When two days of Yom Tov come together, housewives are often eager to cook food on one day for the following day, or rewarm food late in the first day for the evening meal of the second day of Yom Tov. Is this permitted? When can one wash dishes, sweep the floor, or chop a salad for the second day’s meal? When are the candles lit in honor of the second day of Yom Tov? How can one cook on the first day for both days? What happens if the water urn is emptying out – can one add water to the urn even if nobody needs the hot water? Of this and more, in the coming article.
These halachos apply to people who live in chutz la’aretz almost every Yom Tov, while for people in Eretz Yisroel they apply exclusively to the two days of Rosh Hashana.
Preparing for a Weekday on Yom Tov
Certain melachos which are forbidden on Shabbos are permitted on Yom Tov, provided they are done for that day’s needs (Pesachim 46b; Beitza 21a). This is termed in halacha ochel nefesh – activities related to food preparation. However, cooking food on Yom Tov which will be eaten only after the holiday is a Torah prohibition. That said, sometimes even if the food is intended for after the holiday, if it will also benefit the holiday food it may not be a Torah prohibition.
Cooking for the Second Day of Yom Tov
The first day of a Yom Tov is a Torah-mandated holiday, while the second day is rabbinically instituted. Therefore, the Torah’s prohibition to cook on the holiday for a weekday applies even toto cooking on the first day for the following day’s meal, since from the Torah’s perspective, the second day of Yom Tov is a weekday. However, when the prohibition to prepare something is rabbinic in nature, preparation may be permitted for the second rabbinically-mandated holiday, whereas it remains forbidden for a weekday.
In order to determine the exact categories, we must first outline the details of the Torah prohibition, Rabbinic prohibition, and permissible activities.
Preparing for Shabbos on Yom Tov
When Yom Tov falls on a Friday, our Sages instituted the Eiruv Tavshilin, which, once performed, allows cooking for Shabbos on Yom Tov. If the prohibition to cook on Yom Tov for another day is a Torah prohibition, how could the Sages revoke the prohibition with the Eiruv Tavshilin?
This question is debated in the Gemara (Pesachim 46b; Beitza 41a):
Rabba is of the opinion that the Torah permits cooking on Yom Tov for another day when the dish can also be used on Yom Tov in case uninvited guests suddenly show up. The reason is because (even if it is a highly unlikely possibility), the food prepared is considered to be prepared in honor of Yom Tov. However, it was rabbinically forbidden since the dish was really intended for consumption only after the Yom Tov is over. However, since it is only rabbinically forbidden, the rabbis permitted in case it is cooked for Shabbos and one made an eiruv tavshilin.
Rav Chisda disagrees. In his opinion, even if the dish can still be eaten on Yom Tov, if its main use will be for another day, cooking it on Yom Tov is prohibited by the Torah. However, according to Rav Chisda the Torah’s prohibition only refers to cooking on Yom Tov for a weekday. Cooking on a Yom Tov for Shabbos was only forbidden by the rabbis in order to ascertain that people would actually prepare for Shabbos and not become too caught up in the holiday rejoicing and forget to prepare for Shabbos. Another reason the Sages installed this prohibition is to make sure people do not become accustomed to preparing on a holiday for another day. Eiruv Tavshilin servs as a reminder to begin preparing for Shabbos before the holiday. Once that reminder is in place, the Sages allowed to continue cooking on the holiday for Shabbos.
Therefore, according to Rav Chisda, one who cooks on Yom Tov for a weekday transgresses a Torah prohibition and deserves lashes because one is only permitted to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos. However, in Rabba’s opinion the prohibition is rabbinic because of the possibility of guests suddenly appearing.
As a result, according to Rav Chisda one is permitted l’echatchila to cook a dish that will only be ready after Shabbos began even though no guest can possibly eat it on Yom Tov, because the permission to cook for Shabbos does not depend on the possibility of guests. However, according to Rabba, cooking a dish that will only be ready after Shabbos begins is a Torah prohibition because cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos is only permitted if the dish can still be enjoyed on the holiday. (Poskim discuss cases where the possibility of guests coming is impossible, or if it is a dish one would never serve guests – either due to the time of day or the flavor. Due to space constraints, this issue will not be addressed here.)
Expression of the Difference in Halacha
The Mishna Brura (Biur Halacha 527:1) lists many Rishonim who follow Rav Chisda’s ruling. As a result, they rule that one is permitted to cook on the afternoon of a holiday even at a late hour, although the dish will be inedible on the holiday. However, many other Rishonim follow Rabba’s ruling — one is permitted to cook only where the possibility that guests might appear does exist. Since a dish will not be edible even at the end of the day and cannot be served to guests, cooking at a late hour is forbidden.
The Mishna Brura also quotes the Rambam’s opinion (Yom Tov, 1:15) who follows Rabba’s ruling permitting cooking due to the possibility that guests might appear, while elsewhere (Yom Tov 6:1) ruling according to Rav Chisda that cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos is permissible. This seems to indicate that the Rambam saw both reasons as correct, and one who cooks for Shabbos on Yom Tov without an Eiruv Tavshilin transgresses a rabbinic prohibition.
Practically, the Mishna Brura rules not to cook anything late on Yom Tov afternoon which will not be edible before sunset. However, in extenuating circumstances, one can rely upon the lenient opinions, especially if Friday is a second day of Yom Tov. Since the second day is always a rabbinic holiday, one can rely upon the Eiruv Tavshilin and cook later in the day.
Thus, cooking on Yom Tov for a weekday a dish that will be ready before sunset involves transgressing either a Torah prohibition or a rabbinic one, depending on the above-mentioned opinions. However, both agree that where there is no possibility of guests enjoying the dish on Yom Tov the transgression is biblical.
Cooking on the First Day for the Second Day
In light of the above, since the second day of a holiday is rabbinic, cooking on the first day for the second is a Torah prohibition. If the dish will be ready before sunset of the first day, poskim debate if the prohibition is biblical or rabbinic.
Two Facets of the Prohibition
The prohibition to work on a holiday for another day has two components. One, is the Torah prohibition to perform one of the 39 work-categories forbidden on Shabbos for another day’s use. The second is preparatory activities, even though the action doesn’t belong to one of the 39 categories, e.g. setting a table, washing dishes, changing bedlinen or tablecloths.
Rosh Hashana – A Different Prohibition
While second days of Yom Tov are generally a rabbinic institution, the two days of Rosh Hashana are of a different nature. While some Sages see the two days as two separate holidays with dissimilar levels of sanctity, some opine that both days are parts of one long day. This difference in opinion finds expression in various ways.
1) The blessing of Shehecheyanu: if the holiday is one long day, the blessing of Shehecheyanu is not recited on the second day since it is merely a continuation of the first. However, if it is a separate holiday, a sperate blessing of Shehecheyanu must be recited on the second day to usher in the new holiday.
2) Preparing from one day to the next: if both days are really one long holiday, there is no prohibition to prepare from one day to the next. However, if they are two separate holidays, preparing from one day to the next is prohibited. The Mishna Brura however, writes (Biur Halacha 503:1) that even the opinion that sees the two days as one long day does not permit performing Torah-prohibited work on one day for the next since even the second day of Rosh Hashana is only rabbinic. Only according to the opinion that permits work if the possibility of guests appearing exists would it be permissible. In addition, simple activities would be permitted if the two days of Rosh Hashana are seen as one long day.
Halacha (Shulchan Aruch 503:1) sees both days of Rosh Hashana as one long holiday only lechumra i.e. where it results in added stringency. Therefore, the blessing of Shehecheyanu must be recited again on the second day (Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim 600:2). However, since there are copposing opinions on this, one should preferably have new fruit on the table or buy a new article of clothing. If one has no new fruit or clothing, Shehecheyanu should still be recited since mainstream halacha sees each day a separate holiday. Certainly, one may not prepare on the first day of Rosh Hashana for the second day (Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim 503:1).
Every activity that is permitted on Yom Tov is forbidden if done for another day’s use.
If there is (an albeit unlikely) a possibility to enjoy the results of the activity on the same day, there are some who see the prohibition as rabbinic, while others still see it as biblical.
Rosh Hashana has a specific rabbinic prohibition to prepare on one day for the next (Shulchan Aruch 503:1; see the Mishna Brura and Biur Halacha there).
Cooking For The Second Day of Yom Tov
While cooking on the first day for the second day is forbidden, a large pot of food may be cooked for the first day’s meal which contains food for both days.
Even if only one portion will be eaten on the first day — as long as the dish will be fully cooked and edible on the first day — cooking it is permitted. Cooking, baking, or frying is equal in this regard (Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim 503:1). However, adding food to the tray or pot once it is already on the fire or in the oven for the next day’s meal is forbidden. An exclusion to this rule is meat, fish, or poultry that add flavor when cooked together. When cooking many pieces of chicken together, each piece is enriched thanks to the rest of the pieces in the pot. Therefore, one can add meat or fish for the next day’s meal to pot that is already on the fire if it is a dish that becomes richer or heartier thanks to the added meat or fish.
However, since roasting or grilling meats do not cause flavors to migrate from piece to piece, adding more meat or fish for the next day’s meal to the grill or roaster is forbidden (ibid).
In both cases, one is forbidden to explicitly say that the added food is for the second day’s meal (Mishna Brura 503:6). Furthermore, one who has no intention or interest in enhancing a dish cannot use this option.
Cooking After Concluding The Day’s Meal
Putting up a pot of food to cook for the next day’s meal after the first day’s meal is already eaten may be problematic, even if one plans to eat from the food before sunset. The Mishna Brura writes (503:7) that it is accepted to be lenient in this matter, but one who is stringent is praiseworthy. Here, one should be sincerely interested in eating the food on the first day, not merely utilizing this option as a means for cooking on one day for the next.
It is forbidden to cook food that is intended for a weekday’s meal, even if one portion will be eaten on the holiday, and the dish is enriched by the additional meat or poultry.
Specific Halachic Details
- Cooking a large amount for both days is permitted provided the pot or pan is placed inside or atop the heat source at once. However, individual cooking such as frying patties or cooking kneidlach, where each ball requires individual attention – since there’s no difference if they are cooked in large or small batches, one may not cook more for the second Yom Tov’s meal.
- Cooking a large pot of water for the second day is permitted if at least one cup will still be used on the first day. One must, however, place the filled pot on the fire at once. Therefore, if the hot water urn needs to be refilled, it should be filled in one pouring, not two or more (Shulchan Aruch 503:2). When doing so, one should be careful not to say that the added water should be enough for the second day too (Mishna Brura, ibid, footnote 15). If the urn contains enough water for the first day, no water may be added.
If the urn needs more water so it doesn’t break, adding the water allows for the continued use of the urn on the first day, and is permitted if some of the water will be used on that day.
- All tasks for the second day should not be done on the first day. Therefore, one should not defrost meat on the first day for the second day’s meal, nor should he wash dishes or set the table. In extenuating circumstances, one can wash the dishes earlier in the day, relying upon the Chayei Adam (153:6) who rules that the prohibition to perform permitted work is only close to sunset, when it is clearly intended for the following day.
- Performing work for the second day is prohibited until the first day is officially over. Therefore, one must wait until the regular time the holiday ends, and only then begin doing work for the evening or next day’s meal. Therefore, all dishwashing, food warming, cooking and table setting for the second day’s meal must only take place after the stars come out on the second night.
- One may tidy up the house late in the afternoon of the first day, even if his intention is so the house should be tidy for the second day’s evening meal, and he wouldn’t do so if not for the next day’s holiday. A tidy house is enjoyed immediately, regardless of other ulterior motives. However, setting the table or changing tablecloths should take place only after the stars are out on the first evening, since these activities are clearly only for the second day (Rama, Orech Chaim 667:1; Mishna Brura footnote 6).
- The candles for the second evening meal must be kindled only after the first day is certainly over (the time appears in Jewish calendars). Earlier may still be the first day and since the candles are lit in honor of the second holiday, they must be lit only once the second day begins.