In the previous Halachot we have discussed the general laws of the forbidden work of selecting on Shabbat and that in order for selecting to be permissible on Shabbat, several conditions must be met, one of which is that one may select only in order to eat the food “immediately”.
Just as with regards to the prohibition of selecting there are permissible methods of selecting on Shabbat, regarding the prohibition of grinding on Shabbat, there are likewise permissible methods of grinding on Shabbat, for instance, cutting up vegetables for a salad on Shabbat.
Not only regarding the forbidden work of selecting may one only do so in order to eat the food immediately; rather, the same applies to the forbidden work of grinding, for instance, slicing a vegetable salad, in that care must be taken that this is done only for immediate use. Similarly, the Rama (Chapter 121) writes that “it is permissible to chop a vegetable very finely in order to eat it immediately.” This matter shall, G-d-willing, be discussed at a later time.
Issues Regarding Selecting which Pertain to Preparing a Salad
Included in the forbidden work of selecting is peeling an onion or garlic, removing tomatoes from their cluster when there are green or rotten tomatoes still attached to the cluster, and any other situation where one removes the good item from the bad one and this indeed constitutes selecting and is forbidden unless one intends to eat the fruit or vegetable immediately.
What is the Definition of “Immediately” with Regards to the Beginning of the Meal?
We have already written several times that less than a half-hour’s time is considered “immediately”. The question thus arises: If a woman prepares a vegetable salad for the Shabbat meal and begins to cut the vegetables before the meal, is this permissible if the salad will only be eaten later than a half-hour after the cutting of the vegetables?
The Opinion of the Poskim that the Definition of “Immediately” is Literal
Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l deals lengthily with this matter and begins by quoting the opinion of several Rishonim from whose words we can infer that one may only select on Shabbat when one intends to eat the food immediately after selecting it, i.e. approximately one minute after selecting it, such as one cracking a walnut and eating it right away. Similarly, if several individuals are sitting around a table during a meal, it will be permissible to select for all of those present, for although they may not intend to eat this food immediately once it is selected, nevertheless, the entire period of the meal is considered “immediate”. Therefore, once the meal has already begun, one may prepare a salad for the guests or crack walnuts and the like for them, for this is indeed considered “immediately”.
One can infer from their words that one may not select or prepare a salad before the meal commences as this is not considered “immediately”. This is indeed quoted by Rabbeinu Yerocham, Ramban, Ra’avaya and others. Similarly, the Ritba (Shabbat 74a) writes: “This that is customary to select food before the meal to be eaten during the meal is indeed forbidden; one may only do so during the time one is actually eating and by selecting food from waste by hand.”
The Opinion of the Poskim Who Permit Selecting Before the Meal as Long as it is Indeed Right Before the Meal
Nevertheless, according to several Rishonim (Mordechi Chapter 7 of Shabbat, Tosafot Rabbeinu Yitzchak Hazaken, Shabbat 74a) “immediately” does not necessarily mean right away; rather, as long as one intends to eat what one is selecting “in a short while,” this is also considered “selecting for immediate use.” However, if one intends to only eat the food after a “long while,” this is indeed considered selecting for a later time for which one is liable for Shabbat desecration.
The Bottom Line
Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules that, halachically speaking, one may only act leniently and select foods for the meal or cut up a salad for the meal when this is being done right before the meal, i.e. within a half-hour of the commencement of the meal. Nevertheless, one must be exceedingly careful not to begin selecting or cutting a salad for the meal much before the meal, for this constitutes a Torah prohibition of selecting or grinding which are only permissible when done for immediate use, which means that the meal is to begin within the half-hour. In addition, one may only act leniently in this matter when there is a need to cut a large amount of salad and the like in which case one may begin doing so beginning from a half-hour before the meal’s commencement. However, if one only requires minor selecting, one may only begin to do so several minutes before the beginning of the meal.
Indeed, the Magen Avraham (Chapter 321, Subsection 15) and many other Poskim write that one may only act leniently and cut up a salad or select foods for the meal starting from when the men have left the synagogue after prayer services and are on their way home, for this is considered “immediately” as they plan on sitting down to eat right away, but not before this point.
Summary: One may only act leniently and chop up a salad or select food for the meal within a half-hour of the beginning of the meal. If this is not necessary, for instance, because the salad is not so large, one may only begin doing so several minutes before the meal.