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Opening Soda Cans On Shabbat and Yom Tov

A Carbonated Problem

Hillel and I cap off (pun intended) our deep dive into the question of opening containers on Shabbat by focusing on opening soda cans on Shabbat. In past weeks we have noted that while the lenient opinions regarding opening cans are most compelling, it is best to avoid all concerns and open all cans before Shabbat and Yom Tov.

While opening tuna cans and the like before Shabbat is fine, regarding carbonated drinks, much is lost by opening them before Shabbat. Last week we noted that there is sufficient halachic basis to open plastic caps on Shabbat. This week we venture into the more debatable arena of opening soda cans on Shabbat.

 

The Strict Opinion: Rav Mordechai Willig

Although the Mishna permits breaking a barrel to obtain the food within, the Mishna forbids fashioning a proper opening for the barrel. Creating an adequate spout would even constitute a Torah-level prohibition. For this reason, Rav Mordechai Willig, for decades, has been saying that it is forbidden to open soda cans on Shabbat.

Rav Ari Marcus (in his masterful Halacha 24/7/12 page 221) explains as follows:

“A soda can is made by having an aluminum can without any top filled with soda and then casting the whole round top onto the rest of the can. The hole in the middle that you make was never open before you puncture it. Since it was never an opening, you are creating a usable “kli” (vessel) when you push through it.”

We can support Rav Willig’s view from Rav Moshe Feinstein’s (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 4:78) ruling that it is biblically forbidden to open the spout of a milk carton on Shabbat. Rav Moshe writes, “Even though a milk carton has a pre-existing hole, the opening is sealed thoroughly and the original opening is nullified. Thus, when one opens the spout, he creates a new opening.” Thus, if opening a milk carton that arguably has a pre-existing opening is biblically forbidden, then certainly creating a new opening for a soda can should be prohibited.

 

The Lenient View: Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Alehu Lo Yibol 1:156, Ma’or HaShabbat letter nine question two, and Rav Yehoshua Neuwirth citing Rav Shlomo Zalman in Moriah Nissan 5752), however, believes that baseline halacha permits opening soda cans on Shabbat. Rav Marcus once again explains:

“You do not care for a precise opening, so it is not “mechatech,” cutting to an exact size, and because you do not use it more than once, you are not creating a kli. Just throw the can out after use and it is not a problem.”

Rav Yosef Adler reports that Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik agrees with Rav Shlomo Zalman’s lenient view.

 

Conclusion

Chacham Yitzhak Yosef (Yalkut Yosef Orach Chaim 314:25) rules that the baseline halacha permits opening a soda can top on Shabbat and Yom Tov in the usual manner since we dispose of soda cans after use. Therefore, he writes that opening cans is not deemed “tikkun mane,” creating a kli.

Nonetheless, Chacham Yitzhak concludes that it is “good and proper to be strict and not open the can completely,” thereby avoiding concern for fashioning a proper opening.

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.

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