A commentor asked a question,
“maybe you can do a piece with more tips on how to stay warm during shabbos? how can you keep enough hot water ready for tea etc?”
For people inside the Jewish religious community, this may seem like a very basic question. But for someone learning or striving to be a mitzvah observant Jew who’s not in a Jewish orthodox community, it’s a very serious and challenging question! That’s for asking, and here we go…
It’s become a strong tradition that on Shabbat day one should have a hot primary food dish. Further, it’s an Eastern European tradition to have a hot drink before going to synagogue, or even at synagogue (before the start of services) at some places. I’m fairly certain that having a hot tea or hot coffee in some form during Shabbat is a tradition for sephardi Jews as well.
But arranging for a hot meal and a hot drink on Shabbat has many halachic (Jewish law) difficulties. One cannot light a fire on Shabbos (meaning you can’t turn on the stove / burners), and one can’t cook on Shabbos (meaning even if you leave the fire on, you can’t put food or drink on it). This even extends to using hot water from the faucet, doing so in the U.S. with always-on hot water heaters/tanks or instant hot water heaters or in Israel with solar heaters causes a Shabbos violation as new cold water is brought into contact with the pre-heated hot water, meaning the faucet is not an option. So what is one to do?
For hot food one of the first and best choices is the Hot Plate. For the Friday night meal one prepares ones dishes in advance and places them on the hot plate to stay hot from the start of Shabbos until the meal after Friday night synagogue services.
For Shabbos day, one places a stew-like food dish into a covered pot, pre/partially cooks it before Shabbos, and then places it on the hot plate to slow cook through Friday night and Shabbos day until the Shabbos day meal after synagogue services.
Two general Jewish law rules to know and remember: one cannot place food on the hot plate after Shabbos has started, nor can one return food which has been removed. (There are specific exceptions and procedures for both of these points, but explaining those in detail is beyond the goals of this article.)
An electric crock pot or slow cooker pot is another good choice for slow cooking the Shabbos day hot dish (though one should make sure their electric pot DOES NOT automatically turn off after the food pot is removed).
For hot water, the device of choice is an electric urn or electric pump pot. The urn is filled and heated before Shabbos (a boil or heat setting) and then switched to a steady heat maintenance setting for Shabbos (meaning switched before Shabbos starts).
The urns tend to be large but not particularly energy efficient (they’re not insulated). They are a good choice if you have a large family or many Shabbos guests. These type of urns in very-large size are often found at weddings, conferences or even restaurants.
The pump pots are well insulated and energy efficient but are smaller and present a possible Shabbos problem. Some of them have an electric pump (you press a button to automatically get the water squirted out). When selecting a pump pot, you must select one that also has a manual pump option. Some of these pots are available with a “Shabbos mode”, which merely means the electric pump button won’t work if you accidently press it.
Pump pots are a good choice for individuals, couples or small families. They’re also a good choice if you wish to keep a pot of hot water available at all times (due to their efficiency you can keep it turned on all the time), a particularly nice thing in cold climates.
Historically orthodox Jewish communities had other approaches to these problems, in line with the technology of the time. Samovars for hot water which actually had a lower chamber or inner container for fireplace coals. Large cast iron pots buried in the coals of the kitchen fireplace for a hot Shabbos day meal. The Gemora discusses the community placing their Shabbos pots into the communal bakery oven, to cook their Shabbos meal and retrieve it after synagogue on Shabbos day.
(Photo - a wood coal based samovar from Russia.)
The above photos are from this U.S. store web site, which seems to offer a decent selection – though I have no idea if the prices are reasonable or not. The samovar photo is from here, which has more and a discussion of Russian samovars.
These items are readily available in areas with a significant Jewish religious population, such as New York, Miami, or London, etc, as well as most electric item stores in Israel.