Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 24 November 2012 / 9 Kislev 5773

The Chicken Bone 'N' Cholent Commotion

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
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Approximately thirty-five years ago, severalstudents attending a yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael engaged in a typical Shabbos nocturnal activity: the raiding of the yeshiva Cholent pot[1]. Yet, as these bochurim followed the proper laws of scooping Cholent out from a pot on Shabbos[2], their innocuous actions on this Friday night unwittingly sparked a raging halachic firestorm between two of the preeminent Gedolei HaDor, Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zichronom l’vracha.

Them Bones…

While partaking of their savory stew, these bochurim realized that although the Cholent itself was fully cooked (one of the prerequisites for allowing Cholent to be returned to the fire l’chatchila[3]in order to be served to the whole yeshiva on Shabbos morning), the chicken bones inside the Cholent were not yet thoroughly cooked. Uncertain whether this changed the Cholent’s status and possibly affected its permissibility to be served, atypically, they decided to send their question to two of the Gedolei HaDor, Rav Moshe Feinstein, who resided in America, and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, living in Yerushalayim, who took opposing positions as to bones’ halachic status pertaining to the Cholent.

Bones Are Inedible

Rav Moshe Feinstein maintained[4] that since any bones found inside a Cholent are not actually meant to be eaten, but are rather placed there as a filler, their presence will not adversely affect the Cholent’s status. Meaning, as long as the edible part of the Cholent is fully cooked, that is all that is needed to allow us to scoop out Cholent and return it to the blech (Chazara). He also does not consider sucking the marrow out from bones as eating, as no one would eat the bones themselves. Consequently, the fact that the bones were not cooked is irrelevant, according to his view.

Let Them Eat Bones…

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, on the other hand, took the opposing viewpoint[5]. He agreed with Rav Moshe that the presence of meat bones from cattle, which are very thick and quite inedible, do not halachically influence the Cholent’s status. Yet, he stressed that the question asked by the bochurim was regarding chicken bones, which, in Eretz Yisrael are commonly placed in the Cholent to be eaten along with the rest of the Cholent! He explained that this category of edible “soft” chicken bones (wings, legs, etc.) are considered like part and parcel of the Cholent, and therefore must also be fully cooked to allow one to return the pot to the fire after serving.

Bare Bones Cholent

Both of these luminaries later shared correspondence on this topic, writing responsae to each other, each citing halachic rationale in support of their opinion. Rav Moshe was astounded to hear that anyone would eat any type of bone[6], and ruled that in Americawhere this is entirely unheard of, one would not need to take the bones’ cooking status into account regarding the permissibility of Chazara. Yet, he concluded, regarding those who live in Eretz Yisrael, he deferred to Rav Shlomo Zalman’s ruling, as he was the “Ba’al Hora’ah Gadol” of Eretz Yisrael[7].

Several other contemporary authorities later addressed this issue, with some ruling like Rav Moshe’s view[8], and others following Rav Shlomo Zalman’s opinion[9]. Most agreed that the halacha would depend on whether chicken bones are commonly eaten as an essential part of the Cholent served in the place of query[10]. Several authorities rule stringently only if one personally eats his chicken bones as part of his Cholent[11].

This ruling of Rav Moshe’s is quite interesting as the upshot is that whether or not one can do Chazara on his pot of Cholent might just depend on where he is living. If one would be living in America, even if he personally might like to eat chicken bones in his Cholent, he would still follow the Minhag there. And even though his (in his mind) edible chicken bones were not fully cooked, he would still be allowed to take some Friday night “To’ameha” Cholent[12], and still return it to the fire. Whereas someone living in Eretz Yisrael who might personally detest chicken bones in his Cholent, nonetheless, would need to make sure that they are fully cooked before partaking of his weekly gastronomic delight.

But one effect is abundantly clear. Although two of the greatest Gedolim of recent history had quite a big difference of opinion on a topic that has great ramifications for many of us, nevertheless, the honor and respect they showed for each other while agreeing to disagree, seems, in this author’s estimation, to jump off the written page and should stand out as lesson for us all; make no bones about it[13].

[1]Interestingly, the Tzitz Eliezer (Shu”t vol. 7, 15) maintains that Yeshiva bochurim raiding the Cholent pot on a Friday night qualifies as L’Tzorech Mitzva.

[2]See previous article titled “The Great Cholent Challenge” at length.

[3]Bais Yosef (O.C. 253, 2 s.v. uma”sh Rabbeinu), Rema (ad loc.), Taz (ad loc. 10), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (ad loc. 18), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 61 and Biur Halacha ad loc. s.v. v’davka & 318, 4 s.v.afilu), Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 45). For an expanded treatment on the conditions permitting the serving and returning of Cholent to the flame, see previous article titled “The Great Cholent Challenge” at length.

[4]Shu”t Igros Moshe (O.C. vol. 4, 76, 1 & 77). Obviously, Rav Moshe and the other poskim mentioned in this article offer much more halachic rationale and proofs to their opinions. However, the main thrusts of their views are presented here.

[5]Cited briefly in Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchaso (old print Ch. 1, 18 & footnote 56; new print Ch. 1, 20, 1 & footnote 56); and fully in Shu”t Minchas Shlomo (Kama 6 & Tinyana 11).

[6]Rav Moshe’s astonishment is quite understandable to this author. As an American expatriate, this author had quite a culture shock upon his arrival in Eretz Yisrael many moons ago, attending the largest yeshiva in the world, and finding the Cholent pot filled with chicken bones!

[7]However, this does not mean that Rav Moshe and Rav Shlomo Zalman actually agreed with each others' rulings. On the contrary, according to Rav Shlomo Zalman even if most do not eat chicken bones as part of their Cholent in America, still it should be an issur derabbanan to do Chazara with uncooked chicken bones in the Cholent. Since he viewed them as edible, even if no one would eat them, it would still be a psik reisha to further cook them on Shabbos by doing Chazara. And, according to Rav Moshe, technically speaking even in Eretz Yisrael, even if most people do eat the chicken bones, one would still be allowed to do Chazara, as he held that only the extremely indigent would enjoy eating any sort of bones, even if they are soft. Consequently, they still would not truly be considered a food item in his opinion. It is only due to the great deference and honor that these contemporary Gedolim had for each other, which exudes from their teshuvos, that allows such a halachic conclusion.

[8]Including Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg (his relevant teshuva was printed in the Kovetz Zichron L’Hagra”B Zolty pg. 643; Rav Shlomo Zalman’s later Teshuva - Shu”t Minchas Shlomo Tinyana 11, was to him), Rav Moshe Aryeh Freund (in his haskama to Meohr HaShabbos vol. 1), Dayan Yaakov Yisrael Fischer, Rav Meir Bransdorfer (both cited in Meohr HaShabbos vol. 2, pg. 241), and the Megillas Sefer (on Hilchos Shabbos, 3, 22 s.v. ululei) who maintains that the fact that no one actually cooks plain edible bones by themselves to eat, but rather exclusively as part of a Cholent, proves that they are not really considered a food item.

[9]Including the Minchas Yitzchak (Shu”t vol. 8, 25), who rules entirely like Rav Shlomo Zalman, and Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 1, 217), who although citing a strong rationale to permit Chazara on chicken bones (as a tziruf that the chicken bones should already be cooked kdei maachel Ben D’Rosai at the time when the rest of the Cholent is fully cooked - see Biur Halacha 318, 4, s.v. afilu; similar to Dayan Fischer’s psak), nevertheless concludes that one should be machmir.

[10]See Toras HaMalachos (vol. 2, Ofeh, 22) and Meohr HaShabbos (vol. 2, Ch. 9, 10) at length, as well as Orchos Shabbos (vol. 1, Ch. 1, 33 & footnote 75).

[11]See Shu”t Az Nidberu (vol. 9, 13, 1) who rules that this din depends on the individual person’s intent -whether he planned on eating bones (retracting from an earlier stringent ruling in Shu”t Az Nidberu vol. 3, 12, 1). Rav Nissim Karelitz (Chut Shani on Hilchos Shabbos vol. 2, Ch. 26, pg. 107 s.v. atzamos) also defines this rule as depending on whether people commonly eat chicken bones in their Cholent; however he disagrees with Rav Moshe regarding sucking on marrow bones, which he considers akin to eating. He also distinguishes that if someone personally eats the chicken bones then Chazara is assur for him until those chicken bones are fully cooked. Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner, although ruling similarly to Rav Moshe in a published responsum (Shu”t Shevet HaLevi vol. 3, 93, 2), later qualified his ruling that if someone does eat the bones in the Cholent, Chazara would be prohibited for him until they are thoroughly cooked (Kovetz M’Bais Levi vol. 6, Dinei Shehiya V’Chazara, 13). Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Shu”t Ohr L’Tzion vol. 2, Ch.17, 9) also makes a distinction regarding covering the pot on the fire, based on whether or not one’s intent is to eat the chicken bones in the Cholent.

[12]Machzor Vitry (191), Magen Avraham (250, 1), Elya Rabba (ad loc. 6), Shulchan Shlomo (ad loc. 1), Arizal (Shaar Hakavannos , Drushei Seder Shabbos, 1), Shlah (Shabbos, Ner Mitzva 31), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (O.C. 250, 8), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 2) and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 5). Although these authorities are referring to tasting the Shabbos food on Erev Shabbos, however, the Zohar (vol. 1, 48b) writes that the ikar tasting is on Friday night.

[13]The possible distinction between “hard” and “soft” bones potentially has ramifications in other areas of halacha, including bitul issur and the kashrus status of gelatin. Perhaps these topics will be addressed in future articles.

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.

L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda.

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