Yosef Zvi Rimon
I) Defining the
Melakha and Its Subcategories
As we discussed, techina (grinding;
the melakha is known as
tochen) is part of the process of
turning grain into flour. In the
techina was performed to break down
plant extracts into water-soluble granules, which would then be mixed with
boiling water to create dyes for the
Mishkan's coverings. The
definition of tochen is breaking down
one body into smaller homogenous components.
The Rambam (7:5) defines this
melakha in order to demonstrate the
difference between a primary melakha (av; plural — avot)
and its subcategory (tolada; plural —
tolada is a melakha which is
similar to an av among these
avot. How so? One who minces a vegetable in order to cook it is liable, as this
melakha is a tolada of
techina, because one who grinds
takes one body and divides into many bodies, and any action akin to this is
a tolada of
tochen. Similarly, taking a
strip of metal and grinding it in order to use its filings — as goldsmiths do —
is a tolada of
In other words, the
melakha of tochen is
turning a substance into tiny granules or a powder,
cutting up the substance into small
pieces is a
tolada of tochen.
Maggid Mishneh ibid. (4) explains that only an action which is qualitatively equivalent to
the primary melakha may be considered
an av, but a melakha somewhat
similar to the av is considered a tolada. He gives the example of the
melakha which is absolutely comparable
to the av... is an av like it, but a
melakha which is somewhat similar to it is called a
tolada... for example, one who cuts up
a vegetable. This is only similar to
techina in terms of making many bodies
from one body; because
changes the first body absolutely and cutting up [vegetables] does not, this is a
In other words, only actual techina,
which changes the body of the substance, is an av, while splitting one body into many bodies is a
However, according to this,
filing metal should be an av, because this is
real techina, yet the Rambam
writes that this is only a tolada!
It may be that the definition of the av is preparing something for
cooking through techina, and therefore
filing metal, which is not designated for cooking, is not considered an av.
According to this, the definition of the av has two elements: a)
true techina, and b)
preparing for cooking. In the
classic examples of tochen, there are
two elements: in the Mishkan, the
plant extracts were ground and then cooked (i.e., boiled in water); paralleling
this, in the bread-making process, one grinds the wheat and ultimately bakes it. When
only one of these two elements is present, this is a
Therefore, one who
chops a vegetable
to cook it is liable, because the
first condition has been fulfilled here: preparing for cooking (naturally, the
preparation must be specifically through chopping the food itself, not other
general preparations). However, this
is only the tolada, not the av, because the second condition has
not been fulfilled, because one has not actually irrevocably altered a substance
by splitting it into smaller pieces.
Similarly, one who files metal is liable for
tochen, since the second condition has been fulfilled, because there is
actual techina here; nevertheless, it
does not rise above the level of a tolada, since the first condition has not been fulfilled, because there
is no preparation for cooking here.
The same applies to someone who creates
sawdust (Rambam 8:15).
While it is important to
understand the theory of the melakha, there is no essential practical
distinction between av and
tolada, as both of them are
II) Mincing Food
How does one prepare a salad on Shabbat?
May one chop vegetables into small pieces?
As we have seen, according to the Rambam, mincing vegetables is a
Torah prohibition, a tolada of
The source of this is in the Gemara (74b), in which Rav Pappa rules that
one is liable for tochen for an action
known as "parim
silka" (or, on an alternative version:
silka"). What does this mean?
The Rambam understands that "parim silka" means mincing a
vegetable known as silka
(in Modern Hebrew, a
is a beet), and this is what Rashi explains ibid.
On the other hand, Rabbeinu Chananel (ibid.) writes that "parim" is "like crushing, not like
cutting," implying that only true techina
is forbidden by the Torah, not mincing.
The Rosh (7:5) explains similarly and declares:
I am astounded
by Rashi's explanation of "parim
silka" as mincing vegetables. When it comes to cutting up what one
eats into small pieces, techina is not
applicable at all!
According to him,
mincing is not forbidden because of tochen. The Korban Netanel ibid. (10)
explains his reasoning according to the view of the Rashba which we will
cite later: the Torah does not require a person to eat food only in large
In fact, the Rambam's words appear to suggest that he also limits the
prohibition to mincing. The
Rambam (21:18) writes that "One who minces a vegetable in order to cook it —
this is a tolada of
tochen, for which one is liable."
This implies that only if the mincing is in
is one liable, not if one cuts up vegetables
in order to eat them in small pieces.
A similar view is cited by the Ritva (74b) in the name of the
Ri and the Ramban:
One who is
silka is liable because of tochen
— the Ri explains that this only applies in a case like this one, where
one does not eat it raw. But with bread and the like which can be eaten
immediately it is permissible, and so our master ruled in the name of his great
master [the Ramban].
In other words, there is no prohibition to mince foods which are edible in
their current form. The prohibition
only applies to cutting up foods (like vegetables) which require cooking, in
order to prepare them for cooking.
This is also the view of the Remakh (Shevitat Asor 1:3, cited by
the Kesef Mishneh, Shabbat 7:5).
However, the words of the Rashba in a responsum (Vol. IV, Ch. 75)
indicate that any mincing should be forbidden because of
tochen, even if the food is edible in its current form and there is no
intention to cook it.
The Shulchan Arukh (321:12) rules in accordance with this view of the
Rashba, that this is forbidden by the Torah: "One who minces vegetables is
liable because of tochen." Note that he does not distinguish
between vegetables which must be cooked and those eaten raw, even though many
Rishonim (such as the Rambam and the Ritva) are lenient about
this, and even though there are Rishonim (such as Rabbeinu Chananel and
the Rosh) who are lenient when it comes to cutting vegetables generally. Indeed, the
Arukh Ha-shulchan (321:7) is confounded by this ruling of the Shulchan
Arukh, given that it is against the majority view in the Rishonim.
In light of this, even though the custom is to be stringent when it comes to
mincing, nevertheless it is certainly less serious than true
techina, since many Rishonim are
lenient regarding this case.
Therefore, one may mince food when there are additional reasons to be lenient, for example in a case where one is mincing vegetables
in order to eat them right away, as we shall see shortly. (Similarly, there is a case to be
made for leniency in the definition of "mincing," as we shall discuss below.)
Items Edible without Being Cut
There are those who understand that the Rema takes a more lenient view
than the Shulchan Arukh on the issue of cutting up foods. In light of the words of the
Shulchan Arukh, who forbids mincing absolutely, the Rema writes
(ibid.): "The same applies to cut up dried figs or carobs
The concluding phrase of the Rema invites the following question: does the
prohibition to cut up dried figs or carobs apply specifically when it is done
"before the elderly?" The Magen
Avraham (14) understands that this is indeed so: "It is implied that to do
so before someone who can chew is allowed."
In other words, this prohibition only applies to one preparing food for
the elderly, because they are not able to chew the dried figs or carobs without
cutting the fruit up first, but if this is done for a person who is able to chew
these fruits without their being cut up, there is no element of tochen in
this activity. The prohibition of
tochen exists only with significant
techina, which makes the food fit to
eat, and thus it does
not apply to
items which can are edible in their current form, without techina.
The Bei'ur Halakha (ibid. s.v. Lifnei) argues with this
assertion of the Magen Avraham:
In my humble
opinion, his view is not self-evident, because [the Rema] inserts "before the
elderly" because this is the normal way; [since] they are not able to eat if the
fruit is not minced [it is normal to cut the fruit for them]. However, when it
comes to items which grow in the ground,
techina is applicable in any case, and thus it appears from the words of the
Gaon in his commentary... Note, that even according to the view
of the Magen Avraham, who allows one to chop food up before one who is
able to chew it regardless, this is only true of dried figs and carobs, which
one does not need to cut up; but when it comes to mincing vegetables and the
like... it must be done for the current meal, even according to his view.
According to the
Bei'ur Halakha, there is no distinction between things which can be eaten without
techina and things which must be cut
up before being eaten; the Rema simply cites a common example of a case
where one would cut up carobs.
Similarly, the Magen Avraham only allows, according to his view, cutting
up carobs, because there is no great benefit in cutting them up for a person who
can eat them as they are, but cutting the vegetable for a salad and the like is
forbidden even according to the Magen Avraham, because this activity is
significant, even for people who are capable of eating the vegetables in their
After the Fact
The Mishna Berura (ibid. 45) writes in the name of the
Chayei Adam that one must be stringent, even about using
vegetables that were already minced on Shabbat:
or radishes an hour or two before the meal is tantamount to incurring a
liability to bring a sin-offering, and the onions must not be eaten.
However, one must point out that the Mishna Berura himself (318:2)
writes elsewhere, in the name of the
Peri Megadim, that in any case in which there a dispute among the
halakhic authorities, the food is permitted after the fact. According to this, one should allow
for the consumption of foods that were minced, since many Rishonim (Rambam,
Ritva, Rosh, et al.), permit one to do so in the first place, as
we have seen above. This is what the
Livyat Chen (63) writes about the words of the Mishna
With all due
respect, he has gone too far here, as the view of many Rishonim is to allow this
in the first place... According to
this, even though one who chops up onions an hour or more before the meal has
certainly acted improperly, as he is acting leniently against the ruling of our
master, the Shulchan Arukh...
but in any case, after the fact one should not prohibit this food from being
eaten on Shabbat.
Defining Chittukh Dak-Dak
What is the measure of chittukh dak-dak,
Yere'im (Ch. 274, 133b) writes
that he is uncertain of the degree of fineness which would make one liable:
One must be
careful not to crumble produce into small bits, but I do not known how to
ascertain the measure of their fineness or granulation.
The Bei'ur Halakha (321:12, s.v. Ha-mechattekh) writes that
indeed one is liable only for cutting food into tiny pieces, but when it comes
to what is forbidden, one must be careful not to cut food into small pieces,
even if they are not actually tiny.
A number of Acharonim have tried to define chittukh dak-dak. The
Berit Olam (Tochen 20)
writes that chittukh dak-dak is defined as
weekday measure of fineness which people are accustomed to; therefore, on Shabbat, one should cut food into pieces
larger than the norm. Rav S.Z.
Auerbach (Minchat Shelomo 91:13; cited also in Shemirat Shabbat
Ke-hilkhatah, Ch. 6, n. 5) proposes a more lenient approach:
authorities have written that one who chops wood on Shabbat into small pieces is
liable because of tochen... According to this, one must say that
the reason that one is allowed to cut large fruits and vegetables on Shabbat
into small pieces fit for immediate consumption is because one still needs to
use one's teeth to grind them; this is different from chopping wood, in which
the pieces are fit for their use immediately, without any [further]
According to him, one must follow the
function of the action.
One who chops
wood is liable even if the pieces of wood are still relatively large, since they
are fit for use without any additional cutting.
On the other hand, food that has been cut but must still be ground using
one's teeth before being swallowed is still considered to be "unfit for its
function," and thus the cutting is not considered chittukh dak-dak. According to this, chittukh
dak-dak requires tiny pieces, almost to the level of
In my humble opinion, it appears that the definition lies between these
approaches: from many sources, it appears that
the creation of a new identity.
has its own identity; every piece has its own identity. When one cuts a fruit into small
pieces, the pieces lose their independent identity, and they become part of the
general mixture of small pieces.
According to this, it may be that the definition of chittukh dak-dak is
that one cuts in such a way that it is difficult to recognize the identity of
the piece. According to this,
cutting vegetables into very small pieces for a salad will be considered
chittukh dak-dak because it is difficult to differentiate between a small
cube of cucumber and a small cube of green pepper, or between a small piece of
tomato and a small piece of red pepper, etc.
However, if a salad is composed of larger pieces, though they may be
small, there is no issue of tochen in
its preparation. Nevertheless, it is
appropriate to prepare a salad proximate to the meal, so that there will be an
additional mitigating element of immediate use, which we will discuss later.
Vegetable Slices and Sticks
In any case (even not for immediate consumption), it is permissible to cut
vegetables into slices; there is no prohibition of
tochen in this. This is what
Rav Moshe Feinstein indicates in a responsum (Iggerot Moshe, OC,
Vol. IV, Ch. 74, Tochen 3):
prohibition of techina for vegetables
apply only when one cuts them finely lengthwise and widthwise, like grinding
flour; or does it apply even when one cuts only lengthwise or only widthwise, as
one does with carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes?
Answer: In my
humble opinion, it is obvious [that there is no prohibition of cutting food into
slices]... Were it not so, there
would be no limit to this, because it would be forbidden to slice bread into
small pieces, unless we would employ the principle that there is no
tochen after tochen;
[similarly, it would be forbidden to cut] a large fruit such as an apple into
three or four pieces. Thus, it is obvious
that with foods, tochen is applicable
only when mincing, as the
Shuchan Arukh's language indicates about vegetables.
In other words, were we to forbid slicing food, the prohibition would make
eating on Shabbat quite difficult, and it would be forbidden to slice bread
because of tochen (were it not for the
allowance of "tochen after
tochen" which we will address later
on). Therefore, slicing is not
considered tochen at all. In light of this, Rav Feinstein
allows one to cut carrots and cucumbers into sticks or spears. This same conclusion could be reached
based on the view of Rav S.Z. Auerbach
since people need to grind these sticks with their teeth,
there is no issue of tochen in it.
However, it appears that one must differentiate practically between different
levels of cutting. Cutting thin
slices of vegetables is always
permissible. However, when it
strips of vegetables, there is a distinction: julienning vegetables, i.e., cutting
thin, narrow strips, such as those used in
carrot salad, is clearly forbidden, since the strips are then mixed
together and eaten as
one piece (and this is the view of
Rav Elyashiv, cited by the
Orechot Shabbat, Ch. 5, n. 12); cutting
thicker strips to be
— i.e., sticks or spears — should apparently be allowed,
as this type of cutting is quite dissimilar to
tochen. When these strips
are made into a salad and are eaten in another way, there is
creation, and every piece loses its independent identity;
therefore, this is forbidden because of
However when these strips are eaten in the same way as the whole
vegetable itself is, it is logical that there is no problem in this, because the
strips maintain their independent identity; they are merely smaller.