1344 (5784-01) 25 Elul 5783 (Sept. 11, 2023) This Week

"Mystical Power of The Shabbat Stew"

When the Tzemech Tzedek explained that the cholent was made prior to Shabbos and was left to simmer the whole night, the doctor pushed the plate of food away, stating that it was not healthy.

Connection: This year, Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat

Story in PDF format for more convenient printing




The Tzemach Tzedek, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, made an association with a certain non-religious Jewish doctor. The doctor attended several public discourses of the Rebbe and these piqued his interest.

One week, the Rebbe invited the doctor to spend Shabbos with him. At the afternoon meal, steaming plates of cholent (a traditional Shabbos stew, served piping hot)[1] were put on the table. The doctor stared at his plate, his face expressing bewilderment.

The Rebbe understood that the doctor was wondering how could there be hot food on Shabbos, since cooking was not allowed. The Rebbe explained that the cholent was prepared prior to Shabbos, and then left to simmer the whole night. Upon hearing these words, the doctor pushed the plate of food away, objecting that it was not healthy.

The Tzemach Tzedek responded, "Please reconsider. A person that eats cholent brings blessing into the world."

The doctor responded, "Rabbi, didn't you tell us that the blessings are drawn down into the world by our blowing shofar on Rosh Hoshana?"

The Rebbe nodded his head in affirmation.

"So why then," continued the doctor cleverly, "do we need to eat cholent on Shabbos?"

The Rabbi smiled and said, "It is true what you said about shofar. But when Rosh Hoshana falls out on Shabbos [as this year 5784], we don't blow the shofar; we eat cholent."

Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the parsha mailing list of Rabbi Herschel Finman (shliachp@aol.com), who heard it from Rabbi Dovid-Shalom Pape of Tzivos Hashem Newsletter fame, some 45 years ago. Expanded 60% since my original mailing in 5770 (14 years ago).

Connections (2): Seasonal - 1) Rosh Hashana; 2) anniversary of the birth date (Elul 29) of the Tzemach Tzedek.

Biographic note:
Rabbi Menachem-Mendel Schneersohn [of blessed memory: 29 Elul 5549 - 13 Nissan 5626 (Sept. 1789 - April 1866)], the third Rebbe of Chabad, was known as the Tsemach Tzedek, after his books of responsa to difficult questions in Jewish Law and Talmudic commentary called by that name. He was renowned not only as a Rebbe, but also as a leading scholar in his generation in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah.

[1] The custom of eating cholent/chamim began more than two millennia ago. A splinter cult of Jews, known as the Tzadukim, or Sadducees, believed that rabbinical law was corrupt and that the Bible should be interpreted literally. They interpreted the verse, "You shall have no fire burning in your dwellings," to mean that one should sit in the dark and eat cold food. In reality, the verse means that a fire may not be lit on Shabbos. To demonstrate the falseness of their belief, the Rabbis established lighting Shabbos candles to provide light during Shabbos and eating hot food on Shabbos day from a heat source prepared before Shabbos. Thus, one who eats cholent on Shabbos is considered to have upheld both the Written and Oral Torah.

[2] We learn from Kabbalah sources, based on Deut. 11:6, that the annual infusion into the world of Divine benevolence is completed when the year ends and a moment later Rosh Hashana begins. The quality of the infusion for the new year is influenced by our blowing of the shofar and the special Rosh HaShana Musaf prayer (see also Tanya IV, Epistle 14). But when Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat, it is left to the holiness of Shabbat and our observance of it to maintain the world until the shofar is blown on the second day. The primary aspect of Shabbat, after observing all of the refraining from work prohibitions, of course, is the mitzvah of oneg Shabbat - enjoying the Shabbat pleasures -- including the eating of those foods that are special for Shabbat [such as steaming hot cholent!

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