Shiur #19: Initial Placement

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon



By Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon


Dedicated in memory of 
Joseph Y. Nadler z”l, Yosef ben Yechezkel Tzvi


Shiur #19

Chapter XIX) Initial Placement




As we have seen in previous shiurim, even when the food is defined as cooked and the stove is swept or sprinkled, nevertheless, one is not allowed to put a dish back on the fire, unless the matter is considered to be the continuation of the previous shehiya.  From here, one may conclude that the initial placement of the dish on the fire on Shabbat is totally forbidden, because even a dish that was on the fire on Shabbat and then taken off it and placed on the ground may not be returned to the fire.  All the more so, a dish that was not on the fire at the beginning of Shabbat may not be placed on the fire on Shabbat, even if we are talking about a swept and sprinkled stove.[1]  This is what the Rema (253:5) writes. 


Heating Food


How may one heat food on Shabbat?


As we have seen, the prohibition of placing a dish on the fire ab initio on Shabbat springs from the issue of mechzi ke-mevashel (the appearance of bishul).  Therefore, the Sages allow heating food on Shabbat in different cases in which the matter does not look like bishul, as we shall see below.


Uncooked Food


We should stress again that the different allowances for heating food on Shabbat relates only to food considered cooked.  If the food is not cooked, it is impossible to heat it at all (if it could reach a scalding temperature, known as yad soledet bo).  Therefore, one should first ascertain that there is no problem of a prohibition of cooking — in other words, that the dish is either dry and fully cooked, or that it is liquid that has not fully cooled (according to the Rema) or that has not gone below yad soledet bo (according to the Shulchan Arukh).  Only after we confirm that the prohibition of cooking is not applicable may we examine how to solve the rabbinical problem of mechzi ke-mevashel.


Proximity to the Fire


One possibility of heating cooked food on Shabbat is by putting it next to the fire.  This is the simple meaning of the Gemara (40b), which allows heating by the fire.  The Rosh (3:10) explains that since the food is placed at a distance from the flame, this is significant, and one will not come to stoke.  On the other hand, the Rashba (40b, s.v. Mevi adam) justifies the allowance on the basis that this is not derekh bishul.  This is what the Shulchan Arukh rules (318:15): one may heat cooked items by the torch even if it is scalding.  Similarly, one may allow putting cooked food near the wall of the stove.[2] 


The Second-Story Solution


An additional allowance for heating food on Shabbat is the “second-story solution,” putting one pot atop another.  This rule does not appear in the Talmud, but many Rishonim mention it.  The Beit Yosef (253, s.v. Katav Ha-Ran) cites the words of the Rashba (40b, s.v. Mevi), who allows putting infanda (empanadas) to heat on top of a pot of cholent on Shabbat, since this is not derekh bishul.  From here it arises that one is allowed to cook on Shabbat using a pot on top of a pot, and there is no problem of mechzi ke-mevashel.


On the other hand, the Beit Yosef (253, s.v. Katuv Be-hagahot) cites the view of the Hagahot Mordekhai (80a), who says that one who is concerned that a dish on the stove is getting too hot can remove the dish and put it on top of an inverted pot, but one must be careful to avoid setting it on the ground; if one fails to hold it the whole time, one may not put the dish on top of the inverted pot.  The Hagahot Mordekhai requires one to maintain the conditions of hachazara regardless, even though the person does not leave the dish on the stove itself, but on top of an empty pot that is on the stove.  This indicates that according to him, it is forbidden to put ab initio a pot on top of an empty pot, and therefore, in his view, putting a pot on top of a pot is not a solution for heating food ab initio on Shabbat. 


The Contradiction


If so, apparently there is a dispute before us as to whether one may heat food on Shabbat in a pot on top of a pot: the Rashba allows it, while the Hagahot Mordekhai forbids it.  However, the Shulchan Arukh (253:3) cites the words of the Hagahot Mordekhai, who prohibits; then, two paragraphs later, he cites the permissive view of the Rashba!

Can we resolve the words of the Shulchan Arukh?  The Acharonim argue about this, and we will briefly cite two answers:


1.     The Magen Avraham (318:26) resolves this in the following way: we must distinguish between a liquid and a solid.  Essentially, there is no prohibition to put foods on top of a pot on Shabbat, and therefore one may put a solid in a pot on top of a pot.  However, when it comes to a liquid, the Shulchan Arukh believes that even if it is hot, and there is no problem of bishul, one may not put it in a pot on top of a pot, because there is a decree lest one put it there while it is cold.  However, the Magen Avraham himself disputes this stringency of the Shulchan Arukh, and he writes that one may even heat a fluid item in a pot on top of a pot if it is somewhat warm. 

2.     The Peri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 253:33) posits that one should differentiate between an empty and a full pot: one is allowed to put a dish ab initio on top of a full pot, but it is forbidden to put it on top of an empty pot.[3]


What is the reason for this distinction?  One may explain that a full pot absorbs most of the heat of the fire, so that the first pot does not grow warm from the fire but rather from the lower pot, while the empty pot does not absorb so much heat, so that the pot on it is heated directly from the heat of the fire.


However, Bei’ur Halakha (253:3, s.v. Ve-yizaher) cites the words of the Peri Megadim, and from his words it appears that the distinction is more significant.  An empty pot has no significance on its own, but it comes to serve the stove, as it were, and it makes it a swept and sprinkled stove.  Naturally, the pot is subordinate to the stove and considered a part of it, and the dish that is put on it is considered to be put on the stove itself.  On the other hand, a full pot does not serve the stove and it is not subordinate to it, and therefore the dish placed on it is not considered to be placed on a stove.


In a somewhat different way, one may explain that the question is whether the heat source is designed for the dish that is placed upon it.  When the lower pot is empty, the heat is effective only for the upper pot, and we may say that the fire is dedicated for this pot (but there happens to be a pot between them).  On the other hand, when the lower pot is full, the fire is dedicated to the lower pot, and the upper pot becomes warm only in an ancillary manner.  Since the fire is not designed for the upper pot, there is no problem of the appearance of bishul.  For this reason, there is no prohibition to heat by the torch, because the torch is not designed for cooking, but for other purposes, and the heating is ancillary. 




Thus, according to the Magen Avraham, one who wants to heat cooked food on Shabbat may put an empty pot on the fire and put the dish upon it, while according to the Peri Megadim there is no allowance to act in this way, and one may put a dish only on a full pot that is already on the fire, and this appears to be the ruling of the Bei’ur Halakha.


Direct Heating


An additional ramification of this dispute relates to whether one may put a cooked food directly on a plata: according to the Magen Avraham, it is logical to allow this, for there is a separation between the heating element and the pot.  According to the Peri Megadim, one should forbid this, since the intervening metal is similar to an empty pot, because it is nullified by the heating element and considered part of the heating element, and the heat is dedicated to the dish, and the dish does not become warm in an ancillary manner. 


Halakhically, Rav Ovadya Yosef (Yechaveh Daat, Vol. II, ch. 45) allows putting a dish directly on a plata on Shabbat, since he believes one may rely on the view of the Magen Avraham.  However, as we have seen, the Bei’ur Halakha rules like the view of the Peri Megadim, and according to this, apparently, one cannot allow putting a dish directly on the plata.




However, there are those who allow this for a different reason: since the plata is uniquely designed for Shabbat and not used on weekdays, there is no problem of mechzi ke-mevashel (Tefilla Le-Moshe, Vol. I, ch. 32; Yalkut Yosef 253:9).[4]  However, according to many authorities, one may not be lenient about this; after all, it is not customary to cook on a swept or sprinkled stove, but one is still not permitted to put a dish upon it ab initio.[5]  This is also what Rav Auerbach writes: ab initio, one should not put food directly on the plata (see Maor Ha-Shabbat, Vol. II, p. 543; Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata, ch. 1, n. 72), and this is the view of Rav Elyashiv (Shevut Yitzchak, ch. 8), and this is what is appropriate to do ab initio.  However, those who are lenient and put it directly on the plata have upon whom to rely.


How, if so, may one heat food on Shabbat?


There are those who observe a stringent standard, putting on the plata a pot with water and then putting the pot with the food on top of this pot on Shabbat, or on top of another pot that is put on the plata on Friday.  In their view, putting an empty vessel on a plata is not effective, in light of the above-mentioned view of the Peri Megadim and Bei’ur Halakha.


Heating on an Empty Vessel on a Plata 


However, Rav Auerbach (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata, ch. 1, n. 112, Tikkunim U-milluim ad loc.) claims that one may not heat food on an inverted pot on the fire, and similarly one should not heat it directly on the plata.  However, when the two things come together, in other words, when one puts an inverted pot on a plata, one may heat food upon it.  In his view, we are stringent about an empty pot only when it covers an open fire; in this case the pot makes the stove swept, so that it serves the stove and is considered a part of it, and naturally one who puts a food upon it is considered to be placing it upon the stove itself and the act violates mechzi ke-mevashel.  However, when the fire is already covered or one is using a plata, the pot does not serve the stove and is not considered part of it; the pot’s presence serves only to alter the regular derekh bishul, and therefore there is no prohibition to put food on top of the pot.  Simply put, this act does not have the appearance of cooking.[6]


This is also what the Shevet Ha-Levi writes (Vol. I, ch. 91):


Behold, the Peri Megadim has written the reason of the matter: why for an empty pot does the Shulchan Arukh only allow one to return it, but not to place it there initially?


…but this is because an empty pot serves the stove and using it is like putting food on the stove, while putting it on top of a pot that has food in it is like putting it on top of the pot, not on top of the stove…

Indeed, this is really quite simple: this only applies when the empty pot sits on top of the fire… 


Regarding this one may claim that it is nullified by the stove, but when a great plate is on top of the stove and he puts on top of this plate an empty pot (which does not match at all the size of the stove and the like), it is very obvious that it is a separate item, disconnected from the stove.  It is certainly logical that it should be like a pot: one may put a pot on it if it contains something that is already cooked and is hot…




To summarize, some of the authorities are lenient to put on Shabbat a fully cooked dry food directly on the plata on Shabbat, and this is the view of Rav Ovadya Yosef; however, in the view of Rav Auerbach and Rav Elyashiv, one should not leave it directly on the plata, and this is how one should act ab initio (even though those who are lenient about this for a fully-cooked dry food have upon whom to rely).[7]

If so, in order to heat dry (fully-cooked) food on Shabbat, it is best to put an inverted pan on the plata (and one may acquire a pan as big as the oven, or even of the size to cover the range) and put the food on it.  (Practically, if one arranges the food in this way a couple of hours before the meal, the food does become very hot.)



Electric Urn


In parallel, one may also put a pot with fully-cooked food on top of an electric urn, because the urn is like a full pot on the fire; thus, it is permissible, as we have said, to put dishes on top of it.  However, one must be careful not to put a dish of meat directly on the urn, so that the urn does not acquire the status of a meat dish (particularly if dairy dishes are also put on it, or if one uses the water in it simultaneously for making coffee with milk and the like).  Rather, one should put the food in a vessel on the urn and put aluminum foil between the lid of the urn and the bottom of the vessel (due to the concern of moisture between the lid and the bottom of the vessel), particularly by vapors coming from the urn).  Similarly, if one wants to make the urn kosher for Passover, one should not put the challa directly on top of it, but rather on top of aluminum foil.  This will allow one to make the cover kosher by putting it in boiling water (rather than being required to blowtorch it, which is generally not possible with a cover). 




In Iggerot Moshe (34), Rav Feinstein writes that it is permissible to put cooked food on top of a radiator, since it is not designed to heat food but rather to heat the home, and therefore the problem of mechzi ke-mevashel is not relevant.


However, apparently, beyond the question of mechzi ke-mevashel, there is an additional problem of heating on a radiator: it is the concern lest a person come to turn up the heat for the sake of the food; in other words, there is a concern of stoking.  Nevertheless, it appears that since one is not eager to alter the heating of the entire house for the sake of the food, there is no place for a true concern of stoking in this context. 


Translated by Rav Yoseif Bloch

[1]      However, from the words of the Ran (19a, Rif, s.v. Tanu rabbanan) it arises that there is no prohibition of initial placement upon a swept stove; see Eglei Tal, Ofeh 48:2, but this is not the place to elaborate.

[2] The Gemara (37a) has some doubt whether one may put a dish next to the wall of the oven.  Its conclusion is lenient; however, the Rishonim and Acharonim argue whether this relates to shehiya or hachazara, and whether one is allowed to put it next to a stove even on Shabbat itself (see Mishna Berura 253:15; Shaar Ha-tziyun, 21).  According to the stringent view, it appears that placing the dish in such a way that it touches the walls of the stove, which is the place of cooking, is more stringent than putting it at some distance from the torch. In any case, the words of the Mishna Berura (loc. cit.; Bei’ur Halakha, s.v. Muttar lismokh lah) imply that he is inclined to be lenient about the proximity to the stove (despite the fact that he writes that the words of the Rema seem to endorse the stringent view; see Bei’ur Halakha, op. cit. 5, s.v. Lismokh).  

[3]      The Peri Megadim (Eshel Avraham, 318:26) understands that even the Magen Avraham would concede here; all of these things are stated only concerning a full pot, and only regarding it should we distinguish between solids and liquids, but in an empty pot, it may be that he will concede to be stringent. While the Dagul Me-rvava (on Magen Avraham, ad loc.) understands that the Magen Avraham is lenient about heating food on top of an empty pot, as we have written.

[4]      In Iggerot Moshe (35), Rav Feinstein allows heating food directly on a plata in a case that one cannot cook on it; however, it is not clear whether he is talking about our plata, for, apparently, it can bring a food to the level of being cooked.

[5]      The Tefilla Le-Moshe (loc. cit.) explains that upon a swept or sprinkled stove, one infrequently cooks, while on a plata one never cooks; one only warms food.

[6]      However, according to the second view that we have mentioned in explanation of the Peri Megadim, one should be stringent about this as well, for in the end, the heating is for the dish one puts down now; the heating is not incidental.  However, it appears that one may be lenient according to this view as well, since there are those who are lenient regardless about a plata because one does not usually cook upon it, as we have explained above; even though it is worthwhile to be stringent, when one introduces another alteration and puts an inverted pot on it, this does not look like cooking at all.

[7]      For this issue, there is no distinction between Ashkenazim and Sefardim, since the different views do not spring from a difference of opinion between the Ashkenazic and Sefardic Rishonim or between the Shulchan Arukh and Rema and the like, but the views of the authorities of our generation.  

However, even though we have written that it is fit to be stringent, it is worth recalling that according to the view of Rav Ovadya and other authorities, one may be lenient, and we are talking, at the end of the day, about a rabbinical doubt. Therefore, when one’s parents or grandparents are lenient about this, one should not question this, and we may add to their custom the words of the Rosh (3:1) concerning the law of shehiya (namely, that people are lenient following the view of Chananya, even though there is a reason to be stringent about it):

Because there are many views about this issue, and the Jews are fond of the mitzva of delighting in Shabbat, they will not acquiesce to be stringent.  Leave them their custom, in accordance with the authorities who follow Chananya.