Bottle Caps

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Bottle Caps

There is much controversy regarding opening soda bottle caps on Shabbos. In the following paragraphs we will discuss opening different types of bottle caps, and what the controversy about opening soda bottle caps is all about.

The melacha of Makeh b’Patish (Final hammer blow)

One of the thirty-nine melachos of Shabbos is the melacha of Makeh b’Patish1 – the final hammer blow. During the construction of the Mishkan gold and other materials were used to create the vessels of the Mishkan. These vessels were formed by craftsman who, upon finishing a vessel, would apply the final hammer blow that would perfect and finish the vessel; this was the melacha of Makeh b’Patish2. Therefore, on Shabbos any act of completion which adds functionality to an object violates the melacha of Makeh b’Patish3. For example, the Gemara says4 it is prohibited to pull off a piece of wood in order to create a toothpick. Since a toothpick was completed and is now functional, the melacha of Makeh b’Patish is violated.

Here are some other practical examples of Makeh b’Patish:
One may not screw in the handle of a broom which came off5.
One may not snap in the lens of one’s eyeglasses which fell out6.
One may not bend his eyeglasses (which are so badly bent that they cannot be worn7a) back into shape7.
One may not detach pages of a new book that were not properly cut at the corners8.

In all of these examples the melacha of Makeh b’Patish is violated, since an act of completion is being performed, and the item now becomes functional.

Bottle caps

In the following paragraphs we will discuss whether opening a sealed bottle violates the melacha of Makeh b’Patish. The first question we will discuss is regarding the completion of the bottle. When removing the cap of a bottle, perhaps an act of competition has been performed. Now that the cap is removed for the first time, the bottle is now usable and complete, and may therefore violate Makeh b’Patish.

Gemara Makkos – beer bottles, Snapple caps & corks

Let’s take a look at the Gemara in Makkos9 which gives us an insight and understanding how to apply the melacha of Makeh b’Patish. The Gemara there gives two examples which are seemingly very similar, yet have different halachos:

1) Forming a neck opening in a garment – Someone who creates a neck opening in a garment on Shabbos violates the melacha of Makeh b’Patish, since he performed an act of completion by creating a hole which makes the garment usable.

2) Forming a hole in a barrel by removing the seal – When sealing a barrel, one would plaster the seal into the barrel until it would again be opened. Opening the seal (which creates a hole) is permitted on Shabbos, and does not violate the melacha of Makeh b’Patish even though the barrel now becomes usable.

The Gemara points out that those two halachos seem to contradict each other since in both cases a hole is formed, thereby making the object functional. The Gemara resolves the contradiction and explains: unlike the garment which never had a neck opening, the barrel already had an existing hole. It was only filled with a temporary seal – therefore when one opens the seal we cannot consider it as if one created a hole and completed the barrel since the barrel was already once complete; rather, we view it as if the barrel was already complete and the hole is merely being blocked by the seal, and therefore re-opening the hole doesn’t constitute an act of completion.

For example:
One may open a beer bottle on Shabbos10; since the bottle was made with an opening and was already once fully complete, we view the cap as merely blocking the already complete bottle, and may therefore be re-opened. This is not considered an act of Makeh b’Patish since the bottle is already considered to have been complete.
One may open a Snapple bottle on Shabbos11; since the bottle has already been completed and is merely being blocked by the cap, opening the cap is not considered an act of completion.
One may remove a cork from a wine bottle12, since the bottle is already considered complete (as long as no letters are ruined13).

The new Tropicana™ orange juice bottles have a paper safety seal underneath the plastic cap, this plastic seal may be removed on Shabbos13a; since the bottle is already complete and is merely being blocked by the paper seal, removing the seal is not considered to have completed the bottle.

However, there are some practical examples that can be compared to the other case the Gemara discusses, that of creating a neck opening in a garment. Since the garment was never complete, making an opening effectively completes the garment and violates the melacha d’oraysa of Makeh b’Patish.

For example:

Many orange juice containers have a plastic ring which is attached to its plastic spout. In order to open the container one must pull on the plastic ring and detach it from the plastic spout. When the ring is removed it now completes the plastic spout and the spout becomes fully functional. Therefore pulling off the plastic ring violates the melacha of Makeh b’Patish. Since the plastic spout is manufactured together with the plastic ring attached to it, we cannot consider the spout fully complete until the ring is removed; therefore removing the ring on Shabbos completes the plastic spout and violates the melacha of Makeh b’Patish [see footnote14]. Therefore one must be careful to open these containers before Shabbos.

Plastic soda bottle caps

Most soda bottles today are made with plastic bottle caps. Although opening the plastic cap is not considered an act of completion of the soda bottle because it was already once complete and is merely blocked by the cap, breaking off the plastic cap does involve a serious shaylah regarding the completion of the plastic cap itself.

The reusable plastic cap was invented in the year 196515; the purpose of this invention was to create a resilient reusable cap which can cover a bottle15a. These caps are made with a plastic ring attached to them which breaks off when the cap is twisted off; while the ring is attached the cap is not fully functional as it cannot yet be removed and screwed onto the bottle. When the cap is twisted off and the plastic ring breaks off, completing the cap which is now fully functional, as it can now be screwed on and off the bottle. Therefore Rav Moshe Feinstein (is quoted by many poskim to have) ruled16 that opening a plastic soda cap violated the melacha of Makeh b’Patish, as the cap is now completed. Since the cap is originally made with the plastic ring attached and the plastic cap was never fully functional, this violates the melacha m’d’Oraysa of Makeh b’Patish. This can be compared to the case the Gemara discusses, that of creating a neck opening in a garment. Since the garment was never complete, making an opening effectively completes the garment and violates the melacha m’d’Oraysa of Makeh b’Patish. The same would apply to creating the cap for the very first time.

However, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach argues17 that there may be room to permit opening a plastic bottle cap on Shabbos. Since before the cap is put onto the bottle it was completely formed (with the screw-on threads inside of it), and it merely has a ring attached to it which prevents it from being opened and closed, we can already consider the cap to be complete. Since it is noticeable that the cap and the ring are meant to be separated, we may consider the bottle cap complete, and the plastic ring is merely blocking it from being used. Although it is true that the plastic cap was never originally separated from its ring, since the cap itself is fully complete and it is noticeable that it is meant to be separate from its ring, we can compare it to the case the Gemara discusses regarding removing a seal from a barrel which is already complete and merely blocked by the seal. [However, even Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach agrees that one may not open a metal bottle cap on Shabbos, see footnote 18]

To summarize:

The leading Poskim argue whether opening a soda cap violates the melacha of Makeh b’Patish, and a Rav should be consulted regarding this issue. However, the Poskim agree that L’chatchila one should open all bottles before Shabbos as there are shaylos regarding an issur d’Oryasa involved19. Rav Belsky writes strongly against someone that doesn’t open bottles before Shabbos because he is nervous that the soda won’t taste good if opened before Shabbos: “(…such a person) should accustom himself in proper values, and not let his life revolve around the pleasures of this world”20.

What to do if a bottle wasn’t open before Shabbos

Someone who generally doesn’t open soda bottles on Shabbos, and forgot to open the bottle before Shabbos may have two possible solutions:

1) Destroy the cap – one should carefully take a knife or corkscrew and poke a hole in the cap which is large enough to effectively ruin the cap. Once the cap is ruined the bottle may be opened, as there is no concern that the cap is being completed since it has already been effectively ruined21. [Note: care must be taken not to break any letters on the cap22]

2) Immediately throw out the cap – some Poskim rule23 that if immediately after the cap is opened it is thrown away into the garbage, the melacha of Makeh b’Patish is not violated. Since one intends to dispose of the cap immediately, it cannot be considered as if he completed the cap or created any usable vessel since it is thrown out immediately, and is permitted. (This option can be useful if an extra cap from a different empty soda bottle is available, as it may be used to replace the cap which was discarded.)

Erasing Letters

Even according to the Poskim who permit opening bottle caps, it is prohibited to open bottle caps which have letters written on them; since by doing so the letters are erased, and the melacha of Mochaik (erasing) is violated24.

Other types of bottle covers

Flimsy non-reusable wrappers – Some wine bottles are covered with a paper or flimsy wrapper; these wrappers may be removed on Shabbos, since removing them doesn’t create or complete an object & is permitted25.

Milk Containers – Some milk bottles are opened by tearing a plastic ring around the opening; opening them on Shabbos is problematic since when removing the plastic ring, the cap is completed. Therefore, opening these caps on Shabbos is dependent on the machlokes ha’Poskim regarding bottle caps26. Furthermore, some poskim say that there may be an additional problem of Koraya (Tearing) involved with opening up this type of milk containers27. (If one forgot to open these containers before Shabbos, they can usually be opened easily by sticking a fork or knife underneath the cap and remove the entire cap without breaking the ring.)

1.Mishnah Shabbos 73a   2.Tosfos Shabbos 102b d”h Makeh b’Patish [see Rashi Shabbos 73a d”h ha’Makeh for a different explanation]   3.Gemarah Shabbos 75b see sefer 39 melachos pg 1111  4.Gemarah Beitzah 33b Rashi d”h v’Lo and M.B. 322,13   5. 39 melachos pg 1114  6. ibid ; see The Shabbos Home Vol2 pg 523 where he permits inserting an eyeglass lens into a plastic frame if the eyeglass fits in without difficulty  7. 39 melachos pg 1115  7a. The Shabbos Home Vol 2 pg 524  8. M.B. 340,45   9. Makkos 3b  10. SSk”h perek 9,21   11. Halacha Berura (opening bottles pg 7)    12. SSk”h ibid  13. [see Rama 340,3]M.B. 340,41, SSk”h perek 9,13 (b) and kilkeles Shabbos (mochek 33) brought in 39 melachos pg 986 note 7   13a. Shulchan Halevi pg 84 (paragraph starting with “L’gabei”), see also SSk”h perek 9, 12 and 39 melachos pg 1148  14. R’ Belsky in Shulchan Halevi ibid (paragraph starting with “aval”) he writes: “It is very difficult to permit opening these orange juice containers and it should be prohibited, and one should not look for hard and problematic ways to permit it.” However it seems that according to some poskim it may be permitted; one may consult his Rav regarding opening these orange juice containers on Shabbos.   15. These caps were invented by David L. Swanson (data provided by IFI patent services, Google 2012)  15a. ibid  16. Quoted by R’ Dovid Feinstein (brought in Shabbos Kitchen pg 185 and Halacha Berura) R’ Belsky (Halacha Berura pg 8) Rivvos Ephraim Vol 4. However others seem say R’ Moshe didn’t explicitly prohibit it (Mishna Halachos Vol 7,47. R’ Elyashiv also prohibited opening soda bottle caps (Shalmei Yehuda pg 104)   17. SSk”h perek 9, end of 18  18. SSk”h ibid see Shulchan Halevi pg 85 who elaborates on the differentiation between plastic and metal bottle caps: The difference between opening a plastic bottle cap and a metal one is due to the way that they are made. As we mentioned, a plastic cap is fully complete with its inner threads before it is placed on the bottle, and it merely has a plastic ring attached to it. This is not the case with a metal bottle cap – the metal bottle cap is not completely formed when it is placed onto the bottle, it doesn’t have its threads formed yet. After the smooth metal cap is placed on the bottle, a machine clamps the metal cap onto the bottle forming the inner screw threads of the cap. Therefore, since there was never a time that the metal cap was complete with its threads, when someone opens the cap on Shabbos it completes the metal cap for the first time, violating Makeh b’Patish.  19. SSk” perek 9,1; Shabbos Kitchen pg 182   20. Shulchan Halevi pg 86  21 .SSk”h 9,18 Shulchan Halevi ibid   22. ibid   23. R’ Shlomo Zalman Aurbach brought in SSk”h perek 9 note 72 [brought in 39 melachos pg 841]; R’ Belsky is quoted to be unconvinced that this option is halachically valid (Halacha Berura ibid pg 9)   24. see footnote 13  25. 39 melachos pg 1148 note 98   26. Halacha Berura ibid pg 9 see 39 melachos pg 839 note 78  27. 39 melachos pg 839

By: Rabbi Shmuel Stein

Weekly Shabbos Shiur by Avreich of the Miami Beach Community Kollel. Shiur is Wednesday nights at the kollel at 8:15  

 

 

 

 

 

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