Shabbat Parashat Mishpatim 5773
Ask the Rabbi: Using a Hand Masher for Cooked Vegetablesby Rav Daniel Mann
Question: Is it permissible to use a hand vegetable masher on Shabbat? Last Shabbat, I used one to mash potatoes that were well-boiled and very soft. The question arose whether this was permitted, so we did not use the potatoes on Shabbat. Were we allowed to eat the potatoes after Shabbat?
Answer: The main issue involved in this question is the definition of tochein (grinding). While the classic case is grinding wheat into grain flour, the gemara (Shabbat 74b) states that it is forbidden even to cut up vegetables into fine pieces. In the past [Mishpatim 5772, regarding making guacamole], we cited different opinions as to whether the Rashba’s leniency (Shut IV:75) that one may do the above soon before eating applies only when he leaves the vegetables in “slightly big pieces.” We also cited Rav Moshe Feinstein’s opinion (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayim IV:74) regarding mashing bananas that this is not grinding, as one does not create new fine particles, but just mashes the food into a softer form. On the other hand, the Chazon Ish (OC 57) rejected this distinction.
Skipping other possible leniencies mentioned in that context that can be applied to the potatoes you discussed, let us get straight to the leniency that applies to your potatoes that did not apply to guacamole. The poskim (see Rama, OC 321:19) understood from the Rambam (Shabbat 21:13) that one may take a food that was already made soft by cooking and further soften it by means of mashing. The Chazon Ish (OC 58:9) explains that the softness created by the cooking causes the additional mashing to be too trivial to be forbidden by the melacha of tochein. Contemporary poskim (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 6:9; Orchot Shabbat 5:9) discuss your explicit case and say that it is permitted to mash soft, well-boiled potatoes on Shabbat for this reason.
However, the bad news is that you violated a rule of this leniency. That is that even when tochein does not apply, it is forbidden to use a utensil that is set aside for the mincing or crushing of food items (Shulchan Aruch, OC 321:10). A hand-masher seems to fit that bill; you should have used a fork. This stringency applies even to a food to which tochein does not even apply, such as cheese (ibid.), and even if one did the mincing right before the use (Mishna Berura 321:36; Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 6:2). The reason for this prohibition is that using such a utensil is uvdin d’chol (a weekday-like activity) (see Mishna Berura ibid.).
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Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
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