Selected Halachos Related to Parshas Terumah
By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt
The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
He will bless your bread and your water (23:25)
You shall make the planks of the Mishkan (26:15)
...They used to write on the planks to indicate
their correct placement... and if one was incorrectly marked,
the writing was erased so that it could be corrected (Rashi
CUTTING A DECORATED CAKE ON SHABBOS
The Biblical prohibition of erasing letters on Shabbos applied
to erasing for the purpose of preparing the surface for future
writing. This was the nature of the "erasing" in the Mishkan, as
quoted above. The Rabbis, however extended the prohibition to
include any and all erasing, regardless of the purpose of the
erasure and even when the erasure served no purpose at all, as
in tearing the lettering of a package(1).
QUESTION: On Shabbos, is it permissible to cut letters or
pictures which decorate a cake?
DISCUSSION: Rama(2) quotes a view that prohibits cutting or
breaking off a piece of cake on which letters - or pictures(3) -
appear. The fact that the person has no intention of erasing the
letters and is interested only in eating the cake makes no
difference; the letters are erased in the process, so cutting or
breaking off a piece of decorated cake is forbidden based on the
rule of inevitable consequences (pesik reisheh). It makes no
difference, according to this view, if the erasure is done prior
to eating by cutting the cake with a knife, or even if the
letters are erased by biting into and chewing the cake(4).
Either action is considered to be erasing and is prohibited.
Other poskim(5) differ with the Rama. They maintain that the
Rabbis did not forbid cutting or breaking off a piece of cake
because: 1) the erasing in this case is not done for the sake of
future writing; 2) the erasing is destructive; 3) the erasing is
done indirectly (k'lachar yad). According to this view, then, it
would be permitted to cut a decorated cake, even before eating
it, although the frosted letters would definitely be erased.
Latter-day poskim debate what the practical halachah should be.
Some tend to be lenient(6), while others are stringent(7). The
Mishnah Berurah rules that one may rely on the lenient view only
when the erasing comes as a result of biting and chewing.
Cutting the cake before eating it is prohibited. However, the
following exceptions are discussed by the poskim:
It is permitted to cut between letters even if a word is
destroyed(8). It is also permitted to remove a letter on the
icing along with a thin sliver of cake on which it rests(9).
It is permitted to cut letters or figures that are baked into
the body of the cake itself(10). It is also permitted to cut a
cake or cookie that has a meaningful shape(11), such as a
It is permitted to cut letters which are made from fruit juice
or from honey mixed with water. Decorations fashioned from those
ingredients are not considered "permanent(12)." The sugar-based
frosting commonly found on cakes today which hardens when it
dries is not included in this leniency(13).
Some poskim allow a right-handed person to cut the cake with his
left hand and vice versa(14). Others do not allow this
If the cake was cut before Shabbos, one is permitted to separate
the pieces on Shabbos(16).
A cake with lettering may be placed in front of a child even
though the child may erase the lettering on the cake(17). An
adult may not, however, specifically instruct the child to erase
1. See Mishnah Berurah 340:41 and Sha'ar ha-Tziyon 76.
2. O.C. 340:3.
3. Mishnah Berurah 340:16. Rabbi P.E. Falk (Zachor v'Shamor, sec.
33, pg. 13) maintains that pretty patterns such as a zig-zag
design along the edges, criss-cross lines running across the
surface, etc., are not included and are permitted to be cut.
4. Taz 340:2; Chazon Ish O.C. 61:1.
5. Dagul Mi-revavah O.C. 340.
6. Sha'arei Teshuvah 340:5 and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 80:63. See
also Aruch ha-Shulchan 340:23, who maintains that the entire
prohibition is limited to letters that are formed from ink or
paint. Nevertheless, he advises to let a child cut the cake, as
7. Shulchan Aruch Harav (343:10) and Chazon Ish O.C. 61:1 who
prohibit erasing letters even by biting and chewing.
8. Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 9 note 48).
9. See The Shabbos Home, pg. 50.
10. Mishnah Berurah 340:15; Har Tzvi O.C. 214. In other places,
however, the Mishnah Berurah seems to contradict himself and
prohibits this - see 475:47 and 500:17. Harav S.Z. Auerbach
(Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 11 note 31) attempts to resolve
this contradiction. See also Chazon Ish O.C. 61 who questions
11. See footnote 8. In this case, however, even Chazon Ish seems
to be lenient.
12. Mishnah Berurah 340:15. Chazon Ish questions this leniency.
13. Tifferes Yisrael (Kalkeles Shabbos - erasing); Ketzos
ha-Shulchan (144:3); Be'er Moshe 6:94.
14. Eliyahu Rabbah 240:11.
15. Avnei Nezer 209. Mishnah Berurah, too, does not quote this
option. See also Mishnah Berurah 340:22 quoting the Chayei Adam
who maintains that - with the exception for the prohibition of
writing - there is no difference between using the right and
left hand in regard to all of the Shabbos prohibitions.
16. Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 11 note 30).
17. Mishnah Berurah 340:14. See explanation in Shulchan Aruch
Harav 340:4 and 343:10. See also Chanoch l'Na'ar 17:4-5.
18. Shulchan Aruch Harav 343:10.
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