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It's great that you make a Brocho, and say the declaration. But how does it allow you to cook for Shabbos on Yom Tov? What is it about it that makes it Muttar?

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On a Biblical level you'd be allowed to cook on a Yom Tov even for a weekday, so long as there is enough time left in the day that you'd actually be able to eat the dishes you're preparing, if you're so inclined.

The Eruv Tavshilin, then, is needed only because of the Rabbinical enactment forbidding preparations on Yom Tov for afterwards. It represents the beginning of your preparations for Shabbos; then, the rest of the cooking (or whatever other activity you do) is a continuation of that. This serves two purposes:

  • It reminds people that Yom Tov is special, and that one may not cook on it for other days.

  • It also reminds you that Shabbos is coming, so that you don't end up using all the good food for Yom Tov and forget about Shabbos altogether.

(Beitzah 15a and Rashi there; Shulchan Aruch Harav 527:1)

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  • Yasher koach! Beat me by 24 seconds! (And a more complete answer too. But baruch shekivanti that it was basically.)
    – Shalom
    Commented Sep 12, 2010 at 2:52
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    (Your point about having time left in the day is debatable- that's according to those that hold the Biblical permit is based on "ho'il")
    – YDK
    Commented Sep 12, 2010 at 3:02
  • YDK: what's the other opinion? I was under the impression that everyone agrees to that principle.
    – Alex
    Commented Sep 12, 2010 at 17:25
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It's debated in the Gemara, but the simple answer as I recall it is basically, it's allowed to prepare from yomtov to Shabbos. But Chazal want to remind people that this is the special case for Shabbos, not that you can always prepare on yomtov for the next day. Making an Eiruv is the way we remind people of this.

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It is permitted to prepare food on a holiday for the holiday itself but not beyond. The mishna in Beitza 15b mentions one cannot prepare food on a holiday for the Shabbat which comes right after it unless one starts preparing a dish (tavshil) before the holiday.

The rabbis discuss the rationale for this permit

  • either because one can prepare more food on the holiday than required even if the food will ultimately be eaten after the holiday, as long as more guests arrive and might need the food
  • alternatively, the needs of the Shabbat may be performed on the holiday as long as one uses the rabbinical mechanism of eruv tavshilin

The reasons one needs an eruv tavshilin is to preserve the honor of the holiday (if it is forbidden to prepare on the holiday even for Shabbat, then how much more so is it forbidden to prepare on the holiday for a following weekday!) Alternatively it is to preserve the honor of Shabbat: when it follows a hooliday, there is the concern that one's attention will be focused on the holiday and pay less attention to the Shabbat that follows. The eruv tavshilin compels the person to begin preparation for Shabbat even before the holiday begins, thus reminding him to reserve choice dishes for Shabbat, too.

Practically if a holiday falls on a Friday, one sets aside on the day preceding the holiday (Wednesday or Thursday afternoon) some bread (e.g., a challah or matzah), and a cooked food (such as tuna or an unpeeled hard-boiled egg), says a blessing and one eats the food on Shabbat itself.

Having started to prepare before the holiday for Shabbat allows one to continue preparing food for Shabbat during the holiday itself.

See here, here and here for more practical details.

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