THE LAWS OF SHABBAT
By Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
#03: BORER (Part 3)
VI) Defining a Mixture
Is it permissible to select a book from a bookcase on Shabbat? Is one permitted to take a piece of
meat out of sauce? Is it
permissible to strain the oil from a can of tuna or sardines? Is oane permitted to spill out the
whey which has accumulated on top of sour-milk?
Is it permissible to move a coat in a closet in order to get to one
hanging behind it? How may one sort
spoons and forks well in advance of a meal?
It is clear that to be liable for borer (selecting), there must be a
mixture, or ta'arovet. There
is certainly no problem with clearing a plate off the table, even if this is
done for the next morning, despite the usual requirement of immediate use to
permit an act of bereira (selection).
(16:9 in the Lieberman edition; 17:6 in the standard edition) says so
One may pick scattered fruits one by one and eat them. If fruits are mixed with fruits, one
may select and eat... If one
selects each type on its own, or if one picks out dirt and pebbles, one is
In other words, there is no prohibition of
fruit. Only when "fruits are mixed
with fruits" is the prohibition of borer
applicable (so that one can become liable for it). This is also clear in the
formulation of the
(8:13), who writes "If two types of food
are mixed together
before one..." The
(319:3, s.v. Leekhol miyad) interprets the Rambam's words:
It appears that there is not even a rabbinical prohibition... as is implied by
the language of the Rambam and the Shulchan Arukh who specify that "two types of
food are mixed together before one," etc. implying that if they are not mixed
together, borer is inapplicable to
selecting one type from another.
SEPARATE AND RECOGNIZABLE PIECES
In his Responsa (Ch.
57), the Terumat Ha-deshen discusses pieces of fish which are laid out on one
plate or platter
is the prohibition of borer
applicable in this case? According
to him, there is a logical argument to be lenient in this case:
It would be strange to apply bereira
to large pieces of distinct and separate types which are sitting in the same
place. Consider the language of the
Mordekhai... who writes, "Thus, a person must be careful with types of fruits
that are mixed," etc. implying that only when they are blended and no longer
distinct [is borer applicable]. However, in a case like this, even
though each type is not arranged on its own, they are not considered to be
mixed. Nevertheless, since the
writes that one who selects pesolet
from okhel even if one does so for
immediate use is liable, we may not make this distinction and rule leniently
without compelling proof.
rules that since we are talking about a Torah prohibition, we should not be
lenient without a clear proof; we must not permit
borer unless we are talking about one
(319:3) rules accordingly:
Two types of fish are called two types of food, and it is forbidden to select
one from the other except by hand in order to eat them immediately,
even though the pieces are large and each one is distinct.
According to this, a ta'arovet is not
only a fully-blended mixture; even large items which are situated next to each
other, each of which is distinct in its own right may carry the classification
However, some Acharonim have limited the words of the
(319:17) writes that only where there are many pieces is it considered a
However, if one has four or five pieces, taking a piece or two is not called
bereira. These are everyday occurrences: one
has on a platter [pieces of] beef and chicken for they are certainly two types
and the hostess takes chicken off the platter to put it away for the next
morning... In fact, if we propose to apply the law of
bereira every time we encounter two
types of food together, even if they are few in number, it would be impossible
to live, and Heaven forbid that we say such a thing!
According to him, this stringency is only logical when the large, distinct
pieces are numerous, not few.
Consequently, it would seem that if one is clearing the silverware off a table
and is holding just one knife, one spoon and one fork, there is no problem to
set down each in its place in the silverware drawer.
Books in a Bookcase
(Borer, Be'er Rechovot, 25)
stringency from another direction:
The Terumat Ha-deshen is talking about items that are mixed together randomly
and are in each other's way, a situation wherein one cannot take a piece until
one removes the other from the platter... However, when each is sitting in its
place e.g., books which are arranged in a box or fruits laid out on a board
and not sitting on top of another,
bereira is not applicable.
This ruling limits the stringency of the
to a situation wherein one must move an unwanted item in order to reach a wanted
books in a bookcase with visible titles
are not in a ta'arovet, so
borer does not apply.
The same would apply to articles of
clothing lying next to each other that are easily identifiable; only a pile of
socks or a heap of books would be considered a true
A Piece in Liquid
In a similar way, the
(ibid., 11) allows taking large pieces out of liquids.
If flies fall into a cup, one must not remove the flies alone, because this is
like selecting pesolet from
okhel, which is forbidden...
This is true only of flies and the like,
as sometimes they sink and become blended in to the drink; when it comes to
large, noticeable items, however, such as meat sitting in sauce or vegetables
pickled in brine, we have not found that taking them out of the liquid would be
According to this, one may remove
a piece of meat from soup or gravy,
since there is no ta'arovet. Other Acharonim (Az
Vol. IV, Ch. 21;
Shabbat, Ch. 14, 17) agree that the prohibition of
borer does not apply to large pieces
in liquid and that it is permitted to remove the piece or the liquid even
using a utensil, such as the lid of a pot or a can.
All this is true for large pieces, but
small pieces which are difficult to remove
are considered to be in a ta'arovet,
and one must avoid selecting them.
Therefore, it is permitted to drain oil the out of a can of (whole) sardines,
but it is forbidden to drain it out of a can of tuna (which is cut into small
pieces). For the same reason, one
must not remove water from a can of peas or corn and the like (unless one pours
out the peas and corn as well).
Similarly, one may pour out the water from a jar of pickles, but not from a jar
A TA'AROVET AT THE POINT OF CONTACT
Sometimes, the two types are not totally blended but are only touching at a
given point. In such a situation,
only the point of contact is considered a
ta'arovet, so one may remove either
okhel or pesolet as long as one
does not directly affect that part.
An example of this is the cream on top of the milk. As the Mishna Berura (319:62)
Skimming the cream floating on top of the milk is included in
borer, so one must be careful when
one is approaching the level of the milk to leave a bit [of the cream], and then
it is permitted... Alternatively, one
may take a bit of the milk along with the cream [but to take only the cream and
none of the milk is forbidden even if one intends to eat it immediately
since one is removing it with the spoon].
According to this, only at the exact point where the cream meets the milk is
there a ta'arovet; separating it from
a different point involves no act of
bereira. Similarly, the Mishna
Berura (ibid., 55) forbids pouring out fat which is floating on top of gravy,
unless one also spills out some gravy.
in Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata
(3:19), rules that one may not pour the whey off of sour-milk and yogurt, unless
one also pours off some of the sour-milk.
However, this is questionable.
Firstly, sometimes the sour-milk is hard, in which case the whey is
totally separate. Indeed, Rav Moshe
Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, Vol. IV, Ch. 74,
Borer, 6) allows one to take the
"skin" off of the milk, since it is separate from the milk, as opposed to the
Is there a distinction between removing the "skin" on pasteurized milk and
removing cream which is floating on milk...?
Answer: It is obvious that removing this "skin" is permissible, because it is
totally separate from the milk.
This is easier to permit than [the removal of] the skin of garlic or onions, at
the end of Ch. 321, because [this "skin"] is edible, and it is not comparable to
the Magen Avraham's cream, which is a liquid which has congealed somewhat...
This tiny bit of cream on top of all
milk is as much a liquid as the milk below it.
Secondly, it may be that most people eat the sour-milk with the whey, and if so,
this should apparently be considered one type (because the whey is part of the
sour-milk), and there would be no prohibition of
Cantaloupe and Watermelon Seeds
Rav S.Z. Auerbach (cited in Shemirat
Shabbat Ke-hilkhata, Ch. 3, n. 94) rules:
The seeds which can be easily removed from the cantaloupe are not mixed at all
[with the flesh of the cantaloupe]... Even
when it comes to the individual seeds which are left, one may still note that
these seeds are not adhering and attached [to the flesh], but merely sitting on
top of it. There is no need for
discernment in order to remove them, as one requires in removing the cream from
the milk and the like, so it is logical that there would be no prohibition of
bereira, and in any case it would be
permissible immediately before the meal.
According to him, even at the point of contact, the seeds and the flesh are not
considered mixed, and one may dispose of the seeds normally. (The same applies to the top layer
of watermelon seeds; see Az Nidberu, Volume I, Chapter 26.)
One may even be lenient with the few
seeds that remain on the cantaloupe.
However, he recommends waiting until right before the meal, which allows
us to enlist those who permit bereira
when there is no other way to get to the fruit.
A LAYERED MIXTURE
(319:3, s.v. Le-ekhol miyad) expresses some doubts as to whether a
layered mixture is a ta'arovet. At first he presents a lenient view:
When there is one type and another type below it on a plate, and one removes the
upper layer in order to get to the lower layer... it appears that there would
not even be a rabbinic prohibition... As
the language of the Rambam and Shulchan Arukh indicates "If two types of food
are mixed together
before one" there is no problem in selecting one from the other if the types
are not mixed.
However, later on, he equivocates:
One may want to insist and claim that since each type is not arranged alone,
they are considered mixed and bereira
applies. Nevertheless, it appears
that one should be stringent only regarding removing a layer from above with
intent to leaving it for a later point... but if one has no such intent and is
simply removing this layer in order to get to the type below, this in no way
falls into the category of borer. Furthermore, consider the ruling of
the Shulchan Arukh above, 316:7, permitting trapping a snake if one is only
trying to prevent it from biting... since one does not care about the hunting
itself and simply wants to distance it from him, it is not considered to be a
Torah melakha. The same applies here when one wants
to remove a layer just to get at what is below.
Separating pesolet out of
okhel is different, because the
okhel is improved through one's
bereira, but that is not the case
here, as the lower type is not improved all through this separation.
According to him, the melakha of
borer in the context of a normal
ta'arovet is forbidden for two
reasons: 1) the very separation between
okhel and pesolet and 2) the
result of the bereira: fixing the
okhel. With a layered mixture, on the other
hand, only the first issue exists, while the second issue, fixing the
okhel, is not relevant, since in point
of fact the types are not truly mixed together, and removing one is not
considered a true tikkun of the other.
Based on this, the Bei'ur Halakha writes here (also see Mishna Berura ibid., 15)
that in a layered mixture
it is permitted to remove the upper type in order to get to the lower type.
An action such as this is not considered to be
selection and separation
between two things, because the person is totally uninterested in the upper
type. One's sole aim is to
remove that which impedes access to the lower level;
there is no tikkun, because there is no true
ta'arovet, and the lower type is not
Since neither aspect of the prohibition of
borer exists here, this act cannot be
regarded as bereira, and it would be
permitted even if one does not intend to use the lower type immediately (as Rav
Chayim Kanievsky, cited by the Ayil Meshullash, Ch. 4, n. 77, writes), as long
as one's aim is not to sort or to set aside the upper level, but simply to
remove the lower level.
The view of the Bei'ur Halakha indicates that one is allowed to do this only
layered mixture. When it comes to an
on the other hand, even if one is uninterested in the
pesolet and is only removing it in
order to get to the okhel, there is
prohibition of borer. Though there is no
selection and separation,
there is a
of the okhel,
and therefore it is forbidden. Only
with a layered mixture may one remove the unwanted layer.
This is true even if the upper layer is
since the same logic applies (as Rav Chayim Kanievsky, cited by the Ayil
Meshullash, Ch. 4, n. 82, writes).
A Pile of Books or Papers
One may not sort a pile of books, but one is allowed to remove books on top in
order to get to a book on the bottom (even if one must remove many books until
one gets to the desired volume).
For example, one may have numerous prayer-books and desire to separate it by
rite (Ashkenazic vs. Sephardic), or one
may want to separate prayer-books from Chumashim. Based on what we have seen, this act
is problematic (even though one may take away the upper volumes in order to get
to the desired book), and therefore it is preferable simply to put the books in
the bookcase without sorting them or to have each person take his or her
prayer-book and place it in its right place.
(This would also show the proper moral consideration for the sextons.)
One may also take each book out of the
pile, peruse it briefly and then put it in its proper place (Ayil Meshullash
Nevertheless, one should not criticize one who sorts a pile of prayer-books in
the normal way (as Rav Chayim Kanievsky, cited by the Ayil Meshullash, Ch. 18,
n. 14, writes), as there are those who rule (Or
8:11; see also
Shabbat, Ch. 14, 15, s.v. Sham) that
bereira does not apply to books,
while others hold that there is no
bereira for a layered mixture, all the more so when one can see the title of
each book on its spine.
Similarly, one may first put the books
on the shelf, so that the title of each is immediately visible; they are then no
longer considered to be mixed, so that one may then sort them (see Shulchan
Shelomo 319:1, 4; 2).
What about weekly parasha sheets?
If they are lying one on top of the other, this is a layered mixture, so
one may remove the upper ones in order to get to the desired parasha sheet. This is permissible even for later
However, if the sheets are truly mixed together haphazardly, one may not remove
an unwanted sheet. In this case,
one must peruse each removed sheet briefly until one gets to the desired sheet. It may be that there is another way
to permit this: one may arrange the pile so that each sheet lies directly on top
of another; one may then have a layered mixture.
(It does not appear to be at all problematic to arrange a pile of printed
matter in this way.)
PERMITTED METHODS OF SORTING
As we have seen above, the halakhic consensus is to forbid selection of
silverware and other utensils (although there are those who permit this). Is there then any unanimously
permissible way to sort utensils?
One may of course do so immediately before the meal, but there are other
Scattering the Mixture
One solution is found in the Gemara (74a) itself:
When Rav Dimi arrived, he said: "It was the Shabbat of Rav Bivi, and Rabbi Ammi
and Rabbi Assi happened to be there.
He poured out before them a basket of fruit, but I do not know if it was
because he maintains that that okhel
from pesolet is forbidden, or because
he intended to be magnanimous."
In this anecdote, Rav Bivi pours out a basket containing fruit and
pesolet rather than picking out the
pesolet. As Rashi explains,
He did not want to select the food from the leaves and put in front of each and
every one [of his guests], but rather he poured [the fruits] out and each
[guest] took and ate. In this act
of pouring out, the food becomes separated and independent.
The Gemara has its doubts: is Rav Bivi avoiding the prohibition of
borer, or is he just demonstrating
that he has a cornucopia of fruit?
Regardless, we see that one can overcome the prohibition of
borer by scattering the
ta'arovet once the items are
dispersed and no longer mixed, the prohibition of
borer is not applicable, and there is
no problem to sort them or to remove the
pesolet from the okhel. Rav Moshe Feinstein writes (Iggerot
Moshe, OC Vol. IV, Ch. 74, Borer,
11) that "this is a good idea," and Rav S.Z. Auerbach concurs (Shemirat
Shabbat Ke-hilkhata, Ch. 3, n. 6).
Sorting as a Byproduct
Another permissible way to sort is to remove the item from the mixture without
the aim of sorting, but for another aim.
Rav Neuwirth rules (Shemirat
Shabbat Ke-hilkhata 3:78):
One may not sort silverware in order to put each one in its own slot. It is forbidden as well to remove
all the utensils of one type
simultaneously, dry them and return them to their slots. However, to put the utensils in
their slots immediately after drying, as one takes each utensil randomly and
dries it on its own this is permissible.
In a note there (210), he explains in the name of Rav S.Z. Auerbach: "One is not
selecting and sorting; rather, one dries and puts in its place whatever comes
into one's hand." That is to say, if
there is a ta'arovet of wet
silverware, one may randomly remove each utensil and dry it, and after that it
is permissible to put each wherever one wants (e.g., forks in one slot, knives
in another, etc.). This action is
not forbidden as an act of sorting, since the removal of the utensil from the
ta'arovet is done
"whatever comes into one's hand" without any intent to sort, and since the
utensil is already separated from the mixture, there is no problem to put it in
its proper place. The same applies
when there is a mixture of dirty utensils in a sink: it is permissible to take
each time a utensil
and to wash it, and after that it is allowed to put it wherever one wants.
However, this is only allowed when one takes out the utensils randomly in order
to wash them or dry them. It is not
permissible to take out the utensils randomly from the mixture
in order to put each one in its proper place later,
since in this case we see the two actions as one act of sorting, which is
VII) Removing Pesolet with a Bit of
How may one remove a fly which has fallen into a drink? Is it permissible to remove a bone
with some meat on it? May one
remove the label which is stuck to a loaf of bread?
(319:13) writes that if a fly falls into one's drink, it is forbidden to remove
the fly alone, but it is permissible to take it out with a bit of liquid:
There is a prohibition, when flies fall into a cup, of removing the flies alone
from the cup, as this is analogous to selecting
pesolet; rather, one must take a bit
of the drink with them.
The Mishna Berura (ibid., 61) rules in accordance with the view of the Taz and
expands it to other circumstances.
From his words, it appears that every time one removes
pesolet with a bit of
okhel, there is no violation of
Therefore, when a fly or something else falls into one's food or drink, one must
not remove the fly, whether manually or with a utensil, because this is
selecting pesolet from
okhel; rather, one must take a bit of
the food or drink with it and toss it.
The Chazon Ish (53, s.v. Taz) argues forcefully with this approach:
The Taz's solution of taking some liquid with it requires further analysis. Presumably, every time one selects
okhel, taking a bit of
okhel with the
pesolet would still be prohibited. As long as one's intent is for the
remainder of the okhel to be
purified, does one care about a bit of the
okhel which comes out with the
pesolet? Similarly, one's action here proves
that one has no intent to split the drink between vessels; one wants to clean
out the fly from the cup! In what
way is the melakha deficient if one
takes a bit of the drink, as one's whole intent is to circumvent the prohibition
of removing the fly alone?
The Chazon Ish sees the Taz's reasoning as follows: if one is not separating
precisely between the fly and the drink, but rather is removing the fly with a
bit of liquid, one is merely dividing the drink between two vessels, the cup and
the spoon. The Chazon Ish objects
to this, as it is clear that this is a ruse; one's intent is obviously to "fix"
the drink by removing the fly, and this is a classic example of
bereira. What then does it help if one
removes a bit of the drink alongside the fly?
Similarly, the Chazon Ish (54:3) disputes the view of the Mishna Berura, that it
is permissible to remove
a bone with a bit of meat on it
(even if one has no intention of eating this bit of meat), because one is
removing the pesolet with a bit of
argues, writing that
"one is not thinking about the meat, but about picking the plate clean."
As we mentioned in our first shiur,
this argument apparently depends on the underlying rationale of the
maintains that the basis of the melakha
(fixing the food),
and therefore even if one removes the
pesolet with a bit of okhel, it
is still forbidden; at the end of the day, the
ta'arovet is "fixed" through one's
action. The Taz and the Mishna
Berura understand, apparently, that the basis of the
severing the connection between the okhel
and the pesolet,
and since in this case one is not removing the
pesolet alone and is not
disconnecting absolutely between the
okhel and the pesolet, there is
According to the Chazon Ish, separating in this manner involves a
Torah prohibition. According to the Taz and the Mishna
Berura, this method is
It should be noted that the
(53, s.v. Taz) suggests an alternate explanation for the words of the
Indeed, one may say that the wine on the body of the fly has the status of being
in a ta'arovet, and therefore the Taz
maintains that if one takes the fly itself, it is considered
borer in separating the wine on the
fly and between its wings from the rest of the wine, and therefore one should
take a bit of the liquid with it.
Meanwhile, the remaining liquid certainly has no status of
borer, as the fly was not mixed in it
In other words, it may be that the fly is not considered to be mixed with the
drink in the cup, but only with the liquid that is clinging to its body; if so,
when one removes the fly with the liquid which is around it, it turns out that
one takes the entire area of the
ta'arovet, and there is no action of
bereira. According to this, the Taz rules
leniently only when the pesolet is
not fully blended with the okhel, but
if the pesolet is fully mixed in
(such as bones in meat), the Taz would concede that one may not take the
pesolet with a bit of
(against the view of the Mishna Berura, who rules leniently regardless).
This argument has an important halakhic ramification, as we often encounter
pesolet in our
okhel. According to the
the solution is simple: it is possible to take the
pesolet with a bit of
okhel, and to do so is permissible. According to the
on the other hand, there is a Torah prohibition!
The same applies to a bone with some meat on it, as well as
pesolet that one removes with a bit
However, even according to the Chazon Ish, there are cases in which one may be
When one takes along with the pesolet
a large quantity of okhel
in this case, the Chazon Ish concedes that it is permissible, since this is
dividing a ta'arovet in two,
not an action of bereira.
When one removes the pesolet with a
bit of okhel
and eats the okhel stuck to the
e.g., if one removes a bone with some meat and eats that meat. In this case, the bone is deemed
insignificant relative to the meat, and one is considered to be selecting
okhel (Chazon Ish 54:3).
When the pesolet is not considered to
be mixed throughout the okhel, but
connected only at their point of contact in this case, even the Chazon Ish
allows one to remove the pesolet with
the okhel stuck to it, since one
removes the entire area of the ta'arovet,
as the Chazon Ish writes concerning a fly in a
ta'arovet with the liquid around it.
According to this, a
tag stuck to a loaf of bread
may be removed along with a bit of bread even according to the Chazon Ish, and
the same applies to
the fat on top of soup.
One may even be allowed to remove them without any of the
okhel stuck to them if one does so
just before the meal, as one is allowed to peel fruit under such conditions (as
we will discuss in our next shiur). It is nevertheless preferable to
remove them along with a bit of the okhel.
Practically, the halakhic consensus is to follow the lenient view of the
Borer, Be'er Rechovot, 20). However, wherever possible, it is
preferable to select in ways that even the Chazon Ish would approve of (by
tasting the bit of okhel one removes
or by removing a large quantity of okhel),
as according to his opinion, one may violate a prohibition on a Torah level, and
his argument is quite convincing, as we explained above. Similarly, even one who rules
leniently, following the Mishna Berura, should remove the
pesolet with a greater amount of
okhel then one would normally
To summarize, one may remove an insect from a drink using a
spoon in such a way that the insect and some of the adjacent liquid are in
the spoon. According to the
Mishna Berura's view, one may generally remove
pesolet with a bit of
okhel. However, it is preferable to be
stringent, taking the Chazon Ish into account, and to taste a bit of the
okhel or to remove a relatively large
amount of the okhel. When the
pesolet is stuck to the
okhel at one point, e.g., a tag
stuck to a loaf of bread, one may remove the
pesolet along with a bit of
okhel according to all opinions.