April 17, 2024
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Sephardic Rescue of Hamin/Cholent

Part II

Last week we noted the concern of many of the congregants at Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck, regarding the rulings of Maran (the author of the Shulhan Aruch) and Hacham Ovadia Yosef, unequivocally forbidding Sephardic Jews from placing hot water from an urn into hamin/cholent that is drying up on Shabbat.

Maran bases himself (as he explains in his Beit Yosef commentary on the Tur) on the Rabbeinu Yonah who objects to those who set aside hot water before Shabbat to pour into hamin that dries up on Shabbat. Rabbeinu Yonah presents two reasons for his strict ruling. One concern is perhaps the hot water has cooled down to less than yad soledet bo (hot to the touch, approximately 180 degrees Fahrenheit in this context) and therefore, placing the hot water into the cholent would restore the water to be hotter than yad soledet bo, thereby constituting a Torah-level violation of Shabbat. The second reason is that even if the water remains yad soledet bo, as soon as the water leaves the original utensil in which it was cooked (kli rishon), it is viewed from a halachic lens as having cooled. Restoring the water to a kli rishon would thus constitute an act of bishul.

We noted that Ashkenazic Jews as well as Moroccan Jews maintain a tradition of leniency regarding this matter. Thus Moroccan and Ashkenazic members of our congregation need not fear a drying hamin/cholent. Are there solutions that work for other Sephardic Jews as well? It turns out that solutions abound. Hacham Ovadia suggests that hot water may be poured into the hamin/cholent after it is removed from the cooking vessel on the fire (kli rishon) and placed into the serving vessel (kli sheini). In some situations this may save the hamin/cholent.

There are, though, situations where this will not save the hamin/cholent. I spoke with a leading Sephardic posek who told me that one may be lenient if one brings the hot water urn and hamin/cholent as close as possible, to prevent the possibility of the water becoming warmer than yad soledet bo during the transfer of the boiling hot water from the urn to the hamin/cholent.

When presenting this approach to our members, they noted that this solution satisfies only the first concern of Rabbeinu Yonah but not the second. Hacham Ovadia indeed insists that Maran rules in accordance with both concerns articulated by Rabbeinu Yonah. I responded, however, that the Mishnah Berurah understands Maran to be concerned only with the temperature of the water dipping below yad soledet bo. In case there is no other solution, one may rely on the Mishnah Berurah’s understanding of Maran, in order to preserve the centerpiece of the Shabbat afternoon seudah.

The best approach was offered by one of our congregants—make sure to add the proper amount of water when preparing the hamin on Erev Shabbat to avoid the need to rely on anything other than the straightforward rulings of Maran and Hacham Ovadia.

Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck.

By Rabbi Haim Jachter

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