A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE "EGGS AND ONIONS" ON SHABBOS?
Preparation of this dish, or similar ones, can involve many Shabbos Labors,
among them: washing and peeling the eggs and the onions (choosing); mashing
the eggs (grinding); dicing the onions (grinding); mixing the eggs and
onions together (kneading); salting the onions(1); adding oil as a binding
ingredient (kneading); removing egg shells from the mixture (choosing).
In view of all these potential Shabbos violations, it is strongly
recommended that the eggs and onions be prepared before Shabbos(2). When it
is not possible or practical to do so, however, this is the permissible way
to prepare it on Shabbos:
Both the eggs(3) and onions should be peeled immediately before the meal(4).
This means that if the meal(5) is to start at 12:00 o'clock, for example,
and it takes about 30 minutes to prepare for the meal, then the eggs and
onions may be peeled at about 11:30, but not earlier(6). Even if the
housewife would like to prepare her meal before going to shul or taking a
walk, it is forbidden to do so(7).
The eggs and onions may be peeled by hand or with the aid of a knife
The eggs may be mashed with a fork(9) or sliced with an egg slicer(10). A
grinder [or a masher(11)] may not be used(12). [If the eggs were peeled
before Shabbos(13), they may be mashed earlier, and not necessarily
immediately before the meal(14).]
It is strictly forbidden to cut up the onions into very small pieces
(diced)(15). But in the event that it is difficult to eat bigger pieces of
onion [or if the food is being prepared for a child], most poskim permit
dicing the onions into small pieces, provided that they are diced
immediately before the meal(16). [Another option is to cut the onions into
little pieces in an unusual manner - with a spoon or with the handle of a
knife or fork(17), but this is not practical.]
The eggs and onions may be mixed together(18).
The eggs and onions together may be salted, especially if the mixture is
going to contain oil or mayonnaise(19). But the onions alone should not be
left salted [or immersed in vinegar(20)] for any length of time(21) .
The proper method for the next step in making eggs and onions - adding oil
to the mixture - was hotly debated among the poskim of the past generations,
since adding oil may be a violation of the forbidden Shabbos Labor of
"kneading." Apparently, it was a widely-held custom to add oil to the
mixture in the normal manner, and many leading poskim approved of it(22).
Indeed, several contemporary authorities agree that the custom is firmly
grounded in Halachah and may be followed(23). The oil should be added
immediately before the meal, and in small quantities only.
Nonetheless, the poskim are of the opinion that it is halachically
preferable to add and mix the oil in a way that is altogether different from
the way it is done ordinarily: a) the oil must be poured into the bowl
first, and then the eggs and onions added(24); b) the mixture may not be
stirred vigorously; it may only be mixed in one of the following ways,- in
order of halachic preference: with one's finger(25); by shaking the
bowl(26); with a knife, fork, or spoon but only in a criss-cross pattern(27)
(up and down and left to right), not around and around in the normal mixing
motion(28); with a utensil not normally used for mixing(29); with the handle
of a knife or a spoon(30).
When mayonnaise is being used instead of oil, the same procedure outlined in
numbers 7-8 is followed, except that there is no need to reverse the order
and place the mayonnaise in the bowl before the eggs and the onions [as is
required when using oil](31).
Pieces of cooked potato may be added and mixed into the egg-onion
If, after the mixture is prepared, an eggshell is found in it, the shell may
not be removed from the mixture. Rather, the proper procedure is to leave
the eggshell and the food that is around it in the bowl, and lift all of the
rest of the mixture out of the mixing bowl and into another dish. Some
poskim are more lenient and permit removing the shell provided that some of
the mixture is removed with it(33). Other poskim strictly prohibit removing
the shell in this manner(34), and it is proper to be stringent(35).
When the mixture is ready, it is proper to leave it as is and not smooth it
down, shape it(36), etc. It is permitted, however, to use a scoop for
serving individual portions(37).
1 It may be prohibited because salting is part of the pickling process,
which resembles cooking (Rambam), or because salting can alter the texture
of the food and is similar to me'abed, tanning hide, since that too is
accomplished by using chemicals to alter the texture of the hide (Rashi).
2 Indeed, in the home of the Chazon Ish and Harav Y.Y. Kanievsky, this food
was always prepared before Shabbos, so as to not get involved in potential
Shabbos Labors (Ayil Meshulash, pg. 157; Orchos Rabbeinu). Also, it is
noteworthy that the custom in many homes is that the men, not the women,
prepared this dish. Possibly this is due to the complexity of the issues
involved. It is also reported that several Chasidic tzaddikim insisted on
preparing this dish themselves, and it was done right at the table.
3 Eggs in a pot of water are not considered to be "mixed" with the water. It
is permitted to discard the water from the pot and leave the eggs; Harav
S.Y. Elyashiv, quoted in The Laws of Borer, pg. 30.
4 Rama O.C. 321:19.
5 Zemiros which are sung prior to the meal are considered as part of the
meal (Harav S.Y. Elyashiv, quoted in The Laws of Borer, pg. 25 and Harav N.
Karelitz, quoted in Ayil Meshulash, pg. 117).
6 Igros Moshe O.C. 4:74-13; Harav S.Y. Elyashiv and Harav N. Karelitz
(quoted in Ayil Meshulash, pg. 118). There is a minority view which holds
that it is permitted to begin the preparation half an hour before the meal
even if the actual preparation does not take that long (Harav S. Wosner,
mi-Beis Levi 6, Borer 2).
7 Mishnah Berurah 321:45.
8 Beiur Halachah 321:19; Igros Moshe O.C. 1:124.
9 Mishnah Berurah 321:31 and 36; since it is only prohibited to mash foods
that grow from the ground. Mashing eggs may be permitted even according to
the Chazon Ish (O.C. 57) who generally rules that mashing applies even to
items that do not grow from the ground. See Otzros ha-Shabbos, pg. 344 for a
12 O.C. 321:10; since that is considered a week-day activity.
13 See earlier discussion concerning the danger of leaving shelled eggs over
14 Mishnah Berurah 321:31.
15 O.C. 321:12.
16 Mishnah Berurah 321:45. While Chazon Ish (O.C. 57) disagres with this
leniency, Igros Moshe (O.C. 4:74-2) rules that when the need arises, even a
ba'al nefesh need not be stringent. This is also the ruling of Harav S.Z.
Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah and Tikunim u'Miluim 6:6)
17 O.C. 321:7 and Mishnah Berurah 25.
18 Since no liquid is being added, there is no problem of kneading.
19 Mishnah Berurah 321:14; since the oil [or the bit of vinegar which is
poured over the salt and washes it away] weakens the potency of the salt.
Even if no oil or mayonnaise will be mixed in, it is still permitted, since
it is permitted to salt eggs (Mishnah Berurah 321:18 and 21) and it is
permissible to salt the onions once they are mixed with the eggs.
20 See Mishnah Berurah 321:15 concerning cucumbers in vinegar.
21 O.C. 321:3 and Mishnah Berurah 13, 14, 15.
22 Several poskim of previous generations attest to the prevalence of this
practice; see R' S. Kluger (ha-Elef Lecha Shelomo 139), Eglei Tal (Tochen
123:7); Tehilah le-David 321:22,25; Eishel Avraham Tanina 321; Minchas
Shabbos 80:38; She'arim Metzuyanim b'Halachah 80:23.
24 Since normally the eggs and onions are put in first and then the oil is
poured on them.
25 Rama 321:16. Wearing a glove is prohibited; Chazon Ish 58:8.
26 Mishnah Berurah 321:63.
27 Between each change of direction the utensil should be lifted out of the
mixture; Chazon Ish 58:6; Igros Moshe O.C. 4:74-5.
28 O.C. 324:3.
29 Minchas Yitzchak 1:74.
30 These last two options are halachically the least desirable since they
are not mentioned by any early authority, and some contemporary poskim
specifically disallow the practice in a thick mixture such as eggs and
onions. See, however, Igros Moshe O.C. 4:74-6 who seems to allow it in all
cases. See also Tzitz Eliezer 11:36, who quotes a similar ruling.
31 Since no binding takes place until the actual stirring and mixing begins.
32 Since the forbidden Shabbos Labor of kneading involves only small
particles, not large pieces.
33 Based on Mishnah Berurah 319:61 concerning a fly that fell into a drink.
See also Mishnah Berurah 504:20 concerning matzah crumbs.
34 Chazon Ish 54:3.
35 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 5, note 21), since an
eggshell in a salad is considered more "mixed in" than a fly in a drink, and
possibly all poskim would prohibit this.
36 Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 80:25. See also Chayei Adam 39:1-10. Other poskim,
however, are not concerned with this; see Da'as Torah 31:19 and Cheishev
ha-Eifod 2:77. See also Binyan Shabbos, Boneh, Miluim 8.
37 Since the purpose is to aid in the serving process, not to shape the
food; see Be'er Moshe 6:43 and 8:134.