Shabbat 42

Cooking with salt.

Continuing the discussion of the prohibition against cooking on Shabbat, today’s page introduces the following mishnah:

A stew pot and a pot that were removed from the fire while they were still boiling, even if they were removed before Shabbat, one may not place spices into them on Shabbat itself [because of a concern that the spices will cook]. 

However, one may place the spices into a bowl or tureen [and then pour the hot contents of the pot over top of them].

The concern here is that though the food has been removed from the flame before Shabbat begins, it is still hot enough to cook the added spices — and thereby violate the prohibition on cooking on Shabbat. In this mishnah, the rabbis distinguish between a kli rishon (first vessel) and a kli sheni (second vessel). A kli rishon is the original pot or vessel that a food is cooked in. There is a concern that putting food into a hot pot, even if it is no longer on the fire, will cook whatever food is placed into it because the pot itself is hot. But if we transfer the food to a second vessel, a kli sheni — one that has not just been resting on the flame — we become less concerned that the food will continue to cook. Hence, the rules of what foods may enter a kli sheni are more lenient. (Once we move to another degree of separation from the kli rishon, to kli shlishi, third vessel, which is food transferred from the kli sheni, the rules become even more lenient.) The assumption is that as food is transferred from vessel to vessel, the temperature of the food and the vessel drops significantly, as do the chances of the food being cooked. In this cases, we assume that spices will cook in a kli rishon, but not a kli sheni.

The Gemara turns from general spices to a special case and one of my favorite condiments: salt. The question relates to the status of salt, which might (in the rabbinic understanding) cook under different conditions than other spices. Here, we see a variety of opinions. Rav Yosef says that salt can cook in a kli rishon but cannot in a kli sheni (much like other spices). Abaye quotes Rav Hiyya who has previously said that salt is not like ordinary spices and can also cook in a kli sheni (which would mean food needs to be salted before Shabbat begins). Rabbi Nachman, on the other hand, asserts that salt needs extensive cooking, similar to the time needed to cook the meat of an ox — so perhaps salt does not cook in either a kli rishon or kli sheni and we should have no concerns about adding it to either on Shabbat.

These discussions led me to think about how we “salt” our speech and how we choose to approach difficult conversations. There are times we feel we need to say or share something, yet sharing it in the heat of the moment — in the kli rishon, if you will — can make things escalate much higher than necessary. However, if we wait until later on, moving to a different time or location, a metaphorical kli sheni, we can have a calmer, less heated conversation. As we all prepare and season our food, perhaps we can keep in mind these lessons of how to properly salt our speech, recognizing how to best speak to those around us in a positive and productive manner.

Read all of Shabbat 42 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on April 17, 2020. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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