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.

8 Halachot Most Popular

The Holiday of Shavuot- Teachings of Kindness

The Torah introduces the momentous event of the giving of the Torah to the Jewish nation with the verse (Shemot 19), “On the third month from when the children of Israel left Egypt, on this day they arrived at the Sinai desert.” Our Sages in the Pesikta ask: Why is it that the Torah w......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Fire on Yom Tov

In previous Halachot we have explained that Yom Tov and Shabbat are equal regarding all prohibitions besides for certain works associated with food preparation, such as cooking, which are permitted on Yom Tov. Igniting a Flame One may not produce a new fire on Yom Tov, for instance by strik......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Cooking on Yom Tov

In the previous Halachot we have explained that although Shabbat and Yom Tov are equal in their prohibition to perform work on them and it is therefore a Torah prohibition to drive a car on Yom Tov, nevertheless, certain works associated with food preparation, such as cooking and frying, are permitt......

Read Halacha

The Holiday of Shavuot- Coronavirus

The holiday of Shavuot will be celebrated, G-d willing, at the conclusion of the period of the counting of the Omer this coming Friday (beginning from Thursday night), the 6th of Sivan (and outside of Israel on Shabbat, the 7th of Sivan as well). Let us, therefore, begin to discuss some of the perti......

Read Halacha


Reciting Kaddish

Question: What is the significance of reciting Kaddish for a deceased individual? Answer: When an individual departs from this world, his surviving children must make a concerted effort to pray with a Minyan three times a day in order to be able to recite Kaddish for their father or mother. Simil......

Read Halacha

Using an Electric Hotplate (Plata) For Both Meat and Dairy

If one uses an electric hotplate to warm meat pots and the like, it is quite common that some of the meat food inside these pots will sometime fall onto the hotplate thus causing the hotplate to absorb this meat flavor. As such, if one then wishes to place dairy foods onto the hotplate, if one does ......

Read Halacha

An After-Blessing After Drinking Tea or Coffee-An Incident Involving Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l

In the previous Halacha we have discussed the basic laws of reciting an after-blessing after drinking a beverage in that as long as has drunk a Revi’it (approximately 81 cc or 2.8 fluid ounces) of the beverage in one shot (in a continuous manner without interruption between gulps), one recites......

Read Halacha

Question: Must one recite the “Boreh Nefashot Rabbot” blessing after drinking hot tea or coffee?

Answer: We have already discussed on several occasions that after drinking any beverage, one must recite the “Boreh Nefashot” after-blessing. The amount one must drink in order to become obligated to recite this blessing is a Revi’it in one shot, i.e. approximately 81 cc or 2.8 flu......

Read Halacha