Chapter 259

Chapter 259

Miscellaneous laws of insulating and Muktzah [relevant to insulating]


The following chapter will discuss the laws of Muktzah which are relevant to the different forms of insulating materials, which may be used to insulate ones hot food for Shabbos. As well the laws regarding a plastered oven and opening and closing an oven on Shabbos will be discussed.

In the end of the chapter the Alter Rebbe summarizes the laws of Shehiyah and Hatmanah which had been discussed in the previous chapters [253-259]

Halacha 1

The Muktzah materials:

Are Mochin insulators Muktzah? Mochin[1] that were used to insulate a pot from before Shabbos, in an unplanned way, [meaning] that one did not designate [these Mochin] to be used for this purpose, then it is forbidden to move the Mochin on Shabbos, being that they are Muktzah[2]. As [unless there is change of designation] they are considered designated to be used to make sheets, and not to insulate pots in them or do other uses that are permitted on Shabbos, and thus [they are Muktzah as] they are not considered vessels at all[3].

However if one designated them to use for insulation, meaning that he resolved in his mind to always use them for the purpose of insulating, then it is permitted to move them. As since this material is fit to be used as insulation, and he designated them for this use, they are thus considered a vessel being that they are [now readily] useable for the purpose that they have been designated for.

Are shears of wool Muktzah? If one insulated [his pot] in shears of wool, then even if one did not designate them for this purpose, it is permitted to move them, being that shears of wool do not hold that much importance, and thus when one insulates with them for the first time they are considered to be designated [from now on] for insulation [unless explicitly designated for something else].

However those shears that have been placed in storage to be sold as merchandise (and he is thus careful to not use them for any other purpose, then) if it happened that he insulated with them, it is forbidden to move them on Shabbos, unless they have been designated to be always used for this purpose.


Halacha 2

What does one do if he insulated using a Muktzah material?

If one insulated with a material which is forbidden to move, and one now wants to remove the pot from within the material on Shabbos, how is this to be done? If part of the lid of the pot is not covered by the insulation, then one grabs on to that part which is uncovered and removes [the cover. This then causes the insulation to entirely fall off the top of the pot and consequently also uncovers the top of the walls of the pot, which one can grab onto and use to remove the pot.]

The reason the pot does not have the status of a Basis[4]: Now, even though the insulation which is Muktzah is resting on the pot, [nevertheless] the pot is not considered to have become a base for something Muktzah, being that the [purpose of the] lid [of the pot which is being held on to in order to remove the pot] is not at all meant for the insulating material but rather is meant [to be used] for the pot[5].
[Now, once the cover has been removed] one holds on to the head of the walls of the pot which have become revealed from under the lid, and he then removes the pot entirely from within the insulation.

If the lid of the pot is completely insulated: If there is no part of the lid which is uncovered [from the insulation], then if one is able to stab a stick or a knife into the lid and lift it and remove it from the pot, then this is permitted to be done. As even though by doing so he is moving the [Muktzah] insulation through [moving] the lid, [nevertheless] this does not hold [Halachic] meaning, being that this is considered moving [a Muktzah item] indirectly, which is not [Halachicly] considered to be [under the prohibition of] moving [a Muktzah item], as will be explained in chapter 311 [Halacha 14].[6]

Halacha 3

What does one do if also the cover of the pot is Muktzah?

The above [allowance to remove the lid of the pot] is only referring to if the lid of the pot is considered a vessel[7], and is thus not Muktzah. However if also the lid is made of an item that is Muktzah[8], [the cover may not be lifted]. [However] if part of the walls of the pot are not covered by the Muktzah insulation material, enough so one can grab that area with his hands, then one may grab it in that area and lift up the pot and remove it from the insulation, [thus] having the insulation fall off of it on its own. Afterwards one shakes the pot until the Muktzah lid falls off of it.

The reason that the pot is not considered a Basis: [This is allowed] since the pot has never become a basis for the lid and insulation, being that the lid and the insulation are there for the purpose of heating up the pot, and not [the other way around] that the pot is there to serve a purpose for them. [Thus it does not have a status of a basis, as an item can only become a basis if its purpose in being there is to serve the Muktzah item].


Halacha 4

Returning the pot to its insulation on Shabbos:

One who insulated [a pot of food] in a box that is filled with Mochin that are forbidden to be moved [Muktzah], and he then removed the pot from the box in one of the permitted ways explained above, then as long as the Mochin remain inside the box in their pit making form[9], one may replace the pot there.

However if the pit making form [within the Mochin] has been ruined[10], it is forbidden to return it there, as by doing so one moves the Muktzah material through returning the pot.

The reason that it is forbidden when the Mochin have fallen: This is not similar to the moving of the insulation through [lifting up] the lid [which is allowed to be done], as the insulation moves on its own through [one lifting up] the lid, and he only intends to move the lid itself [as opposed to the insulation], and it is just that it is impossible to remove the lid without also moving the insulation with it. However here he moves the insulation with his hands through [placing down] the pot, as [since the insulation has fallen into the hollow opening of the box] he needs to move the insulation into the different sides in order to widen the hollow space [of the box] which the pot meant to sit in.

Nevertheless, [despite the above prohibition to return the pot when the Mochin have fallen] it is initially permitted to remove the pot [from the box] with intention to return it there afterwards if the hollow space has not been ruined, as we are not worried that [since this is allowed] one may come to return the pot there even if the Mochin have fallen and ruined the hollow space.


Halacha 5

Rocks and wood that are placed around the oven:

One who places stones and bricks around the Kirah, needs to permanently designate them to be used for this purpose [from now on], in order so it be allowed to move them on Shabbos.

Similarly wood that is designated to be used as fuel, which were used to block the opening of the oven on Shabbos, need to be designated to be always used for this purpose [from now on]. As so long as they have not been designated [for the above purpose] they are not considered of importance to him and he [plans to eventually] throw them out. Therefore [they are not considered vessels and] are forbidden to be moved unless one puts them away and designates them for this [purpose]

However those stones which are placed on top of the Kirah, do not need explicit designation, as they are generally [anyways] considered designated to be used.


Halacha 6

Insulating with stones on Erev Shabbos which is Yom Tov:

When Yom Tov falls out on Erev Shabbos, it is forbidden to insulate hot food for Shabbos with stones, as it is forbidden to gather stones on Yom Tov, as this is similar to [the prohibition against] building [on Shabbos and Yom Tov].

Although if one has nothing else [available] to insulate with, other than the stones, then it is permitted for him to insulate with them. As [by doing so] he is not making a permanent structure, but rather a temporary one, which is only Rabbinically forbidden to be done, and due to the [Mitzvah to] honor of Shabbos the Sages did not decree [in this situation, against using the stones to insulate], being that [in this case] it is not possible for him to insulate in any other way.


Halacha 7

Breaking the clay off from the opening of the oven which has been plastered shut:

An oven which one places the hot food in for Shabbos and closes its opening with a sheet of wood, which is then sealed with clay, is permitted to [be opened on Shabbos even though that by doing so one needs to] break through the plastering on Shabbos, in order to remove the hot food that is in it.

The reason for the above leniency: Now, although  the oven is attached to the ground, and it is forbidden to break a structure that is attached to the ground, nevertheless [here it is permitted], since Biblically it is only forbidden to break the body of the structure and not to break its opening, and it is only that the Sages made a decree that one may not destroy the doors of a structure which is attached to the ground. [Now even] this decree only applies when [destroying] a door made to be there permanently for some time, and thus one did not have in mind to make it on condition to break through it on Shabbos, [as in such a case] it appears like [the prohibition] of destroying [a permanent object]. However the plastering of the [opening of the] oven which was not made at all to be there permanently, but rather to just temporarily retain the heat, and to then be removed the next day, the Sages never decreed against breaking it.

The Stringent Opinion: There are those which are stringent to not break the plaster through a Jew if it is possible to have it done through a gentile. Similarly [when there is no gentile available] if it is possible to do it through a child it should not be done through an adult. If this is not possible then the adult should do it in a slightly irregular way.

Do we follow the stringent opinion? The custom is like the stringent opinion.

Opening the oven when there are still burning coals inside of it? In a case that one knows that in the oven there are fiery coals, it is forbidden to open it through a Jew, being that [this will cause] the wind to enter it and light up the coals.

Now, although one has no intention to light them up, nevertheless [it is forbidden to open the oven] as [by opening the oven] it is inevitable[11] [for the coals not to light up with the wind].

Nevertheless it is permitted to do so through a gentile, being that any prohibition which occurs inevitably [when a permitted action is done], does not carry with it a prohibition to tell a gentile to do so for him, as was explained in 253 [Halacha 10].

Closing the oven when there are still coals burning in it: Similarly, if one wants to return and close the oven with a sheet of wood, then if it has fiery coals inside of it, it is forbidden to close it through a Jew, as the wind blows through a small crack [that is in the area that has been closed], which is similar to blowing [i.e. actually blowing on the coals], as it lights up the coals even more so than if the oven had been left open. However through a gentile this is permitted [to be done].

It is even permitted for a Jew to close it as long as he does not close it completely, and as long as he leaves much of it open. However if he [only] leaves it a little bit open, then certainly the wind will blow inside it and is forbidden to be done.


Halacha 8

Closing the oven on Shabbos when the food inside is not yet fully cooked: Even if there are not any fiery coals [in the oven] it is not permitted to return and close it on Shabbos, unless one knows for certain that the food has already been completely cooked. However if there is room for doubt that perhaps the food has not been completely cooked, such as at night close to the time that the food had been insulated, then it is forbidden to close the oven, even through a gentile, as this causes it to expedite the cooking.

What is the law if one transgressed and closed the oven? [If one transgressed and closed the oven with food inside that was not known for certain to be fully cooked then] even after the fact, the food is forbidden. However if one did so through a gentile then it is permitted after the fact, being that even if [the oven] had not been closed the food would have cooked completely, and thus it ends up that one is not deriving much [benefit] from the transgression.

May one tell a gentile to close the oven before sunset if he already accepted Shabbos: Initially it is proper[12] for one to be careful not to tell a gentile to close the oven after Shabbos has been accepted, even if it [was accepted] before sunset, if the [food in the] pot is not completely cooked, even though that according to the letter of the law it is permitted to be done. 

A summary of the laws of Shehiyah and insulation in accordance to the custom of these provinces[13]

The laws applicable today for leaving food inside ones oven from before Shabbos: The general rule of today’s times, that we place the pots in the ovens while they are uncovered, and we do not place any insulation around their walls and on their top, is that only the laws of Shehiyah and not [the laws] of insulation are applicable. Thus if the food was cooked to the point of the food of Ben Drusaiy from before Shabbos, it is permitted to leave the pot there [over Shabbos], even if the oven was not swept and not covered.

Raw foods: Meat, if placed raw in a pot very close to Shabbos, then it is permitted. However with varieties of dough, whether cooked or baked, and with varieties of legumes and with water and with meat roasted on a spit, it does not help [to place right before Shabbos] if they are raw, and rather they must be [cooked to the point] of the food of Ben Drusaiy from before Shabbos.

A sealed oven: With an oven which is sealed with clay everything is permitted in all scenarios. [However] if there are fiery coals in it, one should not open it unless done through a gentile.

Removing the pot if it is surrounded by or sitting on coals: If the coals are surrounding the pot, then a Jew should not remove the pot from it, but rather [have it done through] a gentile. [However] if the pot is [only] sitting on the coals, it is permitted [for a Jew to remove] if it is unable to be done through a gentile.

(This law similarly applies with the pots [of food] that are to be eaten at night, that if they are sitting on the coals and one comes to remove them on Shabbos from on top of the coals, [one may remove it himself if it cannot be done through a gentile]. However one must be careful not to cover the pots on top with clothes when he places them on the coals [before Shabbos], even if the coals have dimmed.)

Placing hot food by an oven on Shabbos: It is permitted to place [on Shabbos] hot food that is completely cooked near an oven that has already been heated and has fire in it, and even on the ledge which is surrounding the oven [it may be placed]. However [to be allowed to place food] on top of the oven one needs to place a brick or something else under the pot [in order to be allowed to place it] on the oven which is already lit and has fiery coals inside of it [meaning they have not been removed or covered[14]], even if it is not Yad Soledes on top of the oven.

However when the oven has not yet been lit then it is the custom to be lenient [to place food directly on top of the oven], even if one plans to have it lit [by the gentile] immediately [after placing the food there].

Placing cold liquid food by an oven on Shabbos: However by cold food [which contains liquid], even before the oven has been lit, it is forbidden to even place the food next to the oven, with exception to if this is done through a gentile before the oven is lit, in which case it is permitted [to place the food] even on top [of the oven]. However once the oven has been lit, then it is forbidden to even place the food there through a gentile, unless it is being done for a sick person, or a child which does not have anything else to eat.

Placing a cold solid food by an oven on Shabbos: Food which does not contain liquid, even when cold has the same laws as if it were still hot.

Placing a warm liquid by an oven on Shabbos: If the food has not completely cooled down then even if there is liquid the custom is to be lenient [and consider it just] as if it were completely hot.

Placing cold food on Shabbos by an area that is not Yad Soledes: If one is placing the food near an oven by an area that is not possible for the food to be heated to the point of Yad Soledes, then it is permitted [to be done] even if the [liquid containing food] has completely cooled down.

However to [be allowed to] place the food on top of the oven[15] one needs to place on it something that separates it [from the surface of the top of the] even if it is not Yad Soledes there, and even if the food is completely hot. Similarly this law applies when placing food inside the Kichlen, that one needs something which separates.

The law of liquids and raw foods: Raw fruit, as well as types of drinks, have the same law as foods which contain liquid that have completely cooled down, whether to prohibit [placing it by the oven] or to permit it.
Placing food onto the set pot that is inside the oven: To place [food] on top of the pot which is permanently set inside the oven, has the same laws as placing food near an oven. However it is forbidden to place a jug of liquid into the water which is in this pot.

Placing water into the set pot on and before Shabbos: As well it is forbidden to place water into this [set] pot even before the oven has been lit unless it is done through a gentile, in which case it is permitted to benefit from this water on Shabbos, if the gentile placed it there before the oven was lit. However if a Jew placed it there, then it is forbidden to benefit from these waters until enough time has passed after Shabbos to be able to cook the water. [Furthermore] even if one placed the water there [inside the set pot] before Shabbos, close to sunset, after the oven was already lit, it is forbidden to benefit from it until enough time has passed after Shabbos to be able to cook the water

Insulating a pot  of food on Shabbos: It is forbidden to wrap on Shabbos a pot that has in it (hot) food, with pillows and blankets or other clothes, in a way that it is completely insulated within it. However if one removed the food [from the pot that it was cooked in] into a different pot, then it is permitted to wrap it in there.


[1] Mochin is a general term for pieces of soft material such as cotton and strings [made] of soft wool of an animal, and the scrapes of worn out clothing. It does not refer to a full item made of soft cloth.

[2] Muktzah is a general term for all items which may not be moved on Shabbos as will be explained in chapter 308.

[3] In chapter 308 it will be explained that any item which does not have a usage without doing further work to the item is not considered a vessel and is Muktzah. Thus since Mochin are usually designated to use to make something else out of them, they do not at this point have a ready usage and are thus considered Muktzah.

[4] Amongst the laws of Muktzah is a law which states that any item which is serving as a base or support for a Muktzah item, that item also becomes Muktzah, even when in general it is not considered a Muktzah item. Thus here it remains to be understood why it is allowed to remove the pot if the pot is supporting the Muktzah item.

[5] Meaning the lid of the pot is not considered a basis because an item is only considered a basis when it serves a purpose for the Muktzah item. Thus here since the lid does not serve a purpose for the Muktzah insulation material, and rather the opposite the insulating material is placed there for the purpose of serving the lid [so it stay hot] therefore it is not Muktzah.

[6] Vetzaruch Iyun from Chapter 309 Halacha 9 where Admur rules that even when it serves benefit from the basis such as placing a stone to cover a barrel, then it has the status of a basis. See there in the footnotes.

[7] This applies to any lid that has been either designated for covering, or for any other ready usage.

[8] Such as if one took a stone and placed it over the pot to cover it.

[9] Lit” that the indentation has not been damaged. This means that the Mochin have remained stuck to the walls of the pot and thus form a hollow space to allow the pot to slip into.

[10] Meaning the Mochin have fallen from the walls of the box and are now standing in the center, thus filling up the hollowness in the box.

[11] Lit. “Can one cut off its head and it will not die”

[12] Lit. good

[13] This summary of the Alter Rebbe is based on the summary of the Magen Avraham at the end of this chapter.

[14] However if removed or covered, then one may place the food even directly on the oven, as explained in chapter 253 Halacha 21

[15] Seemingly this only refers to an oven which its coals have not been removed or covered, as it was already explained in Chapter 253 Halacha 21 that if the fire is covered then one may place food directly on an area that is not Yad Soledes.

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