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What’s Cooking?

By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow

Many years ago, I heard an interesting trivia question asked on a radio show. “Which berachah is recited only on a Wednesday or Thursday?” I was perplexed, though any homemaker who ever had to cook meals for a so-called three-day yom tov should certainly know the answer. I, being just a child then, was stumped. They announced that the answer was the berachah of eiruv tavshilin. At that point in my life, I had only a vague of idea of what eiruv tavshilin is. Customarily, one cooked food item and one baked food item are set aside before yom tov to permit the members of a household to cook on yom tov for Shabbos.

Since an eiruv tavshilin should optimally be made before yom tov, the berachah on eiruv tavshilin is made on a Thursday, when yom tov is Friday and Shabbos. When yom tov falls out on Thursday and Friday, the eiruv tavshilin is made on Wednesday. We will have the opportunity to make three eiruvei tavshilin this Tishrei, before Rosh Hashanah, Sukkos, and Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah. I subsequently found out that the trivia question was incorrect. The same berachah that one recites on the eiruv tavshilin, one also recites on eiruvei chatzeiros.

The understanding of how eiruv tavshilin can permit one to cook food on yom tov that will only be used for Shabbos is a matter discussed in this week’s daf. Some of the 39 categories of forbidden Shabbos labors are permitted on yom tov for the sake of ochel nefesh, food preparation. Cooking is one such a melachah. However, the intention of the cooking must be to provide food for yom tov. Consequently, if one intentionally cooked on yom tov for the sake of a weekday meal, he has violated a biblical prohibition, at least according to Rav Chisda.

Rav Chisda maintains, however, that cooking on yom tov for Shabbos is biblically permitted, since yom tov and Shabbos are “kedushah achas,” one unit of sanctity. Still, the rabbis were concerned that cooking on yom tov for Shabbos gives the appearance that one is cooking for another day. They therefore forbade cooking for Shabbos on yom tov unless one makes an eiruv tavshilin. The two foods utilized in eiruv tavshilin are intended to be consumed on Shabbos. One thereby demonstrates that one has already begun Shabbos preparations before yom tov. The subsequent cooking on yom tov is to be a continuation of the earlier preparations. The rabbis permitted one to finish his Shabbos food preparations on yom tov itself if he already started them before yom tov.

Rabbah disagrees with Rav Chisda. Rabbah is of the opinion that generally one who cooks on yom tov for a weekday does not violate a biblical prohibition. The following anecdote perhaps illustrates his reasoning.

A kiruv organization asked if I could host three young men for a Shabbos meal. I consulted with my wife, who graciously agreed. The next day I received a phone call, which I assumed to be one of the young men just calling to confirm that we would be hosting his group of three. Apparently not. On Shabbos day, two groups of three boys arrived at our doorstep.

My wife quickly sent me out to see if anyone had extra chopped liver and other foodstuffs. One neighbor later commented to me that since that Shabbos, she always keeps extra chopped liver in the freezer. As I learned, it is mortifying to be the hostess of a meal and not have enough food. Consequently, one can never have enough food prepared, because there is always the possibility that uninvited guests will show up and you will need to serve them.

Rabbah therefore reasons that one’s intention might really be to cook food for Shabbos, but if uninvited guests suddenly arrive at your doorstep on yom tov, you will be able to utilize the extra food to serve them. We can therefore view the Shabbos food as really being prepared for yom tov. This same logic should allow one to cook food on yom tov for a weekday. If uninvited guests show up, one will be able to serve them the food he had prepared for the weekday. But the rabbis prohibited this. They likewise even prohibited cooking food for Shabbos unless one makes an eiruv tavshilin.

Tosefos points out that there seems to be a major practical halachic difference between the two opinions. According to Rabbah, the eiruv tavshilin only permits food preparation when there is a possibility that one will need the food for uninvited guests. If the food one is preparing on yom tov for Shabbos will not be edible until after sunset, then there is no chance he’ll need that food for yom tov. Rabbah would reason that a biblical prohibition was therefore violated. But according to Rav Chisda, an eiruv tavshilin permits one to prepare food on yom tov even if there is no chance that he will be able to use it that day.

The Mishnah Berurah writes that one should strive to finish his Shabbos preparations on yom tov when there is still significant time during the day. Initially, one should follow Rabbah’s opinion. There is a custom that when Shabbos immediately follows a yom tov, one should accept Shabbos and daven early to ensure that the Shabbos preparations are not put off until sunset. In Far Rockaway, Yeshiva of Far Rockaway and Rabbi Blumenkrantz’s shul usually have an option for an early Shabbos that starts on late yom tov afternoon.

However, the Mishnah Berurah concedes that if one delayed his Shabbos preparations until the last minute on a Friday that coincides with the second day of yom tov, he can be lenient in a case of need and rely on Rav Chisda’s opinion. Cryptically, the Mishnah Berurah writes that even if the first day of yom tov falls out on Friday, “it’s possible that one can be lenient in case of need.”

The Aruch HaShulchan cautions everyone to finish Shabbos preparations on yom tov early, but then notes that the general populace is not careful with this halachah and people do prepare food even if it won’t be ready until right before Shabbos.

Earlier I noted that the same berachah that one recites on eiruv chatzeiros one recites on eiruv tavshilin. This is no accident. An eiruv chatzeiros allows one to transport items from one private domain to another on Shabbos. For example, on the Lower East Side every apartment building has an eiruv chatzeiros to allow the residents to carry from one apartment to another or from an apartment to a common area such as a hallway on Shabbos. The eiruv chatzeiros serves as a reminder that only this is permitted; one may not transport items to a public domain on Shabbos. Likewise, the eiruv tavshilin reminds us that only cooking for Shabbos is permitted; one may not cook on yom tov for a weekday.

The trivia question should have been phrased as “Which berachah is primarily recited on a Wednesday or Thursday?” You can read this article, though, on any day. v

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead. He can be contacted at

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Posted by on August 12, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.