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QUESTION

New York, NY

Is permissible to put uncooked food in a crockpot before Shabbat that will turn on via a timer on Shabbat itself? The Tzitz Eliezar (2:6), referring to an electric stove, is opposed to doing so. He is concerned that if one is allowed to so, then the one might err and put uncooked food on such a stove on Shabbat itself, which is grama and an issur derabanan. However, Rav Shlomo Zalman (Minchat Shlomo 2:34) says that there is no need to make such a gezeirah. What are the Rosh Yeshiva’s thoughts on the matter. Thank you.

ANSWER

Regarding putting raw food in a crockpot before Shabbat with a timer to turn it on during Shabbat. This is really an uvda dechol question. Let me frame it this way. Can I put coffee in my coffee maker with a timer before Shabbat, and the bread ingredients in a bread maker, and wake up to freshly brewed coffee and freshly baked bread on Shabbat morning? Technically, yes. We don’t make new gezeirot, and it isn’t grama if set up before Shabbat, and we rule against the idea of שביתת כלים.

The only thing assur before Shabbat is shehiya and hatmana because of a concern of שמא יחתה – you might come to stir it. That only applies when the fire is on. When the fire is off, there is no gezeirah, and we don’t add our own gezeirah when the fire is off to protect that one.

It is, however, critical to note that putting uncooked food on Shabbat itself in a crockpot that will turn on later is definitely a problem of grama, sof chama lavo, and definitely forbidden.

However, I do think that uvda dechol is a real issue in the case of coffee and bread, and one should not do it. This has a lot to do with the smell of fresh coffee or fresh bread which is reminiscent of weekdays.

When it comes to putting uncooked food in a crockpot before Shabbat when the fire is off, this is technically permissible, as discussed above. However, in contrast to the coffee and bread case, I do not see an uvda dechol problem here. You just have something cooking in a crock pot, just as you would on Shabbat itself. Nothing here makes it feel like the weekday.

[Side Note 1: It is interesting to explore whether a coffee maker and bread maker are technically forbidden to set up before Shabbat even if they are on, since at least in the case of the bread it should be like a קדירא חייתא, it won’t be ready for a few hours, and in both cases the fire is covered, it isn’t possible to stir, etc. A discussion for another time.]

[Side Note 2: Putting raw food in a crockpot before Shabbat is permitted, even if the fire is on, based on the principle of קדירה חייתא, that you won’t come to stir the fire if the food in it won’t be ready until the morning (Shulchan Arukh OC 253:1)].

In summary, putting uncooked food it in a crockpot, setting up a coffee maker or a bread maker before Shabbat  is totally permissible from a technical perspective if these items are off. However, I think that the coffee machine and bread maker should not be done because of uvda dechol, which is not an issue with regular cases of cooking food.