Excerpted from Rabbi Haim Jachter’s Bridging Traditions: Demystifying Differences Between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews, co-published by OU Press and Maggid Books
Imagine the following scene: An Ashkenazic family is visiting a Sephardic family for Shabbat. On Shabbat morning, the Sephardic hostess removes chicken in sauce from the refrigerator and places it straight on the Shabbat tin (what Ashkenazic Jews refer to as a blech). The Ashkenazic family is shocked; they would never place cold food on the tin on Shabbat, even if it were solid and completely cooked! The Ashkenazim wonder if they are permitted to eat food that was reheated in this manner. Luckily, they are able to consult their Rav, who informs them that their Sephardic hosts are simply following the approach of Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yeĥaveh Da’at 2:45).
Eno Derech Bishul
The Shulĥan Aruch (Oraĥ Ĥayim 253:5) rules that on Shabbat, one may place fully-cooked solid food on top of a pot filled with food cooking on the fire “because this is not the way of cooking,” “eno derech bishul.” This permitted method of haĥazara (returning food to the fire) is referred to as “kedera al gabei kedera.” Since people do not cook food this way, this obviates any concern for meĥzei k’mevashel, the appearance of cooking. It does not appear like cooking, and the fact that one is reheating the food in this unusual manner demonstrates that he is not interested in stirring the coals (or adjusting the flame).
Ashkenazic authorities debate whether a non-adjustable hot-plate or warming table constitutes a permissible method for reheating food on Shabbat. Those who adopt the lenient approach argue that since people do not cook on a hot-plate or warming table, it is a permissible method to reheat food, similar to the kedera al gabei kedera method. Rav Mordechai Willig (The Laws of Cooking and Warming Food on Shabbat, pp. 145–148) rules leniently, whereas the Shemirat Shabbat K’Hilchata (1:25) rules strictly.
Rav Ovadia Yosef wholeheartedly endorses the lenient opinion, arguing that a non-adjustable hot-plate successfully avoids concern for adjusting the flame and the appearance of cooking. Moreover, he argues that even simply placing a tin over the fire successfully obviates these concerns. Ashkenazic authorities do not accept this last point, since the Be’ur Halacha (253:3, s.v. v’yizaher) rules in accordance with the Peri Megadim, who argues that kedera al gabei kedeira does not appear as cooking only if the bottom pot is filled with food. Rav Ovadia, on the other hand, follows the view of the Maĥatzit HaShekel, who permits kedera al gabei kedera even if the bottom pot does not contain food.
Reheating a Solid with Much Liquid
The above discussion relates to reheating fully-cooked solid food. The Rama rules (Oraĥ Ĥayim 318:15) that one may not reheat a liquid that has completely cooled down, and according to the Shulĥan Aruch, a liquid may not be reheated if it has cooled down to a temperature of less than yad soledet bo.*
The question of reheating solid food that has some liquid in it has been debated by the Aĥaronim for centuries. Some Aĥaronim (the Baĥ, Vilna Gaon, and Mishna Berura 318:32, 104) maintain that a food must be entirely free of liquid to qualify as a solid. This approach argues that there is no difference whether one is heating a small or large amount of liquid; just as heating the large amount of liquid is forbidden, as both the Rama and Shulĥan Aruch state, so too is heating a small amount of liquid in a solid food.
Other Aĥaronim (including the Taz, Peri Megadim, and the Kaf HaĤayim, Oraĥ Ĥayim 318:62) maintain that if the majority of a food is solid, it is classified as a solid. The logic of this approach is that the minority of liquid is “batel,” nullified to the majority of solid food.
Rav Yosef Adler cites the view of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik as offering a practical guideline: If the food is eaten with a fork, it is a solid; if it is eaten with a spoon, it is a liquid. On the other hand, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe 4:74:Bishul:7) rules in accordance with the strict view, except perhaps in a case of great need. Rav Shimon Eider (Halachos of Shabbos, p. 259, n. 114) presents a cogent defense of the lenient view based on an idea of Rav Tzvi Pesaĥ Frank. Most Ashkenazic Jews, however, follow the strict opinion of Rav Moshe.
Rav Ovadia follows the view of the Minĥat Kohen, who rules that one may follow the lenient approach and place cold, fully-cooked solid food that has some liquid in it on the tin on Shabbat morning. Two great contemporaries of Rav Ovadia, Rav Ben Tzion Abba Sha’ul (Teshuvot Ohr L’Tzion 2:30:13) and Rav Shalom Messas (Teshuvot Tevu’ot Shemesh, Oraĥ Ĥayim 66), strongly challenged Rav Ovadia’s ruling. Nevertheless, Rav Ovadia stood firm, confirming his original position in his elder years without any reservation, especially since he marshals evidence that this is the Minhag Yerushalayim (Teshuvot Yabia Omer 7: Oraĥ Ĥayim 42:6; Teshuvot Yabia Omer 9: Oraĥ Ĥayim 108:169).
May Ashkenazim eat food on Shabbat that was reheated by Sephardic Jews in accordance with Rav Ovadia’s ruling? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Although it is forbidden to benefit from work performed in a forbidden manner on Shabbat, this is only a Rabbinic prohibition. The Mishna Berura (318:2, citing the Peri Megadim) and Yalkut Yosef (Oraĥ Ĥayim 253:11) permit eating food cooked in accordance with a legitimate opinion that one does not follow, since we may rule leniently about Rabbinic matters. Thus, even though Ashkenazic Jews refrain from reheating food in this manner due to a possible violation of Halacha, once the food has been prepared, an Ashkenazic Jew may rely on the lenient view and enjoy the food. Accordingly, the Ashkenazic family in our hypothetical example may enjoy without reservations the food reheated by their Sephardic hosts, even if the Sephardim follow a more lenient approach than the Ashkenazim.
*Rav Zecharia Ben-Shlomo (Orot HaHalacha, p. 335) notes that many Yemenite Jews follow the ruling of the Rambam (Hilchot Shabbat 22:8) that one may reheat a fully-cooked liquid even if it has completely cooled. Rav Eliezer Melamed (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/23093) and the Yalkut Yosef (Oraĥ Ĥayim 253:11) note that it is permissible for all Jews to eat hot soup served at a home of a Yemenite Jew who follows this ancestral practice.