Shiur #08: Cooking in a Keli Rishon

  • Harav Baruch Gigi
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

The Laws of Shabbat
Yeshivat Har Etzion

Shiur #08: Cooking in a Keli Rishon


By HaRav Baruch Gigi

Translated by David Silverberg



            The Mishna (Shabbat 42a) states:


A kettle or pot that was removed [from the fire] as it was boiling – one may not add spices to it; but one may add [spices] into the bowl or serving dish.  Rabbi Yehuda says: One may add [spices] into any [kettle or pot], except for something that contains vinegar or brine.


According to the Tanna Kama (first view recorded in the Mishna), a keli rishon ("initial utensil") has the capacity to cook spices added to it even after it is removed from the fire, but a keli sheni ("second utensil") – the bowl into which one poured from the initial pot – does not effectuate bishul.  In light of the berayta cited by the Gemara, it emerges that Rabbi Yehuda considers a keli rishon capable of cooking spices only if it contains vinegar or brine, because only as a result of the combination between the intense heat of the keli rishon and the sharpness of the vinegar or brine is bishul effectuated.

            In explaining Rabbi Yehuda's position, Tosefot (s.v. la-kol) write, "It would appear that he argues specifically with regard to spices; regarding other items, however, he agrees that a keli rishon effectuates bishul, even after one removes it from the fire."  Tosefot's claim restricting the debate between the Tanna Kama and Rabbi Yehuda to the case of spices encounters numerous difficulties.  It seems, at first glance, that spices cook more easily than other food items, and thus if Rabbi Yehuda maintains that they are not subject to bishul in a keli rishon, then all the more so would bishul not occur with other foods in a keli rishon.[1]  Indeed, the Ramban, towards the end of Masekhet Avoda Zara, writes that to the contrary, even the majority position, which considers a keli rishon capable of cooking even after its removal from the fire, does so only with regard to spices which cook very easily.  Other foods, however, are not subject to bishul off the fire, even according to the Tanna Kama.  Similarly, the Ran (commenting on the Rif in our sugya, 20a in the Rif) writes:


We deduce from here that even though a keli rishon has the capacity to cook, this [applies to] only items that cook easily, such as water, oil, spices and the like.  But items that cook with difficulty do not cook in it [a keli rishon off the fire]… But because we are not thoroughly knowledgeable in the nature of these things, we forbid placing anything in a keli rishon on Shabbat…


The Ran fundamentally agrees with the Ramban, but practically, he forbids placing any food in a keli rishon.


            The Gemara cites a debate among the Amora'im concerning salt, which yields three possibilities: salt, like spices, is subject to bishul in a keli rishon but not a keli sheni; salt has a more stringent status than spices and cooks even in a keli sheni; salt cooks neither in a keli rishon nor in a keli sheni, but rather only on the fire, as the Gemara phrases it, "Salt requires cooking like beef."  The Gemara's discussion requires some explanation.  How is it possible that the Amora'im took such opposite views on this issue?  Furthermore, we must explain what "cooking" salt really entails.


            We might explain that the melakha of bishul includes two types of actions: 1) making foods suitable for consumption; 2) cooking salt and other spices, as a result of which the salt or spices infuses the food with taste, and this constitutes its bishul.  In this regard, bishul means not cooking the salt and spices themselves, but rather the enhancement of other food that results from the process.[2]


            With this in mind, we can explain the debate regarding bishul as it pertains to salt.  The debate focuses on the question of which taste which the salt imparts into the food can be identified as bishul.  The ideal taste, of course, is achieved when one places salt in the food over the fire.  Occasionally, however, one adds salt to food in a keli rishon, off the fire, and at times one must add salt at a later stage, already in a keli sheni.  The question addressed by the Amora'im is whether we demand the highest level of seasoning, or if bishul can occur even in the other cases.  With regard to spices, the Mishna assumed that no reasonable degree of seasoning is possible other than in a keli rishon; with regard to salt, the issue is subject to the aforementioned debate among the Amora'im.


            According to our approach, we arrive at a very stringent conclusion regarding the status of salt, sugar and other spices with respect to bishul.  In light of what we have seen, the fact that salt and sugar are cooked during the process of their manufacturing is of no consequence for purposes of the rule of ein bishul achar bishul (a previously cooked item is not subject to further bishul).  We cannot consider these items as previously cooked and thus allow subsequent cooking, since bishul in this context involves the taste they impart into other food.  This of course runs in direct contrast with the ruling of the poskim – which has become common practice – to treat salt, sugar and coffee as having been previously cooked.  And one cannot argue that the rule of ein bishul achar bishul should apply even to these items, regarding which bishul is defined as imparting taste into other food, as the Chatam Sofer wrote in a responsum (74).  The Chatam Sofer advanced this claim in discussing a food item that is eaten independently and also imparts taste to the other foods with which it is cooked.  It is clear that even in the Chatam Sofer's view, foods for which cooking has no significance beyond the taste they impart to other foods would have a status similar to plants boiled for the production of dye, which he discuses in that same teshuva:


Now coffee is [previously] parched over fire, and in the responsa Ginat Veradim [the author] testified that in their countries people eat it that way, and they eat it even ground like flour.  Thus, according to the majority position that bishul does not apply after baking, roasting or parching, then seemingly there is no Torah prohibition of bishul here.  However, the aforementioned work [the Ginat Veradim] writes, "In this case, it imparts its taste into the water, and this constitutes bishul even though it has already been cooked, like stirring paint in the pot."  In my humble opinion, he was not careful and these two cases are not comparable.  There, the plants are not cooked for themselves at all, and are suitable for nothing other than extracting their color so that the color will be absorbed into the wool.  Ein bishul achar bishul does not apply because so long as all their color has not been absorbed, they have not been cooked.  But a food item that has been cooked, and that is independently suitable for consumption – its cooking has already been completed.


Since the sole significance of cooking salt and spices lay in the taste they impart into the food, they resemble the plants cooked solely for the purpose of extracting dye.  This issue remains questionable as far as the practical halakha is concerned, though the prevalent practice indeed carries significant weight.[3]


Cooking in a Keli Rishon: A Torah Prohibition?


            The Talmud Yerushalmi (Shabbat 3:5) comments, "What is outright cooking?  Anytime there is fire burning underneath."  According to the Yerushalmi, bishul occurs only in situations of food cooked over a fire, and it would thus appear that cooking in a keli rishon off the fire does not violate the Torah prohibition of bishul.  Earlier (3:4), the Yerushalmi addressed the question of the practical difference between a keli rishon and a keli sheni, and it explained, "They enacted a safeguard for a keli rishon, but did not enact a safeguard for a keli sheni."  This, too, appears to mean that, according to the Yerushalmi, the prohibition against cooking in a keli rishon was enacted by Chazal to safeguard against actual bishul, over the fire.  We do not find any explicit discussion of this issue in the Talmud Bavli.  From the comments of several Rishonim it appears that they perceived this halakha as a Torah prohibition.[4]  The Ran (20a in the Rif, s.v. u-de-amrinan) writes explicitly that the status of a keli rishon is subject to a debate between the two Talmudim: "We see that the scholars of Israel [the Talmud Yerushalmi] do not hold that pouring from a keli rishon has the capacity to cook; to the contrary, they are more lenient than our Gemara, for in their view, bishul occurs only when there is fire burning underneath."


The Ramban, by contrast (towards the end of his chiddushim to Masekhet Avoda Zara, 74b), cites the Yerushalmi's comments and appears to indicate that the Bavli would agree.  He writes (end of s.v. ve-ha di-tenan):


We learn that according to all views outright bishul occurs only when there is fire burning underneath…even for spices.  And for items that cook with difficulty it is permissible [in a keli rishon] even le-khatechila [at the optimum level of observance], for this does not constitute cooking at all.


The Ran, commenting on our sugya, writes that even though a keli rishon effectuates bishul only for kalei ha-bishul (items that cook easily), nevertheless, due to our inability to identify which items belong to this category, we must forbid placing any item in a keli rishon, except for what the Gemara explicitly permitted.


            I believe that this debate between the Ramban and Ran whether to forbid placing any item in a keli rishon hinges on their previous dispute.  According to the Ramban's view, that a keli rishon does not effectuate bishul on the level of Torah law, we need not be stringent with regard to general food items.  The Ran, however, maintains that cooking in a keli rishon constitutes a Torah violation of bishul, and we must therefore act stringently given the uncertainty that exists.


            The Rambam (Hilkhot Shabbat 22:6) writes: "Similarly, a boiling pot, even if one removed it from the fire – one may not add spices to it, but one may add to it salt, because the cooking of salt can occur only over a large fire."  The Acharonim disagree in explaining the Rambam's position.  Some claim that in his view keli rishon does not cook on the level of Torah law, as evidenced by the fact that he does not bring this halakha in chapter 9 of Hilkhot Shabbat, where he discusses the Torah prohibition of bishul, and includes it instead here in chapter 22, amidst the rabbinic prohibitions of bishul.  The Iglei Tal (Mevashel, 23:2) made this inference from the Rambam's arrangement.  However, the Shevitat Ha-Shabbat (introduction to Mevashel section, 7) refutes this proof, claiming that even those who consider a keli rishon a Torah violation of bishul agree that some items do not cook in a keli rishon, and are forbidden to be placed in a keli rishon only by force of rabbinic enactment.[5]  And because of our inability to ascertain which items are subject to the Torah violation of bishul in a keli rishon, the Rambam wrote simply that one may not cook in a keli rishon, without specifying that for some items doing so constitutes a Torah violation.  It should be noted that even the Iglei Tal ultimately concludes that cooking in a keli rishon is forbidden on the level of Torah law.


            The straightforward reading of the sugyot in the Talmud Bavli suggests that cooking in a keli rishon constitutes a Torah violation.  The Mishna (145b) establishes that rinsing a fish called kulias ha-ispenin[6] violates the Torah prohibition of bishul, and there we deal with at most pouring hot water from a keli rishon.  One might, however, argue that kulias ha-ispenin belongs to the category of kalei ha-bishul (as it is already soft due to its abundant salt); since all it requires is rinsing to eliminate its salt, even hot water poured from a keli rishon can effectuate the melakha of bishul.  The Peri Megadim writes (Y.D., Mishbetzot Zahav 68, s.v. ha-din ha-bet): "…for one is liable for rinsing a kulias ha-ispenin even in a keli sheni; since it is thin and soft, its rinsing constitutes its final preparation."  One might also suggest, according to some Acharonim, that the Yerushalmi would explain the Torah violation in the case of kulias ha-ispenin on the basis of makeh be-patish (completing a product), rather than bishul.[7]


            Yet another difficulty arises from an earlier sugya (39a), which equates toledot ha-or (sources of heat derived from fire)[8] with fire itself with respect to bishul, such that one can violate the Torah prohibition of bishul by cooking even with derivatives of fire.  Seemingly, cooking in a keli rishon should be considered no worse than cooking with a garment that was heated through fire.  This does not necessarily pose a difficulty for the Yerushalmi; the Yerushalmi may very well disagree with the Bavli and maintain that toledot ha-or does not effectuate bishul.[9]  Within the Bavli's view, however, this issue requires clarification.


            The explanation would appear to be as follows.  If the debate revolves around the scientific question of whether cooking can occur in a keli rishon, then to explain the view that bishul cannot occur in a keli rishon according to Torah law, we are forced to say that toledot ha-or are more capable of cooking than a keli rishon.  It is far more likely, however, that we deal here with a fundamental, halakhic debate as to whether the Torah prohibition can apply to cooking in a keli rishon.  To qualify as a Torah violation of bishul, the process must occur through a source of heat, and, at least according to the Bavli, fire derivatives are considered "fire" for this purpose.  A keli rishon, however, is merely a utensil containing an item that has undergone bishul.  Perhaps, once we define the contents as an item that has undergone bishul, we can no longer perceive it as a heat source to allow for a prohibition against cooking in it on Shabbat.  Moreover, according to this view[10], a keli rishon is not customarily used for cooking, and thus cannot be considered "fire" for purposes of bishul, other than in the rare cases where this is clearly the normal practice (such as kulias ha-ispenin, the rinsing of which constitutes bishul even in a keli sheni).  In these exceptional situations, this utensil is indeed perceived as capable of effectuating bishul.


            It should be noted that even though the Yerushalmi appears to view the prohibition of cooking in a keli rishon as rabbinic in origin, many commentators understood that even the Yerushalmi considers this a Torah violation.  The Vilna Gaon, in his commentary to the Shulchan Arukh (Y.D. 105), explains the Yerushalmi to mean that the Torah violation of bishul occurs anytime fire had burned underneath the given utensil.  The Peri Megadim (in the passage cited earlier) raised the possibility that this issue is subject to a debate among the Tanna'im and the Yerushalmi was uncertain which view to follow.  He suggests that the Yerushalmi's question, "What is outright cooking" means that bishul occurs incontrovertibly only over a fire; when the pot is off the fire, we cannot be certain whether or not bishul can occur due to the debate surrounding this issue.


            As for the Yerushalmi's other remark cited earlier, describing cooking in a keli rishon as a herchek ("safeguard"), implying that this prohibition was enacted by Chazal, this view would explain this phrase differently.  It would refer to the halakha mentioned by the Yerushalmi allowing one to place an item near a fire at a place where "ha-yad sholetet" (literally, "where the hand has control")[11], but not at a place where "ein ha-yad sholetet" ("where the hand does not have control").  According to this reading, the Yerushalmi forbade placing an item in a keli rishon at a distance of ein ha-yad sholetet as a safeguard against the possibility that it might cook completely, in violation of the Torah prohibition of bishul.


            In any event, we customarily follow the position that views cooking in a keli rishon a Torah violation of bishul, and we forbid cooking all items[12] in a keli rishon.


The Level of Heat Required for a Keli Rishon to Effectuate Bishul


            The Ravya (202) writes[13]:


It seems likely to me that the Talmud distinguished regarding a kettle only when one places water in it immediately upon removing it from the fire, in which case it resembles that which the Mishna says, "A kettle or pot that was removed [from the fire] as it was boiling – one may not add spices to it; but one may add [spices] into the bowl or serving dish."  But if one let it stand to cool from its boiling, it is considered like a keli sheni, and anything in a keli sheni is considered thawing [rather than cooking, and is permissible on Shabbat].  And the proof is the syntax – it [the Mishna] said, "that was removed as it was boiling – one may not add spices to them."


The Beit Yosef, however, disagrees: "But to me it appears from what was said in the chapter Kira [Shabbat 40b] with regard to placing a jug of water opposite a flame, that so long as yad soledet bo [one's hand would instinctively recoil on contact] it is considered a keli rishon."  We thus have two opinions as to whether a keli rishon effectuates bishul only when its contents are still boiling, or so long as it remains at the level of yad soledet bo.


We might refute the proof suggested by the Beit Yosef from the sugya on 40b.  The Gemara there discusses placing a jug of water near a flame, and forbids placing it at a distance where it can reach the point of yad soledet bo.  The heat source, however, must certainly be at a higher level of heat, since no heat source can bring other items to the point of yad soledet bo if its own heat does not significantly exceed that level.  This is perhaps what the Ravya meant: in order for something to reach the level of yad soledet bo, the heat source must be at the boiling point.  The Beit Yosef, by contrast, perhaps held that Chazal drew no distinction in this regard, because it is impossible to determine the precise level of heat required to bring other items to the point of bishul or of yad soledet bo.  They therefore established a general rule forbidding cooking in any keli rishon at the level of yad soledet bo.  In this vein he understood the sugya that forbade placing a jug of water near a flame at a place of yad soledet bo, meaning, if the place where one places the jug is at the point of yad soledet bo.  As for the final halakha, the poskim followed the stringent position of the Beit Yosef, and common practice indeed forbids placing foods in a keli rishon at the temperature of yad soledet bo or higher.


A Keli Rishon Below the Temperature of Yad Soledet Bo


            The Ritva (Shabbat 42a, s.v. ha-ilfas) writes, "It appears that the Mishna states categorically, 'One may not add" – even [at the level of] ein ha-yad soledet ba-hen, as a decree out of concern for [cases of] yad soledet ba-hem, since he removed them from the fire boiling."  Likewise, the Magen Avraham (318:28) inferred from the Yerushalmi's comments that Chazal forbade cooking in a keli rishon under any circumstances, even below the temperature of yad soledet bo.  The Vilna Gaon, however, understood the Yerushalmi differently.  He claimed that one may cook in a keli rishon below the temperature of yad soledet bo, arguing that the Yerushalmi forbids placing food in a keli rishon even when one does not want it to reach the point of yad soledet bo, since he might forget it there until it cooks, in violation of bishul.


            As for the final halakha, the Shulchan Arukh (318:9) writes, "A keli rishon is capable of cooking even after it is removed from the fire, so long as [it is at the temperature of] yad soledet bo."  The Mishna Berura notes that the Shulchan Arukh here seeks to dispute both the Ravya's position, that a keli rishon effectuates bishul only if its contents are still boiling, and the Magen Avraham's view, forbidding cooking in a keli rishon even below the temperature of yad soledet bo.  Indeed, the accepted halakha is to forbid placing foods in a keli rishon so long as it retains the level of heat of yad soledet bo.




[1] The Rashash, commenting on Tosefot, notes that from the parallel discussion in Masekhet Ma'aserot (1:7) it appears that Rabbi Yehuda argues also with regard to oil (which the Gemara in Shabbat 40b classifies as one of the more easily cooked food items, in that one view considers the warming of oil a violation of bishul).  It thus seems far more likely that Rabbi Yehuda disputes the entire notion of keli rishon.  See also the discussion of the Penei Yehoshua on our Mishna.

[2] In a previous shiur regarding cooking a previously cooked liquid, we mentioned Rabbenu Yona's position from which a third definition of bishul seems to emerge, namely, lending an item the capacity to cook.  Thus, one would violate bishul by bringing hot water to a boil, even if it had just been boiled, since boiling renders it capable of cooking foods.

[3]The poskim consider sea salt (as well as sugar and the like) as having already been cooked; see Shevitat Ha-Shabbat (Mevashel section, 12; and Be'er Rechovot, 26) and Mishna Berura (318:71).  According to our approach, however, bishul in the context of salt and sugar has no significance unless they are added to a food for seasoning, and therefore the rule of ein bishul achar bishul should not apply.

[4] Tosefot (42b), in discussing the final halakha concerning salt (s.v. ve-hayenu), write that even though the standard rules of pesak would warrant following the more stringent view regarding salt (and it appears that Tosefot made this assumption because we deal with a Torah prohibition), nevertheless, it is preferable to follow the lenient view in order to reconcile Rav Nachman's position with that of Rabbi Chiya.  They thus approached this question of cooking salt in a keli rishon as an issue involving a Torah prohibition.

[5] In accordance with the Ran's position, cited earlier.

[6] This is a very salty fish that cannot be eaten before it is rinsed in hot water to eliminate its salt and make it suitable for consumption.

[7] In shiur #4 we discussed the issue of whether the melakha of makeh be-patish can apply to the preparation of foods.

[8] Toledot ha-or (derivatives of fire) are items such as cloth or metal that were heated through fire and then removed.

[9] The Yerushalmi in Masekhet Pesachim (chapter 9) records a debate as to whether or not toledot ha-or are equivalent to fire itself.  We will be"H discuss this issue further in a later shiur.

[10] We emphasize that this point applies specifically according to this position, because according to Tosefot and the others who view a keli rishon as effectuating bishul on the level of Torah law, a keli rishon is customarily used for cooking and can thus be considered a heat source.  In the next shiur we will be"H mention a similar concept relevant to a keli sheni, which would apply even according to those views who do not accept the theory as it pertains to a keli rishon.

[11] "Ha-yad sholetet" is equivalent to the Bavli's expression, "ein ha-yad soledet," whereas "ein ha-yad sholetet" corresponds to "yad soledet."  For additional readings of the Yerushalmi's remarks, see Shevitat Ha-Shabbat, introduction to Mevashel section.

[12] With the exception of the items that the Gemara explicitly permits: salt (according to one view in the Gemara) and beef.  We will return to this issue later in the shiur.

[13] His comments appear in the Hagahot Mordekhai, 79d.