Opening bottles and cans

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Opening a bottle or can on Shabbat can involve a number of issues and the details of the opinions and cases in which they apply are described below. Please note, that these laws equally apply to Shabbat as they do to Yom Tov. [1]

Preferable option

  1. To avoid all forbidden activities with opening bottles and cans on Shabbat, it's preferable to open the bottles and cans before Shabbat. [2]

Background

  1. Opening containers on Shabbat involves several prohibited activities including ripping, making a useful container, finishing a vessel, and erasing letters. [3]

Opening a bag or container on Shabbat

  1. If a container (bag, can, or bottle) is usually reused after having been emptied, it is forbidden to open whether or not one intends to reuse it. [4]
  2. If a container is usually used to keep the original contents after having been opened, but not usually reused, it’s forbidden to open on Shabbat. However, some are lenient if one really intends not to reuse it and one does not make a neat convenient opening. [5]
  3. It is permissible to open a container (which is usually re-used or at least used to keep the original contents) if at the time of the opening (or beforehand) one ruins the container by perforating the side or bottom so that it could no longer be used. [6]
  4. It's permissible to rip open a miniature pack of sugar which is thrown out right after it's opened. [7] Similarly, one may rip open a candy wrapper, bandaid wrapper, plastic or paper seal around wine bottles or jars because these are usually ripped and discarded immediately. [8]
  5. It’s forbidden to take special care to rip a neat hole to be used as a opening or to rip open a container along the lines marked for perforation. [9]

Packages stapled close

  1. It’s permitted to remove the staples from a container stapled shut. [10]

Cardboard boxes

  1. Cardboard boxes closed with gummed paper or tape, papers stuck together, or a paper wrapper may be (ripped) opened on Shabbat only if one ruins the box in a way that it’s unusable as a container afterwards (nor is any part of it useful which is violated if one tears along the edge of prize tokens printed on the wrapper). [11]

Twistees

  1. Some authorities forbid using plastic or wire twist ties (twisters) to close bags unless one plans to undo it within 24 hours. [12] However, others permit. [13] It is praiseworthy to avoid using them if they will remain undone for more than 24 hours. [14]

Packages tied close

  1. It’s permissible to rip or cut string that’s used to close a container if it’s impossible to remove the string otherwise as long as cutting spoils it for later use. [15]

Ripping letter or pictures

  1. The Ashkenazic custom is to avoid ripping letters when opening a package on Shabbat, while the Sephardic custom is to be lenient in this issue. [16]

Closing bags

  1. One may not close a bag with a metal or plastic twister. [17]

Bottle caps

  1. Ashkenazic poskim hold that one may not open a bottle with a metal cap for the first time on Shabbos because removing the cap separates the ring from the cap and makes the cap into a useable vessel. One may make a hole using a knife in the cap if there aren’t letters or pictures on it so that makes it unfit for a cap afterwards and then one may open the bottle. [18] However, it’s permissible to open a bottle with a plastic bottle cap (because it had the form of a cap before it was attached).[19] Some poskim are strict even with plastic [20] Some Ashkenazic poskim and Sephardic poskim hold it’s permissible to open bottles with metal or plastic caps but add that one who is strict to open them before Shabbat will be blessed. [21]
  2. Someone who holds that it’s forbidden to open a bottle on Shabbat is forbidden to ask another Jew who holds that it’s permissible to open a bottle on Shabbat. [22] However, some say that if one is only strict based on the minhag of his Rabbis or father one may ask someone who holds it’s permissible. [23]

Plastic protective seal

  1. It is permissible to remove a protective plastic seal on yogurt containers, tubs of butter or cottage cheese, coffee jar, and wine bottles in the normal way. [24]

Metal can

  1. One should not open a metal can unless one only opens it halfway, removes the content immediately, and throws out the can. [25]

Milk carton

  1. It is forbidden to open a milk or juice carton which has a folding spigot for the first time. [26] Some say that preferably one should not open the folding spout but there is a lenient opinion to rely on. [27]

Juice box

  1. When possible the juice should be opened before Shabbat, however, if it wasn't one may insert the straw to drink the juice. [28]

Jars

  1. It’s permissible to puncture the lid of a vacuum sealed jar in order to open a jar. [29]

After the fact

  1. If one opened a can, bag, bottle or other container in a prohibited way, one may still eat the food on Shabbat. [30]

Related Pages

  1. Koreah (Tearing)
  2. Opening and Reading Mail on Shabbat

Links

Sources

  1. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:22 (See also Sh"t Igrot Moshe 1:122)
  2. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:1, Shabbos Kitchen (Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, pg 184)
  3. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 3, pg 831-2)
    • Soseir: Mishna in Shabbos 146a says that it is permissible for someone to break open a barrel on Shabbos in order to get to the food inside, as long as he doesn’t have intent to make a new vessel. The Gemara Beitzah 33b explains that R’ Eliezer must read this Mishna as a case where the kli is “mustaki”, which Rashi describes as a kli that had been broken and was then put back together. Only for this type of kli does the Mishna say it’s permissible to be soseir, but for regular keilim it would be forbidden. Tosfos in Shabbos 146b and Eiruvin 34b, as well as the Rosh in Eiruvin 3:5, say that this assumption of mustaki is not only for Rabbi Eliezer but even for the Rabanan. Rashi however, does not seem to make this assumption, and presumably would explain that the reason our Mishna says it’s permitted to break open the barrel is because of the din that there is no prohibition of boneh or soseir by keilim (Rashi Shabbos 122b). (Rashi’s formulation on 146a seems to say it’s permitted because it’s mekalkeil, a destructive action but many Rishonim have difficulty with Rashi, because mekalkeil is patur aval assur, not permitted. The Rashba and Ran explain that Rashi holds mekalkeil becomes permitted lchatchila when it’s l’tzorech shabbos. See Biur Halacha 314 “Assur L’Shavra” who strongly disagrees with this leniency). The Shulchan Aruch (OC 314:1) paskins like Tosfos and the Rosh, that specifically by mustaki we say that there is no prohibition of soseir. Therefore, according to the S”A, the only case where one avoids the issur of soseir is if the container is comparable to mustaki.
      Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daat 2:52) notes that the Rambam (Hil’ Shabbos 23:2) and the Rif (Shabbos 146a) both paskin like Rashi in this sugya and not like Tosfos (it should be noted that there is a debate about what the psak of the Rambam is). The Korban Nesanel (Shabbos 146a) and others comment that it is strange that the S”A paskins like Tosfos, against the Rambam and Rif. Rav Ovadia assumes that had the S”A known about the psak of the Rif and the Rambam he would have paskined that there is no issue of soseir at all, like Rashi. Rav Ovadia therefore concludes that there is no issur of soseir at all by opening containers.
    • Asiyas Pesach: Rashi on Shabbos 146a comments that even though it is permissible to break open a chavis for the food inside, it is forbidden if you have intent to open it in a nice way, creating a neat opening. The Rambam (Hil’ Shabbos 10:17) includes this issur as a tolda of makeh b’patish.
    • Metakein Kli: There is a prohibition of creating a kli on shabbos, based on Gemara Beitzah 33b regarding breaking off a piece of wood to be used as a toothpick (Shulchan Aruch 322:4). It either falls under the category of boneh or makeh b’patish. When one opens a container, he has created a receptacle that can be used to hold items.
    • Koreiya: Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchasa Perek 9 footnote 12) thinks there are several reasons to be meikil in regards to koreiya. Firstly, we are only dealing with koreiya midrabanan, whether it be because this is a tearing which is a tikkun (Biur Halacha 340:13 s.v. ain), or because it’s not al mnas litfor (Biur Halacha ibid. s.v. vlo). Secondly, since you are only tearing it open in order to get to the food inside, the kli is bateil to the food. He therefore concludes that there is no issur koreiya.
    • There may be an issue of mechateich, measured cutting, if the container is opened on perforated lines. Rav Shlomo Zalman (quoted in Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa Perek 11 Footnote 31) says that even when poskim get around the above issurim and say that it’s permitted to open a container, they agree that it would be an issur of mocheik if you tear words in the process. However, Yalkut Yosef Shabbos 314:19 paskins that it is not an issue of mocheik, because we are only dealing with mocheik drabanan (because it is not al minas lichtov), and you also are not miskavein, and get no hanaah from erasing the letters, so it’s a Psik Reisha D’lo Nicha Leih, and therefore it’s permitted lchatchila.
  4. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:2, Shabbos Kitchen (pg 187-8) similarly forbids opening wrappers, bags, and boxes, unless one rips it to the extent that the bag is unusable afterwards and one is careful about not ripping the letters.
  5. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:3
  6. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:3, Orchos Shabbos pg. 369, 39 Melachos (R’ Ribiat, vol 3, pg. 831))
  7. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:4.
  8. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 3, pg 833). Chazon Ish (51:11) says that even if you have intent to throw it out, it’s still forbidden because you might end up using it. Additionally, if you don’t empty it right away, the bag acts as a kli in regards to its contents. Finally, the Chazon Ish suggests that your intent is irrelevant; in the end of the day, you’re still making a kli. It should be noted that Minchas Yitzchak 4:82:36 believes that the Chazon Ish was only talking about when you specifically have intent to not throw it out, but he would actually agree that if it is generally thrown out, it would be permitted.
  9. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:5-6
  10. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:9
  11. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:10-12
  12. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:13, 14:9 and (15 note 166, in the new edition note 174) quoting Rav Shlomo Zalman
  13. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, Melechat Koshair note 54) quoting Rav Moshe Feinstein
  14. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 3, pg 800)
  15. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:14
  16. Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 9:13 (quoting Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach) rules it is only rabbinically forbidden to rip through letters when opening a package, as is not considered erasing in order to write.
    • Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky (Removing Letters from a Cake by Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky min 18) explains that strictly speaking, it should be permitted to tear through letters for the same reasons that the Dagul Meirvavah permitted cutting letters on a cake. The minhag, though, is to be strict. Yalkut Yosef (Shabbat vol 5, p. 117) permits tearing through letters because it is a psik reisha d’lo nicha lei on a rabbinic prohibition.
  17. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:13
  18. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:17 (new edition 9:18), Shabbos Kitchen (Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, pg 184-6). [39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 3, pg 841) writes that a less preferable option is to twist off the cap and discard it immediately (and it may be useful to have another cap handy).]
  19. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:17 (new edition 9:18), Shabbos Kitchen (Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, pg 184-6). [39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 3, pg 841) writes that a less preferable option is to twist off the cap and discard it immediately (and it may be useful to have another cap handy).] Rav Shlomo Zalman explains that it is forbidden to open a bottle cap for the first time on Shabbos because in the process one is creating a new kli, i.e. a bottle cap that can now be used to cover bottles. While it was attached to the bottle it was not yet a kli, because it could not be screwed on and off of a bottle, which Rav Shlomo Zalman considers the key function of a bottle cap. (Minchas Shlomo 2:32) Also, if one was to break the bottle and slide off the cap as is, without breaking off the ring, it would not be functional as a cap at all. (Minchas Shlomo 1:91:12)
    However, Rav Shlomo Zalman distinguishes between a metal bottle cap and a plastic bottle cap. The above issues are all in regards to a metal bottle cap. A plastic bottle cap is different, because the ring is thinner, and majority of it is not attached to the cap. Therefore, it is recognizable that the ring is a separate entity from the cap itself and is meant to be removed. Based on this, Rav Shlomo Zalman paskins that it is forbidden to open metal bottle caps and permitted to open plastic bottle caps.
    Rav Ribiat thinks that the plastic caps that Rav Shlomo Zalman allows, which were from Eretz Yisrael, are different from the plastic caps that we have in America. (39 Melachos Makeh B’Patish footnote 96c). See Meor HaShabbos page 482 who offers a new leniency for plastic caps after researching the production of plastic soda bottles.
  20. Rav Elyashiv (quoted in Orchos Shabbos Perek 12 footnote 31 says that they are all assur to open. Rav Elyashiv holds it’s forbidden to open both metal and plastic caps because of mechateich. Also, Rav Nissim Karelitz (Chut Shani 2:37) says that even by plastic there is an issue of metakein kli.
  21. Rav Ovadia Yosef in Sh"t Yechave Daat 2:42 and Yalkut Yosef (vol 2, pg 517, 675). Rav Ovadia Yosef disagrees with both points of Rav Shlomo Zalman. He thinks that even while the cap is attached to the bottle it is considered a kli since it is covering the bottle (Yechave Daat 2:42). Also, if you would be able to take it off without breaking the ring, even though it wouldn’t fit over a bottle of the same size, it would technically still be usable to cover (albeit not via screwing) a smaller bottle. (Response to Rav Shlomo Zalman quoted in Yalkut Yosef Shabbos Krach Bet 314:18:20) Additionally, the Magid Mishnah (Hil’ Shabbos 12:2) holds that metakein kli is completely permitted if you don’t have intent. Combining his above reasoning with the Magid Mishnah’s leniency, Rav Ovadia paskins that it is permitted to open bottle caps for the first time on Shabbos. Rav Shlomo Zalman disagrees with Rav Ovadia's application of the Magid Mishnah. He explains that even though your main intent is for the drinking, it’s also on your mind to make a cap that would be usable in the future. Nonetheless, Rav Ovadia paskins that it is permitted, and does not differentiate between metal and plastic bottle caps. See also Rabbi Mordechai Willig’s opinion in Am Mordechai (Shabbat, Siman 29, pg 161). Rav Willig agrees that it is permitted. The bottle cap was a kli even before you broke off the ring, and the issur metakein kli is only when you create a kli, not when you merely alter the function of a preexisting kli. (Am Mordechai Siman 29:3)
  22. The 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 1, pg 93) writes that it’s forbidden to ask a fellow Jew to open a can or bottle for him on Shabbat if the one requesting holds that one is forbidden to do so. He supports this with Sh”t Igrot Moshe 4:119:5. Many poskim also forbid including Tal Imrati (18:11, pg 190) quoting Chacham Ben Tzion Abba Shaul, Yalkut Yosef (Shabbat, vol 3, pg 217-9) quoting Rav Ovadyah Yosef, Banim Chavivim (Siman 18, pg 91) quoting Rabbi Eliezer Waldenburg (from Meor HaShabbat (vol 1, Peninei HaMeor pg 552)) and Rav Chaim Kanievsky (from Meor HaShabbat (vol 2, pg 77)). Rav Yisrael Belsky in Shulchan HaLevi (vol 1, Birur Halacha 10, pg 339) also rules stringently and gives four reasons.
    • (1) Shelichut LeDvar Avierah. In the Gemara Bava Metsia 10b there is a dispute between Ravina and Rami Bar Chama regarding Shaliach LeDvar Avierah. Ravina holds that there’s only Ein Shaliach LeDvar Avierah when the one being sent is obligated in that prohibition, while Rami Bar Chama says that there’s Ein Shaliach LeDvar Avierah whenever the one being sent has the ability to choose to do it or not. The Rama C”M 182:1 rules like Ravina and so if the one being sent isn’t obligated then there is Shelichut. Rav Belsky concludes that since the one being sent follows a Rabbi who holds it’s permissible to open a bottle he’s considered not obligated in that prohibition and there would be Shelichut. Thus, if he is asked by someone who doesn’t open the bottle there would be a Deoritta violation of Shabbat.
    • (2) Lifnei Iver. Rav Belsky writes that since the opinion of those who hold it is forbidden is that it is forbidden for all Jews it would be forbidden to ask another Jew because of Lifnei Iver.
    • (3) Amirah LeYisrael. He quotes the Radvaz 4:258 who forbids Amirah LeYisrael because it should be no better than Amirah LeNochri.
    • (4) Degrading one’s friend. By asking one’s friend to do something which one holds is forbidden is treating him like a Shabbos goy or a less important Jew.
    • Rav Belsky concludes that it’s forbidden to ask him to open the bottle and it would be just as forbidden to ask him to open it for himself to drink because all the reasons apply except (perhaps) the first one. Though, he agrees that if the one who holds it is permissible opened it for himself it is permissible for others to benefit from the contents of the bottle.
  23. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Meor HaShabbat (Peninei HaMoer 3:8)) rules that if the one requesting holds it’s forbidden based on his ruling, then, it’s forbidden to ask someone who holds it’s permitted to do it for him, however, if the one requesting is only strict because of the minhag of his Rabbis or father, then it’s permitted to ask someone else to do that act.
  24. Shabbos Kitchen (Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, pg 188), 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 3, pg 833)
  25. Shabbos Kitchen (Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, pg 187)
  26. Shabbos Kitchan (Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, pg 184)
  27. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 3, pg 837-8) at first writes one should not open it, then writes some permit and concludes that preferably one shouldn't rely on the lenient opinion.
  28. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat, vol 3, pg 838)
  29. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:21
  30. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 9:23