Shiur #24: Hatmana ֠Part 2

  • Harav Baruch Gigi
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

The Laws of Shabbat
Yeshivat Har Etzion

Shiur #24: Hatmana – Part 2

By HaRav Baruch Gigi

Translated by David Silverberg



            In our last shiur, we discussed the reason behind the prohibition of hatmana (covering food on Shabbat with materials such as cloths to retain its heat), and its scope.  This shiur will address the precise definition of hatmana and the laws pertaining to different situations relevant to this topic.


Partial Hatmana


            Rabbenu Chananel writes in the beginning of the third chapter of Masekhet Shabbat (37a):


Leaving [food on the fire before Shabbat] in this manner is not hatmana; it is rather a situation such as an iron seat upon which the pot sits, as it is suspended [over the coals] with stones or the like.  But hatmana [directly] over coals is forbidden according to all views, for we maintain that hatmana with something that increases [the food's temperature] is forbidden, even if [one covers the food] while it is still daytime [before the onset of Shabbat].[1]


According to Rabbenu Chananel, even placing a pot on coals – such that the coals touch the bottom of the pot – constitutes hatmana.  In his view, even partial hatmana – whereby the pot is not entirely concealed – is included in the hatmana prohibition.  The Rashba writes (47b s.v. kupa):


After all, so long as the bottom surface of the pot is connected to something that increases its heat, this is hatmana, as we wrote in the beginning of the chapter Kira in the name of our Rabbi [the Ramban], Rabbenu Chananel and the Geonim z"l, that partial hatmana constitutes hatmana, and the issue does not depend upon the concealment of the entire pot.


This position, which the Rashba assumed as self-evident, does not appear to have been so obvious to the Ramban.  Let us first present the background to the Ramban's discussion of this issue.  The Gemara, in the beginning of the fourth chapter of Masekhet Shabbat, cites the following comment of Rabbi Zeira: "A box [kupa] in which one concealed [food] may not be placed upon olive peat."  The Rishonim disagree in explaining the precise case to which the Gemara refers.[2]  The Ramban, in discussing this question, writes:


That which is said, "A box in which one concealed [food] may not be placed upon olive peat" refers to where it [the box] does not have a bottom, or where the box is turned on its opening so that the pot is concealed inside it, and it is placed on the peat such that the pot actually touches it [the olive peat].  Therefore, the heat coming from a single direction is like hatmana, since it is connected to the box in which the hatmana is done, for it is all a concealed pot, and its one side is concealed within something that increases [heat], and it generates heat for all of it inside the box… It is possible that even if it has a bottom, then since it [the box's bottom] actually touches the peat it is called hatmana.  For if one covered [the food] with something that does not increase [heat] and covered all of that with something that does increase [heat], this, too, is forbidden.  And [hatmana] from one side is forbidden, provided that it is done with something that increases heat.  But leaving [food on a stove, which is permissible] – this is on a seat of iron, as Rabbenu Chananel z"l explained, such that it does not touch the coals at all.


The Ramban here suggests two interpretations of the Gemara.  According to the first reading, the pot is surrounded on all sides by material that does not increase the pot's heat, and its bottom directly touches material that does increase its heat.  We consider this arrangement hatmana in a davar ha-mosif hevel (something that increases the food's heat).  According to the second interpretation, the bottom material suffices independently to render this arrangement hatmana, as the Ramban writes, "and [hatmana] from one side is forbidden, provided that it is done with something that increases heat."


            We may suggest two approaches in identifying the precise point of disagreement between these two views:


A.  The Ramban here questions whether or not to adopt the Geonim's position regarding partial hatmana.  His first reading follows the view that partial hatmana does not constitute hatmana, whereas his second interpretation maintains that it is, indeed, hatmana.

B.   Perhaps the Ramban assumes that partial hatmana indeed constitutes hatmana, as the Geonim hold, and therefore if the bottom of the pot directly touches the coals, we consider this arrangement hatmana.  In the case addressed by the Ramban, however, the pot is placed not on coals, but on olive peat.  The Ramban may have considered the possibility that when dealing with materials other than coals, we require that the pot be completely covered on all sides.  His question is thus whether this is indeed the case, or whether partial hatmana always constitutes hatmana, regardless of whether it involves coal or peat.


In any event, the Ramban certainly did not assume as self-evident the premise that partial hatmana constitutes hatmana, at least when dealing with peat, if not even in cases involving coal.  It seems more likely that his uncertainty applies only with regard to hatmana with olive peat, given that all the Sephardic Rishonim cite the Geonim as forbidding partial hatmana with coals.  The reason, perhaps, is that Chazal treated coals more stringently due to their particularly intense heat, and forbade even partial hatmana, whereas regarding other materials it is unclear whether the Sages prohibited even partial hatmana.


            By contrast, the Or Zarua disagrees with this entire approach, and maintains that mere contact with coals does not suffice to qualify as hatmana, as hatmana requires embedding the pot within the coals.  He writes as follows (Hilkhot Erev Shabbat, 8):


"Leaving [food on the fire before Shabbat] in this manner is not hatmana; it is rather a situation such as an iron seat upon which the pot sits, as it is suspended with stones or the like.  But hatmana over coals is forbidden according to all views, for we maintain that hatmana with something that increases [the food's temperature] is forbidden, even if [one covers the food] while it is still daytime [before the onset of Shabbat]."  This is the interpretation of Rabbenu Chananel z"l.  His formulation implies that leaving [a pot of food] on the actual coals is forbidden.  But from the formulation of Rashi, who explained, "And we, who leave [food before Shabbat] on a stove that is not cleared [of its coals]…," it appears that one may leave [a pot of food] even [directly] on the coals.  And his view seems more reasonable, for the Mishna states, "One may not roast [on Erev Shabbat] meat, onions or eggs unless they can be roasted while it is still daytime."  And Rav Elai in the name of Rav explains this to mean that they can be roasted [before the onset of Shabbat] to the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai – meaning, in accordance with Chananya's view.  And Rav Ashi explained it as referring to [roasting] meat over coals.  This demonstrates that Chananya, whose view is followed by Halakha, holds that anything at the point of ma'akhal Ben Derusai [when Shabbat begins] may be left directly on the coals… Certainly, however, when it comes to concealing it within the coals for the next day, it stands to reason that this is forbidden, as Rabbenu Chananel explained, for we maintain that one may not cover [a pot of food] with something that increases heat, as a safeguard lest one cover with embers and then stir [them].  The Riva zt"l and Rabbenu Tam zt"l likewise forbade concealing [a pot] in coals; we find this as well in Rabbenu Tam's Sefer Ha-yashar, siman 235.


            As for the final halakha, the Shulchan Arukh (253:1) rules in accordance with the view of Rabbenu Chananel and the Sephardic Rishonim, forbidding hatmana even if only the bottom of the pot touches the coals.  The Rama, however, comments:


But some say that even if the pot stands directly on the fire, so long as it is exposed on top, it is not considered hatmana, and is permissible.  This is indeed the practice, only people make a point of detaching it somewhat from the fire before Shabbat so that a Jew can remove it from there.  If one did not detach it from the fire, and it turned out to be on the fire on Shabbat, it should be removed only through a gentile.


Two practical issues arise in this regard – one concerning the Shulchan Arukh's position, the other relevant to the Rama's view.


According to the Shulchan Arukh, the question arises as to whether simply placing a pot of food on any davar ha-mosif hevel constitutes hatmana, or if it must be partially covered, or at least the material can be said to cover part of the pot.  From the comments of the Beit Meir (253), it appears that hatmana requires that the coals surround the pot to some extent.  This is, in my opinion, a logical assumption, for we deal here with hatmana, which essentially means "covering," and this halakha is simply extended to include even partial covering.  It thus stands to reason that we require a partial covering, something in which the pot is partially embedded, for a situation to qualify as hatmana.  This assumption will have ramifications concerning the well-known ruling of Rav Mordechai Eliyahu shlit"a that Sepharadim should not place a pot on a plata (electric hotplate) before Shabbat, because the plata increases the heat of the pot and therefore leaving a pot on a plata constitutes hatmana according to the Shulchan Arukh.  In my opinion, however, this does not involve hatmana, for two reasons:


A.  The surface of the plata should not be seen as coals, but rather as something resembling the "iron seat" suspended over the stove, on which the Geonim allowed leaving a pot of food before Shabbat.  They forbade placing it only directly on the coals.  Here, the coals are the hot electric coils inside the plata, not the actual surface of the plata.

B.   Even if we do not accept this premise, that the surface of the plata does not have the status of coals, nevertheless, we cannot consider the pot even partially covered by the plata.  It merely sits on the surface, and the plata does not cover it at all; this is therefore ordinary shehiya, and not hatmana.


I then discovered that the Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata (chapter 1, end of note 195) cites a certain scholar who permits leaving a pot on a gas flame before Shabbat, even according to the view of the Shulchan Arukh, since one cannot speak of hatmana when dealing with a flame.  The Shulchan Arukh ruled stringently only with regard to coals, which can be said to partially cover a pot; this corresponds with our understanding of the Shulchan Arukh's position, as discussed.  And even the Chazon Ish (37:19), who ruled stringently with regard to partial hatmana, wrote that leaving a pot on a plata or blech covering the fire does not qualify as hatmana.  He explained that the stringent ruling applies only to coals, which were commonly used for covering pots and therefore had the status of hatmana even if they are only on the bottom of a pot.  But hatmana cannot apply to a plata or blech, which are always used as simply a hot "floor" and never to envelop the pot.


            The Rama's position, which restricts the prohibition of hatmana to cases where the pot is entirely enveloped, requires clarification.  How much exposure do we require to avoid the prohibition of hatmana?  How precisely do we distinguish between a "complete" covering and a "partial" covering?


            Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l was indeed asked this very question: does one avoid the prohibition of hatmana by ensuring to leave just a minuscule portion of the pot uncovered?  He answered (Iggerot Moshe, vol. 4, 74:4):


It is considered hatmana when it [the pot] is covered on top and from the sides.  But it stands to reason that if there is no food near the exposed part of the pot – if this place is only a small part that was not covered, it is indeed considered "concealed."  And this is the case of the duct made by the people of Tiberias (Shabbat 38b), where all the area of the water was concealed within the hot springs of Tiberias.


According to Rav Moshe, we consider a covering over a pot hatmana if it covers all areas opposite the areas in the pot where there is food.  If the areas in the pot where there is no food are exposed, we nevertheless consider the covering hatmana.  By contrast, Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata (chapter 1, note 195) cites Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l as holding that if part of the pot's height is exposed along the majority of its perimeter, we do not consider this encasement hatmana, so long as the exposed portion is easily discernible, and not confined to one, small area.  Since it is not entirely covered, the heat can escape and this therefore does not amount to hatmana.


            It should be noted that the Rashba held that partial hatmana constitutes hatmana even when dealing with a material that does not increase the pot's temperature.  His main proof to his position, that partial hatmana constitutes hatmana, is drawn from a source that addresses a situation of hatmana with a material that does not increase the pot's heat.  He writes:


Partial hatmana constitutes hatmana, and the matter does not depend upon the covering of the entire pot.  The proof is from that which the Mishna (Shabbat 49a) states, "How does one do it [remove a pot that had been concealed in materials that are muktzeh]?  He removes the covering and they [the materials] fall off."  We see that the pot's cover was exposed, and nevertheless they allowed [hatmana] only with something that does not increase [heat], whereas with something that does increase heat, it is forbidden.  And if you claim that this applies specifically when it is entirely covered except for its opening, then the rule would vary according to circumstances [rather than being uniform, and therefore this cannot be the case].


The Rashba attempts to draw proof from the case of materials that do not increase heat, with which one may cover a pot before Shabbat, and with regard to which Chazal deem even a partial covering hatmana.  This is also the implication of the Beit Meir (253).  The Rishonim, however, refuted the Rashba's proof.  The Ran writes:


This proof that he brought is certainly no proof at all, for the Mishna may be explained as referring to a case such as where the pot is completely covered, together with its covering, but on the covering there is a handle, just as people make nowadays, and that handle is not covered, and one takes hold of the handle, removes the cover, and they [the materials used for encasing the pot] fall off.


This indeed appears to be the majority view among the authorities, that hatmana with materials that do not increase the pot's heat is forbidden only if the pot is concealed in its entirety.


Covering a Pot with Cloths on the Plata or Stove


            The Gemara comments towards the beginning of the fourth chapter of Masekhet Shabbat (47b), "For Rabbi Zeira said in the name of somebody in the academy of Rabbi Yanai: "A box [kupa] in which one concealed [food] may not be placed upon olive peat."  We find among the Rishonim two basic approaches taken in explaining this ruling.  The Sephardic Rishonim discussed this sugya and in light of their conclusions they established the principles of when Halakha permits and forbids hatmana.  The Tosafists, by contrast, used as their point of departure the established practices in their communities, and attempted to explain the sugya in a manner that would reconcile it with these practices.


            We will begin with the various approaches taken by the Sephardic Rishonim in explaining this sugya.


1) The Ramban


            As we cited earlier, the Ramban presents two possible explanations.  According to the first reading, the Gemara refers to a pot in a box that has no bottom, such that the bottom of the pot directly touches the peat.  We thus deal with a pot surrounded on all sides with something that does not increase its heat, placed on top of material that does increase heat, which renders this arrangement a situation of hatmana that increases the pot's heat, and is therefore forbidden.  Accordingly, if the bottom of the pot does not touch the peat, then this situation will be seen as involving both hatmana that does not increase the pot's heat, and shehiya – a pot placed on something that does increase heat.  Each of these two components is independently permissible, and thus the combination of the two is likewise permissible.


            According to the Ramban's second approach, partial hatmana constitutes hatmana, and therefore even if the pot is entirely enclosed by a box and placed directly on the peat, we consider this a case of hatmana with material that increases heat.  It would thus be forbidden to place a pot on something that increases its heat even if it is entirely enclosed – including on the bottom – in something that does not increase its heat.  This is permissible only if one leaves some space between the bottom of the pot and the fire or plata.  If one leaves some space, then we can view the pot's encasement separately from its placement over the plata or fire.  The encasement is permissible because it does not increase the pot's heat, and the placement over the plata or fire is permissible as a valid form of shehiya; therefore, this arrangement is permissible.


2) The Rashba


            In presenting his primary approach, the Rashba makes the following claim:


Rather, it would appear that when they forbid here only if one encased [the pot] in a box, this applies even if the bottom of the pot and the box do not directly touch the surface of the peat, and are rather suspended over it, because it produces heat and boils what is over it to some extent.  And whenever he encloses [the pot], he demonstrates his intent that he specifically wants the heat to be retained, and thus he might come to stir.  But so long as he does not place it right above it, and he likewise does not make a point of enclosing it, he has already demonstrated his intent that he has despaired from it and does not care if his food is not warm, and he will therefore not come to stir.


According to the Rashba, one may not place a pot enclosed in something that does not increase heat on top of something that does increase heat, even if he leaves a space between the pot and the davar ha-mosif hevel.  The Rashba explains that since the individual has made a point of encasing the pot, he has demonstrated his desire that the food's high temperature be retained, and we must therefore be concerned that he may come to stir the coals.  The Shulchan Arukh, however, appears to have given a different reason for this ruling.  According to his explanation, the heat underneath the pot (generated by the peat) forces us to view this as a situation of hatmana with a davar ha-mosif hevel, which is forbidden.  The Shulchan Arukh writes (257:8):


Even though it is permissible to leave a pot [before Shabbat] on a stove with coals in the manner explained in siman 253, if it is covered with garments, then even though the garments do not increase its heat independently, nevertheless, due to the fire underneath them this does increase [the pot's] heat, and this is forbidden.


3) Tosefot


Tosefot, as mentioned, took an entirely different approach, addressing the common practice in their communities and attempting to reconcile it with the sugya.  Tosefot write (48a s.v. de-zeitim):


From here [it seems] that we should forbid placing coals underneath a pot; even if one places ashes over them, he should not embed a pot on them, for the coals generate heat upwards, just like olive peat.  We must therefore ask, how do we embed [pots of food] on our stoves, the ones that are called astra?  Even if it is cleared [of its coals], it increases [the pot's] heat just like olive peat!  The Ri said that we might give a reason to justify the practice, that regarding peat we are concerned that one might cover it [the pot] in it [the peat] entirely, whereas in our stoves there is no room for such a concern.  Additionally, some people make a large trench and make in it a brick structure around on all sides, and they heat it very well, clear it [of coals] and conceal the pot within it.  This does not resemble concealing food in something that increases its heat, because they [Chazal] forbade only when one conceals it and attaches [the material] around the pot, similar to [the case of hatmana with] embers.  But in an oven or trench, in which there is space between the walls and the pot, we need not forbid more than for normal shehiya, even though the entire pot is inside the oven.  And Rabbenu Baruch explained that we may distinguish between the increase in heat caused by peat and the increase in heat caused by our stoves, because the stoves' heat results only from the fire, which always gets cooler, whereas the peat increases heat by itself.


Tosefot here raise three possible approaches to resolve their communities' practice:


1.   The prohibition mentioned in the sugya, against covering a pot with something that does not increase heat and then placing it on something that does increase heat, is not an intrinsic prohibition, but rather stems from the concern that one might come to conceal it entirely in a davar ha-mosif hevel.  Therefore, this prohibition does not apply in situations where there is no such concern.

2.   Hatmana is forbidden only when the material is attached to the walls of the pot without any space in between the material and the walls of the pot.  It should be emphasized that many other authorities agree to this principle, as well, as we discussed in the first section, but the Sephardic Rishonim ruled stringently with regard to partial hatmana with a davar ha-mosif hevel.

3.   We consider hatmana to increase the heat of the pot only when the material increases the heat independently, but not when the material increases heat due to its having been previously heated, but now it becomes progressively cooler.


The Rosh (4:2) adds yet another basis for justifying this practice:


We might give a reason for their practice – for that case [spoken of in the Gemara] is unique in that the pot was placed in the box for the purpose of hatmana and it is also suitable for being concealed within the peat.  Therefore, we must be concerned that one might say, "What difference does it make whether I place peat underneath the pot or if I conceal it [the pot] within it [the peat]?"  But in a place where the pot had been cooked all day, the initial placement of the pot there was not for the purpose of hatmana, nor is it suitable to be concealed beneath the ground; therefore, there is no room for concern.


According to the Rosh, we have here a pot covered with something that does not increase heat, placed on something that does increase heat, and the essential question is which we perceive as the critical component.  If the covering is the primary measure taken, then placing the pot on a davar ha-mosif hevel transforms the hatmana into a case of davar ha-mosif, and it is therefore forbidden.  But if we see the shehiya as the primary component, with the hatmana intended merely to maintain the heat more effectively, then we can view this arrangement as a case of permissible shehiya involving a pot covered with a material that does not increase its heat, and there is no reason to forbid such an arrangement.[3]


            As for the final halakha, the Shulchan Arukh follows the stringent view of the Rashba and Rabbenu Yona, forbidding covering a pot with a material that does not increase the heat and placing it on something that does increase the heat – even if he leaves some space between the bottom of the pot and the davar ha-mosif.  The Shulchan Arukh then presents the following suggestion, based on the Ran:


If one placed on the pot a wide utensil that does not touch the sides of the pot, and he placed garments on that wide utensil – this is permissible, for since the garments are placed only on that wide utensil, which does not touch the sides of the pot, this does not entail hatmana.


It therefore seems to me that if one places pots on a plata and covers them with towels and the like, then if there are several pots and one covers all of them, such that there is no tight covering around any single pot, this is permissible.  And if there is but a single pot, then one must ensure not to cover it completely, as discussed earlier.  Rav Ovadya Yosef, however, allowed relying on the Ramban's position in such a case, claiming that since there is space separating between the heating element inside the plata and the pot, one may cover the pot with towels, as we may view the shehiya and the hatmana separately.  Preferably one should follow our conclusion above, but when the need arises one may rely on the Ramban's view.  The Mishna Berura writes:


Now all this applies when there is fire on the stove.  But if there is no fire on the stove at all, then according to some views it is not forbidden to place the pot upon it and cover it with garments.  Even if the heat of the stove under it is very intense and increases the heat [of the pot], it is nevertheless permissible, for they forbade only [placing such a pot] on peat and the like, because it is suitable for having [a pot] concealed within it, and they therefore issued a decree out of concern that one might cover it with embers.  But here, it is not suitable to be concealed within the floor of the stove, and there is therefore no reason for any concern.  For another reason, too, one might claim that this does not resemble peat: peat increases heat independently, whereas a stove's heat is only because of the fire, and it consistently continues to cool.  But some side with the stringent view in this regard, unless one places a utensil or wide plank over the top of the pot and then covers it with garments, as the Shulchan Arukh wrote.  Nevertheless, one should not object to those who are lenient.  You should know that according to this, the practice of leaving coffee or food while still daytime on Erev Shabbat on top of the oven and covering them with garments – even though they do no act properly according to the authorities who rule stringently, given that the oven's heat increases the heat [of the coffee or food], unless one places some wide plank over the pot – nevertheless, one should not object to what they do, for they have on what to rely, as discussed.


Thus, one should not object to those who have the practice of acting leniently in this regard, so long as there is no concern that one might cover the pot with a davar ha-mosif; accordingly, we would permit covering a pot with garments on an electric plata.  The second reason he mentioned, however, that the heat of the stove progressively decreases, does not apply to an electric plata, and therefore according to this reason it would be forbidden to cover a pot with garments on a plata.[4]




1.         Many of the Rishonim on this sugya, particularly the Ba'al Ha-ma'or and the Sephardic Rishonim, cite these comments of Rabbenu Chananel.

2.         In the next section we will deal with this issue directly.

3.         The Rosh here introduces an additional reason for permitting the practice, which corresponds with the first reason mentioned by Tosefot.  The precise relationship between these two reasons is unclear.  The Mordekhai mentions a reason resembling the Rosh's explanation, only from there it appears that the issue at hand is not the person's intent, but rather the sequence of his activities, whether he first places the pot over the davar ha-mosif and then covers it, or he first covers it and then places it on the davar ha-mosif.  This distinction requires further clarification.

4.         It is unclear whether he rules leniently only due to the combination of the two arguments, of if each reason independently suffices as a basis for those who act leniently.