Cutting, tearing, or breaking an item in order to use it

Important Note: There are several prohibitions that can be involved in cutting an item on Shabbos. These are: Destroying, Fixing a vessel, Tearing, Grinding, Erasing. Below we will deal with only the aspect of Tikkun Keli-fixing- involved in cutting. For the full details, final rulings, and practical Q&A on this subject please refer to “The Laws of Cutting and Tearing an item on Shabbos”!

Cutting an item with a knife to make a use with it:[1]   Although cutting items detached [from the ground] is initially permitted when one is not particular to cut it in a specific measurement, as explained in chapter 314 [Halacha 16[2]] nevertheless if through doing so one fixes the item to be used for a certain use, then he is liable for [the] “fixing a vessel” [prohibition] if he cut it using a knife, as was explained in chapter 322 [Michaber Halacha 4] regarding the cutting of a twig[3].

Tearing it with ones hands to make a use of it: [4] If it was done without a knife then one is exempt [from Biblical liability], although it is [Rabinically] forbidden.

Breaking earthenware and tearing paper for a use:[5] Therefore one may not break earthenware and may not tear paper which is permitted to move [i.e. is not Muktzah] in order to use the [torn or broken piece] for a use due to that doing so is similar to him fixing a vessel. See Chapter 508 [Halacha 2[6]]

May one break a piece of material off a broken vessel in order to use it for a purpose on Shabbos?[7] A vessel which has become damaged [and is thus no longer in use] one may not detach from it a piece of earthenware to use to cover something with or to place something on, being that doing so is like making a vessel, as any item which one fixes on Shabbos for it to be useable for any use transgresses the prohibition of “Tikun Keli” [making a vessel on Shabbos].

 

Summary of cutting an item to make it fit for a use:

Is forbidden to be done whether using a knife [in which case it is Biblically forbidden] or ones hands [in which case it is Rabbinically forbidden[8]].

It is thus forbidden to break off a piece of earthenware or a piece of paper in order to make it fit for a use.

 

Q&A

If one tears a piece of paper to a larger size than one needs, does it still contain the fixing prohibition?

This matter requires further analysis.

 

May one separate plastic ware which is attached together, such as two plastic spoons which are attached or two yogurts which are attached?[9]

No. This is forbidden due to the fixing a vessel prohibition. [Seemingly however according to those opinions that permit opening disposable cans likewise here it would be permitted to separate the above disposable items. See Chapter 2 Halacha 9 Q&A!]

 

May one separate a two part ices[10]?

No. This is forbidden due to the fixing a vessel prohibition. [Seemingly however according to those opinions that permit opening disposable cans likewise here it would be permitted to separate the above disposable items. See Chapter 2 Halacha 9 Q&A!]

 


[1] 340/17

[2] There it is explained that cutting wood to a desired measurement is Biblically forbidden.

[3] This will be brought below in Halacha 4

[4] 340/17

[5] 340/17

[6] There Admur brings different cases that tearing or breaking an item is forbidden due to one making it now fit for a use.

[7] 308/82

[8] Accordingly one must say that all the other cases discussing Tikkun Keli when tearing something [earthenware/leaf for drainpipe] must be referring to when one does so with a knife, as only then is he liable, or perhaps even with one’s hands and Admur means to say it is Rabbinically forbidden. Vetzaruch Iyun as if it is common to cut something with one’s hands versus a knife, such as plucking a leaf, should this not be Biblically forbidden?

[9] Piskeiy Teshuvos 314/3

[10] This refers to a long plastic tube which contains sweet frozen ices inside. The tube is split into two parts with a narrow area in the middle that connects them. It is customary during the week to cut the tube down the middle and give out one ices to each child. The question is can this be done on Shabbos. Although foods do not contain a Tikun Keli prohibition, the plastic which holds the ices perhaps does.

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