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Shabbat Parashat Mishpatim 5772

Ask the Rabbi: Mashing and mixing avocado salad on Shabbat

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: Is it permitted to make guacamole (mashed avocado, mixed with onions, oil, lemon juice, etc.) on Shabbat?


Answer: First we will talk about mashing the avocado, which is easy to discuss but whose conclusion is hard to make decisive.

The gemara (Shabbat 74b) says that chopping up a vegetable very fine is a violation of tochein (grinding). However, the Rashba (Shut IV, 75) says that it is permitted if it is done for immediate use, and this is how the Rama (Orach Chayim 321:12) rules. Rav Yosef Karo seems to accept this opinion in the Beit Yosef, but he ends off that it is proper to leave them as “slightly big pieces” and then omits the Rashba’s opinion in the Shulchan Aruch. The Chazon Ish (OC 57) claims that not only do many Rishonim argue on the Rashba, but he only intended that immediate use permits cutting into small pieces, not actual grinding. On the other hand, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe IV, 74) understands the Rashba to apply even to grinding and mashing.

Rav Moshe feels even more confident regarding bananas, where there is additional logic for leniency. Classic tochein is taking grain and turning it into flour or at least into finely cut particles. However, when one crushes bananas, they remain clumpy, with the change being in their consistency. Not all agree that this distinction changes the halacha (Chazon Ish, ibid.), especially in light of the Tosefta (Beitz, ch. 1) that it is forbidden to crush dried figs. However, the lack of consensus on the matter provides a further point of possible leniency (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 6:(3)). Ripe avocado is equivalent to banana in this regard.

A final point of leniency is a rejected but significant opinion (see opinions in Beit Yosef, OC 321) that tochein applies only to produce that is inedible until it is crushed, and perhaps even still needs to be cooked afterward. While the Shulchan Aruch and later poskim do not accept this opinion, the existence of the opinion might encourage us to be lenient when combined with the aforementioned more accepted lenient opinions.

As he often does in such cases, Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yechaveh Da’at V:27) combines the indications to confidently permit crushing bananas for babies on Shabbat when one plans to serve them soon thereafter. On the other hand, the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 6:6 is willing to permit mashing only for the needs of a baby and only if one does the mashing in an unusual way, such as with a spoon or the handle of a fork,  and for imminent usage.  Orchot Shabbat (5:8) is not willing to take a stand on the matter. “The 39 Melochos” (pg. 461) falls in line with Rav Moshe’s ruling. However, Rav Moshe, when it came to practice, was not conclusive, as he agrees that one should try, if he can, to crush a banana for imminent use in an unusual way, in deference to the Chazon Ish. This is what we suggest regarding avocado as well.

Regarding mixing in minced onions (whose preparation raises overlapping questions to those discussed above), oil, and/or lemon juice, the question is of lash (kneading). There is a general question of whether the prohibition of lash is limited to the creation of a pasty substance by mixing flour or small particles with water, or whether all sorts of combinations of different substances, where the result is a somewhat unified mixture, is prohibited. Few poskim are willing to be lenient without other reasons to differentiate the process in question from classic kneading. Regarding guacamole, there is an additional, strong element of leniency in that the base of the guacamole (at least, your recipe) is clearly the crushed avocado, and the additions are just spicing (see similar idea in Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 8:(81)). However, the explicit rulings we have found on this matter (most prominently, of Rav Abba Shaul (Ohr L’tziyon II, 33:5)) is to allow the mixing in only with a double change: put the oil/onions on the bottom and add the avocado on top; mix the ingredients in a criss-cross, as opposed to a circular, motion. 

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