The Whys, Hows, and Whats of Eruv Tavshillin
Avrumie, who studies in a local yeshiva, asks me: “I will be eating my Yom Tov and Shabbos meals as a guest in different homes. Do I need to make my own eruv tavshillin?”
Michal and Muttie are spending Rosh Hashanah near his Yeshiva and are invited out for all the meals. They have found an available apartment for Yom Tov, but do not intend to use the kitchen there at all. Someone told Muttie that, although he should make an eruv tavshillin, he should not recite a bracha when doing so. Is this the correct procedure?
With Rosh Hashana falling out on Thursday and Friday, and in chutz la’aretz also Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah, many people will be asking these or similar questions. In order to reply accurately to the above inquiries we need to investigate several aspects of this mitzvah that the Sages implemented – particularly, the whys, hows, and whats of eruv tavshillin.
WHY DO WE MAKE AN ERUV TAVSHILLIN?
Although one may cook on Yom Tov, one may prepare food only for consumption on that Yom Tov. There is, however, one exceptional situation — one may cook on a Friday Yom Tov for Shabbos, but only if one makes an eruv tavshillin the day before Yom Tov.
WHAT IS THE RECIPE FOR PRODUCING AN ERUV TAVSHILLIN?
It is fairly easy to make an eruv tavshillin:
On Erev Yom Tov, set aside two prepared foods, one cooked and one baked, that one is not planning to eat on Yom Tov. Many people use a hard-boiled egg for the cooked item, but it is actually preferable to use something more significant (Mishnah Berurah 527:8). I personally use the gefilte fish that we will be eating at the Shabbos seudos.
(Someone who includes people outside his family in his eruv, such as the rav of a community, adds an additional step at this point: He has someone who does not usually eat with him, whom we will call the zo’che, lift the food used for the eruv tavshillin four inches or more. By lifting the food, the zo’che acquires ownership in the eruv for those who will forget to make an eruv tavshillin. The zo’che then returns the food to the rav [Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 527:10- 12 and commentaries]. I will soon explain what the zo’che’s involvement accomplishes.)
One holds the eruv tavshillin, recites a bracha, Baruch Atta Hashem Elokeinu Melech haolam asher ki’deshanu bemitzvosav vetzivanu al mitzvas eruv, and declares:
This eruv permits us to bake, cook, wrap food to keep it hot, to kindle lights, and make all other food preparations on Yom Tov for Shabbos (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 527:12).
Those who include other people in their eruv, insert:
For ourselves and for all others who dwell in this city.
The foods that have now become the eruv tavshillin should not be consumed until one has completed all the Shabbos preparations.
The eruv tavshillin allows the members of this household to prepare food for Shabbos. The rav’s eruv tavshillin will allow others who forgot an eruv tavshillin to prepare food, subject to the details we will soon learn.
WHAT DO I DO WITH THE ERUV?
After one has completed preparing everything for Shabbos, there is no requirement to do anything with the eruv, although it is preferable to use the challah as the second loaf for the first two meals of Shabbos and to eat the entire eruv tavshillin as part of the third meal of Shabbos (seudah shelishis) in order to use the mitzvah item (that is, the eruv tavshillin) for other mitzvos, in this case the three Shabbos meals (see Mishnah Berurah 527:48). (For the same reason, many set aside the lulav and hoshanas after Sukkos to use as fuel for baking matzos or burning the chometz.)
If someone mistakenly ate the eruv tavshillin before Shabbos, one may continue the Shabbos preparations as long as at least an olive-sized piece of the cooked item remains, even if the entire baked item was consumed. However, if less than an olive-sized piece of the cooked item remains, one may no longer continue cooking especially for Shabbos, and should ask a shaylah how to proceed (Shulchan Aruch 527:15).
FORGOT TO MAKE AN ERUV
Someone who fails to make an eruv tavshillin may not cook or bake on Yom Tov for Shabbos, and needs to ask a shaylah how to prepare his Shabbos meals (see Shulchan Aruch 527:20- 22). The Rishonim dispute whether he may kindle lights on Yom Tov for Shabbos when he has no eruv tavshillin (Shulchan Aruch 527:19). This dispute will soon become significant to our discussion.
WHY DOES THE RAV INCLUDE OTHER PEOPLE IN HIS ERUV?
As mentioned above, someone who did not make an eruv tavshillin may not cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos. The Gemara narrates the following story:
Shmuel saw that someone was very sad on Yom Tov and asked him why. The man responded, “Because I neglected to make an eruv tavshillin, and therefore I will be unable to cook for Shabbos.” Shmuel explained that the man could rely on Shmuel’s eruv tavshillin.
The next year Yom Tov once more fell on Friday. Shmuel again noticed that the man was sad, and again the man mentioned that he had forgotten to make an eruv tavshillin. However, this time Shmuel advised him that since he had repeated the negligence, he would not be allowed to rely upon Shmuel’s eruv (Beitzah 16b).
We see that the rav should include everyone in his city in his eruv tavshillin, lest someone forget to make an eruv, although everyone is required to create his/her own (Shulchan Aruch 527:7).
WHY DOES THE RAV HAND HIS ERUV TO SOMEONE ELSE?
A person must own or be a partner in the eruv tavshillin with which he fulfills this mitzvah. An eruv tavshillin automatically includes all regular members of this household, but how does it include other people? Having someone pick up the eruv tavshillin on their behalf makes them partial owners in this eruv tavshillin.
MUST I MAKE AN ERUV?
At this point, we can begin to analyze the two questions I mentioned at the beginning of the article. Let us begin by rephrasing Avrumie’s question: “I will be eating my Yom Tov meals as a guest. Do I make an eruv tavshillin?”
Avrumie, Michal, and Muttie will not be cooking on Yom Tov; does that exempt them from eruv tavshillin, or must they make one anyway? Is eruv tavshillin merely a license to cook for Shabbos on Yom Tov and therefore someone not preparing food has no need for one, or is there a rabbinic requirement to make an eruv tavshillin even when one will not be cooking? Avrumie will not be preparing food for Shabbos, whereas Michal will only be kindling the Shabbos lights. I will discuss soon whether this distinction affects our question. In the interim, I will discuss Avrumie’s situation by presenting two differing ways of understanding the function of eruv tavshillin, which I will describe as (A) matir, license or (B) chovah, obligation.
According to this approach, eruv tavshillin functions solely to permit one to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos, so that one who is not planning to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos has no requirement to make an eruv tavshillin. This opinion compares eruv tavshillin to the mitzvah of shechitah. One is not required to shecht an animal; however, someone interested in converting a bird or animal into food must perform shechitah to make it kosher. Thus, shechitah is a matir; it permits one to eat the meat, but one is not required to shecht an animal if one does not want to eat it. Similarly, eruv tavshillin permits one to cook for Shabbos, but one who does not intend to cook does not need to make an eruv.
Those following this approach will note that the other types of eruv (eruvei chatzeiros and eruvei techumim) are both types of matir that permit either carrying or traveling that is otherwise prohibited, and conclude that eruv tavshillin is similar to the other types of eruvin.
According to this approach, Avrumie has no need for an eruv tavshillin since he has no intention to cook for Shabbos. We will discuss shortly whether Michal’s kindling requires her to make an eruv tavshillin.
On the other hand, one could argue that eruv tavshillin is different from the other two types of eruv, and is an obligatory act. This approach understands that Chazal created a rabbinic mitzvah requiring each individual or family to make an eruv tavshillin even if there is no intention to cook or bake on Yom Tov for Shabbos.
Why should eruv tavshillin be different from the other types of eruv? To answer this question we need to explain the reason for the rabbinic mitzvah called eruv tavshillin.
WHAT IS THE REASON FOR ERUV TAVSHILLIN?
The Gemara records a dispute discussing why Chazal introduced eruv tavshillin: Was it for the sake of honoring Shabbos, or for the sake of honoring Yom Tov (Beitzah 15b)?
A. For Shabbos
According to the first opinion, that of Rava, Chazal instituted eruv tavshillin to guarantee that one not become so involved in the Yom Tov feasting that one forgets to prepare proper meals for Shabbos. The eruv tavshillin therefore serves as a “red flag”: “Don’t forget to also produce delicious repasts for Shabbos!”
B. For Yom Tov
The other approach, that of Rav Ashi, contends that eruv tavshillin reinforces the sanctity of Yom Tov by emphasizing that without the eruv tavshillin one may not cook on Yom Tov, even for Shabbos. A person thereby realizes: if cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos is forbidden without an eruv tavshillin, certainly one may not prepare food on Yom Tov for a subsequent weekday!
How does this dispute affect Avrumie, Michal and Muttie?
The basis for treating eruv tavshillin as a chovah, an obligation, and not merely a matir, is Rava’s opinion that eruv tavshillin’s purpose is to guarantee that one celebrates Shabbos properly. In other words, eruv tavshillin is to remind us to cook for Shabbos. Clearly, this is not a matir, but a chovah. In Rava’s opinion, eruv tavshillin is similar to the rabbinic requirement of kindling lights before Shabbos to ensure that one does not sit in the dark. Even someone who enjoys sitting in the dark is required to kindle lights before Shabbos since this is not a matir but a chovah. Thus, according to Rava, Avrumie must make an eruv tavshillin (or be included in someone else’s), even though he has no intention to cook, because eruv tavshillin is a requirement that Chazal placed on every individual to remind him to prepare appropriate meals for Shabbos.
DO WE FOLLOW RAVA’S APPROACH?
However, the halacha does not follow Rava’s opinion but follows Rav Ashi’s position, that the purpose of eruv tavshillin is for Yom Tov’s honor. As noted above, Rav Ashi contended that the reason for eruv tavshillin is to guarantee that people realize that Yom Tov is so holy that one may not cook on it for weekday needs. According to this approach, one could argue that eruv tavshillin is simply a matir and that one who does not intend to cook for Shabbos need not make an eruv tavshillin, since if one is not cooking for Shabbos, it is unlikely that he will cook for the weekdays following Shabbos.
On the other hand, the usual assumption is that when the Gemara quotes two disputing opinions, the disagreement concerns only the one point mentioned and no other issues. Thus, once we have demonstrated that Rava contends that eruv tavshillin is mandatory, we should conclude either one of the following two points:
1. That the issue of whether eruv tavshillin is a matir or a chovah is itself the focal point of the dispute between Rav Ashi and Rava.
2. That Rav Ashi and Rava agree that eruv tavshillin is mandatory and not merely a matir.
The difficulty with the first approach is that we see no evidence that Rav Ashi considers eruv tavshillin to be only a matir. On the contrary, the Gemara maintains that the dispute between Rav Ashi and Rava is whether eruv tavshillin is for the honor of Yom Tov or of Shabbos. Since Rava must maintain that eruv tavshillin is a chovah, and the dispute between them concerns only whether eruv tavshillin is for the honor of Yom Tov or of Shabbos, we should infer that Rav Ashi agrees that eruv tavshillin is a chovah. This analysis would conclude that Avrumie, Michal and Muttie are all required to make an eruv tavshillin. However, notwithstanding this analysis, I have found no early source who states that eruv tavshillin is obligatory for someone who has no need to cook for Shabbos.
Having discussed whether eruv tavshillin is a matir or a chovah we can now research whether the halachic literature produces any evidence supporting either side of this question. Analysis of the position of one recognized halachic authority demonstrates that he felt that eruv tavshillin is a matir, not a chovah.
The Maamar Mordechai, a respect commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, discusses the exact issue that I posed as Michal’s shaylah:
Someone will not be cooking or baking on Yom Tov for Shabbos, but will need to kindle lights immediately before the entry of Shabbos. Does this person recite a bracha prior to making his/her eruv tavshillin?
The background to his question is the dispute of the Rishonim whether a person may kindle lights for Shabbos even if he did not make an eruv tavshillin. In other words, some Rishonim hold that an eruv tavshillin is necessary not only to permit cooking on Yom Tov, but also to permit any preparations for Shabbos.
The Maamar Mordechai (527:18) rules that since many authorities contend that kindling lights for Shabbos does not require an eruv tavshillin, someone not intending to cook for Shabbos should make an eruv tavshillin without reciting a bracha.
Implicit in the Maamar Mordechai’s conclusion is that the purpose of eruv tavshillin is exclusively to permit cooking and baking on Yom Tov, and there is no independent requirement to make an eruv tavshillin. If the Maamar Mordechai feels that eruv tavshillin is a chovah and not merely a matir, the dispute whether or not one can kindle lights without an eruv tavshillin is irrelevant to reciting a bracha. Whether one needs the eruv tavshillin or not, one would recite a bracha for performing the mitzvah that Chazal instituted! Thus, the Maamar Mordechai clearly holds that eruv tavshillin is only a matir, and that one recites the bracha only if the matir is required.
However, the Maamar Mordechai’s ruling is not obvious, even assuming that eruv tavshillin is only a matir and not a chovah. It is possible that one should recite a bracha on making the eruv tavshillin even if he has no intention to cook on Yom Tov, since the eruv permits him to cook should he choose to. Thus, the eruv tavshillin fulfilled its role as a matir in permitting him to cook, and for that alone he should be able to recite a bracha even if he has no intention to cook. Yet the Maamar Mordechai values the eruv tavshillin only if one intends to use it, whereas, if one does not intend to use it, it is considered purposeless and warrants no bracha. Thus, according to the Maamar Mordechai, Michal and Muttie should make an eruv tavshillin without a bracha.
I was asked this exact shaylah one year when the first day of Pesach occurred on Thursday. Those of us who live in Eretz Yisrael had no mitzvah of eruv tavshillin since, for us, Friday was not Yom Tov. However, we had several guests for Yom Tov who live in chutz la’aretz and observe two days of Yom Tov even while visiting Eretz Yisroel. For them, it was prohibited to cook on Yom Tov without an eruv tavshillin. I suggested that they make an eruv tavshillin with a bracha, but out of deference to the opinion of the Maamar Mordechai, instructed that those reciting a bracha should participate in the cooking for Shabbos that would transpire on Yom Tov at least in a small way. Of course, I suggest that those of you faced with the same shaylah as Avrumie, Michal or Muttie ask your own rav for direction. I would be curious to know whether he agrees with me and, if not, for what reason.
THE HASHKAFAH OF PREPARING FOOD ON YOM TOV
The Torah refers to the Yomim Tovim as Moed. Just as the word ohel moed refers to the tent in the desert which served as a meeting place between Hashem and the Jewish people, so too, a Moed is a meeting time between Hashem and the Jewish people (Hirsch, Vayikra 23:3 and Horeb). Unlike Shabbos when we refrain from all melacha activity, on Yom Tov the Torah permitted melacha activity that enhances the celebration of the Yom Tov as a Moed. Permitting the preparations of delicious, freshly prepared meals allows an even greater celebration of this unique meeting time with Hashem.