Many Cholents nowadays are cooked in Crockpots. Now “Crockpot” is actually a brand name (of the Sunbeam company I think) of slow cooker, similar to Kleenex for tissue and Xerox for copy. So whatever you call the brand, Cholent is a slow cook method. The food is prepared on Friday afternoon before Shabbat and the temperature is set and can not be adjusted all Shabbat. Most Cholents cook on a low setting for a long time.
There are important Jewish messages to be learned from slow-cooking, both positive and negative messages. The main point is: Don’t underestimate the low setting!
I want to end on a positive note, so we’ll do the negative first. People often justify certain negative behaviors or habits by saying that they are small and insignificant, without total investment and passion. OK, that might be true, but look at what happens with Cholent: It sits all night long on a low setting, and it cooks it right through! Do not underestimate that low setting or low level of passion, because it can get quite hot when doing it for a long period of time.
And here’s the positive side: Some people like their Judaism grilled. They like to do it fast-cooking on high heat. Quick inspiration, dramatic change, all in a flash. I’m not going to argue with grilling meat, but when it comes to Judaism and personal growth and life transformation, it’s not the ideal method. Slow-cooking is the way to go here. Some Cholents need to be jump-started with some high heat, but overall the process ought to be slow and gradual, low heat but consistent, a metamorphosis that’s natural and wholesome, and isn’t forced and pushed and too hot to handle.
One more Cholent message: Whether you work with a recipe or just experimenting, you get your ingredients together, season the mix, and set it to cook. It’s hands off after that, no further control. No matter how closely you followed the recipe – Cholents rarely come out exactly alike. All kinds of things happen in those 20 or so hours, crockpots cook differently, who knows, lots of unexpecteds. And you know what, life is like that, too.