Melacha #33 – Mocheik (Erasing)
Remember those symbols that had to be written on the boards of the Mishkan so that they could be assembled in the proper order? (See the previous melacha, koseiv.) Well, sometimes a mistake would be made. When that happened, the error needed to be erased so that the correct symbols could be inscribed. This erasing is mocheik, the reciprocal melacha of koseiv.
As with all “destructive” melachos, the Biblical act of mocheik entailed doing it for a constructive purpose, in this case to clear the surface for the proper symbols. All such similar acts, such as erasing letters from a sheet of paper or from a whiteboard are acts of mocheik at the Biblical level. Just as koseiv does not have to be with a pen or pencil, mocheik does not have to be with an eraser. Using Wite-Out to cover up letters is also mocheik.
The real challenge with mocheik comes with food, both on the packages and on the edible items themselves. Care should be taken when opening packages so as to avoid tearing the lettering. Similarly, cutting a cake with writing on it is a challenge; cutting through the letters should be avoided. However, eating something imprinted with words or letters, such as a Hershey bar or M&M’s, is not problematic. As with many melachos, mocheik does not apply as part of the eating process.
This is just an introduction to the concepts of the melacha of mocheik; it is not a substitute for a full study of the halachos.