Shiur #19: Shehiya ֠Part 3 - The Definition of Garuf Ve-katum, and Contemporary Application

  • Harav Baruch Gigi
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

The Laws of Shabbat
Yeshivat Har Etzion

Shiur #19: Shehiya – Part 3

The Definition of Garuf Ve-katum, and Contemporary Application


By HaRav Baruch Gigi

Translated by David Silverberg



Defining Garuf


            The Yerushalmi (Shabbat 3:1) states: "One who clears [away the coals from a stove] must clear entirely, since it is taught: 'One who clears must remove with his hand[1]'; thus it emerges that he must clear entirely."  The Rishonim deduce from the Yerushalmi that all the coals must be removed for the stove to be considered garuf to allow shehiya.  However, as we will see later, the Rishonim who define garuf differently explain the Yerushalmi in accordance with their view.


            The Mishnayot distinguish between shehiya over a stove, which is wide and has space for two pots, and shehiya in an oven, which has a narrow opening and retains its heat more effectively.  Many Rishonim maintain that shehiya is forbidden in an oven even after it has been cleared of its coals.  But this ruling seems difficult to understand; if the coals are removed, we obviously have no reason for concern that one might stir the coals, and shehiya should therefore be permissible.


            Due to this question, the Ba'al Ha-ma'or, in the beginning of this chapter, explains that garuf means sweeping all the coals to one side of the stove or oven.  It is regarding such a case that the Gemara distinguishes between a stove and an oven, forbidding shehiya in an oven.  But if one removes the coals entirely, then shehiya is allowed even in an oven.  The Ba'al Ha-ma'or writes:


Similarly, if one cleared all the coals and took them away, then regarding both ovens and stoves it is permissible to leave [before Shabbat] and return [on Shabbat] any item, for there is no concern for stirring the coals.  And that which is stated in the Mishna, "until he clears," it refers to clearing the coals to one side, in which case the decree [regarding the concern that] one might come to stir is diminished, for he has demonstrated his intention that he is not interested in them… There is concern for them in an oven.  But if one cleared everything from an oven and moved it away, and nothing remains, what remains for us to be concerned of?


Most Rishonim, however, did not follow this interpretation, and accepted the straightforward implication that "clearing" means moving away all the coals.  They therefore had to devise other ways of explaining why shehiya is forbidden in an oven that has been cleared.


            The Rambam explained (Hilkhot Shabbat 3:6):


Why did they [the Sages] forbid leaving [food before Shabbat] in an oven, even if it had been cleared [of its coals]?  Because one who clears [the coals] clears only the majority of the fire and its essence, and it is impossible to clear all the fire such that not even a single spark remains[2], and since its air is hot, one might stir in order to kindle the remaining sparks in the oven.


The Rashba, however, explained differently:


It is correct to say that we require that actually be cleared[3], but in an oven, since it has abundant and hot air, it does not appear cleared, but rather like coals are there, and one may come to leave [food before Shabbat] or return [food on Shabbat] on a stove that is not cleared, and he will come to stir.  Alternatively, he might come to leave [food before Shabbat] or return [food on Shabbat] on an actual oven that is not cleared.


The obvious difficulty with the Rashba's approach is that we have a rabbinic decree forbidding shehiya in an oven as a safeguard against shehiya in a stove, which is itself forbidden only as a safeguard against stirring the coals.[4]


            According to most Rishonim, then, one must actually remove all the coals from the stove, whereas the Ba'al Ha-ma'or held that it suffices to move them to the side, such that they are not underneath the pot.  The majority view felt that shehiya is permitted once there is no longer any possibility of stirring; according to the Ba'al Ha-ma'or, shehiya is allowed when the individual demonstratively expresses the fact that he has no need for the coals by moving them to the side.  Once he expresses his disinterest in the coals, it is unlikely that he will come to stir them, and Chazal therefore did not forbid shehiya in such a case.[5]


Defining Katum


            The Yerushalmi, in the aforementioned passage, states, "And one who covers [the stove] must cover it entirely; but from what is taught: 'He has hatchelled flax blaze over it,' it emerges that even if one did not cover it entirely [it suffices]."  The Yerushalmi thus concludes that one need not cover the stove entirely.  This is also the implication of the Bavli (37a): "Coals that have faded, upon which one placed thin hatchelled flax – this is considered covered."


            The question naturally arises why Chazal were more stringent regarding garuf, and required that the coals be cleared away entirely, than with regard to katum, where they allowed even a partial covering.  The Ran (to the Rif 15b s.v. ad) explained, "Because when it comes to clearing, if one cleared part of the coals and left a few of them, there is no indication in those that remain; but once one places ashes over all the coals, he has made an indication in all of them."  This explanation works well for the view of the Ran, who follows the Ba'al Ha-ma'or's understanding of the requirement of garuf, as serving as a heker – a visible indication that the coals may not be stirred.  But according to the majority view among the Rishonim, that garuf means clearing away all the coals, we must explain that the halakha allowing shehiya after clearing the coals differs fundamentally from that which allows shehiya after covering the coals.  We find among the Rishonim different approaches in explaining the concept of katum.  The Ramban writes:


The reason is that one who completely mixes ashes and fire diverts his thoughts away from stirring the fire; he has already ruined it and diverted his thoughts from it.  But one who clears [the coals] – if even a small coal remains there, since it is glowing, it can light and kindle an entire stove.


In the Ramban's view, diverting one's thoughts from stirring suffices only if one ruins the fire; performing a demonstrative act to the fire is not enough.  Therefore, one must clear away all the coals.  When it comes to covering, one need not cover the entire stove; it suffices to mix ashes with fire in order to ruin it, which constitutes a meaningful expression of the diversion of his thoughts from stirring.  From the Rashba, however, it appears that he views hesech ha-da'at (diversion of one's thoughts) as requiring an outward demonstration of the fact that the individual no longer has any interest in raising the fire: "For since he dimmed it and did not bother to kindle them, it is evidently clear that he does not care to stir it."


            The Rambam also speaks of hesech ha-da'at, but he focuses on the person's thoughts of the food, rather than of the fire, as we saw in the Ramban and Rashba, each in his own direction.  The Rambam writes (Hilkhot Shabbat 3:4):


Therefore, if one cleared away the fire or covered the fire of the stove with ashes or thin, hatchelled flax, or if the coals faded, in which case they are like covered with ashes, or if one kindled it [the stove] with straw, rakings or the dung of small cattle, such that there are no burning coals, it is permissible to leave [food] on it [before Shabbat], since he diverted his attention from this food and they [the Sages] did not decree lest he stir the fire.


He seems to mean that the individual has despaired from eating the food in its optimum form, and has resigned himself to eating it in its present state.[6]  This despair results from the condition of the fire, which has no burning coals, either because they have been cleared away or because they naturally began to die; therefore, the individual loses hope of furthering the cooking of this food.


            As mentioned above, the Ran held that the central point is the heker – the external indication a person makes on the coals so that should he approach the coals to stir them, he will see the fire, remember that it is Shabbat, and refrain from stirring.  The Ramakh takes a similar approach, as cited by the Kesef Mishneh.


            According to the Ran's view, that to allow for shehiya we require a reminder to the individual so that he will not stir the coals, it is clear why he allows merely moving the coals to the side away from the pot, as one thereby creates a reminder for himself.  But according to the other Rishonim, who require hesech ha-da'at, one must remove all the coals from the stove.  Their dispute as to whether the concern arises in an oven perhaps hinges on this point, as well.


            According to the Rambam, shehiya is permitted if one diverts his thoughts from the food, and therefore it is forbidden in an oven, because the heat is intense and one's mind thus remains on the food.  But according to the Ramban, that the individual's thoughts must be diverted from the fire, this is accomplished even in an oven through clearing or covering the coals.  Chazal forbade shehiya in an oven for an entirely different reason, namely, that one may then leave food in a stove that has not been cleared or covered, as we cited earlier from the Rashba.  It is also possible, however, that all agree that in an oven one's mind is distracted from neither the fire nor the food, and the Rishonim disagree with regard to the factual question of whether there is what to stir after the coals have been cleared.


Shehiya Nowadays


            Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, O.C. 93) addresses the possibility that the entire prohibition of shehiya might be inapplicable in modern times:


Now there is good reason to claim that the enactment [of shehiya] does not apply at all in our gas ovens [= stoves], for we see that they enacted [this prohibition] only out of concern that one might stir, and not out of concern that one might bring more wood when the fire extinguishes...perhaps because they enacted only [out of concern] that one will stir with his mouth [by blowing], which people look upon lightly and do not consider an action as they look upon doing it by hand.  If so, then regarding gas ovens, given that stirring does not apply to the gas, for it is already there, only if one wishes to raise the fire he must add more gas, which he does by further turning the holes of the pipe from which the gas comes, it is thus like bringing other wood for which they did not decree, for they were not concerned that one will perform an action with his hands.  And even if we say that the reason why they did not decree lest one bring wood and straw is because generally it is not situated near the stove, and thus in gas ovens, where it is a simple matter to open further the holes of the pipe to bring more gas, there is reason to decree, nevertheless, since in any event they did not enact even with regard to wood and straw situated near the stove, therefore, even regarding gas, it is not included under the decree despite the fact that now it is done in such a way that it is always nearby…and we cannot introduce new prohibitions.


In spite of this argument, Rav Moshe did not rely on it to permit shehiya altogether.  It seems to me that Chazal enacted a prohibition against leaving a pot over the fire in such a way that one might increase the strength of the fire either due to forgetfulness, or out of a momentary decision (resulting from human weakness).  They therefore were not concerned that one might bring wood from elsewhere.  Our gas stoves, then, would, indeed, be included under the initial prohibition.


            One might, however, question the decree's applicability for a different reason.  Chazal perhaps forbade shehiya only over an unstable fire, such as coals, which at times burns very well and at others begins to fade and thus requires reinforcement.  The fire in gas or electric stoves, however, is steady and stable, and a person can set the desired strength of the flame from the outset, and hence there is no concern for stirring.  The Bei'ur Halakha (253, s.v. afilu) raises a similar notion:


There is room to ask: The Talmud and authorities employ the formulation, "he kindled it with straw and rakings," which implies that this occurred after the kindling.  For this reason it is forbidden with [a stove kindled with] wood, because they leave behind coals and there is the concern that one might stir, whereas straw and rakings do not leave behind coals.  Accordingly, it is possible that if one places a lot of straw, that burns for an extended period of time, it might be forbidden to leave [food on the fire before Shabbat] at least while it burns.  Or, perhaps the Talmud simply employed conventional terminology, for it was their practice to place the pot [on the stove] after kindling [the stove], but this would apply as well to the time when it burns – this would also be permitted.  And the reason would be that at the time when it burns there is in any event no concern for stirring, for why would one stir if it still burns?  There is no reason to burn except once it extinguished.  It informs us that with straw, once it is extinguished, stirring it is of no avail for the coal has also been consumed, whereas with peat or wood this is always forbidden, since one might come to stir the coals after the fire is extinguished.  This requires further study.


            In practice, however, it would seem that one cannot rely on this consideration, either, with regard to modern gas stoves, because Chazal's decree included any instance where there is concern for stirring due to a momentary lapse.  And since today people very commonly change the strength of the flame during the cooking process, this concern applies even nowadays.  To the contrary, one might argue that nowadays we must be concerned for not only raising the flame, but also for lowering the flame; this would require further study.  In this regard Rav Moshe Feinstein was asked the following question (Iggerot Moshe, O.C. 4:74:25): "In our gas ovens [= stoves], when the gas tap is completely open, and it is impossible to raise the fire any further, does one require a blech [covering over the stove] for shehiya, for it is clear that there is no concern lest he extinguish…"


            Rav Moshe responds:


We should require a blech even if the gas is completely open.  Firstly, even if there is no concern, one requires [a blech] for the reason of lo pelug [the Sages' decrees apply even in cases when the reason does not obtain].  Furthermore, even if they did not decree with regard to extinguishing fire sustained by wood, for which water is required, when it comes to extinguishing fire sustained by gas, which is very simple, there is concern.  And even if we say that kibuy [the prohibition against extinguishing on Shabbat] does not apply at all to gas, nevertheless we should be concerned lest he lower the gas and then stir, and therefore we should require a blech in all cases.


I had thought that one would require a blech because the basic concern relates to any action that one could perform out of forgetfulness or without paying attention; this is perhaps what Rav Moshe meant when he wrote that there is concern because turning the gas knob is "very simple."


"Clearing" and "Covering" the Stove Nowadays


            Let us now discuss the question of how a contemporary stove is made garuf or katum.


            Clearing the coals does not apply nowadays, because it requires turning off the fire altogether.  True, according to the Ba'al Ha-ma'or and Ran, who held that it suffices to move the coals away from the pot, one might claim that if there is any kind of surface over the gas stove, and one places the pot next to the flame but not directly over it[7], the stove would be considered garuf.  Halakha, however, follows the view that the coals must be removed entirely.


            With regard to making a stove katum, several issues must be addressed.


            Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe O.C. 1:93) discusses whether the covering must be over the fire, or over the area where stirring occurs – meaning, the area of the gas knobs.  He writes:


According to this, we could perhaps permit even covering only the fire itself – even without a covering also over the knobs with which one lowers or raises [the fire], for covering only the fire also constitutes a significant indication that he does not intend to "stir" and raise the fire any more, as many are accustomed to doing.  But it is preferable for the metal covering to cover also the knobs so that the indication will be also in the place of stirring, just like the kitum [covering of stoves in Talmudic times], since we should perhaps be concerned that he will [otherwise] not take note of the covering and stir.  And although this is unlikely, nevertheless, since we find that [shehiya] is permitted by making an indication in the area of stirring, it is perhaps allowed specifically in this manner.  But certainly covering only the knobs and not the fire is of no avail, because the main thing is to demonstrate that he intends to lessen [the cooking], which is more apparent through the covering of the fire.  But since then there were two advantageous measures, that one lessens the heat and it was at the place of stirring, it perhaps must be this way.  One should therefore be stringent and cover the knobs, as well.  But since it seems more reasonable that it is considered a significant indication even without covering the knobs, one may be lenient in dire situations, and one should not object to those who have the lenient practice of covering only the fire.


In his view, what matters is the heker one makes on the fire, which expresses his intention to lessen the fire's force, and thereby to forego on any further stirring.  Therefore, one needs to place the blech only over the fire.  Optimally, however, he demands that one cover the knobs, as well, since he may not take note of the covering over the fire and come to stir; after all, in Talmudic times the kitum was done in the place of the fire, which was also where stirring occurred.  Be-di'avad (ex post facto), however, it suffices to cover the fire even without covering the knobs, though Rav Moshe is not prepared to forego on the covering of the fire.


            In light of our discussion over the course of this shiur, it would appear that according to the Ba'al Ha-ma'or and Ran, that the primary concern is that one makes a reminder for himself so that he will not mistakenly stir the coals, covering the knobs alone should suffice, since this is as effective a reminder as any.  If, however, the idea here is that one diverts his attention away from the fire, then we should perhaps demand an action that diminishes from the force of the fire, as the Iggerot Moshe requires.


            According to the Rambam, who speaks of diverting one's attention from the food, there is room to question whether we can make our stoves katum at all.  On the one hand, the objective reality is such that one does not despair from any further enhancement of the food, whereas on the other hand, it perhaps suffices that one resign himself to not enhance the food any further, in which case covering the knobs would suffice.


            It also seems to me that if one makes a point of not merely making some indication on the knobs as a reminder, but rather removing them entirely, or if he covers them in a way that does not allow for turning them, then according to all views this would suffice, as it resembles the case (mentioned in the Gemara) of smearing the stove with plaster.


            As for the practical halakha, it would appear that one should preferably follow the ruling of the Iggerot Moshe, and be-di'avad, it suffices if one either covered the fire or made an indication on the knobs.  And removing the knobs entirely would be acceptable even le-khatechila (at the optimal level).


            One might question whether covering the stove suffices to render it katum, in light of the following comments of the Chazon Ish (37:11):


If one lays a sheet of metal and places the pot inside the sheet, nevertheless, this is not the same as placing an empty pot[8] on the stove to make an interruption [between the pot and the fire], for here it is similar to merely covering the stove with its covering and then placing the pot on the covering, which is considered [the same as being directly] on it.


The Chazon Ish's stance stems from Rashi's comment (Shabbat 37a s.v. gaba) that when one places a pot on the covering that is placed over the hollow space of the stove, he is considered as placing the pot directly on the stove, and this does not have the status of katum.  But I believe that this applies only to a covering that is normally on the stove.  In contemporary gas stoves, however, the metal sheet is not part of the stove and can thus be treated as a covering.  The Iggerot Moshe proposed an additional distinction:


We must therefore claim that since this is often the standard method of cooking, that if the fire is large and one fears that it will burn [the food], for with wood it is difficult to regulate [the level of the fire], and also very often a small fire cannot be lit and one must make a large fire – one places a covering over it and bakes or cooks there, for he can cook even over the thickness of its rim, since the stove itself has [abundant] heat for cooking.  [Cooking] on it is thus no worse, and is [equivalent to cooking] on the fire, and therefore it is not a reminder.  And if so, then in a gas [stove], where there is nobody who cooks with a metal sheet [covering the stove] since he can lower the fire and raise it precisely as he needs, there is no greater reminder than this, and it is [therefore] permissible.


            Everything we mentioned about the need to clear or cover the fire applies in situations where it is forbidden to leave food over an open flame, meaning, when dealing with a food that has not reached the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai, according to all views, or, according to the Rambam and Rif, even with other foods, if continued cooking is beneficial for them (mitztameik ve-yafeh lo).  As mentioned in earlier shiurim, the Rama rules leniently, and this is indeed the common practice among most Ashkenazim.  Even among Sepharadim many follow the lenient position, and although preferably one should endeavor to follow the position of the Shulchan Arukh, who appears to favor the stringent ruling, one should not object to those who are lenient.


            Those who leave food on a "plata" (electric hot plate) before Shabbat may do so even according to the stringent position, because there is no possibility of "stirring," and it is considered garuf ve-katum.


            Those who are accustomed to leaving food before Shabbat in an electric oven and wish to render it katum should remove the knobs or cover them such that the temperature cannot be raised; be-di'avad, it suffices if one placed some indication on the knobs that he should not turn them.  In any event, when one removes the food from the oven, he must ensure to comply with certain conditions, as will be explained.


            Most ovens have a thermostat that regulates its heat.  If the oven is not running at a given moment because of the thermostat, opening the oven at that moment will allow relatively cold air to enter the oven and restart its operation.  One should therefore ensure to open the oven only while it is running, so that at most opening the oven will only prolong the current period of operation, rather than begin a new period of operation.  Alternatively, one can connect a timer to the oven and set it to turn off before he will want to take out the food.


            Some ovens come with a special Shabbat setting, whereby it runs on a fixed temperature, rather than a thermostat, in which case there is no need for concern in this regard.[9]





1.         "le-chatet be-yad."  The term chitut generally refers to the complete extraction of something.  Some Rishonim had a text of the Yerushalmi that read, "tzarikh le-tate ba-yad," which would presumably mean that one must sweep all the coals away with his hand.  However, the Ba'al Ha-ma'or and Milchamot explain the Yerushalmi to mean that one must move all the coals away from the area beneath the pot.

2.         The Ritva explained, "It appears that not actually 'all the coals,' but even if he left there only coals that are fading or embers…"  His comments resemble the basic principle that emerges from the Rambam's explanation.

3.         The Ramban explained similarly, based on the aforementioned comments of the Yerushalmi.

4.         The Ran (in his commentary to the Rif) raised this question against this approach, and for this reason he adopted the Ba'al Ha-ma'or's view.  Some Rishonim in fact permitted shehiya in an oven that has been cleared or covered, because of, among other reasons, this argument that there can be no concern for stirring if the coals are cleared; see Sefer Ha-hashlama.  See also the view of the Ramakh, cited in Kesef Mishneh, Hilkhot Shabbat 3:5.

5.         In an oven, however, given the intense heat, one might stir despite the diversion of his thoughts from the coals, because moving the coals to the sides does not render stirring virtually purposeless.

6.         This explanation of the Rambam's comments resolves the difficulty raised by the Ramakh, as cited by the Kesef Mishneh.

7.         Later we will discuss whether this would suffice to render the stove katum.

8.         This halakha mentioned by the Chazon Ish originates from the Hagahot Mordekhai (3rd chapter of Shabbat) and is codified in the Shulchan Arukh (253:3): "One who arises early in the morning and sees that his food has burned, and fears that it will burn further, may remove [the pot] and place an old, empty pot on the stove and then place the pot containing the food on the empty pot."  The empty pot then renders the stove katum.  We will discuss this halakha in future shiurim.

9.         Some ovens have a Shabbat setting with a thermostat that operates on a low but fluctuating temperature; one should therefore ensure to carefully determine how his oven operates.