prohibition of bishul applies so long as the food had not yet been fully cooked, but once it reaches that point it is no longer subject to bishul. The Bei'ur Halakha notes that many Rishonim disagree, and therefore rules that if one cooked on Shabbat a food that had been previously cooked to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai, it may be eaten on Shabbat, as be-di'avad we may rely on the lenient position.
- 1. See Tosefot (s.v. ve-im nitzla bo), who seem to indicate that the Torah prohibition is not violated until the one side is completely cooked.
- 2. According to this interpretation, chatzi would mean not "half," but rather "partial," as in the phrase "chatzi shiur asur min ha-Torah," where chatzi clearly refers not to "half," but rather to anything less than the full amount.
- 3. We will explain this halakha in much greater detail in subsequent shiurim, when we address the topic of reheating food on Shabbat.
- 4. The Iglei Tal, however, understood that even the Rambam does not hold one liable if the item had been cooked only to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai, and refers to a rabbinic prohibition against cooking it further unless it had been fully cooked.
- 5. The standard edition published under the name Chiddushei Ha-Ran was not written by the Ran, but rather by a student of the Ra'a. The Ran's chiddushim to Masekhet Shabbat were published as the Chiddushei Ha-Ritva, and the chiddushim of both the Ran and the Ritva were recently published by Mosad Ha-Rav Kook. Once again, the standard editions of the Chiddushei Ha-Ran to Masekhet Shabbat were written by a student of the Ra'a, and not by the Ran.
- 6. We might suggest a similar distinction to explain the view of Tosefot. On 39a, they write that one may soak in hot water on Shabbat only food that had been fully cooked, whereas in the beginning of this chapter, they permit reheating even food cooked only to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai. We can reconcile these two rulings by explaining that an issur de-rabbanan forbids returning a food that had been cooked only to ma'akhal Ben Derusai to the fire under certain conditions. The Iglei Tal advances this theory in explaining the Tur's position, whereas the Beit Yosef understood that the Tur forbids reheating on the level of Torah law unless the food had been fully cooked.
- 7. The Bei'ur Halakha (318) inferred from the Meiri's comments that bishul does not apply to food that has already reached the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai; he apparently did not see the Meiri's explicit comments to the contrary on 145b.
- 8. Later, we will explain the Meiri's answer based on a principle that we will develop further in the shiur.
- 9. Note, however, the variant texts of this Tosefta cited in Rabbi Saul Lieberman's Tosefta Ke-pshuta (Shabbat, end of chapter 14, p. 241).
- 10. One may, of course, explain the Meiri's view differently, and claim that in this instance the food does not undergo any advancement in its cooking process (as the straightforward reading of his comments suggests), or that whatever advancement is achieved in this case is not significant enough to constitute a violation.
- 11. One might, however, explain the Tosefot Yeshanim as referring to liquid that had cooled off after having been cooked, as we will discuss in the next shiur.
- 12. The Or Zaru'a's ambivalence likely stems from the sugya of hatmana on 34a, from which it emerges that bishul applies even to cooking a fully cooked item. The Or Zaru'a therefore felt that the Mishna permitting soaking a previously cooked food in hot water might refer specifically to soaking in a keli sheni, which does not involve actual bishul. In the next shiur we will suggest other solutions to this problem.