Eruv Tavshilin: What's that??
By Nachum Mohl
Eruv Tavshilin: You might scratch your head and wonder what is it. Erev Tavshilin (erev means a mixture or mix and tavshilin means cooked items) is a procedure that we need to do when the days of Yom Tov immediately precede the Shabbat. This year, 2010, Rosh Hashanah is on Thursday and Friday as are the first two days of Succot and the first two days of Simchat Torah/Sh'meeni Atzeret. We have no regular non holiday between Yom Tov and Shabbat on which we can prepare for the Shabbat.
Why do we have an Erev Tavshilin?
It is forbidden to cook on the Yom Tov for the week day. If Yom Tov falls on a regular weekday and the day after it is not the Shabbat, then it is forbidden to cook on Yom Tov for the next day, even though it is permissible to cook on the Yom Tov for that Yom Tov. Cooking on Yom Tov is considered honoring the Yom Tov since fresh tasty foods are part of the enjoyment of Yom Tov. It is easy to make the mistake that since cooking is permitted on Yom Tov, I might as well cook also for tomorrow and save some work – this is forbidden!
The Shabbat which comes immediately after the Yom Tov presents a Jewish law problem. How are we to honor the Shabbat with good food if we can not prepare and cook food on the Yom Tov (when it precedes the Shabbat)? The answer is that we can begin preparations for the Shabbat on the eve of the first Yom Tov and then we continue the preparation even on the last day of Yom Tov as we will explain below.
How did the Erev Tavshilin come about?
The concept of Erev Tavshilin is a Rabbinic decree. They instituted it because of two reasons. First they wanted the Yom Tov to be held in esteem in the eyes of the average person. How? Since if it would be forbidden to cook on the Yom Tov for the holy Shabbat, they would understand that to cook for the mundane week day on Yom Tov would certainly be forbidden, this would add stature to the level of Yom Tov.
The second reason was that they wanted people to make a really nice Shabbat meal. Shabbat meal must be special, fresh and tasty. If people are required to begin the Shabbat preparations on the afternoon before the Yom Tov, that would mean that they would have to make certain that they had the proper foods and ingredients on hand before the Yom Tov began. Conversely if they let the people cook on the last day of Yom Tov for the Shabbat with out beginning preparations ahead of time (this is the Erev Tavshilin); it could happen that people would wait until the last minute on Yom Tov and then look for something to cook for the Shabbat. Since they had to begin to prepare the meal for Shabbat several days early, they will be certain to have nice food planned ahead of time.
How do we do the Evev Tavshilin?
The Rabbis told us to take two cooked items on the afternoon before the commencement of the Yom Tov. The two items should consist of a baked item (bread) no smaller that the size of a large egg and a cooked item (either a piece of meat or fish or an egg) no smaller that the size of a large olive. These two items are to be the beginning of the Shabbat meal preparations. Each householder is to take these two items in his/her hand on the afternoon before the Yom Tov commences and make the following declaration:
By virtue of this Eruv we shall be permitted to bake, cook, keep hot, light candles and to do on the Yom Tov everything that is necessary for the Shabbat, we and all Jews living in this town.
It is customary to make a blessing prior to making this declaration since it is a mitzvah from the Rabbis:
Blessed are You, G-d, our G-d, King of the universe who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the mitzvah of the Eruv.
The foods that constitute the Erev Tavshilin are now put away in a safe place where they will not get eaten or damaged before the Shabbat. They are to be used again on the Shabbat. Most people use the bread on the three meals of the Shabbat as the second bread only eating it at the third meal. Since we used it for one mitzvah, we use it again for another mitzvah.
As long as the Erev Tavshilin remains intact, every one in this house hold may cook and prepare all that is needed for the Shabbat on the second day only of Yom Tov. No preparations for the Shabbat may be done on the first day of Yom Tov. The Shabbat preparations must be done on the second day of Yom Tov while there is still plenty of time in the day to prepare the meal to the extent that if some unexpected visitors dropped in, the food prepared for the Shabbat could be served to them.
The Erev Tavshilin is simple to do and gives us more merit in heaven and we can really use a good deed being on our side. It is important to do this mitvah and in this manner we will be increasing our observance of G-d's precious commandments.
from the September 2010 High Holyday Edition of the Jewish Magazine