Tochen (Part 3) Techina with a Utensil

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon


By Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon



Shiur #16: TOCHEN (Part 3)


V) Techina with a Utensil



We saw in our previous shiur that the Rashba codifies an important principle of the melakha of tochen: techina for immediate use (le’altar) is permissible.  The Rivash (Responsa, Ch. 184) deals with a resulting question: does the Rashba's view permit one to grind food le’altar even with a specifically-designed utensil?  In particular, may one grate cheese on Shabbat with a grater?  The Rivash responds that this should be forbidden even le’altar:


My inclination is to forbid it, because it calls to mind the ruling of Rav Pappa, making one liable for tochen for mincing vegetables.  Even if we say that this is [prohibited only] for tomorrow or for [later] that very day, but le’altar it is allowed, according to the view of the Rashba, z"l, and we will say that he allows one to do so even with a utensil le’altar, this is with a utensil such as a knife, which is not specifically designed for techina.  However, a grater is designed specifically for this techina, making it like a sieve or a sifter for purpose of borer...  Furthermore, it is logical that one should be stringent and forbid grating cheese with this utensil even on Yom Tov, because it is designed for this techina, and it is like [grinding] peppers in their mill, which the Sages forbade... because it is comparable to weekday practices (uvdin de-chol).


The Sages banned uvdin (singular, uvda) de-chol on Shabbat or Yom Tov.  The Mishna (Beitza 2:8) lists "grinding peppers in their mill" as one of the disputes between Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya (who permits) and his colleagues (who forbid), and the Rashba explains that the reason to ban it is uvdin de-chol — i.e., it does not fall under the heading of tochen or any other melakha per se, but the Sages decided that it is not an action appropriate for a day of rest.


Thus, the Rivash gives us two reasons to prohibit using a cheese grater:


1.      The allowance of techina le’altar is derived from the melakha of borer, and just as the activity of that melakha is allowed only by hand and not with a utensil, the same applies to tochen.

2.      Since we are talking about a utensil specifically designed for this techina, its use should be banned because of uvdin de-chol.


The Shulchan Arukh (321:10) rules in accordance with the Rivash.  The Bei'ur Halakha (321:12, s.v.  Midei) explains that one is prohibited from using a utensil which is designed specifically for techina; however, cutting with a knife for immediate consumption is permissible (as emerges from the words of the Rivash himself):


Did they not allow borer only by hand and not with a utensil, because [with a utensil] it is considered like borer in any case?  Apparently, if so, we should have forbidden in our case when one cuts food with any utensil...  However, the rulings of all of the halakhic authorities imply that in our case, even when one cuts with a knife, it is permitted.  The reason, as the Peri Megadim writes, is that just as, when it come to borer, it is considered derekh akhila when one selects by hand to eat le’altar, so too in our case, it is considered derekh akhila even when one cuts with a knife to eat le’altar, because derekh akhila is with a knife.  The same does not apply when one cuts with a utensil which is specifically designed for techina, such as using a cheese grater and the like... because then it is like [using] a sieve or a sifter, in which case it is considered borer even if le’altar.


The Rivash understands that the allowance of le’altar is based on the principle of derekh akhila (the way of eating), that the Torah allows one to eat food on Shabbat in the normal manner.  Therefore, when one cuts with a knife, this is derekh akhila, while when one cuts with a specially-designed utensil, it is derekh techina (the way of grinding) and not derekh akhila.


Based on this understanding, the Mishna Berura (Bei'ur Halakha ibid.) raises a question: is one allowed to cut up onions with a large knife which is designed specifically for cutting (e.g., a cleaver)?  He concludes (Mishna Berura, 45) that one should forbid the use of this utensil on Shabbat, because a) it may be considered a utensil specifically designed for techina, and b) its use may fall under the category of uvdin de-chol.  On the other hand, the Arukh Ha-shulchan (321:9) allows using such a knife:


I have seen those who question this and forbid cutting onions with a cleaver.  This does not seem logical to me at all, because this is also a knife.  The Rivash is concerned about grating cheese with a utensil that it called a grater, because this is made to break down food into particles as fine as flour; consequently, this definitely falls under the melakha of tochen.  However, the knife which is called a cleaver simply has a semicircular blade, and it is equivalent to a regular knife.  Why should we say that Jewesses are acting against the law?


On the Arukh Ha-shulchan’s understanding, a utensil such as this does not perform the melakha of techina but rather the permissible act of chittukh (chopping), so it is comparable to a kitchen knife, not a hand mill.  He adds that this is the practical custom of Jewish homemakers, itself a significant indication of its permissibility.


An Egg Slicer


Rav S.Z. Auerbach (cited in Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata, Ch. 6, n. 12) asserts that even according to the stringent view prohibiting the use of a large knife designed for chittukh, one may allow the use of an egg slicer, a device which cuts a peeled, hard-boiled egg with a number of blades when it is closed.  He does this by categorizing this utensil as a keli se'uda, a utensil normally used during the course of a meal, which is permissible.


It is not comparable to a cleaver... because [a cleaver] is not a keli se'uda; rather it is designated for techina.  Alternatively, it is a utensil that storeowners are accustomed to use for their labor, and therefore it is forbidden because of uvdin de-chol.  None of this is true of an egg slicer, which is composed of a number of normal blades, so that it is like any keli se'uda.  According to this, it is possible that it is permissible to use this utensil also to cut a tomato, even though it is has the status of giddulei karka. 


According to Rav Auerbach, an egg slicer is better than a cleaver, which the Mishna Berura treats stringently, because the two reasons to be stringent with a cleaver do not apply to it:


1.      This is a utensil for domestic use, not a tool of the storekeepers' trade, and therefore the problem of uvdin de-chol is not applicable to it.

2.      This utensil simply combines a number of normal blades, rendering it a utensil which is designed for chittukh, and not for techina.


Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, OC, Vol. IV, Ch. 74, Tochen 4) allows using a similar device for another reason:


Is it permissible to cut cheese or eggs with utensils which are designed for this purpose?  In general, what are the principles of uvda de-chol?


Answer: According to what I have written, there is no prohibition in this, because this is only cutting into pieces, not dak-dak (tiny pieces).  The problem of uvda de-chol is not relevant — is whatever one does to make an activity easier to implement considered uvda de-chol?!  On Shabbat as well, there is good reason and a natural desire to make life easier.  The uvda de-chol which the Rivash writes about is performing fine techina as one does on a weekday.


According to Rav Feinstein, since this utensil cuts food into slices, there is no prohibition to use it, because slicing food is not akin to chittukh dak-dak. It is only chittukh dak-dak (mincing), not regular chittukh, which can ever be defined as techina, as we explained above.  Similarly, the problem of uvdin de-chol is not applicable here, because he believes that this ban is only applicable to actions which in some way conform to the basic standards of a melakha; it is not applicable to actions which do not fit into the essential outlines of a melakha at all. 


Manual Vegetable Cutter


As implied above, Rav Feinstein applies this allowance only to chittukh which is not defined as "dak-dak".  Therefore, one should not use a manual vegetable cutter which dices vegetables, to the degree that it becomes difficult to differentiate between red peppers and tomatoes, since chittukh such as this is considered "dak-dak".  It is true that we have seen that there is good reason to allow even chittukh dak-dak proximate to eating; however, this allowance stems from the fact that this is derekh akhila, while the use of utensils of chittukh is considered derekh techina and not derekh akhila.  Therefore, one should not allow it even proximate to eating.


However, with regard to cutting food into larger pieces, it appears that one may be lenient to use even a (domestic) manual vegetable cutter.  When the utensil creates larger cubes of vegetables and one can still differentiate between red peppers and tomatoes, this is not considered chittukh dak-dak; this activity is not defined as techina, and even the problem of uvdin de-chol is not applicable.  In particular, there is reason to be lenient in this proximate to the meal, because according to Rav S.Z. Auerbach, a vegetable cutter is not considered a utensil designated for techina, but a simple system of cutting blades.  Therefore, one may be lenient le’altar, as it is appropriate to be lenient about chittukh into large pieces with a knife.


Nevertheless, this remains somewhat difficult to ascertain, as it may be that even the large pieces produced by a vegetable cutter are still considered "dak-dak"; it may be that this device is considered a utensil which is designated for techina, which one may not use even le’altar (as it appears from the words of Rav Feinstein, who is lenient only when it comes to slices).  Therefore, though there is support for those who are lenient in this matter, it is preferable to cut up food with a knife.


Summary: How Can One Make a Salad on Shabbat?


In conclusion, to prepare salad with a regular knife, by the letter of the law, it is permissible to cut even very fine pieces, if one does this proximate to the meal.  However, it is preferable to cut pieces that are a bit larger.


As for preparing salad with a manual vegetable cutter, one may not use small blades which create finely-cut pieces, but there is a room to justify the practice of those who are lenient to use blades which create larger pieces, because it is not clearly defined as "dak-dak".  In any case, it is preferable to use a knife.[1]


Similarly, one may use an egg slicer or a device which cuts cheese into slices.




VI) Techina of Non-Giddulei karka


May one mash an egg on Shabbat?  May one mince meat?


The melakhot of the bread-making process are classically associated with agricultural products.  Are they only applicable to giddulei karka, that which grows from the ground?  Furthermore, does the title of "giddulei karka" apply to natural resources which are not plants? 


The Rambam's definition of tochen[2] (7:5) may help us answer this question.  He writes that the prohibition of tochen applies to metal as well.


Similarly, taking a strip of metal and grinding it in order to use its filings — as goldsmiths do — is a tolada of tochen.



The Minchat Chinnukh (Musakh Ha-shabbat, Tochen 4) concludes based on the Rambam’s example that techina applies to items which are not giddulei karka, and he adds that this is also the view of the Rashi (74b, s.v. Sheva), who writes that there is a prohibition of techina for clods of earth.


However, the Eglei Tal (Dash, 11) and the Peri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav 321:10) write that in terms of this issue, both dirt and metal may be considered giddulei karka (actual ground, or that which is extracted from the ground, respectively).  It may also be that techina applies to items which are not defined as giddulei karka, if these items normally undergo a process of techina.


The question of grinding items that are not giddulei karka is addressed by the Terumat Ha-deshen (Ch. 56):


Question: If roasted meat, which is difficult to chew, is placed before one whose teeth do not chew well, is such a person allowed to mince the meat on Shabbat with a knife and eat it afterwards or not?


Answer: It appears that it is allowed in this case, and one should not forbid it because of tochen...  It is not comparable to wood or produce or bread, because they all grow from the ground, and therefore techina applies to its kind — for example, grains and cereals, to which the essential nature of techina is relevant.  However, one may say that with a food such as meat, which does not grow from the ground, according to everyone techina is not relevant to it...  After all, Tosafot write explicitly that techina is not applicable to anything which is already edible.  Similarly, the Asheri [the Rosh] writes that he is astounded by the idea that techina could be applicable to things which are already edible.  One may not contradict their views from the words of the other greats unless we have found that they argue with them explicitly; however, as long as we can differentiate and say that, in this case, these concede to those, we must say so. 


However, this logic would imply that one may not mince raw meat in order to feed it to birds, since the meat is not truly edible — it is just that some people will gobble it down in this unusual manner.  One must say that Tosafot allow grinding that which is already edible, because those foods do not really require techina; if one truly wanted to do so, one could eat it whole and chew it with one's teeth.  However, without this reason, [one may] not [allow cutting it up]. 


And if you say: if so, someone who is not capable of chewing even cooked or roasted meat, it should be forbidden [to cut up cooked or roasted meat for such a person], this is not true; we follow the majority of the world, which is capable of chewing [prepared meat].  Therefore, techina is not applicable to [prepared meat], even for someone who cannot chew it; however, raw meat, which is not fit for any person...  one should not allow [cutting it up]. 


According to the Terumat Ha-deshen, since according to many Rishonim there is no prohibition of tochen for foods which can be eaten as they are, as we have seen above, there is good reason to be lenient in any case with foods such as these as long as they are not giddulei karka.  However, it may be that the Rishonim would not be lenient about foods which cannot be eaten without techina, and therefore one must forbid cutting them up even if they are not giddulei karka.


According to this, the Terumat Ha-deshen rules that one may cut cooked or roasted meat into small pieces, since one may eat it without chittukh (and "chop it up" with one's teeth), and it is permissible to do so even on behalf of a person who finds it difficult to eat it without chittukh, since we follow the majority of the world.  One the other hand, one may not cut up raw meat for the sake of birds, even though it is not in the category of giddulei karka, since one is incapable of eating it without cutting it up.


The Shulchan Arukh (321:9) rules in accordance with the Terumat Ha-deshen: "It is permissible to mince cooked or roasted meat with a knife."


The Rema (ibid.) and the Mishna Berura (32) additionally cite the other cases of the Terumat Ha-deshen: one may chop up meat on behalf of the elderly or children, who cannot eat the meat without its being cut up, as long as one is speaking of meat that most people can eat it without its being cut up (Mishna Berura ibid.).  However one many not mince raw meat for birds, since they are not able to eat it without its being cut up (Rema ibid.).[3]


The Mishna Berura (31, 33) mentions that the allowance to grind non-giddulei karka when most people can eat them without techina applies even if one grinds them to eat them at a later point.  If one grinds for eating le’altar, one may be lenient and cut up even those things which cannot be eaten without techina.  However, as we saw above, in any case, one may not grind with a utensil which is designed for techina (unless the device cuts into slices or large pieces).










Translated by Rabbi Yoseif Bloch.


[1] On Yom Tov, one may certainly be lenient about this, since the salad may deteriorate if prepared on the previous day.  Consequently, one is allowed to cut the vegetables even with a special utensil.  See Shulchan Arukh OC 504:3; Mishna Berura, 19.

[2] As we have seen above, according to many Rishonim, there is no prohibition of tochen for things that can be eaten as is, without cooking.  However, the Terumat Ha-deshen raises the following doubt in this regard: perhaps even those Rishonim rule leniently only for items which can be eaten when they are whole (chopping them up, as it were, with one's teeth), but to items which require grinding or cutting, techina is applicable, even if they do not require cooking.  The logic is that when it is impossible to eat without techina, the techina changes the status of the item and turns it into food, and therefore it is more serious.

[3] The Rema writes that, since the birds cannot eat the meat without its being cut, by cutting it "one renders it food."  The Magen Avraham (324:5) understands that his intent is to forbid it because of tochen, as we explained above.  On the other hand, the Taz understands (ibid. 4) that the Rema does not forbid this act because of tochen, but because of the separate prohibition to manufacture animal feed on Shabbat (see Shabbat 155a), as the Terumat Ha-deshen himself points out later in that responsum.  Accordingly, the Taz concludes that one should reject the Rema's ruling and allow cutting raw meat so that birds may eat it, since the conclusion of the Gemara (ibid.) is that there is no prohibition in this.