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I was told many poskim including R. Moshe permit cutting through letters in a destructive manner for the purpose of getting food.

Where is the teshuva by Rav Moshe found? Who are the others that agree with this?

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  • Welcome to MiYodeya Sam and thanks for this first question. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Feb 12 at 4:03
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I wonder if the person you heard it from might be referring to the Igrot Moshe YD 2:75 (left side, one para before the end) where R Moshe writes (as summarized by R Doniel Yehudah Neustadt here)

The prohibition applies only if a significant part of the letter or picture will be broken. If, however, the basic form and shape of the letter or picture remains intact, Erasing did not take place

Halachipedia (here) writes the Ashkenazi custom is to forbid cutting lettering on food packages, while Sefaradi poskim permit it (see Yalkut Yosef Shabbat vol 5, p. 117 who permits tearing through letters because it is a psik reisha d’lo nicha lei on a rabbinic prohibition).

This being said, I see R Eliezer Melamed (PH Shabbat 18:3) permits if there is no other way

Others maintain that one may open such a package, since all parts of the letters actually remain, but have simply been separated from each other (based on Rema). Le-khatĥila it is proper to be stringent, but when there is no way to open a package without tearing letters, one may be lenient. One who opens the package has no interest in “erasing” the letters, and the action is not constructive but destructive.

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  • Why is it only rabbinic?
    – shmosel
    Feb 12 at 6:55
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    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
    – mbloch
    Feb 12 at 6:56
  • Do these considerations equally apply to non-Hebrew letters, and if so, why? Feb 12 at 20:32
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    @ShaineLeah I saw no difference in poskim between the two regarding this topic - writing in English is also called writing - but it might make for an interesting new question
    – mbloch
    Feb 13 at 4:13

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