The Rishonim disagree whether the prohibition of Toĥen applies to chopping vegetables finely for salad. Some maintain that since cutting the vegetables into small pieces serves a purpose, the prohibition applies. However, according to the majority of Rishonim, this is prohibited only if the vegetables are otherwise inedible, such as when one chops vegetables in order to cook them. In contrast, if the vegetables are edible raw, there is no problem with chopping them. In practice, since this disagreement concerns a Torah law, one should defer to the stringent opinion. Thus one may not cut vegetables finely for a salad (SA 321:12). However, if the salad is being prepared right before the meal, even the stringent opinion permits it. In this case, the cutting is not derekh melakha but derekh akhila, as one may eat finely-cut food on Shabbat (Rashba; Beit Yosef; Rema 321:12). Le-khatĥila it is preferable, even when preparing salad for the upcoming meal, not to cut the pieces especially finely (Beit Yosef; MB ad loc. 45).
May one mash foods like bananas and avocados? Some are stringent and forbid doing so with a fork, including for immediate consumption. Even the stringent opinion permits mashing these foods with a spoon, because that is considered a shinui. However, the lenient position allows mashing bananas and avocados even with a fork for immediate consumption, and the halakha follows this position. Thus one may mash a banana or avocado with a fork for immediate consumption. As we have already seen, the prohibition of Toĥen is not relevant to food being prepared for immediate consumption, as long as the mashing is not done with a special utensil designed for this purpose.
One may use a meat knife to cut a roast into slices, even for later consumption. A knife may be used to slice hard cheese as well. Similarly, one may mash hard-boiled eggs with a fork. Even when it is permissible to cut something or crumble it, one may not do so with a utensil that is designed for this purpose, like a grater (SA 321:9-10). However, one may use a utensil that is designed for cutting things into large pieces. Therefore, one may use a cheese knife or an egg slicer, since its blades are far apart from one another. Similarly, one may slice a loaf of bread as well (SSK 6:3).
. There are three opinions as to what constitutes Toĥen:
- a) According to Rabbeinu Ĥananel and Rosh, Toĥen is relevant only to making flour.
- b) According to most Rishonim, if cutting something into pieces makes it edible, one may not do so; but if it is edible as is, one may cut it. This is the position of Rid, Ritva, Ra’ah, and Ramban, and it is similar to Rambam’s position as well.
- c) Any time one cuts vegetables into small pieces, it is included in the prohibition of Toĥen. This is the opinion of Rashi, Or Zaru’a, and Yere’im. SA 321:12 defers to the opinion of those who are stringent. However, he adds, based on Rashba, that if the food is intended to be eaten immediately, one may cut it. Although almost all poskim agree that one may do so for immediate use, some cast doubt upon this leniency (Shiltei Giborim). Therefore, Aĥaronim write that le-khatĥila it is preferable not to cut salad especially finely (Beit Yosef; MB 321:45).
. There are several reasons for this permission:
- a) According to most poskim, the prohibition of Toĥen does not apply to fruits or vegetables that are edible (as we saw in the previous note).
- b) Even though SA 321:12 rules in accordance with those who are stringent, nevertheless, when the food is being prepared for immediate consumption, there is no prohibition (Rashba; Beit Yosef; Rema).
- c) Even if the prohibition of Toĥen were applicable, according to Igrot Moshe 4:74, Toĥen2, since these foods remain a solid mass even after being mashed, Toĥen does not apply here at all.
- d) Mashing with a fork already constitutes a shinui, as this is not the normal way to grind (Or Le-Tziyon 1:28). Yeĥaveh Da’at 5:27 and Menuĥat Ahava 2:8:12 permit this in practice. However, Ĥazon Ish OĤ §57 is stringent, and does not allow it even when the food being prepared will be consumed immediately. He also maintains that mashing is considered a type of Toĥen since it breaks down the structure of the fruit. He adds that if the mashing is done to feed the food to a baby, then it is prohibited based on MA 321:14, because it renders the food edible. SSK 6:1 and Hilkhot Shabbat Be-Shabbat 1:12:15 also state that one should be stringent. But they allow mashing with a spoon, as this definitely constitutes a shinui. Similarly, if the foods are very soft, then even those who are normally stringent allow mashing them with a fork. But in practice the primary position is the lenient one, as this is the position of practically all Rishonim.
. As explained in Terumat Ha-deshen §56, the permission to slice meat, cheese, and eggs is based on two principles:
- a) The prohibition of Toĥen fundamentally pertains to foods that grow in the ground.
- b) Most poskim maintain that the prohibition is limited to foods that cannot be eaten as is. Although it is true that some elderly people are unable to eat tough meat, nevertheless since most people are able to eat it, it is considered edible. However, one may not use a utensil that is specifically designed for grinding. According to MB 321:36 the prohibition is rabbinic, while according to Nishmat Adam 17:2 it is prohibited by Torah law.