This year’s holiday season is fast approaching and we will be given the opportunity to perform the rabbinic edict of Eruv Tavshilin three separate times; before the start of Rosh Hashanah, before the first days of Sukkot and before the start of Shmini Atzeret.
What is Eruv Tavshilin?
When the second day of a holiday falls on the Sabbath or if the Sabbath falls immediately after a holiday, as it does this year, it is rabbinically forbidden to cook or bake on the holiday in preparation of the Sabbath. Eruv Tavshilin is a ritual that, when performed, permits the preparation for the Sabbath during a holiday. It is interesting to note that there is no prohibition from the Torah to cook or bake during a holiday for the Sabbath and the two reasons given for the allowance are based on the following possibilities.
Either; (a) the Sabbath and holiday are considered to be the same day since the holidays are referred to as Sabbaths in the Torah thereby associating the permission to cook and bake during the holiday with the preparations necessary for the Sabbath during the holiday; or (b) in the event of the arrival of unexpected guests one would need to prepare extra food for the holiday and the Sabbath, by extension, would benefit from these extra preparations. [Tractate Pesachim 46b]
Why then, if the Torah permits the preparation of food on the holiday for the Sabbath, do we need the Eruv Tavshilin outlined by the rabbis?
Tractate Beitzah 16b has two explanations for Eruv Tavshilin; (a) based on the concern of the Rabbonim of Talmudic times that the needs of the Sabbath would be overlooked on occasions when a holiday precedes the Sabbath, they created a special tangible preparation for the Sabbath that must be attended to before the start of the holiday. Or; (b) the Rabbonim of Talmudic times were concerned that by permitting food preparations during a holiday for the Sabbath without having a formalized reminder of the uniqueness afforded the preparation of the Sabbath, one might come to make preparations for the subsequent weekdays during the holiday. Preparation for secular days is strictly prohibited by the Torah.
What does the ritual of Eruv Tavshilin entail?
On the eve of a holiday two types of food are set aside; one cooked and one baked [Mishnah Berurah 527:2 (5-6)]. In the event both types of food are unavailable it would be acceptable to use only a cooked item, however a baked item alone would not suffice. Each item must be of a specific amount as well to fulfill the requirements of the ritual. The cooked item may not be smaller than the size of a large olive (approximately half the size of a chicken’s egg) and the baked item should be at least the size of a chicken’s egg.
The selected items are held aloft while the blessing and subsequent Aramaic text is recited. It is more important to have an understanding of what is being said than to use the traditional Hebrew and Aramaic languages and so it would be permissible to recite the text in a native tongue if neither language is familiar [Rama, Mishnah Berurah 527:12].
Only one Eruv Tavshilin is required per household which includes any house guests.
Eruv Tavshilin extends permission to prepare for the Sabbath only after candle lighting time on Thursday evening up until candle lighting time on Friday [Mishnah Berurah 527:13]. Every effort must be made to complete the preparations early enough on Friday afternoon that the food will be edible well before the Sabbath. Nevertheless, if the preparations were left until late Friday afternoon, they may still be done [Biur Halachah 527:1].
The food items utilized in the performance of Eruv Tavshilin must remain intact as long as preparations are being made for the Sabbath. It is therefore advisable to preserve their freshness by placing one or both of the items into the refrigerator as needed.
If a challah or matzah is used as the baked item, it is customary to then use it as one of the two loaves at the third Sabbath meal [Mishnah Berurah 527:11].
If one is planning to be fully prepared for the Sabbath before the start of the holiday is an Eruv Tavshilin necessary?
Even when a person is not planning to cook or bake during the holiday for the Sabbath, an Eruv Tavshilin should be performed as a precaution for an unexpected need [Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim, 5:20-26]. Since an Eruv Tavshilin allows for other kinds of Sabbath preparations such as washing dishes and lighting candles it is important to perform the ritual.
What is done in the case where an Eruv Tavshilin was forgotten?
It would be permissible to rely on the personal Eruv Tavshilin performed by the rabbi of one’s city as it is customary for him to have his community in mind when performing the ritual. This can only be relied upon provided that Eruv Tavshilin was not forgotten due to negligence. [Shaarei Zion 527:32]
Another option is to have someone who did make an Eruv Tavshilin cook for you. It is only necessary for the person who forgot to make an Eruv Tavshilin to give the raw ingredients to this other person who must be mindful to accept the items as a transfer of ownership. This other person may then proceed to cook, the performance of which is even permitted in the home of the person who did not make an Eruv Tavshilin. [Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim [527:20]
There are a few other alternatives if the Eruv Tavshilin is overlooked; however, due to their complexity they fall beyond the scope of this article. To learn about these options it is recommended to speak with a local orthodox rabbi.
Wishing everyone a Gut Yom Tov and a happy and healthy new year.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.