Shiur #20: Hachazara ֠Returning Food to the Fire on Shabbat

  • Harav Baruch Gigi
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

The Laws of Shabbat
Yeshivat Har Etzion

Shiur #20: Hachazara – Returning Food to the Fire on Shabbat


By HaRav Baruch Gigi

Translated by David Silverberg



            The term hachazara refers to the situation of a pot that had been on the fire on Shabbat and then removed from the fire, which one now wishes to place on the fire again.[1]  In this shiur we will assess the various conditions under which a pot may be returned to the fire on Shabbat.


            Fundamentally, three conditions are required for allowing hachazara:


1.   It must not involve a violation of the Torah prohibition of bishul;

2.   The food must be returned only to a fire that is garuf or katum (cleared of its coals or covered);

3.   One must ascertain that this qualifies as "returning," and not a new act of cooking.


The first condition is not mentioned explicitly anywhere in the Mishna or Gemara, because it is clear and obvious and requires no explicit mention.[2]  The second condition appears in the first Mishna of the third chapter of Masekhet Shabbat, and the third arises in the Gemara's discussion in Shabbat 38b.  The Gemara earlier (37a) mentions an additional condition, that one may return only to the top of the stove, and not inside the stove; it is unclear whether this condition belongs to the second or third conditions listed above.  We will address this issue later in the shiur; first we will discuss each of the three basic conditions in greater detail.


Avoiding the Torah Violation of Bishul


            One may not return a pot to the fire if doing so will entail a violation of the Torah prohibition of bishul.  Meaning, the food must have reached the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai – according to the view that bishul cannot occur after this point – or fully cooked, according to the position that bishul remains applicable even beyond ma'akhal Ben Derusai.  And when dealing with a liquid, one must ensure that the liquid is still hot, in accordance with the various views on the matter.[3]  The Meiri, at the beginning of the third chapter of Masekhet Shabbat, allows hachazara with a food that had reached the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai.  He writes:


You should not interpret it as referring to [food] that was not cooked even to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai…for in this case, how could Beit Hillel allow even hachazara?  Certainly, therefore, [it refers to food] that had been cooked to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai.


His remarks seem very difficult to understand, in light of the fact that the Meiri himself maintains that the Torah prohibition of bishul applies even to food that has reached ma'akhal Ben Derusai, so long as it is not fully cooked (see his commentary to the Mishna 145b).  He indeed raises this question, and offers the following explanation:


And since it was cooked, we are not concerned about its continued cooking once he covered [the flame], for there is no bishul on a covered [fire] with food that has [already] been cooked; it rather maintains [the food's heat].  And even though we see that it dries, this occurs even with sustaining heat and given the extended period of time, and not as a result of cooking.


His primary claim seems to be that a covered stove does not have the capacity to further the cooking process, and can only maintain the food's heat.  And even though we see with our own eyes that the food dries over the covered stove, this results not from additional cooking, but rather due to the preservation of its heat.  This point requires further analysis, but in any event, according to our understanding of the Meiri, it turns out that covering the stove suffices to avoid the Torah violation of bishul because of the diminished strength of the fire.


            The question arises according to the Rishonim[4] who maintain – or at least consider the possibility – that bishul applies even to fully-cooked foods, how hachazara is ever permitted.  At first glance, according to this position, hachazara would always entail a Torah violation of bishul.  Of course, we could explain their view in the same manner as we explained the Meiri's position.  Alternatively, we might explain that in their view, the Torah prohibition applies only to cooking over fire, whereas soaking cooked food in hot water is allowed, since this does not occur over a fire.[5]  We could then extend this notion further and claim that even if one places the pot on a stove that is garuf or katum, this does not constitute bishul insofar as it deviates from the normal procedure of cooking.  But we cannot suggest this approach to explain the Or Zarua, who writes explicitly that soaking cooked food in hot water on Shabbat is permissible only in a keli sheni, and not in a keli rishon.  Certainly, then, it would be forbidden to place such food over a covered stove.  According to his view, then, we would have to follow the Meiri's approach discussed earlier.


            It would seem that even the Tosefot Yeshanim acknowledge a rabbinic prohibition of hachazara, only in their view, this decree applies only where bishul could possibly occur; but where bishul cannot occur at all, there is no prohibition of hachazara.  According to this view, one avoids the Torah prohibition by covering the fire – either due to the Meiri's reasoning or because of the theory we proposed that fully-cooked food can be subject to bishul only on an open fire, and returning food to a covered fire is permissible if the various conditions of hachazara are met.[6]


            In any event, we must remember that the more widespread view is to permit hachazara only if the food is fully cooked and dry, or, when dealing with liquid food, if the food is still hot at the level of yad soledet bo, according to the Shulchan Arukh, or somewhat hot, according to the Rama's view.


Garuf or Katum


            The Rishonim debate the question of why the stove must be either cleared of its coals (garuf) or covered (katum) to allow hachazara, even according to the view of Chananya, who allows leaving partially-cooked food on a fire before Shabbat even if it is not garuf ve-katum.


            Rashi, commenting on the Mishna (36b), writes that returning cooked food to a stove that is not garuf ve-katum resembles cooking[7].  The Ritva similarly wrote, "Meaning, they [the Sages] were more stringent with regard to returning [food to the fire] because it is like cooking on Shabbat, for there is no concern that one will stir."  Likewise, the Rashba (40b) explained:


And even though they forbade returning [food] to a stove that is not cleared [of its coals] and to place for the first time even if it is cleared or covered, even an item that is hot and fully cooked – there the reason is because it looks like cooking, since this is the usual manner of cooking.


By contrast, the Sefer Ha-yashar of Rabbenu Tam explained that the need for removing or covering the coals stems from the concern that one may stir them.  He then proceeds to explain why Chazal were more stringent regarding hachazara then they were concerning shehiya (Sefer Ha-yashar 237; see also 235):


Hachazara is forbidden because since he needs it [the food] now, he might stir the coals, and since he is returning it [to the fire], it is clear that it has cooled… For shehiya implies that he leaves the pot in the place where it cooks and does not move it from there, and in this case he will certainly not come to stir[8], for it is certainly boiling, given that it had not been removed from the stove.


The Chiddushim Ha-meychasim La-Ran (Shabbat 36b s.v. ibaya) similarly wrote, "There we require [that the stove be] cleared or covered because since he removed it from the fire and it cooled as a result of its removal, there is concern that he might stir when he returns it."


            We might suggest a practical difference between these two approaches in understanding the need for garuf ve-katum for hachazara.  The Yeshu'ot Yaakov wrote that for purposes of hachazara, we do not require that one remove all the coals from the stove; it suffices to simply sweep them to the side.  It would seem that this view accommodates the position that garuf ve-katum serves to overcome the problem of the resemblance to cooking.  According to this position, Chazal forbade placing a pot over the fire on Shabbat as one does when cooking during the week, and thus once a person deviates from standard procedure by moving the coals to the side, he may place the pot on the stove.  But if the issue regarding hachazara is the concern that one may stir the coals, we should apply the standard definition of garuf; and so just as regarding shehiya we maintain that one must remove the coals entirely (in contrast to the lenient ruling of the Ba'al Ha-ma'or), the same should be true regarding hachazara.


            Another issue worth considering is whether to forbid returning food to an open flame in a case of mitztameik ve-ra lo, where ongoing cooking is detrimental to the food's taste.  The Rambam's formulation suggests that in this case, too, we require a stove that is garuf or katum: "Anything that one may leave on the fire [before Shabbat] may not be returned to its place once it is removed on Shabbat, and one may never return [food to a stove on Shabbat], except to a stove that is cleared or covered" (Hilkhot Shabbat 3:10).  At first glance, if the concern regarding hachazara is that one might stir the coals, then we should permit returning food to an open flame in cases of mitztameik ve-ra lo.  If, however, we require garuf ve-katum to avoid giving the appearance of cooking, then we would not distinguish between mitztameik ve-ra lo and other cases, and hachazara to an open fire will be forbidden in all instances.  In truth, however, even those who explain the concern of hachazara in terms of the possibility of stirring the coals might extend the prohibition to cases of mitztameik ve-ra lo, because the fear of stirring in cases of hachazara differs from the parallel concern in situations of shehiya.  Here, the issue is the individual's desire not to cook the food, but rather to simply reheat it after it had cooled as a result of its removal from the fire.


            The Shulchan Arukh rules that returning food to an open fire is forbidden under all circumstances.  The Iglei Tal (Ofeh, 24) comments, "Some say that a food for which ongoing cooking is detrimental, and is [still] boiling, may be returned even to a stove that is not cleared or covered."  He explains (ibid. 25) that this is the implication of the Tosefot Yeshanim (Shabbat 37b), and that the issue hinges on the debate between the Chakhamim and Chananya.  Since we follow Chananya's position, he writes, we should allow hachazara to an open fire in cases of mitztameik ve-ra lo.[9]  Most authorities, however, ruled that hachazara is forbidden under all circumstances unless the stove if garuf ve-katum.


On Top and Inside the Stove


            The Gemara states (37a): "Beit Hillel say: One may even return [food to the stove].  And Rabbi Chelbo said in the name of Rav Chama Bar Gurya in the name of Rav: This applies only to the top of the stove, but inside it – [returning food] is forbidden."  Chazal allowed returning food onto the stove, but not inside it (meaning, the area where the fire burns).  We find three general approaches among the Rishonim in explaining this restriction:


1) The Ramban writes, "In the Gemara they found it reasonable that inside it [the stove] would be more stringent with regard to returning [food], because its heat is considerable and it gives the appearance of cooking on Shabbat, even if it is garuf ve-katum."  The immense heat inside the stove creates a situation where placing food there would give the appearance of cooking.


The Yerushalmi comments (3:1):


This applies only on it [a stove], but not inside it.  Until where [may one place the food]?  Ula said, until three [handbreadths].  Rabbi Mana said, until the point where he makes a furrow.  Rabbi Yossi said in the house of Rabbi Bon: because he can withstand [the heat] – at a place where the hand can withstand [the heat].  This follows the view of Mar Rabbi Ze'ira in the name of Rabbi Yehuda: "One may warm [food] in a place where the hand can withstand [the heat], but one may not warm [food] in a place where the hand cannot withstand [the heat]."


The Ramban explains this passage in accordance with his position:


Meaning, Ula held that [the area] until three handbreadths deep into the stove is considered "on it" [as opposed to "inside it"] and is permissible, whereas Rabbi Mana allowed until the point of the furrow that one makes in the stove.  Rabbi Yossi explained Rav's reason to be that one may not place his pot on Shabbat at a place where one's hand cannot withstand the intense heat.


The Ritva explained similarly:


"Inside it" means near the holes which the fire is underneath.  And in the Yerushalmi they explained "inside it" to mean within three handbreadths of the fire… For regarding returning [food], without the reason of [the possibility that one might] stir, there is the reason that it resembles cooking, and therefore, we should forbid [returning food] inside it even though one cleared or covered [the stove].  But regarding shehiya, the concern is only that one may stir the coals, and once he cleared or covered [the stove], this concern does not exist.


2) The Meiri writes:


We have already explained in the Mishna that they allowed returning [food] only on top of the stove, but not inside it, even if it is covered, because he is [thus] invariably concealing it in embers and will turn out to be stirring.  And even if it is cleared [of its coals], we have already explained that it is impossible for a cleared stove to have no coals [at all].


Meaning, if one returns the food inside the stove, such that it comes in direct contact with the coals[10], he will end up stirring the coals as he places the pot on them.  The Meiri then asks:


Why is returning [food] forbidden [inside the stove]?  The stirring constitutes a davar she-eino mitkavein [unintentional result of an otherwise permissible action].  They went so far as to explain that this constitutes a pesik reishei [the unintentional result is inevitable, and this is therefore forbidden], but if you look in Masekhet Keritut you will find that this notion is contradicted…and it is not included under the law of pesik reishei.  Why, then, did they forbid [this]?


He answers in the name of the "scholars of the generations" (and this answer appears as well in the Sefer Ha-hashlama), "Perhaps as he places it he will intend to stir."  According to this view, then, Chazal forbade returning food inside the stove because of the direct contact with the coals, which results in the stirring of the coals, in violation of the prohibition of mav'ir (kindling).


3) The Meiri mentions another approach, as well:


But there is no need for this, because in any event he moves coals as he places [the pot], as opposed to when he removes it, as we have written.  And this does not constitute tiltul min ha-tzad [indirect handling] because contact through another object is [the same as actual] contact, because even during the week this is what is done.


According to this approach, the prohibition stems from the movement of the coals, which are muktzeh.  But stirring the coals does not pose a problem, insofar as it occurs unintentionally.


            These last two approaches share the assumption that the prohibition against placing the pot inside the stove relates specifically to the direct contact with the coals.  According to the first of the three approaches, by contrast, the prohibition would apply regardless of whether the pot directly touches the coals, because placing the pot inside the stove resembles cooking.


            From Rashi's comments to this sugya it appears that he understood this prohibition as referring to shehiya and not to hachazara, at least according to the view that the Mishna speaks of returning food on Shabbat, as Rashi himself concludes.  The Ramban challenges Rashi's interpretation; in any event, according to the final Halakha it is clearly forbidden to return cooked food inside the stove.


            The Beit Yosef (253) expresses his ambivalence in defining "on top of the stove":


The straightforward reading suggests that when the bottom of the pot is placed on the walls of the stove and fills the cavity, this is considered "on top of it," and when the entire pot is inside the cavity of the stove and sits on the bottom of the stove, it is considered "inside it."  This is indeed what Rashi writes at the beginning of our chapter.  But from the comments of our rabbi [the Tur], who wrote, "But only on top of it, such as on its edge or over the cover that is over its cavity," it appears that he does not explain this way.  Rather, [he understood] "on top of it" to mean that the bottom of the pot stands on the wall of the stove, and not [directly] over the cavity, or that one places a covering over the stove and has the pot sit on that covering.  But whenever the bottom of the pot fills the cavity of the stove, this is called "inside it."


In the Shulchan Arukh (253:2), he writes simply that one may not return the pot "inside it," without explaining this term any further.  The Magen Avraham and Mishna Berura there explain:


Even if he suspended the pot in the airspace of the stove, and some of its walls protrude from up top, like a pot which is narrow on bottom and wide on the top, this is also included in "on top"; it is considered "inside it" only if the pot sits on the bottom of the stove.


The Shiltei Ha-giborim writes citing the Riaz:


It appears to me that they forbade returning [food] inside it [a stove] only in the case of a stove that has an interior and a cavity, similar to an oven.  But our stoves, which are flat and have no interior or cavity – "inside" and "on top" are one and the same, and one may return [food] to it.


The Riaz clearly understood that the prohibition has nothing at all to do with the stirring or handling of the coals, for if this were the case, his ruling cannot be sustained.  He understood that the prohibition against returning a pot inside a stove has to do with the intense heat inside the oven, as a result of which placing the pot there resembles actual cooking.  He therefore established that Chazal sought not to forbid hachazara, but rather that one deviate from normal procedure when possible.  Therefore, when there is no other option, returning a pot to the stove is entirely permissible.  Following this view, the Arukh Ha-shulchan (253:17) writes, "In our ovens…there is no 'top' and one always has [the pot] stand inside them; there is no distinction in this regard, and 'inside it' is the same as 'on top of it'."[11]


            The Riaz spoke of stoves that have no interior, whereas the Arukh Ha-shulchan discusses ovens that have an interior but no exterior, and he allows hachazara even in such ovens.  His view is rooted in the point discussed earlier, that the distinction between the top and inside of the stove applies only when both possibilities exist; where only one of these is relevant, hachazara is permissible.  It seems, however, that other Acharonim ruled more stringently on this matter (see Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata), as they forbade returning cooked food to modern-day baking ovens due to the Gemara's prohibition against returning food inside a stove, even though our ovens have no exterior.  One should preferably refrain from using modern ovens for hachazara, though those who are lenient in this regard have a basis for their practice, especially in light of the fact that the Rambam makes no explicit mention of this halakha.[12]


Continuing the Initial Shehiya, Rather Than Beginning a New Shehiya


            The Gemara states (Shabbat 38b):


Rabbi Zerika said in the name of Rabbi Abba, in the name of Rabbi Tadai: This applies only so long as they [the foods removed from the fire] are still in his hand; but if he placed them on the ground – it is forbidden [to return them to the fire].  Rav Ami said: Rabbi Tadai did this only for his own reasons; but this is what Rabbi Chiya said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: even if he placed it on the ground – it is permissible [to return it to the fire].  Rav Dimi and Rav Shemuel Bar Yehuda argue on this point, and both state [their opinion] in the name of Rabbi Elazar.  One says: if they are still in his hand, it is permissible; on the ground – it is forbidden.  And the other says: if he placed them on the ground – it is also permissible.  Chizkiya said in the name of Abayei: That which you said "If they are still in his hand, it is permissible" – this applies only if he had in mind to return [the food to the fire], but if he did not have in mind to return, it is forbidden [to return the food].  This implies that [if he placed it] on the ground, then even if he had in mind to return, it is forbidden.  Others say that Chizkiya said in the name of Abayei: That which you said "On the ground, it is forbidden" – this applies only if he did not have in mind to return [the food to the fire], but if he had in mind to return, it is permissible.  This implies that if they are still in his hand, then even if he did not have in mind to return, it is permissible.


The underlying premise of this entire discussion is the demand that the action be seen as a continuation of the initial shehiya (meaning, its initial period spent on the fire).  The Amora'im debate only the question of how this continuity is practically expressed – through intent to return the pot to the fire, by ensuring not to put it down on the ground, or by a combination of these two requirements.


            The Rishonim disagree in deciding upon which position to follow.  The Geonim followed the stringent position, requiring both conditions to create continuity between the pot's original shehiya and its current shehiya.  The Rif adopts this ruling:


Rabbi Tadai said: This applies only so long as they [the foods removed from the fire] are still in his hand; but if he placed them on the ground – it is forbidden [to return them to the fire].  Rabbi Chizkiya said in the name of Abayei: That which we said "If they are still in his hand, it is permissible" – this applies only if he had in mind to return [the food to the fire], but if he did not have in mind to return, it is forbidden [to return the food].  This implies that [if he placed it] on the ground, then even if he had in mind to return, it is forbidden.


The Rosh added (4:2), "Rabbenu Chananel explained that due to the stringent nature of Shabbat, we consider this equivalent to Torah law and follow the stringent position."

            The Rashba commented:


Rabbenu Hai Gaon ruled stringently, in accordance with the first version [recorded in the Gemara], and this is what he wrote: "And that which you said that if they are still in his hand it is permissible to return [them to the fire], only if he had in mind to return is it permissible, but if he did not have in mind to return [them], he has taken his mind off them.  And if he placed them on the ground, even if he had in mind to return [them] it is forbidden.  Since there are two versions [of this halakha in the Gemara], with regard to a Torah law we act stringently…"  They do not refer to an actual Torah law[13], for these are only rabbinic, for the Mishna refers to [food] that had reached the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai, since otherwise, even if he had in mind to return [the foods to the fire] and even if it is still in his hand, it is forbidden to return them, because this is cooking.  Undoubtedly, then, it speaks of when it has been cooked and there is only a rabbinic prohibition.  But the view of the Geonim z"l is that since they [the Sages] forbade this because it gives the appearance of cooking, and it will likely bring one to a Torah violation, it is similar to a Torah law, and they therefore treated it stringently as a Torah law.


Other Rishonim, however, ruled leniently, allowing even one of the conditions mentioned in the Gemara.  Tosefot write (Shabbat 48a s.v. de-zeitim), "Perhaps we [should] hold like this version…whereby Chizkiya allows in the name of Abayei if he placed it on the ground, so long as he had in mind to return [it to the fire]."  The Rosh (4:2) writes this, as well, to justify the practice to act leniently in this regard.[14]


            In the next shiur, we will deal with the Rambam's position on this issue, the final halakhic ruling, and the other issues that arise concerning hachazara.




[1] Later, we will see that this definition is not entirely precise.

[2] Many Rishonim indeed make this point explicitly; see the comments of the Meiri and others cited later.

[3] We discussed the details relevant to this topic in our shiurim regarding the limitations on the bishul prohibition for solid and liquid foods.

[4] In our shiur on the topic of bishul achar bishul with dry foods, we cited the comments of the Tosefot Yeshanim (Shabbat 37b) and Or Zarua (62).  It emerges clearly from the Or Zarua that he views this as a Torah violation, whereas the Tosefot Yeshanim are less explicit, and they perhaps refer only to a rabbinic enactment.  But this seems to me a bit far-fetched, and it appears more likely that they, too, view this as a Torah prohibition.  The Iglei Tal (Ofeh, 48:7-9) explained the Tosefot Yeshanim as referring to a rabbinic prohibition, and claimed that for this reason they allowed soaking cooked food in a keli rishon: since it is not over the fire, this is not the standard manner cooking, and Chazal therefore imposed no prohibition in this regard.  Later (53), the Iglei Tal understood the Tosefot Yeshanim as forbidding cooking previously-cooked food only if continued cooking is beneficial (mitztameik ve-yafeh lo).  If additional cooking would be detrimental (mitztameik ve-ra lo), then one may return the food even to an open fire.  As stated, however, the straightforward reading of the Tosefot Yeshanim suggests that they refer to a Torah prohibition, and the Or Zarua certainly saw this as potentially a Torah violation.

[5] The underlying logic of such a theory relates to the notion that since the food has been fully cooked, the prohibition of bishul at the moment pertains not to the transformation of the food's taste, but rather to the occurrence of the cooking process over the fire.  We proposed a similar idea to explain the view of the Rambam and Kolbo regarding stirring.  Possibly, therefore, if this takes place over a covered fire or in a keli rishon, which differs from the normal procedure of cooking, it would not constitute bishul.  This would require further study and analysis.

[6] The work Noam Ha-Shabbat (10) explained this entire issue differently; I wrote here why I believe to be correct.

[7] It is possible that Rashi made this comment only within the position of Beit Shammai, but not according to Beit Hillel.

[8] The Rishonim disagree correspondingly in interpreting the Gemara's question later (38b) concerning a case of hot water that was transferred from one kettle to another.  The Rishonim debate whether the issue involves the concern that one might stir, or the appearance of cooking.  We will address this question in a later shiur.

[9] See our earlier discussion of the Tosefot Yeshanim.

[10] Bear in mind that direct contact with coals is deemed outright hatmana and is, according to many views, forbidden.  The Meiri here maintains that this does not constitute hatmana, and he therefore addresses only the problem of the stirring that results from the contact with the coals.  We will deal with the details of this issue at length when we discuss hatmana.

[11] He claims that this is what the Shiltei Ha-giborim had in mind.

[12] Although the Beit Yosef reasonably claims that the Rambam relied on his comment that "one may never return [food to a stove on Shabbat], except to a stove that is cleared or covered," see Arukh Ha-shulchan (253:16), who explains differently.

[13] This seems somewhat difficult, because the term de-orayta used by Rav Hai Gaon indeed suggests that he refers to a Torah prohibition.

[14] He himself, however, appears to follow the stringent ruling of Rabbenu Chananel and the Rif.