Tze U'lmad Ha'azinu

Weekly Talmud Learning with Rabbi Mordecai Schwartz, director of Admissions, The Rabbinical School, JTS

Talmud Shabbat 42a–b

        Mishnah

One may not put spice directly into a cauldron or a pot which one has removed boiling [from the fire on Shabbat]. However, one may put [spice] in one's bowl or plate.

Cooking is forbidden on Shabbat. This is already clear in the Torah. In Exodus 16:23, Moses commands the Israelites to bake their manna before Shabbat begins. But what are the limits of cooking? Does adding spice to a completed dish constitute cooking? When is the cooking process considered to be complete? The Rabbis solved this conundrum by drawing a clear line: once food is in the keli sheni, its serving vessel, it is considered complete and no longer susceptible to changes in flavor that arise from cooking. Why draw the boundary here? The reason seems to be that an objective observer would never claim that spicing or arranging food in a serving vessel is the same as cooking it.

As we move into Yom Kippur, we should ask ourselves if there isn't a spiritual message in this rule. The question of what constitutes real change in our lives is akin to the question of what constitutes cooking. Are we actually applying the sort of "heat" that will make for real repentance, or are we merely adding some spices and garnish? Let us try to work toward creating the sort of changes we need to make us and the world better this year.

Questions

  1. Thinking of your life as a recipe, what spices would you add?
  2. How can Shabbat be a source for change in our lives?