It Is All In the Timing

November 8, 2013

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, November 8, 2013.

It Is All In the Timing

For observant families, the timing of preparing hot meals is a complication . . . but it’s a complication that is definitely possible to deal with – especially in modern times. According to strict Jewish Law, a person cannot light or extinguish a fire (and by extension, a stove) on Shabbat. All hot meals must be cooked before the Shabbat. In the old days, when fires on Shabbat were kept alive by non-Jews who would come in to light and/or stoke the fire in a Jewish home, it couldn’t be easier. Simply put an already made pot of delicious Shabbat food on the fire. Or, in the case of Cholent, that mother of all Jewish foods, put a pot of a kind of stew made sometimes of beans and/or sometimes potatoes, and/or sometimes meat, on the fire and let it cook slowly til Saturday lunch. In the schtetlach (villages) of Eastern Europe, often the town baker could be counted on to keep his fire going, and people would bring their pots of cholent to the baker on Friday before Shabbat, and pick them up on Saturday on the way home from the synagogue.

A soup would have to be kept warm until it was eaten, but other foods could be kept until just before a meal, and then put on the fire to warm up. In more modern times, people attached a metal tray called a “platteh,” or “blech” over the gas or electric burner. Items to be kept warm or to be warmed up would be placed on the blech. Voila – a hot Shabbat meal. Later, there were electric platehs that could be plugged in. The plateh would stay warm, and foods put on as needed.

And today . . . many manufacturers make stoves with a Shabbat timer. The timer can be set up to turn on or off automatically at the right time to warm up a Shabbat meal. Maybe you even have a Shabbat timer on your stove even without knowing it! With some models, it is factory installed.

Shabbat Shalom