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I'm relaying this question from my son...

Tearing is a melacha. But, as far as I understand, one may tear open a food bag (like a bag of chips) on Shabbat. Yet, one may not cut between the letters that are on a cake on Shabbat, because that's considered erasing.

Why is tearing allowed but "erasing" not allowed?

I'm not limiting my question to these two comparisons. There are probably others, but I can't think of them.

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    The premise isn't true. Food isn't different. You could tear a non food bag too. – Double AA Nov 18 at 21:32
  • @DoubleAA I was always taught the idea is that tearing like this was מקלקל and therefore only a דרבנן. As such, it would be permitted במקום צורך - which, while not unique to food, in practice tends to come up only there. Is that not correct? – DonielF Nov 18 at 23:50
  • Isn’t there also a machlokes as what constitutes tearing? Something like separating 2 objects connected by a third vs separating 2 objects tightly “pushed” together (think glued pieces together vs paper which is many fibers pressed together) – mroll Nov 19 at 10:07
  • I see various ideas popping up, among them that my base assumption is wrong. If that's the case, please pose as an answer and explain what the rules are and / or why my assumption is wrong. – DanF Nov 19 at 15:22
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I used to hear about tearing for food on Shabbos too many years ago. I once heard Rav Yisra=oel Reisman in his Navi shiur say that people are mistaken when they say that "you can tear on shabbos for food". He said that on Yom Tov we have ochel nefesh but on Shabbos he has no idea when such an erroneous popular idea came from.

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