In this week’s parashah we read of the Ten Commandments, the Aseres Hadibros, which were communicated by G-d at Sinai. One of the Ten Commandments is Observance of Shabbos. This week’s article will provide an overview of the halachos pertaining to salad preparation on Shabbos. Can fruits or vegetables be washed on Shabbos? Can vegetables be peeled, and can a peeler be used for that purpose? Some activities can be done only close to mealtime. How close is close enough? How small can vegetables be cut, and is there a difference between vegetables and meat or eggs? Can a chef’s knife be used for cutting on Shabbos? And can a Master Slicer be used for salad preparation on Shabbos?
Is there any difference between slicing and chopping on Shabbos? And how should the traditional egg salad be made on Shabbos, which some are careful not to prepare before Shabbos? What is the reason behind this custom? Of this, and more, in the coming article.
The Melachos of Borer (Selecting), Tochen (Grinding) and Lash (Kneading)
Observance of Shabbos is one of the Ten Commandments. Chazal teach us that there are thirty-nine general categories of labor that are forbidden on Shabbos. Each of these categories includes a range of derivative laws and activities. Of the thirty-nine categories, three can be relevant to salad preparation on Shabbos – Borer, Tochen, and Lash. Washing produce may involve the prohibition of Borer when washing off dirt; peeling vegetables, fruit or removing the wrapper of a sausage may, likewise, involve the prohibition of Borer. Mashing an avocado or chopping small pieces can involve the prohibition of Tochen, and mixing a salad with dressing may involve the prohibition of Kneading. An additional prohibition of Smoothing may be involved when shaping or smoothing out a thick salad or dip such as chopped liver or hummus.
Washing Fruits and Vegetables
The Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chayim 319:8) rules that Karshinin (identified as bitter vetch — an ancient grain legume crop usually mixed with dust and used as animal fodder), cannot be soaked in water on Shabbos to separate the grain from the dirt since it is Borer. The Mishna Brura (footnote 29) includes soaking potatoes to remove the earth (when used for animal consumption) in this category. Following this ruling, it would seem that washing fruits and vegetables would be prohibited.
Igros Moshe (Orech Chayim part 1, chapter 125), however, lists three reasons for permitting it:
- Washing produce is usually done right before eating, and Borer immediately before eating is permitted.
- Commercially sold produce is usually sold free of dirt. Washing fruits and vegetables at home today is done for added hygiene, and as such, no separation of food from refuse is being performed.
- The washing process described in the Mishna (Shabbos 140a) and Mishna Brura is that of soaking, causing the refuse to float to the top. Rinsing may not be included in this prohibition. This explanation, though, was labeled by Rav Moshe as requiring further investigation. Seemingly, Rav Moshe Feinstein did not want to permit washing only for this reason and the chief reason for permitting washing produce on Shabbos is the first one mentioned here.
Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchaso (chapter 3, footnote 52) notes that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach follows the Igros Moshe’s ruling, permitting washing fruits and vegetables (adding, though, that the Mishna Brura’s wording seems to indicate that there is a prohibition involved.)
Likewise, Shevet Halevi (volume 1, chapter 52:2) writes that while washing for hygiene is permitted, but washing fruits or vegetables from dirt is not. (He does not mention if washing close to mealtime would be permitted.)
Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos V’hanhagos, volume 2, chapter 184:7) rules that while washing only for added precaution against possible dirt incurs no prohibition of Borer, but washing off dirt to render produce fit for consumption is forbidden, even close to mealtime.
Washing lettuce and other leafy vegetables may be done for two separate reasons. Some leafy vegetables are grown hydroponically, and kashrus supervision requires washing before eating. If washing is due to dirt and dead insects tucked between the leaves, washing them involves the prohibition of Borer because the vegetable is inedible without washing (especially if soaking is necessary). However, if the vegetables are generally clean and washing is only an added precaution because insects may, rarely, be present, washing them may be permitted closer to mealtime.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Orech Chayim, volume 4 chapter 74:8) rules that the prohibition of Borer includes peeling fruit, nuts and vegetables, eggs, chicken, and fish (of the skin), as well as the wrapper of a sausage. Even if the peel is edible, the skin is considered another group, and separating the two falls in the category of Borer. Therefore, peeling may only be done at, or just before, mealtime.
Permitting an act of Borer generally requires fulfillment of three conditions: removal of the food (the desired product) from the undesired one; use of the hand (and not a utensil) for that purpose; and, the activity must be done close to mealtime (or use).
In light of the above, how would peeling an orange, for example, be permitted on Shabbos since one removes the undesirable part? The Rama writes (321:19) that peeling garlic or onions for immediate consumption is permitted, but not for eating later. Biur Halacha explains that since there is no other way to reach the food without peeling it, removal of the unwanted peel is the normal manner of consumption and, if done close to mealtime, is permitted.
Peeling close to mealtime what is defined as the normal manner of consumption, must be done by hand, and not using a tool to aid separation. However, Igros Moshe (Orech Chayim part 1, chapter 124) allows use of a knife to peel potatoes close to mealtime since the knife is not used to make peeling more precise or perfect but in order to enable doing what cannot be done with one’s hands. Therefore, using a fork or spoon which are used for ease, hygiene, or manners — not in order to make selection more precise – is permitted. In these cases, the knife, spoon, or fork are considered an extension of one’s hand, and permitted.
Peeling with a peeler is prohibited since it is viewed as a tool that makes peeling more precise, not an exchange for one’s hands.
There is a dispute (See Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchosso 3, 34) whether one may use a peeler to peel foods whose peel is edible.
Close to Mealtime
How does one determine how close to mealtime (or use of the product) he is permitted to perform Borer? The Mishna Brura (321:45) writes that once synagogue prayers are over, Borer is permitted (assuming mealtime immediately follows services). However, an hour or two before mealtime, it is prohibited. Igros Moshe explains that the term “an hour or two” does not refer to 60-minute hours but rather to the extent of preparation time necessary.
My rebbe, Rabbi Luxenburg shlita, defines it as the amount of time necessary for meal preparation without leaving time for additional significant activities. In preparing large Shabbos Sheva Brachos meals this could take several hours, while preparing a meal for two may take only a few minutes. If additional activities, such as davening Mincha is planned, borer preparations for the meal should take place only afterwards.
The Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chayim 321:12) writes that dicing vegetables to very small pieces comprises the prohibition of Tochen (grinding). The Beis Yosef debates if dicing vegetables is permitted on Shabbos, and rules that since vegetables are not sliced too finely, preparing a salad does not involve the Torah prohibition of Tochen. He does indicate, though, that it is proper to dice vegetables in slightly larger pieces than normal. Additionally, salad must be prepared close to mealtime, as per to the Rishonim’s opinion equating Borer to Tochen in terms of preparation time.
The Rema rules that cutting vegetables close to mealtime is not included in the prohibition of Tochen, without mentioning size stipulations.
The Mishna Brura (footnote 45) notes however, that many Rishonim are unsure if the timing leniency pertains to the activity of Tochen as it does to Borer. Therefore, he recommends dicing vegetables a bit larger than normal, even when preparing the food close to mealtime. The Aruch Hashulchan (chapter 9) and the Igros Moshe (Orech Chayim volume 4, chapter 74:1) permit dicing finely just before mealtime.
Rav Ovadya Yosef (Yechave Da’at, volume 4, chapter 27) writes that communities that follow the customs of Eidot Hamitzrach can certainly rely upon the Rema here, permitting slicing finely if it close to mealtime, since most Rishonim agree that cutting vegetables finely does not consist of the prohibition of Tochen. However, since Rashi maintains that it involves the Torah prohibition of Tochen, the Shulchan Aruch added this opinion to the equation. Therefore, chopping slightly larger pieces than normal is commendable even when done close to mealtime.
Chopping Eggs, Meat or Cheese
The Shulchan Aruch (321:9) permits chopping meat into very small pieces. The Mishna Brura (footnote 31) explains that the difference lies in the source of the food – only chopping plant produce (fruit or vegetables) is prohibited under Tochen, but not other foods.
The Mishna Brura (321:25) writes that even when preparing food close to mealtime one should refrain from using a chef’s knife for chopping. Aruch Hashulchan, though, permits it. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Orech Chayim volume 4, chapter 74:9) adds that while the letter of the law seems to follow the Aruch Hashulchan, it is proper to refrain from using a chef’s knife unless absolutely necessary.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Orech Chayim volume 4, chapter 74) is of the opinion that the prohibition of Tochen only applies to dicing but not slicing. Slicing, even very thinly is permitted since in one direction the piece is not tiny.
The Shulchan Aruch (321:10) rules that grating cheese with a cheese grater is prohibited. The Mishna Brura explains that although cheese does not grow on the ground, grating cheese with a grater seems like a weekday activity (uvdin d’chol) which is forbidden. Following this prohibition, it would seem that using any professional cutting/slicing utensil would be forbidden, even for non-plant products.
Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Orech Chayim volume 4, chapter 74:4) writes that uvdin d’chol pertains to the use of utensils used for obvious weekday activities and through which a professional perfect cut is achieved (such as commercial cheese, or bread slicers). An egg slicer does not fall under this category and is permitted to be used on Shabbos.
The Master Slicer, though, is different, even according to the Igros Moshe. Since the slicer not only eases the cutting process but makes for a more professional-looking cut, using it is forbidden under the prohibition of uvdin d’chol.
The Mishna Brura (321:68) writes that seasoning a lettuce salad is permitted because the pieces are large and do not stick to each other, even after seasoning. However, dressing a finely chopped cabbage to make coleslaw causes the pieces to join together and is forbidden under the prohibition of Lash (kneading). Therefore, when preparing this kind of salad, the dressing should not be mixed vigorously. The salad should be mixed lightly with a spoon or jiggled around in the serving dish until the required coating of the dressing is achieved. Preferably, one should also change the order of salad production, such as starting with the dressing and then adding the vegetables.
Many communities traditionally eat a salad of eggs, onions, oil, and salt prepared and eaten on Shabbos morning. Poskim expound on its proper preparation process on Shabbos, and the reasons for refraining from preparing it before Shabbos. (Mixing egg salad with mayonnaise may be barred under the Torah prohibition of kneading and therefore is not mentioned in this discussion.)
The reasons for refraining from preparing this salad before Shabbos is twofold (Minchas Yitzchok volume 9 chapter 28; Tzitz Eliezer volume 11 chapter 31): some are very careful not use peeled eggs or onions that remained overnight because it is dangerous (See Nidah 17A). Therefore, this salad was traditionally prepared only on Shabbos morning right before serving. Additionally, before refrigeration, this dish was not at its best when prepared the day before. Therefore, in honor of Shabbos, the salad was prepared on Shabbos morning just before being served.
Many contemporary poskim (Igros Moshe, volume 3, chapter 20; Minchas Yitzchok volume 4 chapter 108; Shevet Halevi volume 3 chapter 169) clarify that the first reason — the prohibition of eating peeled eggs and onions — only refers to items that remained whole and peeled overnight. But when they are mixed in a salad, especially with additional oil and salt that change the flavor of both, no problem exists. Therefore, today, people who do not abstain from garlic powder and rely upon the opinions that permit it in a mixture, especially when the mixture changes the flavor, egg salad should preferably be prepared before Shabbos.
Shabbos Egg Salad Instructions
Shevet Halevi (volume 1 chapter 86) outlines the details for preparing the traditional egg salad on Shabbos:
- Eggs and onions should be peeled just before the meal (some have the custom of doing so after the fish course on Shabbos morning) so as to refrain from the prohibition of Borer.
- A box-grater should not be used at all – not for the onions due to the prohibition of Tochen, and not for the eggs due to the prohibition of uvdin d’chol.
- It is preferable to cut the onion in slightly larger pieces than regular. However, since preparation of this salad is done immediately before serving, one who dices the onion finely has on whom to rely.
- To prevent the prohibition of Lash (kneading) dressing should be mixed in differently than on weekdays.
- Combination of the salad should be done by shaking the bowl gently to refrain from the prohibition of Lash.
- One should not even out the mixture to create an appealing presentation, so as to refrain from the prohibition of Spreading, especially if the mixture contains potatoes which cause the mixture to coagulate (Biur Halacha, chapter 321:19).
Minchas Yitzchak (volume 9 chapter 28) writes that seemingly, due to the prohibition of Lash, it would be best to only mix small amounts at a time and not prepare a large salad all at once. Therefore, it is preferable to serve portions of egg and onion without dressing, and every person dresses his own serving separately. However, Tzitz Eliezer (Volume 11, chapter 36) justifies preparing a large salad on Shabbos.
Washing and peeling should be done as close as possible to eating. While a peeler should not be used, a knife may be used for peel removal.
A finely diced vegetable salad should be prepared before Shabbos. While there are opinions permitting fine dicing on Shabbos just before consumption (barring preparation of a large amount to be used at another meal), some rule that, nevertheless, produce should be chopped slightly larger than normal.
Non-plant food items may be chopped finely, however a specialty tool may not be used for this. According to Igros Moshe the definition of prohibited tools is one that produces a more professional result, not merely one used to ease the cutting process.
A salad with large pieces of chopped vegetables can be dressed on Shabbos. A finely chopped salad for which the dressing causes the pieces to stick together, even slightly, should be dressed differently than on weekdays – preferably by placing the dressing in the bowl before the vegetables and shaking the bowl slightly.
Preparation of the traditional eggs and onion salad on Shabbos morning requires extra precautions as detailed in the article so as not to transgress Torah prohibitions.