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Lisha (Part 6) Lisha of Cooked Foods

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon



By Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon


Shiur #24: Lash, Part VI


XI) Lisha of Cooked Foods


Is one allowed to add sauce to rice and mix it up?  May one mix breadcrumbs or matza meal with liquids?  Is one permitted to do these actions normally, or does one need a shinnui (alteration) — and if so, what kind?  


The Rambam, in his Responsa (Blau Edition, Ch. 305, cited by the Beit Yosef, end of Ch. 321), raises the following question:


Question: A pot of grits is usually left on the stove over Shabbat [evening].  On the next morning, one takes the pot off of the stove, puts a wooden ladle in and stirs it a great deal, mixing it up and splashing it with the wooden ladle against the walls of the pot or in a bowl, until the meat, grits and water have been thoroughly blended.  At the end, [the mixture] becomes thick, as it all becomes one mass.  Sometimes the water is removed from the top and after that it is mixed, and sometimes hot water is added, as much as is needed.  Are all of these actions prohibited or permitted? 


Answer: Certainly, this is all allowed…  if one is allowed to finish preparing parched ears, which require pulverizing, [one may certainly finish preparing] grits, which have already been pulverized and fully cooked; all they are missing is mixing alone, so surely should it be permissible!  …these grits do not require pounding, because they have already been thoroughly pounded in a mortar and fully cooked, and all they are missing is a bit of pulverizing and mixing.  Putting the water into the pot is permitted as well… 


The Rambam is addressing the issue of preparing a dish of grits and meat: after it has been removed from the fire, one may stir it while mashing the meat and the grits so that they dissolve and become blended, forming “one mass.”  One may also add hot water to the dish.  This is how the Shulchan Arukh rules (321:19) as well.


In this question, there are different factors to consider: stirring, grinding (techina; the melakha is known as tochen) and kneading.  As we have seen, the Rambam believes that mashing the grits is not forbidden because of tochen, since the grits are already crushed and mashed, and all they require is a bit of pulverizing.  However, why is there no prohibition of lash?


Bishul Precludes the Prohibition of Lash


In fact, the Bach (end of Ch. 321) challenges this ruling of the Rambam, and he writes that halakhically one may not beat the food vigorously, as is implied by the Rambam; rather, he rules that one must mix it in gently, as we have seen above concerning pulped vegetables.  The Magen Avraham (321:28) rules accordingly.  The Taz (ibid. 14), on the other hand, disputes this and explains why one may act more leniently in this case, even beating the mixture vigorously:



In that case, there was no liquid originally, before Shabbat; this is not true in this case, since it was fully cooked before they were mixed.



In other words, since the meat and the grits have already been mixed with water and cooked before Shabbat, the prohibition of lisha is not applicable to them.  This approach is explained more fully by the Chazon Ish (58:9):


Apparently, just as bishul precludes it from the melakha of techina, since its techina is easy and it is not considered to be a melakha, similarly it is not considered to be lisha.  However, if the grits are dry, it may be that it is forbidden to put liquid on them and to mix them.  However, if there is a bit of liquid before Shabbat, it appears that one may put in more on Shabbat. 


According to this approach, just as the prohibition of tochen is not applicable to a cooked food, since the food is very soft and grinding it is no longer a significant act, so too the prohibition of lash is not applicable to items which have already been cooked together.  The prohibition of lash addresses the binding of separate substances, each of which has previously stood on its own, while here the different substances in the pot have been mashed and softened and become part of one cooked food, so that the lisha which joins them together more thoroughly is not such a significant act.


The Chazon Ish goes further and explains that it may be that only if there is a bit of moisture in the cooked food is it permissible to knead it and even add more water to it, but if the cooked food has become totally dry (for example, if one wants to add water to dry rice and mix it up), this would perhaps be forbidden.  The reasoning behind this is that when the cooked food dries up, every part of it stands on its own, and therefore mixing it is considered an important act of binding and kneading. 


At the end of this passage, the Chazon Ish adds a point that may indicate a new direction or may fit in with his initial view:


However, when it comes to cooked food, even setting this aside, lisha can never be applicable, because the liquid does not fuse discrete elements together; on the contrary, it dilutes the thick.


In other words, the prohibition of lash exists when a person uses a liquid in order to combine and to bind items which are separate from each other; when it comes to a cooked food, one does not stick the different pieces to each other, but softens every element in its own right until it loses its identity, forming an agglomerated mass and becoming mixed with the other parts.


Mere Tikkun Okhel


Another reason for this allowance is provided by the Bei’ur Halakha (321:14, s.v. Shema).  He explains that there is no Torah prohibition in kneading a cooked item, since it is fit for eating as it is, and its lisha is only tikkun okhel (food preparation) and derekh akhila (the way of eating):


It appears to me that the basis for this allowance lies in the view of Tosafot.  Once the parched ears are dried in the oven and made fit for eating, they are considered like a baked or cooked item.  Therefore, even though one adds water and then kneads it, this is not considered like the melakha of lisha; rather, it is mere tikkun okhel, because this is its derekh akhila.  It is considered like sauce put on a cooked food, and this is not a melakha by Torah law. 


The Bei’ur Halakha is discussing flour which comes from parched ears of grain (kemach kali, which is a bit like matza meal — see Taz, ibid. 11).  The Rambam (21:33) and the Shulchan Arukh (321:14) imply that kneading flour such as this is not forbidden by the Torah.[1]  What is the reason?[2]  The Bei’ur Halakha explains that since the flour is baked and edible, kneading it is not considered a significant act but mere tikkun okhel, akin to pouring sauce on a cooked food, and there is no Torah prohibition in this.  What arises from this explanation is that he understands that the essence of the melakha of lisha is the preparation of an agglomerated mass for cooking or baking, and when a mass is already edible as is, there is no Torah prohibition of lash in mixing it. 


However, as the Gemara (156a) indicates, although there is no prohibition from the Torah to knead kemach kali, there is a rabbinic prohibition to do so; only kneading kemach kali bit-by-bit, i.e., in smaller quantities than that which one is accustomed to knead on weekdays, is actually permitted.[3]  The Rambam (ibid.) writes that the reason for the prohibition is the concern that someone may come to knead regular flour.  Aside from this, the Gemara indicates that this allowance follows the view of Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda only, but in the view of Rabbi, there is no allowance to knead kemach kali (in a belila ava, thick mixture) even bit-by-bit, since the very adding of water is problematic in his view.  This is how the Magen Avraham (321:18) and Mishna Berura (52) rule: halakhically, we are concerned with the view of Rabbi, and consequently one must not knead kemach kali.


Even so, the Shulchan Arukh (321:19) and the Mishna Berura (77) allow kneading cooked vegetables even in great quantities.  It appears that only when dealing with a substance which is similar to flour, such as kemach kali (or matza meal), one must knead a small quantity only.  (In any case, for those who rule like Rabbi, it is totally forbidden, because adding the water itself violates a Torah prohibition.)  However, when it comes to cooked vegetables, which are not like flour at all, the Sages did not ban this, and it is permissible to knead them even in great quantities.[4]   


Indeed, the Mishna Berura (ibid.) stresses, following the view of the Bach and the Magen Avraham which we mentioned above, that one should stir such a mixture gently.  By contrast, the Chazon Ish (58:9, s.v. Siman) writes that one may even beat it vigorously, as the Rambam’s responsum indicates.


Somewhat Hard Vegetables


It turns out that there are two different reasons to allow one to knead cooked vegetables.  According to the Chazon Ish, after the vegetables are soft, their mixing is not considered an act of lisha.  On the other hand, according to the Bei’ur Halakha, there is an act of lisha, but in terms of the result, no lisha exists in this case, because lisha is preparation for cooking and baking, while here the vegetables are already cooked and edible.[5]

This question will be borne out in a practical ramification in the case of cooked vegetables which are still somewhat hard: according to the Chazon Ish, it may be that the allowance is only for very soft vegetables, but with hard vegetables there is a concern of lisha, while according to the Bei’ur Halakha, with every cooked food, there is no prohibition of lisha (but one should mix it gently). 


However, we must recall that with vegetables such as these, it may be that there is also a problem of tochen.  We learned previously that ideally only cooked vegetables that are pulped and soft should be mashed. Thus, even if in terms of the prohibition of lash one may be lenient when it comes to vegetables which are not soft, there remains a concern regarding the prohibition of tochen.  However, if one prepares this proximate to eating, there is good reason to be lenient about the prohibition of tochen even with harder vegetables; in this case, according to the Chazon Ish, there would still be a prohibition of lisha, while according to the Bei’ur Halakha, the prohibition of lash is not a problem at all.


Is it permissible to add sauce to rice and to mix it?  From the abovementioned ruling of the Chazon Ish, it emerges that when the rice is dry and hard, there is a concern for the prohibition of lisha, and according to the Bei’ur Halakha, one may mix gently anything which is cooked.  However, it may be that according to all the views, it is permissible to mix water with rice, since generally the water does not bind with the grains of rice; rather, it adds taste and moisture in them.



In conclusion, according to the Rambam, it is permissible to knead cooked vegetables.  The halakhic authorities differ whether one can knead any cooked vegetable (this is what the Mishna Berura seems to indicate) or perhaps only if those which are very soft and moist (this is what appears to be the view of the Chazon Ish).  Aside from the question of lisha, the question of the prohibition of tochen exists as well.  Therefore, it is best to act leniently only with cooked, soft vegetables; in this case, it is permissible to grind them even with the tines of a fork.  Similarly, one may mix them (and even add sauce), but it is preferable to mix gently (in accordance with the ruling of the Mishna Berura).  Similarly, it is permissible to mash soft potatoes with the tines of a fork and even to add sauce and mix them.


If the vegetables are still a bit soft and one needs to grind them also, it is best to be stringent in this regard (though one may grind with a shinnui).  However, one may be lenient if one does this proximate to the meal, and in this case there is good reason to be lenient as regards lisha as well, in accordance with the ruling of the Mishna Berura.  (Even the Chazon Ish does not decisively take the stringent approach, and it makes sense that we are talking about a doubt regarding rabbinic prohibition, where there is generally room for leniency.)  If one does not need to grind them (e.g., one wants to add sauce to rice), it appears that one may be lenient in this, as arises from the ruling of the Mishna Berura.  (Furthermore, there is no clear lisha which combines disparate elements in this case, but rather the imparting of taste and moisture). 


Matza meal, tea-biscuit crumbs or breadcrumbs, according to the Sefardim who rule like Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda, may be poured into a liquid and kneaded in a smaller quantity than the usual (since they have already been baked and they are edible as they are, similar to kemach kali).  According to the Ashkenazim (and some of the Sefardim) who rule like Rabbi, one should not be lenient in this, unless one puts the liquid in before Shabbat (and then one may add liquid and knead with a smaller quantity than the norm).  Similarly, one may be lenient and knead with a shinnui according to the conditions explained in our previous shiurim.


Translated by Rav Yoseif Bloch

[1]     It should be noted that there are those who believe that kneading flour in this way is forbidden by Torah law, see Mishna Berura (321:52) in the name of the Peri Megadim. 

[2]     There are those who believe that flour such as this is not very kneadable and therefore there is no Torah prohibition here (Ritva, 155b; Magen Avraham, 321:18).  However, as we have seen above, there are Rishonim who believe that the Torah prohibits the act of kneading even if the substance is not kneadable (i.e., even if it does not form a dough-like substance in the presence of a liquid).  Thus, the Bei’ur Halakha must explain why, according to their view, there is no Torah prohibition of kneading kemach kali.

[3]     If a given mixture is always kneaded in small quantities, one should not knead it in this way, since there is no shinnui in this (Chazon Ish 58:1).  Thus, one must prepare it with the shinnui of crosswise motion. 

[4]     The Chazon Ish (58:7, s.v. Katav Od) challenges the Bei’ur Halakha, based on the Tosefta (13:12), which indicates that it is forbidden to knead breadcrumbs, and the view of the Taz (321:11), which indicates that it is forbidden to knead matza meal — even though we are talking about previously baked items.  According to what we have said, this is not a problem, since the Bei’ur Halakha also concedes that lisha of cooked or baked flour-like items is prohibited rabbinically (lest one knead regular flour); it is only the kneading of cooked vegetables, which are not at all like flour, which is permitted altogether.

It should be noted that there are three significant characteristics of flour in this regard: a) it has not undergone a process of cooking or baking; b) it is inedible; c) the lisha prepares it for cooking or baking.  The lisha of those items which share all of these qualities with flour is forbidden by the Torah.  If they differ from flour in one aspect, their lisha is rabbinically forbidden, because one may come to knead regular flour.  One may knead things which are different from flour in all respects, since they are not at all similar to flour.  However, the mixing of kemach kali, matza meal, bread crumbs or biscuit crumbs is generally a preliminary act, and because they differ from flour in the first two aspects but not in the third, their lisha is rabbinically forbidden, and it is permitted only in small quantities.  Also, the lisha of raw pulped vegetables, which are like flour in the first aspect, their lisha should be rabbinically forbidden (although there is an additional reason to allow it: they do not form an agglomerated mass, as we explained previously). The lisha of cooked vegetables, which are different from flour on all points, is permissible (although, according to the Mishna Berura, one should mix them gently).

[5]     It may be that the question of whether one may beat the mixture vigorously is linked to this argument.   According to the Bei’ur Halakha, we have an act of lisha here, but it is allowed because there is no result of lisha; since it looks like regular lisha, there is reason to forbid executing the act normally (vigorously), lest one knead regular flour.   On the other hand, according to the Chazon Ish, in reality, there is no act of lisha, and therefore there is no reason to forbid whipping vigorously, as is customary.