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Beitzah 32

BEITZAH 32 (13 Tamuz) has been dedicated in memory of Rebbetzin Chiena Kossowsky A"H by the Shulman and Kossowsky families.


The Gemara discusses opening vessels that are sealed by cutting them or destroying them on Shabbos (see Chart #12). As Rashi explains, the Gemara is addressing the problem of whether the Melachah of Stirah (destroying) is involved when opening containers on Shabbos or Yom Tov. This discussion has very common practical ramifications nowadays. May one open sealed bottles and other types of food containers on Shabbos and Yom Tov?

There are three possible Melachos involved with opening bottles, cans and other containers on Shabbos and Yom Tov: (1) Stirah (breaking a usable structure), (2) Boneh or Makeh b'Patish (producting a finished, usable vessel) and (3) Kore'a (tearing). In addition, there is a fourth Gezeirah d'Rabanan: (4) even if one does not open the container in a way that makes a usable utensil, the Rabanan sometimes prohibited opening the utensil lest one aim to open it in a way that *does* make it into a usable utensil.

Despite these four considerations, the Beraisos here allow opening "Chosamos she'be'Kelim," cords that fasten containers and keep them shut. The Mishnah (Shabbos 146a, discussed in tomorrow's Daf, Beitzah 33b) also permits shattering a barrel in order to get to the food it contains. Before discussing the contemporary applications of these issues, let us discuss why, despite the four above-mentioned considerations, it is not prohibited to open containers in the cases mentioned in the Beraisa and the Mishnah.


1. RASHI in Shabbos 146a explains that it is not Asur to break a barrel, since it is "Mekalkel," a destructive act. The RASHBA and RAN add that although it is prohibited by the Rabanan to carry out a Melachah even in a destructive manner, in this case no Melachah at all is accomplished, since "Ein Binyan u'Stirah b'Kelim" ("the Melachos of Binyan and Stirah do not apply to utensils" -- only to items attached to the ground).

2. TOSFOS (Eruvin 34b DH va'Amai, Shabbos 146a DH Shover) rules that if one actually produces, or destroys, a completed utensil on Shabbos, the Isurim of Binyan u'Stirah *do* apply. However, it is permitted to break open a barrel to get to its contents in one particular case: if the barrel is made of broken utensils that have been tarred together ("Mustekei"), as the Gemara mentions (regarding another matter, see #4 below) in Beitzah 33b. The Halachah (SHULCHAN ARUCH OC 314:1) follows the opinion of Tosfos (b), that Binyan and Stirah do apply to utensils and the only type of barrel that one may open on Shabbos is one that was broken and was glued together. A complete, unbroken barrel may not be broken in order to get the food inside of it. (See also what we wrote in (4) about disposable containers.)

3. The RITVA (Shabbos ibid., and TOSFOS RID there as well) agrees to Tosfos that the Isurim of Binyan and Stirah do apply to Kelim. However, he suggests that the Rabanan did not prohibit destroying a utensil in order to get at the food inside since one wants to eat the food inside on Shabbos (i.e. there is "Tzorech Shabbos"). The Isur of destroying the barrel is only d'Rabanan, since it is not "Stirah Al Menas Livnos," and the Rabanan permitted it for the sake of Shabbos, when the object being destroyed is of the type that is not normally put back together (because destroying such a vessel under *any* conditions is not wont to be Stirah Al Menas Livnos).

4. A fourth approach is that of the CHIDUSHEI HA'RAN (Shabbos ibid., based on a YERUSHALMI), which compares breaking open a barrel of food to cracking open a nut. The barrel is not considered a utensil at all, since it just serves as a "shell" to the food inside it, which must be broken into in order to get at its contents. (According to this reasoning, Boneh does not apply to such a barrel either, see following paragraph.)

As mentioned above, the Rishonim argue as to whether the Isur of Boneh applies to utensils or only to objects attached to the ground. Even those who do not apply the Isur of Boneh to utensils admit that another Isur applies instead: Makeh b'Patish, completing a vessel. The Mishnah (Shabbos ibid.) teaches that it is indeed prohibited to intentionally make a neat opening in a container (such as by puncturing a clean hole) This is considered Boneh (building an opening, or a utensil) or Makeh b'Patish.

1. However, TOSFOS (Beitzah 34b DH Ki Tanya, following his opinion as expressed above (1):2) maintains that if the barrel is made of broken utensils that have been tarred together ("Mustekei"), it is not a considered utensil even if one punctures it in a neat and usable manner. RASHI (ibid.) and other Rishonim do not accept this ruling.

2. In addition, if the opening was already there but an item was attached to the utensil to block the opening (such as the lid of a barrel which is tarred onto the barrel), then one may remove that item. Such an act is not considered creating a utensil (Shabbos 48b and Rashi DH Magufah).

(3) KORE'A:
The Poskim permit tearing the wrapping of a package in such a way that the wrapper cannot be used again, since a combination of reasons may be proposed to be lenient in this matter. (SHEMIRAS SHABBOS ch. 9 footnote 11; IGROS MOSHE OC 1:122)
The Gemara in Beitzah 33b tells us clearly that it is prohibited to puncture a barrel even in a way that does not produce a clean hole, and does not constitute Boneh/Makeh b'Patish mid'Oraisa. The Rabanan prohibited this lest a person puncture the barrel in a way that *does* constitute Boneh/Makeh b'Patish.

However, the Gemara concludes that if the barrel is made of broken utensils that have been tarred together ("Mustekei"), we are not afraid that one will intend to puncture it in a manner that a clean hole is created, since a person has no desire to save such a vessel for further use (Rashi, ad loc.). The Poskim add that any container that is usually discarded after it is emptied of its contents falls into the same category. The Rabanan did not prohibit opening a rough hole in it since a person does not normally try to puncture such a vessel in a neat way because he has no intention of using it in a permanent manner (SHEMIRAS SHABBOS KE'HILCHASA, ch. 9 footnote 10).

Now that we have reviewed the Halachic issues involved in opening containers, let us see how the modern day Poskim apply them in practice.

HALACHAH: The SHEMIRAS SHABBOS KE'HILCHASA (SSK), chapter 9, provides a comprehensive summary of the rulings of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt'l, and some other contemporary authorities on this matter. (Our entire discussion is assuming that opening the container does not entail ripping through letters or illustrations, which is prohibited in its own right because of "Mochek," erasing.)
(a) Containers which are made to be *emptied and disposed of as soon as they are opened* (such as small bags of sugar for tea) may be opened and emptied on Shabbos (even if they are opened cleanly and a neat opening is formed). Rav Moshe Feinstein (IGROS MOSHE 1:122) compares this to cracking open nuts, since the wrappers have no other use than to protect the food until it is to be eaten (see above, (1):4).
(b) Containers which are made to be eaten from and to be *disposed of after their contents are eaten* (such as bags of potato chips or plastic milk bags and paper milk cartons), and the person indeed intends to dispose of them after eating, may also be opened according to Rav Moshe, who likens these to nutshells as well. However, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach views these as utensils, rather than shells. Nevertheless, he likens them to a barrel of wine which is made of broken utensils that have been tarred together ("Mustekei," see above (4) ), since these containers are not made to last (SSK 9:fn7,10; MINCHAS SHLOMO 91:12). Therefore one should not open them in a manner that a neat opening is created (see above (2):1). Even a plastic bag in which the sides have been pressed together to create a seal at the top and bottom of the bag may not be opened neatly by pulling it apart at the sides (SSK 9:fn19). It is permitted, however, to open such containers in a way that a rough, jagged opening is created. (The CHAZON ISH OC 51:11 is even more stringent, and judges these containers to be the same as those in category (c), below.)
(c) Containers which are made to be *saved and reused* after they are emptied, cannot be compared to "Mustekei." Therefore, it is prohibited to make even a jagged opening in such a container, lest one make a neat opening which is Asur d'Oraisa (because of Boneh or Soser), as we mentioned above (4).
1. Rav Shlomo Zalman permits opening them, however, if one punctures them or otherwise renders them unusable as a container either before one opens them or while opening them (SSK 9:2,3,12).
2. Also, if the container is sealed only with a string or paper cover that must be cut in order to open it, it is permitted to cut the string (in a way that makes the string unusable for future use) -- as our Gemara rules with regard to "Chosamos she'be'Kelim (ibid. 9:9,14).
3. Similarly, if the lid or opening is a distinctly visible entity from the rest of the bag or container, but it is connected to the container by a pull-off strip, it is permitted to remove the pull-off strip, since it is simply like removing a lid that has been tarred onto a barrel. (RAV S.Z. AUERBACH in a letter printed in MA'OR HA'SHABBOS, Peninei ha'Ma'or 6:4, in which he explicitly disavows what was written in SSK 9:18).
(a) *Flat, metal bottle caps*, of the type which are lifted off with a bottle opener may be removed. (MISHNAH BERURAH 314:17; CHAZON ISH 51:112; MINCHAS SHLOMO 91:12). This does not constitute an act of "Stirah" or "Boneh" on the bottle since these caps are clearly separate entities from the bottle even before they are removed (see above, (2):2). However, there is another problem that must be kept in mind when dealing with caps of bottles: Boneh (or Makeh b'Patish) as far as the *cap* itself is concerned. That is, does the removal of the cap from the bottle make it usable for the future (to use as a cap for other bottles), or was it already a usable cap even while on the bottle? Rav Shlomo Zalman (MINCHAS SHLOMO ibid.; SSK 9:fn61) rules that it depends on the following: can the bottle cap be used to cover another bottle if it is removed as is, such as by breaking the bottle within the cap and removing the cap? In the case of lift-off metal caps, the cap, as is, can be used to cover other bottles to a certain extent, and therefore one is not creating a utensil by removing it from the bottle.
(b) Screw-off metal bottle caps that *do not leave behind a ring* when screwed off, or *plastic bottle caps*, even if they do leave behind a ring (which was originally attached to the cap at a number of distinct points) may be removed. Removing them is not considered Soser or Boneh of the bottle, as in the previous paragraph, nor is it considered "creating a usable bottle cap," since the bottle cap was already a distinct, usable utensil which did not require further formation, as above. (This applies only to the type of removable, ringless, bottle cap which has slits on bottom which allow the cap to be screwed off; if the cap is physically warped or widened as it is unscrewed it is prohibited to remove it -- letter from Rav Auerbach in MA'OR HA'SHABBOS, Peninei ha'Ma'or 6:3.) In the case of plastic caps, even though they were connected to the ring while on the bottle, they were originally distinct caps in their own right and they were simply fused to the ring at the factory (by melting). Even now, after they were placed on the bottle, they appear as distinct entities from the rings. Separating them from the ring is therefore like removing the lid of a barrel that has been tarred onto the barrel (above, (2):2), (MINCHAS SHLOMO, ibid.). Others have pointed out that at many factories the plastic caps are attached to the rings *before* they are screwed onto the bottle. However, they are screwed on as is, with the application of mild to strong pressure alone. If so, if the bottle would be broken from under them, they could be removed and reapplied by hand to another bottle as is, ring and all, and therefore one is not making a utensil by removing them from the ring, as discussed in the previous paragraph (PENINEI HA'MA'OR 6:5).
(c) Metal bottle caps which *leave a ring* around the bottle neck when removed which was formerly part of the bottle cap (or in which the cap becomes physically widened or warped in any other way when removed), may not be removed on Shabbos or Yom Tov since they cannot be used on another bottle without first removing their rings. By removing them one completes the formation of a usable bottle cap (MINCHAS SHLOMO ibid. and SSK 9:17; RAV Y. S. ELYASHEV; RAV BINYAMIN ZILBER etc. -- others, though, permit opening all bottle caps, see TZITZ ELIEZER 14:45). Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach permits opening these caps, however, if one first punctures the bottle cap (in a manner that does not destroy the letters or illustrations printed on the cap, of course) or if one otherwise renders it unusable for covering bottles *before* removing the bottle cap or while removing it (SSK 9:3,17).


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