A few weeks ago, I was eating sushi at my friend's home. It was a weekday. He gave me a bag of wooden chopsticks that had a warning on the slip saying that the sticks must be separated before Shabbat.

Is this necessary? How would separating the sticks on Shabbat be different from tearing open a bag of chips on Shabbat, which I notice many religious people do.

Side question, for confirmation - I assume that on Yom Tov, because you are using the chopsticks for eating, there is no concern about separating the sticks on Yom Tov, correct?

  • 2
    The difference between opening a bag and breaking apart chopsticks might be the fact that opening a bag is a 'destructive' act (i.e. you are breaking a previously complete bag) while breaking apart chopsticks is a 'constructive' act (i.e. this previously unusable stick of wood that you had is now a fully functioning chopstick set). As an aside, there are also many people who forbid opening bottles, as an open bottle is 'created' into a reusable container. If my suspicions are true, then it might also be Assur on Yom Tov, as building might not be permitted even for the sake of eating. – Salmononius2 Mar 25 '15 at 14:26
  • It's forbidden on Tom tov because of makeh bepatish – Shoel U'Meishiv May 28 '15 at 7:25

A bag containing food is a one-use item and is discarded after it is emptied.

Conversely, a can (such as a tin of tuna fish) is capable of being re-used and must therefore be rendered useless before opening (typically by punching a hole in the bottom) to avoid committing the melacha of makeh bepatish - finishing a utensil (literally: the final hammer blow).

Chopsticks are a reuseable utensil (even if you chose to throw them out afterwards - most people don't reuse tin cans) and separating them is a necessary step to their use. Thus, it is forbidden to separate them on shabbos.

Lastly, it would appear that separating them on Yom Tov would be permitted under the principal of "ayn bein shabbos viyom tov eleh ochel nefesh bilvad." Similarly, people who wouldn't even open plastic soda caps on shabbos will do so on yom tov, and "disabling" tin cans is not necessary.

PS: Sorry, I cannot point directly to the relevant halachic sources at the current time. I do not presently have access to my shmiras shabbos kehilchatah and mishna berura. Please feel free to edit them in if you find them.

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