Back in November 2019, Shaarei Orah hosted a special Shabbaton for Sephardic Yeshiva University students. In preparation for this special event, Shaarei Orah’s Jack Varon asked if halacha permits spraying whipped cream from a canister on Shabbat. It turns out that there is considerable debate about this issue.
Rishonim on Shabbat 51b
The question centers on an oft-quoted Gemara (Shabbat 51b) that forbids squeezing water from snow on Shabbat. The Rishonim offer three reasons for this rabbinic prohibition. Rashi defines transforming a solid into a liquid as “molid,” creating a new entity, which resembles melacha. Rashi, we should note, serves as a significant basis for the prohibition of activating an electric current (Teshuvot Beit Yitzchak 2:31).
The Rambam (Hilchot Shabbat 21:13, as explained by the Maggid Mishneh ad. loc.) believes that Chazal prohibited squeezing water from snow, lest we squeeze juice from grapes or oil from olives, a Torah-level prohibition. The Ran (24a in the pages of the Rif s.v. V’Ein Meraskin) cites the Sefer HaTerumah who regards the water that emerges as nolad, newly created and thus muktzeh.
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 320:9) codifies this Gemara as normative halacha. Which of the three reasons does the Shulchan Aruch adopt? The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 318:16) is not concerned for the Sefer HaTerumah’s approach regarding nolad. However, the Rama records the Ashkenazic minhag to accommodate the Sefer HaTeruma except for a case of need. Sephardim, of course, follow the Shulchan Aruch.
The Kaf HaChaim (320:57) and Mishna Berura (320:33) believe that the Shulchan Aruch is concerned for both Rashi and Rambam. Indeed, the Beit Yosef (Orach Chaim 320 s.v. Ein Meraskin) cites both Rashi and the Rambam.
Application to Spraying Whipped Cream on Shabbat and Yom Tov
Spraying whipped cream is not forbidden according to the Rambam, as it is hardly comparable to squeezing juice from a grape or oil from an olive. After all, one is spraying, not squeezing. However, spraying the whipped cream might be construed as molid according to Rashi.
Let us first understand what occurs when we spray whipped cream from a can. When gas goes into a fatty substance (like whipping cream), the fat traps much of it, causing it to fluff up and coalesce. Whipped cream canisters contain pressurized nitrous oxide. Pressing their button does two things more or less at the same instant: forces gas into the fatty liquid and forces the contents out of the canister.
Rav Yisroel Belsky (Shulchan Halevi 9:9) rules that spraying whipped cream qualifies as molid since one transforms a liquid into a solid. On the other hand, Rav Ephraim Greenblatt (Teshuvot Rivevot Ephraim 8:158:11) quotes Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Rav David Feinstein and Rav Yaakov Yisrael Fisher permitting spraying whipped cream. Rav Aharon Felder (Rishumei Ahron 2:30) writes that this is the opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein.
Rav Daniel Mann http://www.eretzhemdah.org/newsletterArticle.asp?lang=en&pageid=48&cat=7&newsletter=996&article=3786 quotes that Rav Willig is lenient because the change from a thick liquid to foam is not a sufficient change that qualifies as molid. The Gemara forbids transforming a solid into a liquid, and we are not authorized to expand this rabbinic prohibition. Rav Mann also observes that the observant community commonly sprays whip cream on Shabbat and Yom Tov.
Conclusion: Spraying Whip Cream Permitted on Shabbat and Yom Tov
I permitted spraying whipped cream at Shaarei Orah for a variety of reasons. According to the Rambam’s approach, it is unquestionably permissible. The halachic debate lies within Rashi. Thus, there are two reasons to be lenient: Perhaps the halacha follows the Rambam, and perhaps Rashi does not define spraying whipped cream as molid. Since the question at hand involves a rabbinic prohibition, we may rely on the lenient opinion and enhance one’s oneg Shabbat and Simchat Yom Tov with whipped cream on our favorite desserts.
By the way, the Sephardic YU Shabbaton at Shaarei Orah was an enormous success, and everyone enjoyed the cake with whipped cream sprayed on it!
Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.