Shabbat Parashat Bereshit | 5763
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Question: How does one deal with dishes and food that remain at the end of a Shabbat meal when they will not be needed on Shabbat, avoiding problems of hachana (preparations for after Shabbat)?
Answer: The idea of hachana is simple, but its practical parameters are difficult to define. One must not do actions which do not enhance one’s Shabbat but whose purpose is to enhance one’s situation after Shabbat. An action which enhances Shabbat is permitted even if it enhances the weekday more, provided one doesn’t add on to the action because of the weekday (Shmirat Shabbat K’hilchata 28:70).
When one finishes a meal, he usually has a few reasons to clear the table. In addition to preparing it for the next meal (which might be after Shabbat), most people are interested in a tidy dining room. Thus, one may clear. However, it is problematic to scrub the table or do a thorough sweeping job if it looks fully presentable for Shabbat. Similarly, if the dining area is off to the side and is neither used nor seen until Shabbat’s conclusion, there must be other grounds for leniency.
The Magen Avraham (321:7) and Mishna Berura (321:21) say that one may take action on Shabbat to prevent damage to an object that is needed after Shabbat. Indeed, one is allowed to move a non-muktzeh item “from the sun to the shade” in order to protect it (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 308), and it is not mentioned that this is only when the owner may use the item on Shabbat. This is the main heter for refrigerating leftover foods on Shabbat and even freezing them for later use (Minchat Yitzchak VIII,24- see his discussion if one is allowed to freeze liquids). (In many cases, there is probably another reason for leniency. When one clears off the food, he has to find some place to put it. Since the refrigerator and freezer are as legitimate storage places as anywhere else, one has the right to store the food there, even if one also gains for the weekday. Only if the food is already removed from sight, and one decides to put it in the freezer for longer-term storage do we need the heter of loss). Shmirat Shabbat K’hilchata (12:2) extends the leniency of loss to the fear that leaving food to rot or crumbs on the floor will attract bugs and ants (where this is an actual concern).
There are two further innovative points of leniency which Rav Sh. Z. Orbach (quoted in Shmirat Shabbat K’hilchata 28:81; see Minchat Yitzchak, ed. II,36) arrived at. One dramatically expands the idea of loss. Not only may one take steps to prevent a loss, but one can take steps to preserve a status quo from deterioration even though the deterioration is easily rectified. His example is to soak dishes in water so that the residue will not harden, making washing dishes after Shabbat harder than it would be to wash them right away. (This would not permit rinsing the dishes to remove residue, which is an additional action to save time after Shabbat, not to preserve the status quo). It appears that many previous poskim (including the quoted Magen Avraham and Mishna Berura) did not assume this logic.
A second idea, which is more compelling but hard to delineate, is that actions that one does naturally under standard circumstances, without giving a second thought, do not constitute hachana. Let us present some examples. One who returns sefarim as a matter of course after finishing using them may do so even if, in this case, that action has value only after Shabbat (e.g. a siddur after Mincha; a birkon after seuda shlishit). One who removes his utensils and leftover food right after eating may do so after seuda shlishit. One mustn’t say he is doing so to prepare for after Shabbat (Shmirat Shabbat K’hilchata, ibid.).
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