The Best Fire Insurance
Taste of Talmud
The Rif, an acronym for Rabbi Yitzchak Alfasi, was one of the first of the Rishonim to compile a Halachic compendium based on the teachings of the Talmud. In the beginning of the third chapter of Tractate Shabbos, he rules that it is prohibited to leave any food on a flame at the onset of Shabbos (if it would be enhanced by being on the fire). This is contrary to the opinion of Rashi and the Ri (an acronym for Rabbi Yitzchak of Dampierre, one of the French Tosafists). They follow the ruling brought in the Talmud in the name of the Talmudic sage Channaya. Chananya’s famous ruling is: As long as a food is one third cooked, it is permitted to leave it on an open flame at the onset of Shabbos. The basis for this difference of opinion is found in their respective ways of understanding the Talmudic passages in Shabbos 36b. The majority of commentaries follow the opinion of the Rif who prohibits leaving any such food on an open flame. Their reasoning is that we must be concerned that a person will unintentionally adjust the flame in order to bring about the desired results of his culinary efforts, forgetting that it is Shabbos. Interestingly enough, the Shulchan Aruch in 253:1 first quotes the opinion of the Rif and then the opinion of Rashi and the Ri, to which the Rema, Rabbi Moshe Isserless, comments: The custom is to follow the second, more lenient opinion.
Taste of Halacha
The Chofetz Chaim, in Biur Halacha, clarifies the practical application of these Laws: One should really follow the stringent view of the Rif. The lenient view has been recorded because many Jews are already accustomed to following the lenient opinion and view this as a fulfillment of the Mitzvah of honoring the Shabbos with delicious food. However, he concludes that it would be more appropriate not to leave any food on an open flame at the onset of Shabbos. One may leave a fully cooked food on a covered flame at the onset of Shabbos. This brings up the question of how to use a crock pot on Shabbos. To quote Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, “In light of the various Halachic issues relating to the use of crock pots, it is advisable to abide by a simple set of rules:
1) Line the entire inside of the crock pot cylinder before Shabbos, (to permit chazara , returning of the insert on Shabbos) and allow a noticeable excess of the lining to extend over the top.
2) Food left in the electric crock pot should be fully cooked (before Shabbos).
3) If the crock pot is equipped with a knob to adjust the temperature, it should be removed, taped, or covered before Shabbos.”
(page 615, The 39 Melochos, 11. Baking/Bishul; Section 3/Chapter IV/A/e, by, Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, sixth edition, 2001)
Taste of Parasha
Once upon a time, a Jew summoned his neighbor before the local Rabbi for a court case. He accused the latter of owning a house that was a fire hazard to the neighborhood. The defendant claimed his house met all of the city’s building specifications. The prosecutor countered, “yes, but it does not fit the building code set forth in Parashas Vayakhel. It says in Vayakhel that the Jews are commanded to keep the Shabbos. In the next verse, the Torah says, ‘and you shall not ignite a flame on the day of Shabbos’. Why, from all the laws of Shabbos, does it specify igniting a fire? The answer is that the Torah is teaching us that by keeping Shabbos, we are protected from fires in our homes, G-d forbid, but one who does not keep the Shabbos incurs the punishment that a fire will be ignited in his home.” The prosecutor concluded: “since my neighbor does not keep the Shabbos, his house is a fire hazard!” Upon hearing the sincerity and seriousness with which his neighbor viewed the laws of the Torah, he accepted upon himself to abide by the laws of Shabbos from then onward. The prosecutor’s words are based upon the commentary given by Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz on this verse. By keeping the Shabbos, may we be blessed with G-d’s presence in our midst and merit to see the day that will be “kulo Shabbos” (entirely Shabbos) speedily in our days. Amen!