Chapter 5: Preparing a bonfire prior to the entrance of Shabbos

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Chapter 5: Preparing a bonfire prior to the entrance of Shabbos

(Chapter 255 Halachas 1-4)



The previous chapters dealt with the laws regarding leaving food on a fire from before Shabbos. The following chapter will deal with the laws of lighting the fire before Shabbos. Here too the Sages were worried that by certain types of flames there is chance that one may come to stoke them on Shabbos, and they therefore gave restrictions as to when one is allowed to leave over the flame into Shabbos.


1. Lighting wood before Shabbos:

It is forbidden to make a bonfire from wood close to Shabbos, unless one ignites the fire to such an extent that the flame burns on its own accord, without needing the help of other woods.

The reason for this restriction is because of a decree that [if this were to be allowed without restriction then] one may come to stoke it on Shabbos and move the woods in order to make the fire burn properly.

Lighting a single piece of wood before Shabbos:[1] If one [is lighting] a single piece of wood [such as a log], then the fire needs to catch on from before Shabbos to majority of the circumference and majority of the thickness [of the wood]. Meaning that [in its inside] the fire needs to penetrate [at least] the majority of thickness of the wood, and by its outside the fire needs to encompass [at least] the majority of the wood’s circumference, as in such a case it will burn on its own on Shabbos without needing to move it at all.

Wood that was not lit to the above extent before Shabbos, but managed to do so on Shabbos:[2] Wood which was not lit from before Shabbos to the extent [required, as] explained above, then even if it lit [to the required extent] on its own on Shabbos in a way that we are no longer worried that one may come to stoke it, nevertheless it is forbidden to derive benefit from it on Shabbos, since it was lit from before Shabbos in a prohibited way.

May the bonfire be made of materials that are forbidden to use as wicks on Shabbos?[3] If the bonfire was lit from before Shabbos to the extent required, then it may even be lit with materials that are forbidden to use as a wick of a candle[4] being that the fire sparkles on such wicks and does not catch on to the wick well. Nevertheless, it is permitted to use these wicks to make a bonfire in all places, being that [since] a bonfire is a large fire, each wick lights the other, and thus the fire catches on well even to wicks which are not good to be used for a candle.

Lighting a bonfire with tar, sulfur, and straw before Shabbos:[5] A bonfire of tar or of sulfur or of straw and twigs, even if the fire only caught on to them a minute amount [before Shabbos], [nevertheless] it is permitted [to be left over on Shabbos] being that they burn and spread by themselves.

Lighting a bonfire with canes and date seeds:[6] Similarly a bonfire made from cane and seeds of dates, when they are spread out [they too are permitted to be left over for Shabbos even if only a minute amount of them ignited before Shabbos]. However, if the canes are bound together and the seeds are in a basket, then one needs to ignite the fire on to them to the point that the fire [is stabilized and] lights on its own, being that the flame will not spread to them on its own [without one actively doing so].

Making use of the fire:[7] One may heat himself up opposite the fire, and use its light, whether it is lit on the ground or on a candelabra [and we do not suspect that one may come to increase its flame as we do suspect regarding candles on Shabbos].


2. Lighting coals before Shabbos:[8]

There are those who say that by coals even if the fire only caught on to a minute part of it before Shabbos, [nevertheless] it is permitted [to leave on for Shabbos] because [the coals] light and spread on their own [once they have a fire attached to them].

However, there are opinions who argue on this [and require that there be a certain amount lit to the coal before Shabbos].

The final Ruling: By a Rabbinical prohibition we rule like the lenient [first] opinion.


If one has an already lit bonfire, may he add a log to it if it will not suffice to burn before sunset in majority of its circumference?

It is implied that it is allowed.[9]



[1] Admur 255:1

[2] Admur 255:2

[3] Admur 255:2

[4] Certain wicks are forbidden to be used to light candles with before Shabbos as these wicks do not burn well. Thus the Alter Rebbe here explains that there is no restrictions by a bon fire.

[5] Admur 255:4

[6] Admur 255:4

[7] Admur 255:2

[8] Halacha 2

[9] Admur ibid “If one is lighting with a single piece of wood”.

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