Issue #4, Sivan 5758
  1. Does a hotel need an eruv
  2. May one eat Bacos
  3. What is the best way to keep food hot on Shabbat

Question Is there any problem with transferring objects from the room a person is staying in to any other public parts of the hotel on Shabbat? We were in a hotel in Boston and we were not sure if the other parts of the hotel are equally considered a reshut hayachid like the hotel rooms themselves or whether they have a separate status and are a karmelit, etc.
Answer An area surrounded by four walls has the status of a reshut hayachid. Your question, therefore, is not whether or not the hotel is defined as a reshut hayachid but whether or not it requires an "eruv chatzerot".

During the times of Chazal several houses shared a common courtyard. The courtyard was enclosed by a wall and therefore considered a reshut hayachid. However, since the courtyard had many owners but each house had only one owner, carrying from one's house to the more public area of the courtyard or vice versa could lead one to permit carrying from a reshut hayachid to a reshut harabim. Therefore Shlomo Hamelech forbade carrying from a house to the courtyard and vice versa lest one come to carry from the house to a real reshut harabim. With an "eruv chatzerot, e.g. collecting bread from each of the home owners and placing it in one of the houses of the courtyard, the carrying from the house to the courtyard and vice versa was permitted. If the courtyard and houses all belong to one person then an "eruv chatzeirot" is not required.

A hotel belongs entirely to the owners and therefore does not require an "eruv chatzeirot". Therefore one may carry anywhere within the confines of the building of the hotel. However if there is no wall surrounding the entire hotel grounds, then one would not be able to take things out of the building one is in. This is because an area cannot be considered a reshut hayachid without a halachic mechitza.

If the various houses sharing the courtyard belong to one person who rents it out to tenants, the tenants would be required to make an "eruv chatzeirot". This, however, does not apply to guests in a hotel. The reason why most hotels do not need "eruv chatzeirot" is that the bread in the kitchen has the same effect as the bread collected for the "eruv chatzeirot". Therefore, in a hotel (the same applies to a yeshiva) where everybody eats from the same kitchen there is no need for an additional "eruv chatzeirot".

There may be some hotels where it may be problematic to carry from one's room to the public areas. If some of the hotel's rooms are owned by private owners or on a time sharing scheme and these owners do not eat in the dining room (and at least two are Jewish) then various problems may arise. The exact psak halacha would vary depending on the specific circumstances.

The answer to your question therefore is that usually the entire hotel building is a reshut hayachid and you would be permitted to carry anywhere within the confines of the hotel where there are proper mechitzot.

Question A non-Jewish person asked me why we are allowed items such as Bacos (imitation bacon bits under the OU's hasgacha). After I explained that there was no issue of treifut, per se, he asked whether trying to emulate a forbidden taste didn't violate the spirit of the law. When I mentioned this to a friend, he said that he once heard something about this in the Gemara but had no idea where.

In your expert opinion, is there any discussion/issue of eating foods that imitates the taste of non-kosher items?

Answer Regardless of whether or not you would refer to us as experts, your friend is right. The Gemara in Chullin 109b towards the bottom quotes Yalta saying to her husband Rav Nachman that for anything that the Torah forbade, it permitted something similar. There are many examples listed. Among them: "chelev" of a "beheima" is forbidden but that of a "chaya" is permitted; blood of a "nida" is forbidden, but some blood (note: nowadays this is also forbidden, but from the Torah it is permissible) referred to as "dam tohar" is permissible. It is forbidden to drink blood, yet it is permissible to eat liver, composed almost entirely of blood, after roasting it.

What the Gemara is trying to say is that the Torah did not necessarily forbid the pleasure that is derived. In your case, the Torah forbade eating bacon since it is a derivative of a non-kosher animal. The Torah did not forbid eating something which tastes like bacon. Our job is to follow the dictates of the Torah, therefore there is nothing wrong with eating imitation bacon, or imitation anything else. (Nonetheless, one may ponder what is the motivation of creating an imitation of something forbidden and do we really need it. People who feel that the essence of life is spiritual growth realize that it is unnecessary and even undesirable to seek out every exisiting pleasure.)

The above, of course, is limited to situations where there is no problem of "marit ayin". Although, doing something which is similar to a prohibition is technically permissible, if others who observe you doing so may mistakenly think you are violating the prohibtion, then you must refrain from doing so. Regarding "marit ayin", if the act that appears to be prohibited becomes common practice, "marit ayin" would not apply. For example, HaRav Nebenzahl told us that he heard from HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l that those who were the first to use "Shabbat clocks", violated the prohibition of "marit ayin", yet today, after they have become common this is no longer a problem. Similarly, although nowadays one may spread margarine on his meat, perhaps when margarine was initially introduced it was forbidden because of its similarity to butter.

Question I have come to believe that I am not necessarily properly arranging for hot food on Shabbat. I've also come to the conclusion that in the context of modern rangetops that the blech is not performing its proper function, in that what really needs to be done is to cover the knobs, to prevent one from adjusting the heat. In any event please provide me with detailed instructions for providing for heated food on Shabbat.
Answer Chazal decreed that food which is not sufficiently cooked can only be placed on the fire prior to Shabbat if the fire is covered or the coals are swept aside. In addition, if one removes fully cooked food from the fire and wishes to return it, one of the conditions is that the fire be covered or the coals be swept aside. Chazal feared that in one's desire to hasten the cooking process one may come to stir the coals, a Torah prohibition.

How to apply this to today's stoves is not clear. On the one hand, as you point out, the way to raise the intensity of the fire is by turning the knobs, thus the knobs should be covered. On the other hand, when we cover the fire with a blech we are sufficiently showing that we are not planning to change the intensity. In addition, once Chazal decreed that it is the fire which should be covered, we do not change their decrees. This issue of whether the knobs or the fire should be covered is a machloket of modern day poskim. Today they make blechs that cover the fire as well as the knobs. We asked HaRav Nebenzahl Shlit"a and he said that HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zt"l ruled that it is sufficient to cover the fire alone.

Another possibility is to use the electric hot plate (the one where you do not see the heating element), known in Israel as the "plata". This is equivalent to a covered fire.

Once the food is sufficiently cooked ("maachal ben drusai" - one half, or according to some opinions one third, cooked) and the fire is covered, it may be placed on the fire prior to Shabbat. Nonetheless, it is preferrable that all foods be completely cooked prior to the onset of Shabbat. Having on the stove food which is not completely cooked, may lead to numerous problems, some of which are "issurei D'Orayta".

For example, sometimes one removes the cover of a pot to see if its contents are cooked. If it is indeed not cooked, you would not be permitted to replace the cover because that hastens the cooking process (the heat within the pot is more intense when covered than when not), this is a Torah prohibition. In addition, if you were to remove this pot from the fire, you would not be permitted to return it to the fire, since this food is not yet completely cooked. This is true even if the fire is covered, you are still holding on to the pot, and you had intention to return the pot to the fire.

If on Shabbat you want to heat up food you may do so on the following conditions: the food must be solid not containing liquids, fully cooked and not placed directly on the fire or blech, but rather on another pot which is on the fire.

Thus to summarize: It is always best to have all food cooked completely before Shabbat begins. The fire or electric burner should be covered or the Israeli "plata" should be used (this is essential if you wish to return food taken from the fire on Shabbat).