Sunday, 3 December 2017

Removing Pills from Packaging on Shabbos

Question: I am on a course of antibiotics and forgot to remove the pills before Shabbos. There is writing on the blister pack which will be torn if I pop them out. What can I do?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 340:14) writes that one mustn’t tear in a constructive manner on Shabbos. The Mishna Berura (314:25) writes that while one is usually forbidden miderabanan to tear even in a destructive manner, they may do so if they have specific Shabbos needs, such as for guests.
The prohibition of mocheik, erasing, however, is more severe. While destroying writing is forbidden mideoraisa under the melacha of mocheik (Shulchan Aruch OC 340:3), the Mishna Berura (340:17; 41) writes that one wouldn’t be able to do so even for specific Shabbos needs (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 9:n47).
One should, therefore, ideally remove the pills before Shabbos. If one forgot to do so, they should attempt to cut them out from the back where no writing will be destroyed.
If necessary, however, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 9:n48) allows one to cut betweeen the letters providing that no letters get torn (See Nishmat Avraham OC 316:B). If one is unable to do so, one should pop them out with a shinui, an unusual manner (Aruch Hashulchan OC 340:23; Mishna Berura 340:17).
Nonetheless, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 33:n29) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Shabbos 328:46) hold that if one is not well, there is more room for leniency and one may pop the pills out even if letters will be torn.
In conclusion, one should try their utmost not to tear any lettering when removing pills.

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