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Shabbat Parshat Behar-Bechukotai

Shabbat Mevarchim/Shabbat Chazak

The Laws of Benefiting from Forbidden Labor Performed on Shabbat
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The final verse of Parshat Behar is “You shall keep My Shabbatot and fear My Sanctuary. I am the L-rd.”[1] There are various explanations as to how this verse relates to the topics discussed earlier –  the laws of redeeming fields and Jewish slaves and the Shemita laws.
  • The Ibn Ezra suggests that “You shall keep My Shabbatot” is referring to the observance of Shemittah (Sabbatical year) and “fear My Sanctuary” is referring to the Yovel (Jubilee) year which is referred to as a “sanctuary” as it is even more sanctified than Shemittah.[2]
  • Alternatively, the Ibn Ezra says that this verse is a continuation of the previous verse which said “You shall not make idols for yourselves, nor shall you set up a statue or a monument for yourselves. And in your land you shall not place a pavement stone on which to prostrate yourselves, for I am the L-rd, your G-d.” The Torah is continuing and explaining that instead of worshipping or prostrating to idols, one should come to the Bait HaMikdash in Jerusalem and bow to G-d Almighty Himself. Since Shabbat is the day that is most conducive to Divine worship, it is mentioned as well.
  • The Midrash says that these verses are addressed to the Hebrew slave who had sold himself to a Cannanite. The verse is saying that, although his master serves idols and desecrates the Shabbat, the Hebrew slave may not do so.[3]
  • Along a similar line, the Midrash[4] says that when the Jewish people are in exile, we should’t think that we can take on the lifestyle of the local gentiles who serve idols and don’t observe Shabbat. We must stay apart from them and observe these laws. As the prophet said, “Rejoice not, O Israel, on joyous occasions, like the (gentile) peoples.”[5]
  • Some relate this verse to a blessing in the beginning of the next Torah portion foretelling our redemption from exile – “and I break the pegs of your yoke and I lead you upright.”[6] Thus, the Torah is informing us that we will merit to be redeemed from exile by keeping the Shabbat.[7]
From this point on, this article will focus on the laws about benefitting from forbidden labor performed on Shabbat.
Benefitting from Shabbat Labor
The sages enacted a rule prohibiting a Jew to benefit from forbidden labor (melacha) that was done by a fellow Jew on Shabbat. (See below regarding labor done by a non-Jew.) They did this as a punishment to the person for having transgressed the severe sin of violating the Shabbat. The application of this law varies depending if the transgression was flagrant (bemeizid) or if it was done by mistake (beshogeg), and whether it was a Torah or Rabbinic level violation. In some cases, the person who transgressed is forbidden to benefit from the product of his sin forever. In addition, as explained below, the rabbis treated some violations in a stricter way if they felt that people were being lax in their observance.
Here is a summary of these laws.
Torah Level Violations[8]
  • Flagrant Violation
If one cooked or did any other Biblically proscribed Shabbat labor (melacha) on Shabbat knowing that it was forbidden, he is forbidden to eat that food or benefit from the object with which he did the melacha. In the case of cooking, in order to be able to re-use the pot in which he cooked, he must kasher it. Other people, however, may eat (or benefit) from that food or object immediately after Shabbat.
  • Inadvertent Violation
If one cooked or did any other melacha on Shabbat inadvertently (i.e. forgetting that it was Shabbat or that this action was forbidden on Shabbat) neither he nor anyone else may eat that food, or benefit from the object, on Shabbat itself. After Shabbat, however, both the transgressor and others may eat or benefit from that item. This law was enacted to discourage intentional transgression where a person might claim that it was a mistake.
  • One who followed the ruling of a Torah scholar which turned out to be an error is considered to have transgressed inadvertently.
A Lenient View
It is noteworthy that there are some authorities[9] who rule more leniently and say that one may benefit from any inadvertent transgression, even on Shabbat. In addition, they say that in the case of a flagrant violation even the transgressor may benefit immediately after Shabbat. The Mishnah Berurah rules that in a case of great necessity one may rely on this opinion if the labor was done inadvertently.[10]
A Matter of Opinion
If one did an action which is a transgression according to some halachic authorities but is permissible according to others, he may benefit from that labor since there is an opinion that there was no violation at all. This is true even if the halacha has accepted the strict view that the action is forbidden. If the (possible) violation was a Rabbinic one, all agree to the above rule. If, on the other hand, it may have been a Torah violation, some question whether this rule applies and maintain that it may be forbidden to benefit from the melachah.[11] Others disagree and allow benefiting from it even in this case.[12]
I heard from my teacher, Rav Chaim Sholom Deitch of Yerushalayim, that when studying the laws of Shabbat, one must become familiar even with the opinions that are not accepted in the final Halacha, as one may rely on these opinions when the question arises after the fact, and benefit from the object in question.
Rabbinic Violations
If one transgressed a Rabbinic violation on Shabbat, the law is significantly more lenient. If the transgression was inadvertent, one may benefit from the labor even on Shabbat itself.[13] If the transgression was purposeful one may not benefit until after Shabbat. After Shabbat, even the violator may benefit.[14]
For this reason, when studying the laws of Shabbat, one must pay attention as to whether a law is of Torah or Rabbinic origin. The rules of benefitting from melachah on Shabbat will be different depending on this.
Violations of Shehiya
In the context of the laws of Shabbat, “Shehiya” refers to the laws of leaving a pot on a fire before Shabbat. Briefly, the law is that one may only leave food cooking on an open flame if the food is at least half cooked before Shabbat. Some say that it is sufficient for the food to be one third cooked. If there was raw meat in the pot, one may leave it on an open flame.[15] These rules were enacted lest a person, concerned that the food may not be ready in time for the meal, forget that it is Shabbat and increase the temperature in order to cook the food faster. This is why it is best to leave food on a covered flame (i.e. a blech) or on a heat source that cannot be adjusted (i.e., a hot plate or “plata”).
One who transgressed these laws, whether flagrantly or inadvertently, and left food that was less than one third cooked on an open flame, may not eat that food on Shabbat nor after Shabbat for as long as it took for that food to cook. Nor may others eat the food up until that time.[16] This time period is called “bichdie sheya’aseh” (as long as it took to make). Although the laws of Shehiya are of Rabbinic violation, the sages were stricter regarding this law and forbade benefitting even after Shabbat since, generally, people take this prohibition lightly, considering that it does not involve any action on Shabbat itself. In order to prevent this attitude, the sages established that one who transgressed these laws may not eatthe food even after Shabbat for as long as it took to cook. This will discourage anyone from doing a forbidden Shehiyah as it would be of no benefit.[17]
Violations of Chazarah
Chazarah (in the context of the laws of Shabbat) refers to the laws of returning food to a heat source on Shabbat. Briefly, the rules are as follows: One may only return food that is fully cooked and is still hot, to a covered flame (i.e., either a blech or a hot plate [plata] whose heat cannot be adjusted) if, when he removed the food from the heat source he intended to return it and he kept it in his hand the entire time. In addition, the food must still be in its original pot from when it was previously on the fire.[18]Conversely, food that is not fully cooked or is no longer hot may not be returned to any heat source. If the heat source was not covered one may not return any food there. In addition, even if the heat source was covered and the food was still hot and fully cooked, one may not return it there if he had put it down in the interim or, if when he removed it from the heat source he had not intended to return it, or, if in the interim, he had transferred the food to a different pot.
One who transgressed and returned a pot to the fire without adhering to the necessary conditions may not eat the food until after Shabbat plus the amount of time of bichdei sheya’asu.[19]
In this case, there are various factors that can lead to a leniency.
  • If one did a chazarah, which is forbidden according to the final halachic ruling, one may benefit from the food, even on Shabbat.  This is because chazarah is permissible according to some opinions.[20] Practically, the only conditions that are necessary according to all opinions are that the food be fully cooked and hot and that the heat source to which it is returned, be covered. So, if one did not follow any of these rules the food is forbidden.
    If one did not follow the other rules (holding it in his hand, keeping in mind that it be returned and keeping it in the original pot) one may eat the food, after the fact as there are differing opinions regarding these conditions.[21]
  • If the taste of the food did not improve after it was returned to the fire (in the Talmud this is called mitztamek vera lo) it is not forbidden to eat, even on Shabbat. Eating this food is not considered to be benefitting from the transgression since the taste did not improve.[22]
  • If the flavor of the food did improve after the forbidden chazarah but it was already fully cooked at that point and the pot was returned mistakenly, the person who did the chazarah and his family members may not eat it.  In addition, any people with whom he intended to share this food when he did the chazarah (i.e., his guests), may also not partake. Others, however, are permitted to eat it.
Chazarah by a Gentile
If the food was returned to the fire by a gentile, the laws are somewhat more lenient.
  • If the food was fully cooked and hot when he returned it, one may benefit from it even on Shabbat.
  • If the food had already cooled down the law depends on whether the Jew was aware of what the gentile was doing.
    • o   If the Jew instructed the gentile to return the food, or, if he watched complicity as the gentile did so, the food may not be eaten until after Shabbat bichdei sheya’asu.
    • o   If the gentile acted independently and the Jew was not aware of it at all, it may be eaten on Shabbat as it would not be right that a gentile should have the ability to take a food which is edible and render it forbidden to a Jew on Shabbat.[23]
Other Labor Performed by a Gentile
The laws of benefitting from other Shabbat labors performed by a gentile are quite lengthy and are beyond the scope of this article.[24]
May we merit to observe the Shabbat properly and thus merit to the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.

[1] Levit. 26:2
[2] The Midrash Tanchuma (beginning of Parshat Behar) follows this interpretation as well.
This interpretation is difficult considering that the exact same verse appears in Levit. 19:30 and, in that portion, there is no mention of Shemittah or Yovel.
[3] Torat Kohanim, cited by Ramban
[4] Lekach Tov, cited in Torah Sheleima
[5] Hoshe’a, 9:1
[6] Levit, 26:13
[7] Midrash HaGadol, cited in Torah Shleimah
[8] Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 318:1 and 2
[9] Tosfot D.H. Mori on Chullin, ibid and Biur HaGra, 318:1. Their opinion is based on the Talmud (Ketubot, 34a, Bava Kamma, 71a, Chullin, 15a and in several other places) that cites the following opinions about this matter.
  • Rabbi Meir says that if the person did the cooking purposefully – bemazid, the food may not be consumed by anyone on Shabbat. Whereas if the person cooked inadvertently – beshogeg (forgetting that it was Shabbat or that it is forbidden to cook on Shabbat) it may be eaten by everyone, even on Shabbat.
  • Rabbi Yehudah says that if the cooking inadvertent, no one may eat it until after Shabbat, whereas if it was done purposefully the one who did the cooking may never eat it. But others may eat it after Shabbat.
  • Finally, Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar says that if the cooking inadvertent others may eat it after Shabbat but the one who cooked it may never do so. Whereas if the cooking purposeful, no one may ever eat it.
While most authorities (Rif on Shabbat, 17a, Rambam Laws of Shabbat, 6:23, implication of Rosh on the first chapter of Chullin, Siman 18, Shulchan Aruch O.C. 318:1, Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 318:1) rule in accordance with Rabbi Yehudah, the Vilna Gaon, based on the Tosfot (see sources above), rules according to Rabbi Meir.
[10] 318:7
[11] Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 253:24 and Kuntres Acharon 9
[12] Mishnah Berurah, 318:2
[13] See Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 405:9
[14] Ibid, 339:7
[15] See the beginning of Siman 253 at length
[16] Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 253:12
[17] Ibid, 318:1
[18] Ibid, 14. Some are lenient regarding the food being in the same pot (Mishnah Berurah in Sha’ar Hatziyun, 253:47). Another noteworthy point is that the Talmud says that even if one keeps all of the conditions above, one may only place the food on top of, but not inside, an oven (Shabbat, 37a). Some say that this applies to our ovens as well (Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchato, 1:17) while others disagree and say that this rule does not apply to our ovens (Shevet HaLevi, 3:48). This is usually a moot point since, in most cases, the flame in an oven is considered to be an open rather than a covered flame, which would mean that one may not return food there in any case (see Shabbat KeHalacha, 8:16. But see Yalkut Yosef, 253:8).
[19] In this case, bichdei sheya’asu means that, if after returning the food to the fire in a forbidden way, the food continued to get an enhanced flavor from the continuous heating, one must wait after Shabbat for as many hours that the food was enhanced after the forbidden chazara.
[20] Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 253:24
[21] See ibid 19 that the Ran is of the opinion that these rules are not necessary when the food was removed from the heat source on Shabbat itself. According to the Ran, the three conditions of holding it one’s hand, having the intent to return it and not transferring the contents to another pot only apply if one removed the pot on late Friday afternoon and wants to put it back on Shabbat itself. Although, in the first place we observe these conditions even when taking it and replacing it on Shabbat itself, if one did not so, he may still eat the food, as explained above.
[22] Ibid 24 based on the Bait Yosef
[23] Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 253:25
[24] See O.C. Siman 325
Wishing You a Shabbat Shalom!
Aryeh Citron

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