Cutting items on Shabbos, such as a tablecloth, garbage bag, paper towel, piece of tinfoil, and toilet paper?
It is Biblically forbidden to perform an action on Shabbos which prepares an item for a use. The principal Melacha of this prohibition is called “Makeh Bepatish,” while its offshoot is known as Tikkun Keli. Accordingly, it is forbidden to cut or tear an item on Shabbos for the sake of making a use out of the cut piece. If one cuts the item with a vessel, such as a scissor or knife, it is Biblically forbidden. If one tears it with his hands, it is Rabbinically forbidden. In addition to the above prohibition of Tikkun Keli, cutting or tearing an item on Shabbos [even not for a use] may also transgress other Biblical or Rabbinical prohibitions, including: Koreiah/Tearing; Michateich; Tochein; Soseir/destroying; Erasing letters.
Based on the above prohibition of Tikkun Keli, it is forbidden to cut or tear the following items on Shabbos, and they are all to be prepared, and pre-cut, before Shabbos:
- Tablecloth: It is forbidden to cut a tablecloth roll for the sake of using the cut piece to cover one’s table [or other usage]. This applies irrelevant of whether one cuts the tablecloth on the pre-serrated lines. It is forbidden to do so even with one’s hands, and certainly with a knife.
- Garbage bags: It is forbidden to cut a garbage bag from a garbage bag roll on Shabbos.
- Plastic sandwich bags: A pack of sandwich bags in which each bag is slightly attached to the bag under it, and needs to be torn off, is forbidden to be torn on Shabbos. This applies irrelevant of whether one cuts the bags on the pre-serrated lines.
- Tinfoil: It is forbidden to cut a piece of tinfoil from a roll, on Shabbos, whether with one’s hands or using a knife.
- Paper towel: It is forbidden to cut a piece of paper towel from a roll, on Shabbos, whether with one’s hands or using a knife. This applies irrelevant of whether one cuts the paper towel on the pre-serrated lines.
- Toilet paper: It is forbidden to cut a piece of toilet paper from a roll, on Shabbos, whether with one’s hands or using a knife. This applies irrelevant of whether one cuts the toilet paper on the pre-serrated lines.
- Tissues: A pack of tissues in which each tissue is slightly attached to the tissue below it, and needs to be torn off, is forbidden to be used on Shabbos. This applies irrelevant of whether one cuts the tissues on the pre-serrated lines.
Are the above items Muktzah on Shabbos?
All the above items that may not be cut on Shabbos receive the status of Keli Shemilachto Li’issur, of which the ruling is that it may not be moved to save from damage, but may be moved for the sake of using it, or to free up its space. If practically the item is not useable due to one’s inability to cut it, then it may be judged under the higher status of Muktzah called Muktzah Machmas Chisaron Kis, or Muktzah Machamas Gufo, of which the ruling is that it may not be moved for any purpose. If, however, one would not abstain from using the item without cutting it [i.e. placing the entire garbage roll in the garbage can and opening the one on top, or placing the plastic tablecloth on the table and resting the roll on a chair at the edge] then seemingly its status would be of Keli Shemilachto Li’issur.
In the above cases, does it help to cut the above items to a larger quantity than necessary to avoid the above prohibition of Tikkun Keli?
The prohibition applies even in such a case, as any cutting which further assists one in achieving his use of the vessel is forbidden due to Tikkun Keli.
In the above cases, does it make a difference if one cuts the item with one’s hands versus a knife?
The prohibition applies whether it is cut with a knife or torn with one’s hands, although the level of prohibition, and whether it is Biblical or Rabbinical does change if it was cut with one’s hands versus a knife and the like, as explained above.
Does it make a difference if one cuts the above items on the serrated lines, or elsewhere?
No. The prohibition of Tikkun Keli applies wherever one cuts it. Likewise, cutting it by the dotted lines does not necessarily transgress the additional Michateich prohibition, and hence there is no Halachic difference regarding where one intends to cut it.
May one ask a gentile to cut the above items on Shabbos?
No, as is always the rule regarding Amira Lenachri. However, in a case of great need, or for the sake of a Mitzvah, one may ask the gentile to cut it for him using his hands, without mentioning the use of a scissor or knife.
 See Admur 302:5; 340:17; 308:54; 82; 314:12; 508:2; 514:17-20; Michaber 322:4; 340:13; M”B 322:13; Mishneh Shabbos 73a and Rashi there; Mishneh 102b; Rambam 23:4; Smak 280; Taz 302:1; M”B 302:9; Piskeiy Teshuvos 340:34
 Admur 302:5 “It is the common way for craftsmen who make a metal vessel to strike the vessel with a hammer after it is completed, in order to smooth out any bumps through this striking. This striking is the final work done to this vessel and is a principal form of labor which existed with the vessels of the Tabernacle. [Thus] anyone who does an action which is the finishing work of the vessel and of its fixing, this completion is considered a Melacha and is an offshoot of [the principal prohibition of] “Hitting with a hammer” which existed in the Tabernacle. Similarly, anyone who does any fixing to a vessel, this fixing is considered a [Biblically forbidden form of] work, and one is [thus] liable [for a sin offering].; Mishneh Shabbos 73a and Rashi there; Mishneh 102b; Rambam 23:4; Smak 280; Taz 302:1; M”B 302:9
 Admur 340:17 “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] 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. If it was done without a knife then one is exempt [from Biblical liability], although it is [Rabbinically] forbidden.”; 308:54-55; 82; 314:12; 508:2; 514:17-20; See Michaber 322:4; 340:13; M”B 322:13; Vetzaruch Iyun as to why there is no Tikkun Keli prohibition involved in cutting a block of wood into fire wood on Yom Tov [see Admur 501:1-3]
 See Admur 302:4; 278:1-3; 317:7; 340:17; Mishneh Berurah 340 Biur Halacha “Eiyn Shovrin”; Piskeiy Teshuvos 340:34
 See Admur 314:16; Aruch Hashulchan 321:40; Az Nidbaru 1:79
 Admur 314:16; M”A 314:14; M”B 314:41
 Piskeiy Teshuvos 340:34; See Admur 340:17 “Cutting items detached [from the ground]…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. Due to this [prohibition of Tikkun Keli] 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]”; Admur 508:2 “One who roasts fish over a grill is not to cut a piece of paper in order to soak it in water and then place it under the fish over the grill in order to prevent the fish from burning. Similarly, one may not break a piece of earthenware in order to place it under the fish. Similarly, one may not break open a cane in order to place its sheath under the fish. As well, one may not break open the cane to make it into a figure like skewer to roast with. The reason for all the above restrictions is because in all cases that one makes and fixes an item to be fit for a use, then it is like he has fixed a vessel on Yom Tov.”; Admur 308:54 “A [detached] vine……is forbidden to use it to draw with, unless the vine was tied to the bucket from before Shabbos due to a decree that perhaps the vine will be too long for him, and one will cut it, being that it is soft and easy to be cut, and will thus end up [transgressing the prohibition of] fixing a vessel on Shabbos.”; Admur 308:55 “It is forbidden to remove a reed from a broom which is used to clean the house, being that through removing it he is fixing it for the use that he wishes to use it for, which is for hitting the children with, and [the law is that] any item that one fixes to be used for any use is included in the prohibition of fixing vessels.”; Admur 308:82 “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].”; Admur 514:18 “Two vessels which were attached to each other from the beginning of their manufacturing, as is commonly done with two cups or two candles, that they are commonly manufactured attached to each other, it is forbidden to separate them into two parts on Yom Tov [or Shabbos] due to the prohibition of Tikkun Keli.”; Admur 514:19 “A long wick which one desires to shorten, may not be shortened on Yom Tov weather with a vessel, or with a flame or with one’s hands, due to the prohibition of Tikkun Keli, as he is making a long wick into a short wick. Likewise, if you want to turn into two lakes it is forbidden to cut it.; Michaber 322:4 “However, a twig which is not animal food, even to take it in order to pick at his teeth is forbidden”; Vetzaruch Iyun as to why there is no Tikkun Keli prohibition involved in cutting a block of wood into fire wood on Yom Tov [see Admur 501:1-3]
Other opinions-See regarding the debate surrounding the prohibition of cutting toilet paper or cotton balls: Stringent: Tzur Yaakov 152; Chelkas Yaakov 3:123; Minchas Yitzchak 4:45; Az Nidbaru 2:31; SSH”K 23:16; Or Letziyon 2 41:6; Mishneh Halachos 6:84; Minchas Shlomo 2:12; Orchos Shabbos 11:20-21 and footnotes 31-32; Piskeiy Teshuvos 340:28; Theoretically are lenient [but many nonetheless conclude to be stringent]: Maharam Brisk 3:35; Mishpitei Uziel 8; Tzitz Eliezer 13:45; Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbauch in SSH”K 35 footnote 4; Yalkut Yosef 12 [Shabbos 5 p. 146] 340:1; Taharas Habayis 2 p. 342; Yabia Omer 9:108-185; Shemesh Umagen 1:4; Shaar Shimon Echad 1:8; Shaar Shimshon 147; Mikveh Hamayim 2:7; Hillel Omer 199; Menuchas Ahavah 16:9-10 and footnotes 25 and 29 and 33; See Rav SZ”A brought in Orchos Shabbos 11 footnote 31
Does the Koreiah prohibition apply in the cases listed below? The Koreiah prohibition only applies if the item is made of several fabrics or pieces which are being torn apart. Accordingly, the Koreiah prohibition would not apply in the cases listed below in which the item is a single solid material. [See Admur 340:17] However, Tzaruch Iyun, as perhaps the beads of plastic which are melted to form the plastic sheet would be considered “several fabrics” which would transgress the Koreia prohibition. Likewise, paper which is made from ground wood may also be defined as “several fabrics” and transgress the prohibition. [See Piskeiy Teshuvos]
Does the Biblical Tikkun Keli prohibition apply in the cases below? As stated above, if one cuts the item with a scissor or knife, it is a Biblical prohibition, while if he tears it with his hand, it is a Rabbinical prohibition. This is unlike Piskeiy Teshuvos 340:34 footnote 308 who writes that according to Admur there is no Biblical prohibition, as in truth, while there is no Biblical prohibition of Koreia according to Admur, there is a Biblical prohibition of Tikkun Keli if cut with a vessel. However, see there based on Maor Hashannos 4 that the Biblical prohibition of Tikkun Keli does not apply being that the vessel is able to be used in a time of need even without cutting and thus the simple act of cutting is not considered a complete fixing. However, in the case of the garbage bags or plastic bags, since the cutting turns it into a useable bag, then it is a Biblical prohibition of Tikkun Keli [if done with a vessel]. The practical ramification is regarding Amira Lenachri and if we can consider it Shevus Deshvus to cut it even with a knife.
Does the Michateich prohibition apply in the cases below? For the most part, the Michateich prohibition does not apply in the below mentioned cases even if one cuts it by the dotted lines as one has no intent to truly cut it to a specific measurement. [See Admur 314:16; Piskeiy Teshuvos 340:34 footnote 308] However, see Aruch Hashulchan 321:40 and Az Nidbaru 1:79 who rules that one who tears paper for a use transgresses Michateich. Vetzaruch Iyun.
 See Piskeiy Teshuvos 340:34 footnote 309
 See Admur 308:2, 12; M”A 308:5; M”B 308:10
 See regarding blank paper that it becomes both MMCK and MMG: Admur 308:6; M”A 308:10 in name of Shiltei Giborim 8; M”B 308:3
 See Admur 308:54 regarding shortening the length of a vine” due to it being too long for him”; However, see Tzitz Eliezer 13:45 that when one does not care of the size of the cut then it is not Tikkun Keli
 Piskeiy Teshuvos 340:34
 See footnotes above where this matter was explained
 See Admur 307:12, 16; Piskeiy Teshuvos 340:34 footnote 310