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Use of Salad Slicers on Shabbat

May I use a salad slicer (approximately, a hand-operated food processor) on Shabbat?


Rabbi Daniel Mann

Tevet 6 5778
Question: May I use a salad slicer (approximately, a hand-operated food processor) on Shabbat?

Answer: The gemara (Shabbat 74b) states, according to the explanation of several Rishonim, that cutting certain vegetables into small pieces is a Torah-level violation of tochen (grinding).

There are several lenient opinions that limit the scope of this prohibition on cutting. Some say (see Tosafot ad loc.) that it applies only to foods that are not edible whole, which makes cutting them into small, edible pieces a significant and thus forbidden change. The Rambam (Shabbat 21:18) implies that it is only when it is cut up in preparation for its being cooked. These two possibilities, and especially when one connects them, logically make cutting comparable to grinding grains to be used for baking bread. A further leniency is cited by many, including the Rama (Orach Chayim 321:12), in the name of the Rashba (Shut IV:75). The Rashba says that cutting done soon before consumption is considered part of the eating process and not a forbidden melacha, similar to the distinction regarding borer (selecting).

If one makes a standard salad right before the Shabbat meal it would thus seem that there should be several grounds to permit the matter. However, there are a few difficulties in allowing use of a salad slicer on Shabbat. First, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 321:12) considers the cutting into small pieces of all vegetables, even not for the purpose of cooking, as a full-fledged violation of tochen. Furthermore, the Magen Avraham (321:15) is among those who are unhappy with the leniency of cutting soon before eating (see Mishna Berura 321:45), at least when the vegetables are cut very small.

In this regard, a simple compromise is to indeed turn the device only enough for the vegetables to, by and large, be cut into relatively large pieces. Many poskim point out that there are no exact dimensions for what is considered small, and that the matter is relative to the normal preparation of the salad (see Dirshu 321:59). There is also a machloket about when a vegetable is cut thin in one dimension but remains larger in the other two dimensions (and thus, for example, the pieces still need to be chewed before swallowing). Igrot Moshe (OC IV, 74) is lenient on the matter, while some others say that cutting thin in any dimension is a problem (see Orchot Shabbat 5:(12)).

However, it is still a problem to use a salad slicer because it is a utensil that is made for the purpose of cutting into small enough pieces to be considered tochen. The Biur Halacha (to 321:12) follows the comparison that the Rashba made to borer. For borer, it is not enough that the selecting is done for short-term use, but it also must not use a utensil because that makes it more work-like. Using a regular knife that is used for cutting of all shapes and sizes does not impact the permissibility because that is the way that permitted cutting is done as well. However, when one uses a special set of blades which is made for making salads of small pieces, it is forbidden even if he limits the use so that it does not, in this case, produce small pieces (ibid.). This is on two possible grounds. One is that it turns the action into one which is closer to classic tochen. The other is that use of such a special preparing machine is a violation of uvdin d’chol, weekday-like activity, even in cases when the melacha of tochen does not apply to the object being cut (Shulchan Aruch, OC 321:10).

There are some types of salad preparation gadgets that always leave the pieces quite large. It that case, it is possible (some require that the pieces be bigger than usual) that there is neither a direct prohibition of tochen nor a problem of uvdin d’chol (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 6:3). We cannot give you an opinion without seeing the operation of the specific appliance. In general, it is a good idea to either prepare the salad before Shabbat or use a regular knife.
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