Question: Is ‘tochain’/grinding one of the permissible melachos for food preparation on Yom Tov or not? Answer: That’s easy… if you have “MBY Archives”:
MBY 495:1-4 A General Introduction to Melacha on Yom Tov: “The Mechaber (R’ Yosef Karo, “author” of the Shulchan Aruch) writes that the only melachos associated with ‘ochel nefesh’ that are permitted on Yom Tov are those that are typically done at home in close proximity to the consumption of the food - not those that are done in the field, threshing floor, granary etc. The latter is typically done much in advance and in large quantities, and the food is then generally stored away for future use. This second category includes melachos such as harvesting (‘kotzair’), grinding (‘tochein’), squeezing (‘sochait’) and trapping (‘tzod’). These melachos are not permitted on Yom Tov according to all opinions!”
Back to today’s lesson: Thus we see that ‘tochain’ – in general (which is usually associated with grain) - is excluded from permissibility on Yom Tov, based upon the two main criteria required: timing and quantity. Now let’s talk about lenient exceptions! Related to the act of ‘tochain’ (grinding) are other acts which also breaking down herbs and roots into smaller particles, such as ‘dicha’ (pounding) and ‘ketisha’ (crushing). The Gemara and Shulchan Aruch contain lengthy treatments of the question of doing these actions on Yom Tov to spices, such as salt and pepper. True, grain can be ground well before the day of use, and it will not suffer in quality. Furthermore, one always needs flour (n.p.i.) on Yom Tov, so he should make sure to grind some before Yom Tov begins. With spices, however, one could argue that it is more flavorful when it is freshly ground! Even if that argument could be refuted on the grounds (n.p.i.) that pounding the spices one day earlier will not adversely affect its taste, one could retort that he doesn’t necessarily decide until Yom Tov what his menu will be and thus cannot know beforehand which spices he will need!
Because of these considerations, the halacha is more lenient with regard to pounding pepper and other spices, permitting it in the normal manner on Yom Tov. With salt, the halacha is a bit more strict, permitting it but with a minor ‘shinui’ (change from the normal manner.) This is because, compared to other spices, salt has aspects of stringency and aspects of leniency: stringency, because salt does not lose its potency with time, and leniency, because it does not grow from the ground as a plant (i.e. and hence, only a minor shinui - not a major one - is required.) What is considered to be a minor ‘shinui’? “One may use a regular grinding utensil for this, but the grinding itself must be performed in an unusual manner, in one of the following ways: 1) By inverting the utensil from its usual position, e.g. holding the grater upside down; or 2) By grinding the food onto a tablecloth or countertop, not into a plate or bowl, as is usual.” (Quoted from The Laws of Yom Tov by Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen, Chap. 8, p. 76)
Though we have spoken mostly about grain and spices in this lesson, the principles we have learned apply to the grating or mashing of fruits and vegetables as well. To illustrate, we will quote from Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen’s sefer again, Ibid., pp. 79-80:
“The following is a partial listing of foods which may be ground in their normal manner on Yom Tov, even with a grater or similar utensil: apples, bananas, matzos, potatoes and vegetables. The following is a partial listing of foods which may be ground in an unusual manner: cheese, horseradish, pepper.” (See above for the definition of an unusual manner.)