An Eruv Tavshilin Q&A for Shavuos 5783

Q:  What is the reason for Eruv Tavshilin?

A: When the second or eighth day of yom tov falls on Shabbat, or if Shabbat falls immediately after yom tov, it is rabbinically forbidden to cook or prepare on yom tov for Shabbat. When executed properly, an Eruv Tavshilin allows one to prepare food for Shabbat on yom tov. This year, the second day of Shavuot is Shabbat, May 27th, and an Eruv Tavshillin will be necessary.

Interestingly, there is no Torah prohibition to cook or bake on yom tov for Shabbat, even though ostensibly one may only cook on yom tov for yom tov itself. The Gemara offers two reasons why this does not constitute a Torah prohibition:

  1. Shabbat and yom tov are considered to be one unit since yom tov is referred to as Shabbat in the Torah. Just as it is permitted to cook and bake on yom tov for yom tov, it is permitted to cook and bake on yom tov for Shabbat.
  2. When one cooks or bakes additional food on yom tov, it is not a Torah violation because it is possible that one will need the food for unexpected guests who might arrive on yom tov.

If the Torah permits the preparation of food on yom tov for Shabbat, why did the rabbis institute the Eruv Tavshilin in the first place? The Gemara gives two explanations:

  1. When yom tov precedes Shabbat, one may be prone to overlook the needs of Shabbat. The rabbis therefore established Eruv Tavshilin as a special tangible preparation for Shabbat. This must be attended to before the start of the yom tov so people will remember Shabbat as well.
  2. If we were to permit cooking on yom tov for Shabbat without any reminder, a person might come to cook on yom tov for the subsequent weekdays, which would violate a Torah prohibition.

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Q:  What is the procedure for Eruv Tavshilin?

A: On erev yom tov, Thursday, May 25th, one sets aside two types of food: one cooked and one baked. If one cannot obtain both items, a cooked item alone would be acceptable, but a baked item alone would not suffice. The cooked item must be at least the size of a large olive (approximately half the size of a chicken’s egg) and the baked item should be at least the size of a chicken’s egg.

The selected items are held in one’s hands while the bracha and subsequent Aramaic text, as they appear in the siddur/machzor, are recited. It is necessary to understand the text as it is recited. If a person does not understand the Aramaic text, it should be recited in his/her native language.

Q:  When is the Eruv Tavshilin effective? Can I eat the Eruv Tavshilin food?

A: The Eruv Tavshilin allows preparations for Shabbat on erev Shabbat. In addition, every effort must be made to complete the preparations early enough on Friday afternoon so that the food will be edible well before Shabbat. Nevertheless, if the preparations were left until late Friday afternoon, they may still be done.

The food items used for the Eruv Tavshilin must remain intact as long as preparations are being made for Shabbat. Perishable items used for the eruv should be stored in the refrigerator as needed. If the eruv foods were consumed or discarded, the eruv ceases to be valid.

A Challah roll or matzah is generally used as the baked item of the eruv. It is customary to then use this challah roll or matzah for an additional mitzvah as one of the two “loaves” of lechem mishnah at each of the three Shabbat meals, and to consume the challah roll or matzah at the third meal of Shabbat, Seudah Shlishit.

Q:  If one is planning to be fully prepared for Shabbat before yom tov starts, is an Eruv Tavshilin still necessary?

A: Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l understood the opinion of the Magen Avrohom to be that it is not absolutely necessary to make an Eruv Tavshilin if one is fully prepared for Shabbat. Still, the Igros Moshe notes that even when a person is not planning to cook or bake on yom tov for Shabbat, an Eruv Tavshilin should be performed as a precaution for an unexpected need. Rav Moshe zt”l writes that a bracha should not be recited in such a case.

Q:  What should be done if one forgot to perform an Eruv Tavshilin?

A: In this case, it is permissible to rely on the Eruv Tavshilin performed by the city’s rabbi since it is customary for him to have his community in mind when performing the ritual. This can only be relied on provided the Eruv Tavshilin was not prepared due to an oversight and not because of negligence. In addition, a person cannot rely on the rabbi’s Eruv Tavshilin for two consecutive yamim tovim. The Chayei Adam questions whether someone who had previously forgotten an Eruv Tavshilin may rely on the rabbi’s Eruv Tavshilin for a second time.

Another option is to have someone who made an Eruv Tavshilin cook for the person/household who forgot. In this case, ownership of the ingredients must be transferred to the person who is allowed to cook. This person may then proceed to cook, even in the home of the person who did not make an Eruv Tavshilin.

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Rabbi Moshe Zywica