Halacha for Wednesday 20 Av 5779 August 21 2019

Adding Water to a Pot of Food on Shabbat

Question: If one sees the Chulent pot drying out on Shabbat, may one add some boiling water to the pot?

Answer: Many households customarily leave a pot of Chulent cooking on the electric hotplate (or crockpot) from Friday afternoon until Shabbat morning. Many times, people mistakenly do not put enough water in the pot at which point the Chulent begins to dry out. Some individuals add boiling water to the pot to prevent the Chulent from burning.

The Opinion of Rabbeinu Yonah
The first one to address this issue is Rabbeinu Yonah in his Igeret Ha’Teshuva where he writes as follows: “Some people have the mistaken practice of preparing a pot of hot water before Shabbat in order to pour this water into a pot of food when in begins to burn. Even if the water is boiling, when the water is poured out of the teapot, the boiling subsides immediately wherein it is no longer capable of cooking and it then gets cooked (boiled) again in the pot. This is included in the prohibited work of cooking on Shabbat.”

This means that since the water in the teapot cools off somewhat when it is poured out and later becomes reboiled in the pot of food, this constitutes a forbidden form of cooking on Shabbat. (The Poskim offer explanations of this opinion at length.)

The Opinion of Rabbeinu Nissim
As opposed to Rabbeinu Yonah, the Ran (Rabbeinu Nissim, Shabbat 145b) writes that this is not prohibited, for this water has already been boiled before Shabbat and we have a great rule that “there is no cooking after cooking,” meaning that since this water has already been cooked, there is no longer a prohibition to cook this water again, even if it cools off somewhat as it is being poured into the pot.

The Halacha follows Rabbeinu Yonah’s View
Nevertheless, as we have discussed above, although we rule that “there is no cooking after cooking,” this only applies to dry foods, such as meat, fish, or bread. However, the prohibition of cooking does apply to liquid foods, such as soup or water, even if has already been cooked. (This applies especially to water, for according to some opinions, all opinions agree that the prohibition of cooking applies to them.)

Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 318) therefore rules: “One should protest against those who pour boiling water into a pot of food on Shabbat, for this constitutes a forbidden form of cooking.”

The Ashkenazi and Moroccan Customs
Some communities indeed act leniently in this regard, especially our Ashkenazi brethren, based on the ruling of the Rama (who rules leniently only regarding boiling water but not regarding cold water). However, the Sephardic custom is to be stringent and not pour boiling water into the Chulent pot on Shabbat.

Although several Moroccan cities customarily rules leniently in this regard and this custom was certainly instituted by great and pious Moroccan luminaries, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l deals with this matter lengthily (in his Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Volume 5, page 390) and concludes that since the custom in Israel is to act stringently in accordance with the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, thus, all must rule in accordance with the custom in Israel and act stringently.

Advice for Adding Water in a Permissible Fashion
There is indeed an idea by which one can avoid all doubt and that is by placing a cooking bag filled with water into the Chulent pot before Shabbat. If the Chulent is lacking water on Shabbat, one may puncture the bag and the water will thereby flow into the food and prevent it from burning.

Summary: One should not act leniently and pour boiling water into the Chulent pot on Shabbat. There is room for leniency, however, if one leaves a cooking bag filled with water in the pot before Shabbat and if one sees that the Chulent is burning, one may puncture the bag and the water will flow out into the Chulent on its own.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat Which Coincides with Tisha Be’av and the Laws of an Ill Individual Who Must Eat on Tisha Be’av

On years during which Tisha Be’av falls out on Motza’ei Shabbat, such as this year, 5779, there are three opinions among the Rishonim regarding how Havdala should be recited on a cup of wine on Motza’ei Shabbat. The first opinion is that of the Geonim who write that one should r......

Read Halacha

Warming up Foods on Shabbat- Maran zt”l’s Suggestion

In the previous Halacha, we have discussed that just as it is forbidden to cook on top of an open flame on Shabbat, it is likewise forbidden to cook on top of an electric hotplate. The only distinction between an open flame and an electric hotplate IS regarding a food which was already cooked before......

Read Halacha

Laws Pertaining to Tisha Be’av

There are five categories of abstinence which must be observed on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s body with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages also prohibited learning Torah on Tisha Be’av, for the word......

Read Halacha

Eating Meat Following Rosh Chodesh Av

The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) tells us that on Erev Tisha Be’av during the last meal one eats before the fast, one may not eat meat, drink wine, or eat two cooked foods, such as rice and an egg. Although the letter of the law dictates that the prohibition to eat meat only applies......

Read Halacha


Adding Water to a Pot of Food on Shabbat

Question: If one sees the Chulent pot drying out on Shabbat, may one add some boiling water to the pot? Answer: Many households customarily leave a pot of Chulent cooking on the electric hotplate (or crockpot) from Friday afternoon until Shabbat morning. Many times, people mistakenly do not put e......

Read Halacha

Those Who are Obligated and Exempt from the Fast of Tisha Be’av and their Status When Tisha Be’av Falls Out on Motza’ei Shabbat

Someone Ill with a Non-Life-Threatening Illness, An Elderly Person, and a Woman who has Recently Given Birth One who is ill (meaning when one is actually bedridden and the like, even if the illness is not life-threatening) is exempt from fasting on Tisha Be’av. When in doubt about one’s......

Read Halacha

Insulation on Shabbat

Question: Is it permissible to cover a pot of food on an electric hotplate with a towel on Shabbat? Answer: Long ago, it was customary to cover a pot of food with (or immerse it in) dirt or sand in order to retain the food’s heat. Heat Increasers vs. Heat Retainers Some would immerse th......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Beginning of the Fast when Tisha Be’av Falls Coincides With Motza’ei Shabbat

The Baraita in Masechet Ta’anit (30a) states that our Sages prohibited five things on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s self with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages said (Ta’anit 30b): “One......

Read Halacha