Shabbat B' Shabbato
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1195: Toldot 29Cheshvan 5768 10/11/2007

Question: Is one permitted before Shabbat to set up an automatic "bread maker" so that the bread itself will be baked by the machine during Shabbat?
Here is how the machine works: All of the ingredients are put into a dish in the bread maker, which then automatically performs all the necessary steps to bake bread. First the ingredients are kneaded by rotation of the mixer in the bowl, and the bread maker then waits the proper time for the dough to rise. It is then baked by heating elements in the bread maker. Typical machines have different automatic programs for various types of bread, but the program cannot be changed once the process has started. The entire process is started by an electric timer which can initiate the baking several hours after the machine is loaded.
Answer: There are two principles involved in analyzing this question: (1) the rabbinical decree which forbids stirring burning embers; (2) the prohibition of making a loud noise, which takes place during the kneading process.
(1) Stirring embers: It is written in the Mishna, "Beit Shammai say: ink, dyes, and beans may not be left to soak unless they will become soft before the end of the day, while Beit Hillel permit this. Beit Shammai say: bundles of flax may not be put into an oven unless they will dry out and become warm before the end of the day" [Shabbat 1:5-6]. The Talmud explains that the basic disagreement between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel is whether it is prohibited to put tools to from work on Shabbat or not (Shabbat 17b). In deciding the halacha, the Rambam (Shabbat 3), the TUR and the Shulchan Aruch (252) all rule in favor of Beit Hillel.
This would seem to imply that it is indeed permitted to bake bread on Shabbat if the entire process is automatic and controlled by settings made before Shabbat. However, in a later Mishna it is written, "Bread should not be put into an oven and cake should not be put on the coals at the end of the day unless a crust will form before the day ends. Rabbi Eliezer says, that the bottom crust must form." [1:10]. The Talmud explains that the reason for the prohibition is a fear that a person will stir the coals (Shabbat 18a). However, the Talmud permits this if the oven is sealed with mud, because then the person will not stir the coals. Based on this, Hagahot Ashri permits this action for baking and for broiling, and therefore permits it in an oven sealed with mud. This is quoted by the Beit Yosef (252) and accepted by the Mishna Berura. We should note that the fear of stirring the embers is only relevant when this is an actual possibility, but when the person cannot interfere with the process, as in the bread maker, the decree is no longer in effect. Thus, from the point of view of the prohibition of stirring the coals, it would seem that a bread maker which is programmed before Shabbat can indeed be used.
(2) Making noise: The Talmud quotes a Baraita which limits the lenient approach of Beit Hillel: "One is not allowed to put wheat into a mill powered by water unless the grinding will be finished before the day ends" [Shabbat 18]. The Talmud quotes a dispute about the reason for this prohibition. Rav Yosef explains that the prohibition is related to Beit Shammai's prohibition of work performed by tools, while Rabba explains that even Beit Hillel agree that this is prohibited in this case because a loud noise will be made. Rashi explains that this is a desecration of Shabbat because it shows disrespect for the holy day. A number of the early commentators rule according to Rabba, while others rule according to Rav Yosef.
The Beit Yosef summarizes the situation as follows: "Since the RIF, the Rambam, and Rabeinu Tam all permit this, and in addition it pertains to a rabbinical decree, we accept the lenient position. But in places which have a custom to forbid it, the action should not be permitted." [252]. This is also the ruling in the Shulchan Aruch. In Darkei Moshe and in his comments on the Shulchan Aruch, the RAMA forbids it unless it is needed to avoid a large financial loss. Thus, according to the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch, it is permitted to set a bread maker to operate on Shabbat, following the approach of Rav Yosef who permits operating a mill. According to the RAMA, one should make sure that the noisy step of kneading the dough is finished before Shabbat begins, in order to avoid the noise, which is disrespectful of Shabbat.


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