Specifically, when the writing - such as an expiration date - is printed in dot matrix style across the line between the bottle cap and the bottle cap's ring, what are the issues involved in opening such a bottle?

(Differs from this question about soda cans.)

  • Do you mean for answerers to address only the issue of the writing? In that case, I think you should make that clear. Other issues do exist, after all. – msh210 Aug 7 '11 at 14:45
  • Yes, thank you. My specific question is breaking dot matrix style printing apart. – Shmuel Aug 8 '11 at 3:41
  • Great question. I have always wondered whether the unconnected dots representing normally connected lines is an halachic letter. – YDK Aug 17 '11 at 3:18
  • Is erasing a design assur? – zaq Aug 17 '11 at 14:49
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    @mechoel - This is probably worth asking as a new question. – Isaac Moses Aug 22 '11 at 8:17

In Shulchan Aruch (O"Ch siman 340) is mentioned that there is an argument if one is prohibited from opening books with writing on it. The reason to be lenient is because one doesn't really do an "action" as the letters are pre-written, you just bring them closer or further from each other. (The Shulchan Aruch HaRav says that the custom is to be lenient).

According to the side that says it is prohibited to open books with writing on Shabbos, it would appear that bottles should be opened before Shabbos.

However, the Yalkut Yosef permits it because opening a can is a Psik Reisha Dlo Nicha Lei (One doesn't care to have the letters erased) in a Derrabannan case (only erasing for the purpose of writing is from the Torah).

However, it is still possible that according to the Shu"a Harav it would still be prohibited to open soda bottles, as a soda cap may be considered one entity with the ring (when it is closed), and opening it may be considered erasing, while in the book it was never on one surface.

In the Mishna Brura, it writes that it is forbidden to write and erase any language. Therefore, one could say that a letter made from dots is the same letter with a different "font" (just like braille would be the same letter with a different "font").

http://www.torahlab.org/calendar/article/kosev_writing_on_shabbos/ mentions that writing in braille is prohibited.

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  • This all applies to letters that are fully formed, with their parts connected in the right places. It's possible none of this applies to letters that were never halachically formed in the first place. – zaq Aug 17 '11 at 19:54
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    @tom smith, when you say "opening books with writing on it", are you referring to writing that is formed across the collected edges of the pages when the book is closed (e.g. this picture )? – Ariel Allon Aug 17 '11 at 20:04
  • @zaq: According to the opinion that one can open books with writing on shabbos, it would appear that there should be no problem with opening a bottle. The Yalkut Yosef gives another reasons why it is permitted. The first link prohibits it though. – Shmuel Brin Aug 17 '11 at 20:06
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    Tom, I agree if you can open a book with words printed on its side on shabbat, then the cap isn't a problem either. However since this question was specifically about dot-matrix style printing, I'm just pointing out that even those that are stringent and don't open a books or caps with writing on the side may be allowed to open them if it is dot-matrix instead of normally formed letters. It really depends on whether a dot-matrix letter is considered a letter - no matter how many times you open and close the cap, the letter-segments won't get close enough to connect and form a letter. – zaq Aug 17 '11 at 20:26
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    @zaq you're right, though the link to torah.org says "Often, there are letters or words written on the sides of plastic bottle caps (e.g., those produced by Pepsi Co.). When the bottle cap is twisted open, these letters may break and become erased. Those bottles should be opened before Shabbos. " Unfortunately, it doesn't bring a source. – Shmuel Brin Aug 17 '11 at 20:33

R. Abadi (in his tshuvos Ohr Yitzchak) concludes that destroying any type of writing on Shabbos (mocheik) is only forbidden when it is destroying for the purpose of writing. But if the destruction is purely destructive, not for the purpose of further writing, then it is permitted for any need on Shabbos (not just for eating)


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  • He rules not like the Rama (he is sfardi) so this answer would be true only according to them. The Rama says one is not allowed to eat a cookie with writing on it. According to this reasoning, there would be no problem, as he is not erasing for writing. R' Ebadi mentions this point, but says that many argue on the Rama (he mentions a Noda Biyehuda). However, most Ashkenazi poskim are stringent and rule like the Rama (for example, the M"B says one can be lenient only by the case of biting a cookie where it is done not with his hands.) – Shmuel Brin Aug 21 '11 at 21:35
  • @tom smith: I would just edit your comment a little: He claims that others disagree with the Rema too (as you noted), so his answer is not necessarily true just for sefardim. So I'm not sure why you started off your comment saying that, if in the end you note he claims support from Ashkenazic poskim as well. And R. Abadi was the posek of Lakewood, which is not a sefardic community, and I don't think he is thought of as a sefardic posek. Otherwise, of course you are right that others disagree, but that is always true. – Curiouser Aug 21 '11 at 21:41
  • I didn't see where he was from (although he could be a sfardi posek for sfardim from Lakewood). Many of the later Ashkanzi poskim paskin like the Ramah (M"B, Shu"A Harav, and one way of the Aruch Hashulchan). – Shmuel Brin Aug 22 '11 at 0:50
  • @tom smith: That's fine -- I just got the impression that you were trying to diminish the psak of a recognized posek simply because others disagree. I certainly don't think this was your intent, but your words lead to this impression. But R. Abadi certainly has a right to his own view, and he paskened clearly, and directly on point to the question of interest here. And in many places in his tshuvos, he discusses when an answer applies to sefardim or ashkenazim, but here he draws no distinction. And regarding Lakewood, he was the posek for the yeshiva (after. R. Kotler passed away) – Curiouser Aug 22 '11 at 1:13
  • Can you expand on this further? explain how it applies, whether dot matrix printing is relevant etc.? – avi Aug 23 '11 at 7:44

Bottom line, Sefardim who follow R' Ovadia Yosef can open them. Others can't. See: http://doseofhalacha.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/opening-bottles-and-cans-on-shabbos.html

R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 9:17) writes that one mustn't open new bottles with metal screw lids, as doing so will make the lid into a kli. One may puncture the lid first, thus rendering it useless and then open the bottle as usual (See Emes L’yaakov OC 314:8). R’ Ribiat (39 Melochos p841) writes that if one has a spare lid, one may open the bottle and discard the lid. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 2:42) and R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 14:45) permit opening such bottles.

R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Shabbos 2:p519) writes that one may open a bottle even if there is writing printed on the lid which will get broken, though R’ Neuwirth and others forbid it.While many are particular not to open plastic lids on Shabbos, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Meor Hashabbos 6:4) allows it, as the cap was already made into a kli in production. One who doesn’t open bottles and cans on Shabbos shouldn't ask someone who usually does to do so for them, though if someone else opened it, they may drink from it (Igros Moshe OC 4:119:5).

Providing the tins are disposed of immediately after use, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 2:12, Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 9:n10) and R’ Ovadia Yosef allow one to open them on Shabbos (See Igros Moshe OC 1:122). The Chazon Ish (OC 51:11) writes that by opening a tin, one is creating a kli which is an issur deoraisa.

Even those Poskim who allow opening bottles and tins on Shabbos write that one should ideally open them before Shabbos or puncture the lid (or bottom of the can) before opening them.

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  • Hi Zvi, welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for your recent string of posts! Please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. Looking forward to seeig you around – Double AA Mar 21 '14 at 1:30

The letters were never formed, and as such it shouldn't be erasing to separate them. It's similar to those who hold you could erase Hashem's name from a computer screen because the pixels are just dots close together, and that doesn't count as writing.

edit: maybe assur d'rabanan

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    Do you have a source that dots in the pattern of a letter don't count as a letter? I'm pretty sure that the main argument with respect to computer graphics is not that, but that the images are inherently temporary. – Isaac Moses Aug 17 '11 at 19:08
  • 1&2 @ the bottom of each page – zaq Aug 17 '11 at 19:41
  • What would be the difference between a letter made up of dots or a hebrew "kuf" (made up off "two dots")? Remember, that these letters don't have to be written in any particular language. As long as it make sense in some language, it is a letter. – Shmuel Brin Aug 18 '11 at 21:20
  • A "kuf" (ק) is properly formed when it is made of two parts, An "A" is not properly formed unless all the parts are connected. There is an argument in the Gemara of whether you are liable for writing part of a letter and stopping. I believe the end result was you're not liable, unless you leave off the top connector of a "chet" (ח) resulting in two "zayins" (זז). – zaq Aug 18 '11 at 22:00

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