Should New Realities Change How We Make an Eruv Tavshilin?


    By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

    Join our WhatsApp group

    Subscribe to our Daily Roundup Email

    First there was the icebox.  Then came the expensive refrigerators with the poison gas.  And then came freon based refrigerators.  And the world changed for the better.

    This Thursday before Shavuos, we will all be making an Eiruv Tavshilim.  Generally speaking, we use an egg and a Matzah for an Eruv Tavshillin.  But should we continue doing this in light of refrigeration?  Whatever happened to Hidur Mitzvah – doing a Mitzvah in the best possible way?

    Although most people use an egg, the Mishna Brurah (527:8) recommends that one should use meat or fish. This is on account of the idea of Hidur Mitzvah – beautifying a Mitzvah. Why then did the custom of using an egg develop? The Aruch HaShulchan explains that the hard-boiled egg was used because it spoiled less than fish or meat.  But nowadays, is there still a reason not to follow the idea of hiddur Mitzvah?


    Whenever any day of Yom Tov comes out on a Friday – an Eruv Tavshilin must be made before the Yom Tov begins.

    What is an Eruv Tavshilin?

    An Eruv Tavshilim is a Rabbinic device – that involves 3 things:

    • a baked item
    • a cooked item
    • and a special formula to recite.

    This Rabbinic device allows one to “continue preparing and cooking” for Shabbos on Yom Tov.

    In other words, through the Eruv Tavshilin, one actually begins the Shabbos preparations on the day before Yom Tov. The Malachos performed on the Yom Tov for Shabbos are considered to be a continuation of these preparations. (Rema O.C. 527:1).


    We know, however, that performing Malacha on a Yom Tov for another day other than the Yom Tov itself is, in fact, a Torah prohibition. If this is the case, how can a Rabbinical enactment allow one to get around a Biblical prohibition?


    The answer is that, technically, it was permitted by the Torah to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

    Why was it permitted? There is an argument about this very point that is found in the Gemara:

    • Rabbah said that it was permitted because “you never know when guests may drop in and eat.”
    • Rav Chisda, on the other hand, said that the Torah actually made an exception for Shabbos.

    The Rabbis, however, forbade cooking on Yom Tov even when it was done for Shabbos. Why did they forbid it?

    • Either because they were afraid that people would take the best items for Yom Tov and leave nothing significant for Shabbos (Rabbah’s explanation).
    • Or because they were afraid that it would lead to much confusion in that people would think that one could also cook for another day of the week, too, not just Shabbos (Rav Chisda’s explanation).


    There is a difference between the two approaches. According to Rabbah, all the food would have to be cooked before Shabbos. According to Rav Chisda, the food may still be cooking over Shabbos.


    According to whom do we pasken? Ideally, we should be concerned to make sure the food is all cooked from before Shabbos starts. Post fact, we can rely on the opinion of Rav Chisda.

    According to both opinions, however, the cooking and baking that is permitted for Shabbos on a Yom Tov may only be done on Friday. It may not be done on Thursday Yom Tov at all.  This year it can because it is Cgik HaMoed.


    If guests are expected who are not supported financially by the person performing the Eruv Tavshilim, then in order for the guests to avail themselves of the Eruv Tavshilin, the host must give a portion of it to someone else who will accept IT on the behalf of the guests. According to the Shulchan Aruch (527:10), the host himself cannot accept it for them, and he requires another person (a spouse is fine). This accepting on behalf of the guests is called “Zikui.”

    Most Poskim are of the opinion that when a married son comes to the home of his parents, the Zikui system should be used rather than mere reliance on the Eruv performed by the household owner.

    To perform the Zikui one merely has to say to another, “please accept this on behalf of those who are coming later.”


    If one mistakenly left out the egg from the Eiruv Tavshilin (this is the cooked food) – the Eruv Tavshilin must be recited again. The Eruv may not be used at all – even if it is just for baking. However, if one mistakenly left out the challah or the matzah, the Eruv Tavshilin is still considered to be valid. We see that the cooking is key.

    If one ate or lost the egg (or the cooked item) before Shabbos began, then the Eruv is also not valid. If, however, one ate or lost the baked item before Shabbos then the Eruv is still valid.


    Ideally, both the baked item and the cooked item should be the size of one Baitza, but, post facto, it is still valid if it was the size of a kezayis. Ideally, one should have in mind that the cooking of the item is for the Mitzvah of Eruv Tavshillin.


    Even if someone does not plan on cooking or baking for the Yom Tov, he or she should still make an Eruv Tavshilin. This is in order to allow for the lighting of the Shabbos candles on Yom Tov (See SA 527:19). However, if one is not cooking and or baking, a berachah would not be recited under such circumstances.

    If the person changes his or her mind and does participate in cooking or baking activities, then it is permitted to do so even if the berachah was not recited (See SSK 31 note 83 citing Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach).


    The Rav of each town also makes an Eruv Tavshilim for people in his town who neglected to make one. However, one is only permitted to rely on the Rav’s Eruv one time. There is a question as to whether this means once in a lifetime or one time per year. One should seek guidance from his own Rav or Posaik on this issue.


    We set aside food for the Eruv Tavshilin from before Yom Tov. These foods should be eaten on Shabbos. At a minimum one must have one cooked item (and at least a k’zayis of it) and ideally, one baked item as well. The custom is to use an egg and a matzah or a challah. It is proper to use these foods at the Shabbos meal. As mentioned earlier, some, including the Mishna Brurah, recommend using meat or fish instead of an egg as the cooked item.

    Generally, a berachah is recited on the Eruv and the text for the Eruv is recited. It is in Aramaic. If the person performing the Eruv understands Aramaic, then there is no need to recite it in Hebrew or in English. If not, then it should be recited in English. The words mean: With this Eruv, we are permitted to bake, cook, keep warm, kindle fire, prepare and do all that is necessary on the holiday for Shabbos, for ourselves, and for all Jews who live in this city.


    Ideally, the food should be eaten on Shabbos, for a number of reasons. One such reason is that an item used for one Mitzvah should be used for another Mitzvah too.


    The Gemorah in Shabbos 133b tells us that the pasuk of zeh keili v’anvehu teaches us to perform Mitzvos in a beautiful way. It seems that this is, in fact, an obligation.

    But is this a Torah obligation? Or is it a Rabbinic one?

    It seems that there is a debate among the meforshim about this. Rashi in Sukkah 29b holds that it is a Torah obligation. Tosfos in Menachos 41b holds that it is derabanan.

    What difference does it make? We will see in the next section.


    The Gemorah in Bava Kamma (9b) discusses the obligation to spend 33% on making a Mitzvah beautiful. But what does this mean exactly? How is it to be calculated? If one can purchase a non-beautiful esrog for $50 (the going price now for a minimum one) does that mean he is obligated to spend up to another $16.67 to purchase a mehudar one? Thus the total cost would be $66.67 (this is referred to in the Gemorah as milgav)? Or maybe the 33% refers to the total price. Thus $50 would be 2/3rds of what he has to spend – the total being $75 (this is referred to in the Gemorah as milbar)?

    The Gemorah does not come up with a conclusive answer. The Rosh in Bava Kammah 7 rules like the former view – that it is 33% more of the original $50 total $66.67. Rabbeinu Chananel rules like the latter view – the total being $75. How does the Shulchan Aruch rule? He rules like the Rosh (See beis Yoseph OC 656). It is interesting to note that he rules in this manner because of the concept of Safek Derabanan lekulah – a doubt on a Rabbinic Mitzvah we rule leniently.


    Rav Velvel Soloveitchik zt”l (1886-1959), the Brisker Rav, in his writings on Nazir (2a) poses a question as to whether the concept of Hidur Mitzvah is a specific requirement for each and every Mitzvah? Or do we say that it is a general concept that is applicable across the board to all Mitzvos? In other words, is this pasuk of “veh keili v’anveihu” revealing to us a general concept that we must adhere to throughout the Torah?

    Rav Velvel proves from a halacha in Bris Milah found in the Gemorah in Shabbos (133b) that it is a special requirement for each and every Mitzvah. How so? Because if he did not take his hand away, he removes the tzitzin (small protruding pieces of skin) that are not me’akaiv on account of hiddur Mitzvah. If it was a general Mitzvah, how would we know that Hiddur Mitzvah sets aside Shabbos?


    What happens if he performed it in a manner that was not beautiful? Has he still fulfilled the Mitzvah? This too may be a debate. The Gemorah in Sukkah 11b states that it is a Mitzvah on account of Hiddur Mitzvah to bind the lulav. If he did not bind it, one has still fulfilled it. Tosfos “Lulav” in Sukkah 29b writes that Hiddur Mitzvah is not me’akaiv – that one still fulfills the Mitzvah even without it.

    The Kapos Temarim (Yonah B. Yaakov) offers a defense of Tosfos’ attack on Rashi as saying that Rashi’s position is that the Torah placed the determination in the hands of the sages – and it may vary between each of the Mitzvos.

    The Chasam Sofer (Sukkah 29b) is of the opinion that, according to Rashi, if the lack of Hiddur is in the very item of the Mitzvah itself – then it is invalid post facto, but otherwise it is valid b’dieved.


    What if he performed a Mitzvah, not only in a non-beautiful manner, but in a disrespectful desultory manner? The Pri Magadim in his Mishbetzes HaZahav 11:4 writes that it is pasul b’dieved. [See, however, OC 272:1 Biur Halacha “Ain” where he writes otherwise regarding wine].

    In the z’chus of our rigorously adhering to halacha, and our studying of it, may we all merit a personal geulah in the days ahead.

    The author can be reached at [email protected]

    Listen to the VINnews podcast on:

    iTunes | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Podbean | Amazon

    Follow VINnews for Breaking News Updates

    Connect with VINnews

    Join our WhatsApp group