Tochen (Part 2) Techina for Immediate

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon






By Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon


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SHIUR #15: TOCHEN (Part 2)



III) Techina for Immediate Use


In our series on the melakha of borer, we learnt that an act of bereira (selection) is permitted for the sake of immediate use (le’altar), i.e., proximate to eating or proximate to the meal.  Is this principle applicable to other melakhot? In his Responsa (Vol. IV, Ch. 75), the Rashba writes that this allowance is relevant to the melakha of tochen as well, thereby limiting the scope of the prohibition:


This is only when one minces food in order to eat it the next day, or even on that day but for a later hour...  However, to eat it immediately, it is permissible, for they did not forbid one to eat one’s food, whether in large pieces or small ones, just as they said when it comes to selecting... that "'One may select and eat' for immediate use, 'select and set aside' for immediate use"...  Consequently, anything which is eaten immediately, in the way that people are accustomed to eat [one may prepare in the usual way], even though that very act would render one liable to bring a sin-offering were it performed in order to set the food aside for a later point. 


On this approach, just as bereira le’altar is permissible, techina le’altar is allowed as well, for it is inconceivable that the Torah would demand that one eat food on Shabbat only in large chunks! This allowance is also cited by the Ran (32a, Rif, s.v. Amar Rav Pappa).


However, the Shiltei Ha-gibborim (ibid. 3) questions this:


I am astounded by his view: since the prohibition is because of tochen, what difference does it make whether it is tochen for later that day, for immediate use or for tomorrow? Are all of the melakhot permissible if one requires [the product of] that melakha for immediate use?!   Do not challenge me from bereira — that they allowed one to select when one wants to eat immediately — because the reasoning in that case is that there is no bereira at all.  Moreover, the Sages themselves explicitly stated this rule [the permit for immediate use] for selection, while here they clearly stated that mincing vegetables is tochen and they did not distinguish.  What basis do we then have to make such a distinction based on our own logic, making comparisons which they never raised?


It may be that the argument springs from the following question: why is bereira le’altar allowed?  We learned earlier that one may understand the issue in one of two ways:


a) Bereira le’altar is not considered bereira (the selection done among the wheat kernels is for the purpose of storing them for the long term). 

b) Bereira le’altar is allowed because this is derekh akhila, the way of eating, and the Torah does not forbid eating on Shabbat in the normal manner.


According to the first understanding, this allowance is specific to the melakha of borer, and is not applicable to other melakhot, while according to the second understanding there is a general allowance for derekh akhila, which can lead us to permit other melakhot which are performed proximate to one's eating.[1]


Rav Yosef Karo, the Beit Yosef (Ch. 321), cites the words of the Rashba, and he writes that no one argues with it.  However, he writes that it is appropriate to cut up food into "somewhat large pieces".


However, in the Shulchan Arukh (321:12), Rav Yosef Karo omits the law of le’altar, while the Rema does bring it:


This entire discussion addresses one who is cutting up food to set it aside, but if it is in order to eat the food immediately, it is all allowed, just as it is permissible to select in order to eat immediately, as [we saw] above in Chapter 319.


The Magen Avraham (15) notes that the Shiltei Ha-gibborim questions this allowance and that the Beit Yosef advises to cut food up into "somewhat large pieces".  However he writes that in his area people regularly cut radishes up into small pieces, and they have support for this approach, but they should wait until just before the meal.  The Mishna Berura (45) writes the same:    


There are those who question this allowance, and the Beit Yosef has also written that even one who intends to eat immediately should still be careful to cut [the food into] "somewhat large pieces".  From this reason, many Acharonim write also that it is correct to act according to what the Beit Yosef has written.  In any case, one should not criticize those who are accustomed to mince onions and radishes, since they have on whom to rely, and in any case, it is forbidden to do so until one leaves the synagogue, because we need it to be close to the meal itself, as we wrote in Chapter 319 concerning borer.   


On the other hand, the Chazon Ish (Ch. 57) questions permitting techina le’altar, and he limits it from different angles:


It appears that it is only cutting up into small pieces that the Rashba permits.  Since the essence of cutting up food is derekh akhila, there is no difference between small and large pieces, and it is all called derekh akhila.  However, crushing, i.e. pounding, is the way of actual grinding; this is not derekh akhila but fixing the food in a different way, so that eating it immediately accomplishes nothing [to mitigate the prohibition]...


Regarding the basic ruling of the Rashba, it appears that the Rashbam, Semag, Mordekhai and Re'em cited by the Hagahot Maimoniyot do not differentiate between that which is proximate to the meal and that which is not...  According to this logic, one must differentiate between borer and tochen: [in the latter,] one changes the original form more, and it is also not derekh akhila...


Furthermore, the Rema concludes his words by noting that the allowance [of techina] in order to eat le’altar is limited to bread and vegetables; it does not refer to the [cutting of] dried figs or carobs before the elderly...  This shows that we do not rely on the view of the Rashba to permit this unless we can enlist the view of those authorities who believe that there is no [prohibition of] techina for other foods or the view of the Rosh that there is no techina for foods.  Proximate to the actual eating, their approach — that it is not called tochen — is more cogent, but all of this is when it is possible to eat it [even without techina]; however, when they cannot eat the food without crumbling it, tochen is applicable even in order to eat it le’altar. 


The Chazon Ish notes that many Rishonim dispute the view of the Rashba and believe that there is no allowance of le’altar for tochen.  This allowance is applicable only to borer, because there is no change in the object itself, and the permit based on derekh akhila is more pertinent there as well.  Furthermore, he claims that the Rashba and the Rema are only lenient in a case of cutting into small pieces, which is derekh akhila, because in the act of eating itself one cuts the food into small pieces; however, actual grinding, which changes the form of the food, is forbidden even le’altar, and one who does so is liable to bring a sin-offering.[2]  Similarly, the Chazon Ish claims, the Rema is not lenient about mincing le’altar unless one is cutting the food up for a person who is able to eat the food without it being cut up, which is not true of chopping up food for the elderly or children, which is a more significant activity, and so one may not do it even le’altar.[3]


On the other hand, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, OC, Vol. IV, Ch. 74, Tochen 2) writes that the view of the Chazon Ish is to be considered a lone view:


In any case, the Rema and all of the halakhic authorities after him rule in accordance with the Rashba and the Ran that in order to eat le’altar, [techina] is permissible, and they write that this is their custom...  It turns out that the Chazon Ish... is opposed to the Rema, Magen Avraham, Peri Megadim and Vilna Gaon, as well as Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav, Mishna Berura and Arukh Ha-shulchan...  It is also opposed to the lenient custom to which the Magen Avraham testifies.  Thus, the view of the Chazon Ish is a lone view and also against the custom, and one should not forbid it. Perhaps a fastidious person should be stringent not to mince food, as the Mishna Berura and Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav write, but in a case of great necessity, there is no need to be stringent...     


According to him, it is basically permissible to mince food le’altar, because this is the view of the majority of halakhic authorities.  And while it is appropriate for a fastidious person to be stringent and to cut the food into somewhat large pieces, as the Acharonim have written, when there is a significant need, even a fastidious person need not be stringent, since this is basically permissible, and there is no distinction between cutting the food up for an average person or cutting it up for the elderly or the young.


Rav Ovadya Yosef (Yechaveh Da’at, Vol. V, Ch. 27; see also Livyat Chen, 62) writes that one may mince food le’altar and that there is no distinction between chopping and actual grinding or between the elderly and children on the one hand and average people on the other hand, since techina le’altar is not forbidden at all.  Similarly, one may enlist the views of the Rishonim who believe that there is no prohibition of tochen once a substance becomes food, or that there is no prohibition for produce which can be eaten without being cooked or which one currently has no intention of cooking.  According to him, the Beit Yosef accepts the Rashba's leniency, but his suggestion of cutting food into "somewhat larger pieces" is only an added preference, not required by the letter of the law: 


It is permissible to mash a banana or cooked vegetables with a fork for the sake of an infant or the like, in order to feed the child le’altar.  It is also permissible to make a salad on Shabbat and to mince vegetables in order to eat le’altar.  There are those who, as an act of piety, cut up the vegetables for the salad into somewhat large pieces.  Even though this is not demanded by the letter of the law, in any case one who is stringent is praiseworthy.


Yet, Rav Neuwirth in Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhatah (6:6) rules in accordance with the view of the Beit Yosef that even proximate to the meal one may not mince food; rather, one must cut up food in somewhat large pieces, and only if one is cutting up food for someone who has difficulty chewing may one rely on the lenient views in order to mince the food, provided that one does so proximate to the meal.




In conclusion, the halakhic authorities argue whether the allowance of "le’altar" applies to tochen as well.  According to most Acharonim, this leniency is applicable to tochen as well, even though the Chazon Ish questions and limits this allowance.  Rav Feinstein writes that by the letter of the law, one may even mince food proximate to the meal, but when there is no pressing need, it is better to suffice with larger pieces.


Practically, one who minces vegetables to put them in a salad has halakhic support, but one must be careful to prepare the salad close to the meal's start.  However, it is preferable and desirable to cut up the vegetables into pieces that are not tiny, but rather of the size of a hastily-made salad — composed of pieces that are small, but not too small, so that one can easily differentiate between a tomato and a red pepper.  Finally, one should prepare such a salad proximate to the meal.



IV) Mashing without Cutting



How may one make egg salad on Shabbat? Is one allowed to mash a banana or an avocado? Is it permissible to crumble a cookie or bread?



Is the prohibition of tochen applicable only when one body is divided into discrete bits, or is the very act of crushing forbidden, even if it remains as one mass?


The Tosefta (15:13) says that "Pressed or dried figs cannot be crushed before the elderly."  The Chazon Ish (57, s.v. Le-inyan) writes that when pressed or dried figs are crushed, they remain one mass, and therefore even in such a case the prohibition of tochen is applicable.


In terms of the liability for tochen, there is no difference between a dry substance which is broken down into separate bits, and a moist substance which becomes thicker when it is broken down, because when one crushes the pressed or dried figs, they adhere to the mass, and nevertheless, there is an issue of tochen...  and this is logical, because a cohesion which is made by moisture is not considered a cohesion.[4]


In light of this, the Chazon Ish writes that it is forbidden to mash a banana; even though it remains one mass, there is a prohibition of tochen.  According to him, the abovementioned Tosefta indicates that an action such as mashing is forbidden even le’altar,[5] and one may not allow mashing a banana without an alteration.[6]


Rav Feinstein (OC, Vol. IV, Ch. 74, Tochen 2) disputes this and allows mashing bananas in the regular way.  According to this, any techina le’altar is permissible; however, even if we will accept the view of the Chazon Ish that true techina is not allowed le’altar, there is still good reason to allow mashing bananas, because the prohibition of tochen is not relevant in this action at all.  The prohibition of tochen is applicable only when one takes one body and turns it into small components; however, if one takes a substance and mashes it (while it remains one mass), there is no violation of tochen. Rav Feinstein explains this as follows:


However, when it comes to mashing bananas, it appears that there is no reason to forbid this, even according to the view of the Chazon Ish...  because the issue of techina is when one produces small slivers and crumbs such as grinding flour and the like...  [However, a banana] which becomes very soft with a lot of moisture, and the appearance does not change...  it is not techina...  And it seems logical that for this reason techina is not applicable in mashing bananas, and therefore it is difficult to understand that which the Chazon Ish writes, that in mashing bananas for children on Shabbat there is a prohibition of techina.


The language of the Rambam in defining tochen (7:5) seems to lend support to Rav Feinstein’s approach.  "One who grinds takes one body and divides it into many bodies" — this implies that if there is one body or mass left after the mashing has been completed, there is no prohibition of tochen.[7]


The Tehilla Le’david explains this along similar lines (Hashmatot, Ch. 252):


When one mashes a baked apple or cooked potatoes, there is apparently no problem of tochen or kneading, because the substance starts as one body and ends as one body.


On this approach, if the substance remains one entity, there is no prohibition of tochen (though the Tehilla Le’david is talking about a cooked substance, with which we will deal in a later shiur, it appears from his words that the same approach applies equally to something which has not been cooked).


Rav Neuwirth (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata 6:7-8) forbids mashing a banana or an avocado even for immediate use.  Rav Feinstein also writes, in his conclusion, that it is better to mash the banana with an alteration in order to take the view of the Chazon Ish into account, but he adds that if this is not possible, one may mash a banana or avocado in the normal way, as long as it does not break down into separate parts but remains one entity.[8]


I have heard from my teacher, Harav Aharon Lichtenstein, that it is permissible to mash an avocado directly onto bread, because in this there is certainly no issue of techina.  One must explain that aside from the fact that mashing onto bread does not bring about the result of techina, mashing an avocado onto bread is derekh akhila and not the way of techina, and it may be that this would be permissible even according to the view of the Chazon Ish. 


Practical Halakha


In practice, it is preferable to mash bananas or avocadoes with an alteration (e.g., mashing with a spoon or the handle of the fork), but one who mashes with a fork has support, though it is preferable for this to be done directly onto bread and proximate to eating. If the banana or avocado is so soft that when one holds part of the item the other part falls off, it is permissible according to everyone to mash it normally, because the fruit is considered already ground, and there is no issue of techina concerning a substance which has already undergone techina, as we will see in a future shiur (Rav S.Z. Auerbach, cited in Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhatah 6:7). 




[1] The Chazon Ish (61:1, s.v. U-ma she-katav Ha-Taz) indicates that even according to the Rashba, only bereira and techina are allowed for immediate use, because these are actions that a person always performs with one's mouth at the time of eating.  We will deal with the application of this notion in future shiurim with regard to kneading. 

[2] The Chazon Ish derives this from the Tosefta in Beitza (1:13), which states that "Pressed or dried figs cannot be crushed before the elderly" (which he understands as "before the elderly" who are sitting at the table; see the next note).  However, the simple meaning of the Rema is to allow even actual techina for immediate use (on the condition that this is not done with a designated grinding utensil), which is also the implication of the Rivash's Responsa (Ch. 184) as well as the view of Rav S.Z. Auerbach (cited in Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhatah, Ch. 6, n. 20): "The Rashba would even allow techina with a mill le’altar, were it not for the fact that this is a utensil.  Similarly, the Mishna Berura takes for granted repeatedly the fact that, according to the Rashba, even that which grows from the ground may be minced proximate to eating, so it is evident that he does not understand the view of the Magen Avraham as the Chazon Ish does, for he would forbid it."

[3] As we have already seen, the Rema rules that it is forbidden to cut dried figs and carobs before the elderly.  The Chazon Ish explains that "before the elderly" means that the seniors are sitting down to eat and one is cutting on their behalf, and from this he concludes that one should not cut even le’altar on behalf of someone who is not able to eat the food without it being cut up; though the Rema goes on to allow cutting le’altar, this is only for a person who could eat the food even without it being cut up. However, the Peri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 321:140) understands that the Rema allows techina le’altar in every case, and "before the elderly" means that one cuts on behalf of seniors who will eat the pieces at a later point.  This is the majority view among the Acharonim, as Rav Feinstein notes in the abovementioned responsum in the Iggerot Moshe. 

[4] An additional proof brought by the Chazon Ish will be cited below.

[5] See above that, according to the Chazon Ish, only mincing is allowed le’altar, not true grinding, and see there that most Acharonim dispute this.

[6]  We will deal with the issues relating to performing techina with an alteration in a future shiur.

[7] To defend the view of the Chazon Ish, he could explain that mashing a banana divides it into different parts; though they continue to adhere to each other because of the moisture, cohesion due to moisture is not cohesion, as the Chazon Ish states in the passage cited above.  On the other hand, Rav Feinstein claims that he has done his own research and discovered that in fact pressed and dried figs are reduced to little bits which adhere to each other when they are "crushed" (in the words of the Tosefta), while a mashed banana remains one mass, merely becoming softer. 

[8] Above we brought the view of Rav Ovadya Yosef in Yechaveh Da’at, permitting one to mash bananas for a child to eat immediately even using a fork, since any techina le’altar is allowed.