May one open a bag of potato chips on Shabbos,
and if the answer is yes, how?
The first part of the question involves the
issue of either Binyan bkeilim Construction of Utensils, or Makeh
bPatish applying the finishing touch.
According to the halacha one is
forbidden to construct an item or utensil, even for temporary use. For example, it is
forbidden to construct a paper cup even though it will be discarded after use.In our case
we have to understand whether opening a bag of potato chips is called making a kli
What has opening a bag of potato chips have to
do with making a kli?
The answer is that we find in the gemora
that one is prohibited
to bore a hole into a barrel in order to extract its contents, because it enhances the
barrel. The gemora tells us that fashioning an opening in a kli is
tantamount to manufacturing a kli.
Then it sounds like the dilemma is solved and
opening a bag of chips is forbidden?
Not really, because we find another halacha
in the Shulchan Aruch which says that
one is permitted to slice open a basket-weave type box in order to retrieve its contents,
and we do not see the slicing of the box as making an opening.
When then does the halacha
consider the opening as making a kli and when does it not?
The answer is that since the basket-weave type
box was only used for storing its particular contents on a one-time basis and subsequent
to opening the box is discarded, it is analogous to a nutshell, which may be cracked and
is not called a kli. A box, which is discarded when its contents are depleted
and is not reused, is not called a kli and may be opened.
Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Shlomo Zalman
Auerbach and many others presented this concept.
A kli that is reused for storing
items or food is considered a kli and making any type of opening is
Obviously nobody is going to reuse the potato
chips packet once it's empty and therefore opening the bag cannot be considered making a kli.
Therefore we conclude that opening such a bag is permitted.
Does that mean that
it can be opened in the normal manner?
Rav Shlomo Zalman says that packets can
be opened in the normal manner. However some understand from the Chazon Ish, who says that an
envelope may only be opened when destructed to the point that it can no longer be used to
store anything, that packets etc must be cut or opened in a way that they cannot be
Others say that the an envelope is different,
being that it is often reused to store the letter, but packets and boxes which are always
discarded upon depletion of its contents are not subject to that edict and may be opened
in the normal manner.
To summarize: One may open
packets of food on Shabbos. Some say
that they may be opened in the normal manner and some say that one must rip the packet and
render it unusable.
What about the opening of tin cans?
In todays affluent
society, most tin cans share the same destiny as potato chip packets and are discarded
upon depletion. The Chazon Ish
commences saying that when one does not intend using the can, opening it is not called
making a kli.
However he adds,
Since many people intend using the tin can for storing soaps, nails etc, there is
room to prohibit the opening of the can lest he has in mind to use it. Many poskim
say that the Chazon
Ish was only referring to his times when tin cans were often used for storing etc, but
nowadays even the Chazon Ish would agree that there is no problem opening a tin can
that one does not intend using. Nevertheless, certain poskim say that one should
puncture one side of the can and open the other side thus avoiding the problem of making a
kli, because one will surely discard a can with a hole in the bottom.
Shlomo Zalman Auerbach says
that one may open a tin can in the normal fashion, being that it is discarded after use.
In order to avoid this issue one should open tin cans he intends using before Shabbos.