Borer (Part 1) The Definition of Borer

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon

 

THE LAWS OF SHABBAT

By Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon

 

 

Shiur #01: BORER (Part 1)

Translated by Rav Yoseif Bloch

 

 

I) The Definition of Borer

 

 

What is the nature of the prohibition of borer (selecting)?  What is the unique difficulty in explicating it?  Is it permitted to pick out just some of the refuse? 

 

ZOREH, BORER AND MERAKKED

 

As we attempt to delve into each of the thirty-nine types of labor (melakhot) which are forbidden on Shabbat, we must first understand how they relate to each other.  This is especially true in the case of the melakha of borer, which is strikingly similar to two other prohibitions, zoreh (winnowing) and merakked (sifting).  Why are all three necessary, and how do they relate to dash (threshing) and tochen (grinding) in the flour-making process? 

 

We must note that each wheat kernel is covered by a dry husk and supported by a stalk.  Before grinding the kernels into flour, the unwanted material, or chaff, must be removed, and the kernels must be cleansed of all dirt.  This is done in a number of stages.

 

FIRST STAGE (DASH-THRESHING): removing the chaff from the kernel.  In order to do this, pressure must be applied to the kernels of grain, so that the husk is broken and the wheat kernel is exposed.  This act is called threshing, and it is performed by striking the wheat with a stick or using a threshing instrument.  In biblical times, this act was accomplished through a threshing-sledge (Yeshayahu 41:15), a wooden implement, with blades on its bottom, which would be dragged on top of the harvested wheat.

 

SECOND STAGE (ZOREH-WINNOWING): separating the husk and the stalks from the grain.  In the previous step, each wheat kernel was removed from its husk, but the kernels, stalks and husks are still mixed together, and they must be separated.  One therefore takes a winnowing fan, into which the kernels, stalks and husks are placed and then thrown in the air.  The light husks and stalks blow away in the wind, while the heavy kernels fall back into the winnowing fan.

 

THIRD STAGE (BORER-SELECTING): removing dirt and pebbles.  The kernels of grain are now separated from the chaff; however, in the meantime, the kernels have become mixed with clumps of earth and pebbles.  Now is the time to pick out the refuse from the kernels. 

 

FOURTH STAGE (TOCHEN-GRINDING): breaking down the kernels into flour.  Now that the kernels are clean, they can be ground.

 

FIFTH STAGE (MERAKKED-SIFTING): separating the bran.  When the wheat kernels are ground, a mixture of fine flour and coarse flour (bran) is produced.  Now, they must be separated.  This is done by sifting the flour with a sieve: while the fine flour falls through the sieve’s holes, the coarse flour remains in it.

 

We can determine that zoreh, borer and merakked are similar melakhot.  The aim of each of these is to separate the pesolet (refuse) from the okhel (food), but each one uses a different means to that end: while zoreh utilizes the wind, borer is done by hand and merakked is accomplished through a utensil.  (See Rabbeinu Chananel, Shabbat[1] 74a; also see Ran, 31b, Rif ibid., et al.)  Indeed, the Talmud (73b) notes the similarity between these melakhot:

 

Zoreh is borer is merakked!

 

The Talmud explains that, despite the similarity, these three actions are counted as three separate melakhot since every one of them was performed in the Mishkan (Tabernacle), and every melakha which was performed in the Mishkan is counted on its own.  Therefore, our analysis of the melakha of borer actually deals with the principles tied to all three of these melakhot, all of which bring us to the same end: separating the pesolet from the okhel, the refuse from the food.

 

The Difficulty of the Melakha of Borer

In the melakha of borer, the distinction between a biblical prohibition and a totally permissible action is very fine.  With a slight alteration, an act which would have rendered one liable for violating Shabbat can become absolutely acceptable.  Therefore, this melakha requires intense study and unique comprehension.

 

We should also note that the terms "pesolet" and "okhel" are relative: pesolet is what one does not want in a mixture, while okhel is what one does want, whether it is edible per se or not.

 

THE BASIS OF THE MELAKHA OF BORER

 

At first glance, the very conception of the melakha of borer is questionable.  We have a rule that a melakha she-einah tzerikha le-gufah is biblically permissible (though rabbinically banned).  A melakha she-einah tzerikha le-gufah is a melakha which one performs without any interest in its essence, but for the sake of an incidental result.  For example, in catching a venomous snake in the interests of public safety, one is not compelled by the desire to acquire an animal (the essence of trapping), but by a side effect of confining it: preventing it from attacking people. (It is worth discussing at length the issue of how we define the "essence" of a given melakha, but this is not the occasion to do so.)  It would appear that every act of borer is a melakha she-einah tzerikha le-gufah, since it is the pesolet upon which the melakha is performed — and no one wants the pesolet which is being removed!

 

Indeed, the Baal Ha-ma’or writes (37b, Rif):

 

Every single one of the thirty-nine melakhot which parallel those performed in the Mishkan had an essential need within it, except for zoreh and borer.

 

According to this, borer is indeed a melakha she-einah tzerikha le-gufah; however, it (along with zoreh) is a unique innovation of the Torah: despite its nature, one is liable for such an act.

 

However, the words of the Ramban (106a) indicate that borer is considered a melakha ha-tzerikha le-gufah.  Why?  In order to understand his approach, let us take a look at the formulation of the author of the Yeshuot Ya’akov (quoted in Bei’ur Halakha 319:3, s.v. Le’ekhol miyyad):

 

The concept of the melakha of borer is that the pesolet is inedible, and the okhel as well is not quite edible as long as the pesolet is in its midst...  Consequently, the melakha is not picking out the pesolet, but rather fixing the okhel and rendering it edible, and this is a melakha essential for the okhel itself.

 

According to this, even though the melakha is executed by removing the pesolet, the essence of borer is fixing the okhel, and it turns out that it is an "essential" melakha.

 

If so, we have two approaches to the basis of the melakha of borer.

1.    Borer is removing the pesolet.

2.    Borer is fixing the okhel.[2]

 

This distinction has many ramifications, some of which we will enumerate here.

 

Removing Some of the Pesolet

 

The Talmud Yerushalmi (7:2) says that one may spend the whole day selecting without violating the prohibition of borer; inversely, one may select just a tiny amount and thereby violate the prohibition of borer.  How so?  The Yerushalmi explains:

 

Rabbi Yudan said: "One may pick out pebbles all day long and not be liable; one may take a fig’s worth and be liable immediately.  How is this done?  If one sits on a heap and picks out pebbles all day long — he is not liable.  If he takes a fig’s worth in his hand and picks out [the pebbles] — he is liable." 

 

            In other words, if one initiates the process of borer on a giant heap but fails to remove all of the pesolet from it, he is not liable.  On the other hand, if he performs borer fully on even a small amount, he is liable.  From the words of the Yerushalmi, we may conclude that the basis of the melakha of borer is fixing the okhel.  Therefore, even if one performs borer all day long, if he does not succeed in removing all of the pesolet from the okhel, the okhel has not been fixed, and therefore he is not liable. 

 

            According to the Eglei Tal’s view (Zoreh, 1), the Bavli disagrees with the Yerushalmi and renders one liable even if one does not remove all of the pesolet.  It may indeed be that the Bavli holds that borer is removing the pesolet, but the Bavli’s position may be explained in other ways.

 

Removing the Pesolet along with a Bit of Okhel

 

Another ramification of this distinction: according to the Taz (319:13), if a fly falls into one’s drink, the fly may be removed along with some of the liquid.  The Mishna Berura (ibid, 61) codifies the words of the Taz and expands upon them.  He determines that every time one picks out pesolet along with a bit of okhel, one does not violate the prohibition of borer.  Indeed, it is widely accepted that we rule leniently in accordance with the view of the Mishna Berura and that one is allowed to remove pesolet with a bit of okhel. 

 

However, the Chazon Ish (Ch. 53, opening; Ch. 54:3) vigorously rejects this approach.  According to him, one who removes, for example, a bone with a bit of meat on it violates the prohibition of borer, since "he is not thinking about the meat, but about picking the plate clean." (We will expand on this argument below.)

 

It appears that the Mishna Berura and the Chazon Ish argue over the point raised above.  If we understand that the basis of the melakha of borer is eliminating the pesolet, it may be that removing it with a bit of okhel negates what has been done to the pesolet, as there is no segregation between okhel and pesolet.  (This would be the understanding of the Mishna Berura, who permits one to remove the pesolet with a bit of okhel.)  However, if we understand that the basis of the melakha of borer is fixing the okhel, we should forbid this even if one takes a bit of okhel along with the pesolet, since the ultimate result is that one fixes the remaining okhel.  (This would be the understanding of the Chazon Ish, who forbids removing pesolet with a bit of okhel.) 

 

There are many other ramifications of this distinction, and we will return to them presently.

 

 

 

II) The Fundamental Rule of the Prohibition of Borer

 

What practical solutions are there to separate between okhel and pesolet?  Is it possible to eat in a normal way on Shabbat? 

 

The Gemara (74a) brings a beraita concerning the prohibition of borer and the act of bereira (selection):

 

The rabbis taught: If types of food lay before one, one may select and eat, select and set aside [for others]; but one may not select, and if one selects, one is liable [to bring] a sin-offering.

 

In the words of the beraita, there is a clear contradiction: at first it says that it is permitted to perform borer; then, at the end, it says that there is a biblical prohibition to do so and that one who does so must bring a sin-offering.  The Gemara is aware of this contradiction and suggests a number of solutions.

 

Rav Yosef said: "'One may select and eat' by hand, 'select and set aside' by hand...  By sieve and sifter, 'one may not select, and if one selects, one is liable [to bring] a sin-offering.'"

 

Rav Hamnuna said: "'One may select and eat' the food out of the refuse, 'select and set aside' the food out of the refuse.  Refuse out of food, 'one may not select, and if one selects, one is liable [to bring] a sin-offering.'"

 

Abbayei said: "'One may select and eat' for immediate use, 'select and set aside' for immediate use.  But for [later] that day, 'one may not select, and if one selects, one is liable [to bring] a sin-offering.'"

 

According to many Rishonim (Rabbeinu Chananel, Rambam, Ramban, et al.), the Amora'im argue only about the best way to explicate the language of the beraita, but there is no halakhic argument between them, as anyone who performs borer with a sieve or sifter (i.e., with a sorting appliance) or by removing refuse from food (pesolet mi-tokh okhel) or with the aim of eating later is liable.  Selection is prohibited unless all three conditions are met: a) selecting by hand and not with a sorting appliance, b) taking okhel out of pesolet and c) selecting for the purpose of eating immediately.  The Shulchan Arukh rules accordingly (319:1-4):

 

One who picks food out of refuse...  by sieve and sifter is liable...  If one selects by hand in order to eat immediately, this is permissible...  One who picks food out of refuse for later, even on that very day, is considered to be selecting for the granary and is liable...  One who picks refuse out of food, even with one hand, is liable. 

 

WHY IS IT PERMITTED?

 

Why do these three conditions suffice to permit borer?  The simplest understanding is that we are talking about a certain alteration (shinnui) from the normal selection process (derekh bereira).  However, this appears quite difficult, because generally doing something with an alteration downgrades a Torah prohibition to a rabbinic one, but it does not make it permissible ab initio.  Why is it totally permitted to perform borer under these conditions?  We have found two approaches to this question among the Rishonim:

 

A Deviation from Normal Selection

 

Rashi (ibid.) explains that selection under these circumstances is not considered an act of bereira. 

 

Selecting by hand bears no similarity to borer... 

 

"The food out of the refuse" — this is not the way of selection.

 

"'Select and set aside' for immediate use" — to eat immediately, as this is not the way of those who select.

 

That is to say, since there is a total deviation, the act is totally permissible.  It may be that the combination of all three of these things (by hand, okhel from pesolet, for immediate use) makes the alteration so remarkable that the act becomes permissible ab initio.

 

Tosafot also follow this approach (s.v. Borer Ve-okhel), writing:

 

"'One may select and eat' the food out of the refuse" — it sounds as if picking food out of refuse is not the way of selection.  This is difficult, since at the beginning of Chapter 20 (138a), we say "What is the way to select?  One selects the food from the refuse."  One may suggest that in that case, there is more refuse than food, so that selecting the food from the refuse is the way of selection (derekh bereira). 

 

In any case, Tosafot maintain that the permissibility of the act is based on its being "not the way of selection," and in light of this they propose a novel idea: that if one has a mixture in which the majority is pesolet, one is allowed to remove the pesolet in particular, since "the way of selection" in this case would be to removed the okhel (and thus if one would in fact remove the food, one would be liable). 

 

The Manner of Eating

 

The Ramban (ibid., s.v. Ve-hatanya chayav) and other Rishonim dispute Tosafot's innovation (indeed, the halakhic authorities reject it[3]).  The Ramban writes:

 

This is illogical, for when it comes to Shabbat, it is always forbidden to pick out refuse and leave food, and even though both of them are the way of selection, [the general principle is that] on Shabbat we involve ourselves only with [removing] that which is permitted and not with that which is forbidden.  One who involves himself with [removing] the forbidden part is considered like one who selects for the granary, for his intention is not to eat what one has selected, and thus, he is liable if he does so. 

 

According to this view, selecting okhel from pesolet is considered derekh bereira just as much as selecting pesolet from okhel.  The permissibility to select okhel from pesolet (when one does so manually and for immediate use) does not stem from the fact that such an act is not derekh bereira, but from the fact that one who does so is involving himself with permitted material and preparing a meal.  Therefore, it makes no difference if the okhel or the pesolet is quantitatively greater — in any case, one must select the food one wants to eat and not involve oneself with the pesolet.

 

From the words of the Ramban it emerges that the three conditions required to permit bereira are not based on the concept of shinnui, that the act is no longer consistent with derekh bereira, rather they are based on a positive principle.  Namely, bereira under these conditions falls under a new category: derekh akhila, the way one eats.  When one picks out food by hand and immediately eats it, this is considered a natural part of the process of eating, and it is not included in the prohibition of borer.

 

This principle, that the permissibility of selection is based on its being categorized as derekh akhila, also appears in the words of Rabbeinu Chananel (74b):

 

What is the reason?  The Torah forbids “thoughtful labor,” and this is not “thoughtful labor,” because one has no intention in this melakha beyond the simple act of eating.

 

This is also implied in the Chiddushim Ha-meyuchasim La-Ran (74a, s.v. U-l’vo va-yom):

 

One might challenge Abbayei: since one who selects for later that day is liable, how is it permitted to do so for immediate use — is not cooking forbidden even for immediate use?  But this is untenable; since it is only a temporary state, [this act of bereira] is no more than a part of the eating process...

 

These principles are very important for our understanding of "immediate use."  There are two schools of thought regarding this issue.  One approach (that of Rashi and Tosafot) searches for permissibility based on the standard halakhic principle of shinnui — a minor shinnui changes a biblical prohibition to a rabbinic one, while a great shinnui renders it totally permissible.  The other view, that of the Ramban and his camp, posits that the Torah allows a person to eat and to prepare to eat in a normal way, and therefore when one is involved in eating and preparing to eat — there is no prohibition at all.[4]  Of course, even according to this approach, only acts which are directly related to eating itself are permissible, not other elements, such as cooking and the like.)

 

This argument has practical ramifications for the status of borer for immediate use.  In later shiurim, we will deal with the definitions of "immediate use" and "by hand."  Before this, we must clarify some important principles in the melakha of borer.

 

III) Two Types of Food

 

Is it permissible to take out slices of tomato from one's salad?  Is it permissible to take raisins out of rice if one does not like them?  Is it permissible to sort the silverware for the next meal?  Is it permissible to arrange the pieces on a chessboard after the game?

 

Is borer prohibited only when there is actual pesolet mixed in with the okhel, or is borer prohibited even with two types of okhel?

 

The Gemara (74a) states:

 

The rabbis taught: If types of food lay before one, one may select and eat, select and set aside [for others]; but one may not select, and if one selects, one is liable [to bring] a sin-offering.

 

The words of the Gemara indicate that even when one is faced with two types of okhel, there is a biblical prohibition to sort them.  However, Rashi (s.v. Hayu) maintains that there is another version of this Talmudic text: "Our version is 'If types of food lay before one,' but our version is not 'two.'"  According to him, the proper version of the text is not "two types of food," but rather "types of food." 

 

According to this version, one may understand that the person is not separating between one type of food and another type, but rather one is selecting the types of okhel from the pesolet which is mixed in with them.  It may be that Rashi rejects the "two types of food" version because he maintains that there is no prohibition to separate one type of food from another, but only to remove pesolet from okhel.  Tosafot (s.v. Hayu lefanav) also imply that this is the proper understanding according to Rashi’s version of the text.[5]

 

However, Tosafot themselves accept the version of "two types of food":

 

Our version is "if two types of food lay before one," and this is Rabbeinu Chananel's explanation: that bereira applies in selecting okhel from okhel, when one selects the type which one does not want to eat from the type that one wants to eat, because the type which one does not want is considered pesolet relative to the type which one wants to eat. 

 

According to them, the prohibition of borer applies even to the separation of one type of food from another type of food.  As we have seen, the essence of the prohibition of borer is that one is selecting pesolet out of okhel.  If so, what is considered pesolet when there are two types of food?  Tosafot explain that the desired type is defined as okhel, while the currently undesired type is defined as pesolet. 

 

In the Yerushalmi (7:2), there is an explicit dispute on the issue of selecting okhel from okhel: "If one selects food from food, Chizkiya said: 'He is liable;' Rabbi Yochanan said: 'He is exempt.'"

 

The Root of the Argument

 

On what does this dispute of the Rishonim — as well as the Acharonim — turn?  The Bei'ur Halakha (319:3, s.v. Le'ekhol miyad) cites the words of the Yeshu’ot Ya'akov to explain this:

 

The melakha is not picking out the pesolet, but rather fixing the okhel and rendering it edible, and this is a melakha essential for the okhel itself, because one makes it into prepared food.  According to this, it is only picking pesolet out of okhel [which is forbidden], because initially [the mixture] is totally inedible, and one makes it into food through this bereira.  However, in the case of two types of food, wherein one separates the second type of food because one does not want to eat it, it is considered a melakha which is not essential le-gufah, since this food that one wants to eat is currently edible, even while it is mixed with the second type of food, and the separation is motivated solely by the fact that [the second type of food] does not interest one at the moment.

 

According to his view, following the understanding that the basis of the melakha of borer is tikkun okhel, one who selects food from food will be exempt because there is no tikkun okhel, as one is able to eat the mixture without any bereira.  According to this, it may be that that Tosafot and their camp understand that the basis of the melakha of borer is hotza'at pesolet, and therefore bereira applies when one has two types of food, since one removes the undesired food, considering this okhel to be pesolet, as Tosafot explain. 

 

However, the Bei'ur Halakha himself (ibid.) questions this suggestion of the Yeshu’ot Ya'akov, and he concludes that even if the basis of the melakha is tikkun okhel, in any case there is good reason to forbid bereira between two types of food:

 

We are compelled to say that he maintains that even when there are two types of food that are mixed together, each type is improved by its being sorted, and therefore it is called melakha ha-tzerikha le-gufah. 

 

In other words, sorting okhel from okhel is also a type of tikkun, since each type is made better by being separated from the other.

 

It may well be that there is a practical difference between these two approaches in the case of two types of food where one is stacked atop the other, as to whether one may remove the top food in order to reach the bottom food.  The Bei'ur Halakha (ibid.) permits such an act, consistent with his approach cited above, since the two types are not mixed together, and as such the removal of the top layer does not significantly improve the bottom layer (it merely allows one to reach the food below).  On the other hand, if we understand that the basis of the melakha of borer is hotza'at pesolet, this must be prohibited even though there is no tikkun of the lower level, since there clearly is an act of removing an unwanted substance – which must be considered pesolet in context.

 

However, it may be that this act is unanimously permitted, since items piled on top of each other are not considered a mixture at all.  (We will deal with this at length in a later shiur.)

 

Removing One Type of Food to Eat the Other Immediately

 

In order to properly understand the status of separating two types of food, we must examine the opinion of the Shulchan Arukh, who rules (319:3): "If two types of food are mixed together before one, one may select one from the other and set aside for immediate use."  The Shulchan Arukh rules that there is a prohibition of borer with two types of food; however, there is one point which is unclear in his words.  As we have seen, when there is a mixture of okhel and pesolet, it is permitted to remove manually the okhel from the pesolet, but one may not take the pesolet from the okhel, even if one's intention is to eat the okhel immediately.  However, when it comes to two types of food, the Shulchan Arukh writes that one is allowed to "select one from the other" and to eat it immediately, but he does not state explicitly if one is required to remove from the mixture the wanted type specifically.  It should be noted that the Shulchan Arukh’s formulation here is a quotation from the Rambam (Hilkhot Shabbat 8:13).  Regarding the Rambam’s view, some Acharonim (cited by the Bei'ur Halakha, 319:3, s.v. U-meniach) understand that since there is no objective pesolet here, one may even remove the undesired type in order to immediately eat the other type.[6]

 

 

However, the Rema adds two words to the Shulchan Arukh's formulation: "One may select one from the other and set aside the other for immediate use."  The Magen Avraham (ibid., 4) explains that the intention of the Rema is to stress that one is permitted only to remove the desired type and to leave the other one; one may not remove the type which one does not want to eat, since this type is considered pesolet.  It is quite possible that the Shulchan Arukh also accepts this and the Rema is only clarifying his words.  As we are talking about a potential Torah prohibition, even the Sephardic authorities (see Yalkut Yosef 319:16) rule stringently on this matter. 

 

Summary 

In sum, the prohibition of borer applies even to separating two types of food.

 

SORTING

 

How does Halakha view a situation in which there are two types of okhel, neither of which is currently desired?  What if one is interested not in one or the other, but both — just not for immediate use, but for a longer-term purpose?

 

For example, what if one wants to arrange the pieces on a chessboard after a game is over?[7] 

 

One is not interested in the immediate use of these pieces, but rather in the next game, which may not happen for quite a while. 

 

Alternatively, what if one wants to sort silverware for the next meal?  At the moment, knives are not more desirable than forks — one wants both, just for later use.  Is this permissible? 

 

Presumably, this depends on the question of the reasoning behind the prohibition of bereira of two types of food.  According to the aforementioned view of Tosafot, this prohibition stems from the fact that the undesired type is regarded as pesolet, so that one is in fact removing pesolet from okhel.  However, one may understand that there is no pesolet here; rather, the very separation between two things is forbidden, since every separation involves a tikkun of those items, and therefore it is prohibited as borer.[8]

 

If we understand that the unwanted type is regarded as pesolet, we may say that since neither type is currently desired, as one wishes to use both of them at a later point, there is neither pesolet nor okhel in this case, so there cannot be a prohibition of borer.  However, if we understand that the very separation between the two types is forbidden, such sorting would be forbidden. 

 

This issue is disputed by the Acharonim.  The Peri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav 320:2) indicates that such sorting could be permitted on Shabbat, as there is neither okhel nor pesolet,[9] while the Bei'ur Halakha (319:3, s.v. Hayu lefanav) rules that the prohibition of borer applies here as well:

 

The Peri Megadim is in doubt whether one's selection of one type from another, with the intention to set aside both for a later point, is considered bereira — after all, where is the okhel and where is the pesolet? 

In my humble opinion, it seems obvious from the language of the Rambam that he maintains that the essence of the melakha of bereira is to select one type from another, so that each type becomes independent; but if one's intention is to eat right away, and it is in one's hands — this is how one eats!

If so, a fortiori, given that a selection process which leaves one type in place is considered to be bereira, all the more so in a selection process which involves taking each type and setting it down on its own, is one liable...  When one sorts two types of food, [separating] each from the other in order to eat each type independently at a later point, one is definitely improving both of them through one's bereira, and it is indisputably borer, as we have written.

 

According to the Bei'ur Halakha, this type of sorting is even worse than regular bereira of two types of food.  In regular bereira, one takes only one type, leaving the other in its place, while in the case of sorting, one places each of these in a separate place, and it turns out that one has done an act of bereira with both of the types, and all the more so, one should be liable for violating the prohibition of borer!

 

The Peri Megadim understands that the prohibition to select one type of food from another is based on the fact that the undesired type is defined as pesolet.  Naturally, when one wants both of them at a later time, there is neither pesolet nor okhel, and ipso facto, there is no prohibition of borer.

 

On the other hand, the Bei'ur Halakha understands that the very separation between two types is forbidden, as the creation of a state in which every type stands on its own is considered tikkun.  If, in a situation in which one only wants to use one type out of two it is considered bereira because one is fixing that type, then certainly when one wants both types and separates them, this renders one liable for violating borer, because one is executing tikkun on both of the types!

 

Halakha:

 

Based on the Bei'ur Halakha’s ruling to forbid sorting of this type, the accepted ruling is that it is forbidden.  Of course, if one needs both types immediately (e.g., if one wants to play another game right now, or one wants to begin a meal soon), it is permitted to sort them, even according to the view of the Bei'ur Halakha.  Similarly, one may take the view of the Peri Megadim into consideration as an argument for leniency when there are other mitigating factors. 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] All Talmudic references are to Tractate Shabbat, and all Shulchan Arukh references are to Orach Chayyim, unless otherwise indicated.

[2] In fact, the actual words of the Ramban seem to indicate a third understanding: borer is the very separation between the pesolet and the okhel.  However, we will confine ourselves to the two main approaches at this time.  See also footnote 6 concerning the view of the Rambam on this issue.

[3] However, see the Nishmat Adam (Shabbat, 16:2), who writes that it is advisable to assume the stringency of Tosafot's view in a case where there is a majority of pesolet. 

[4]  Those who follow this view tend to permit other things as well.  For example, in the Rashba's Responsa (Vol. IV, Ch. 75), he raises the following novelty: just as borer for immediate use is permissible, tochen (grinding) for immediate use is permissible, as "whoever prepares food for immediate use, in the way that human beings are accustomed to eat," is allowed to do so.  (We will return to this concept in a future shiur.)  On the other hand, the opposing view, based on the concept of derekh bereira, emerges in the view of the Rid in the Sefer Ha-makhria (Ch. 23), who permits (at least on a biblical level) to select okhel from pesolet even not for immediate use.  We can understand this only if we assume that removing okhel is not derekh bereira, for if it is bereira not meant for immediate use, it cannot be considered derekh akhila.  Indeed the Rid explicitly writes elsewhere (Piskei Ha-Rid, 74a) that shinnui is the basis of the conditions allowing bereira (cited in our discussion of tochen).  Also see the Olat Shabbat (320:14) and the Taz (320:5), who rule that even according to Rabbeinu Tam, who forbids squeezing an unripe fruit into food (O.C. 320:5), one may do so for immediate use.  On this approach, it appears that the "immediate use" exception exists also in the prohibition of squeezing as a subcategory of dash, and it is possible to explain that derekh akhila is the basis of this exception.  However, the words of the Olat Shabbat and the Taz themselves indicate that that they believe that Rabbeinu Tam forbids squeezing an unripe fruit because of borer and not because of dash, and only because of this do they permit one to squeeze the fruit for immediate use.

Generally, it appears that the Sephardic sages tend to endorse the derekh akhila approach (Ramban, Rashba, Ran of the Rishonim; among the later halakhic authorities: the Ben Ish Chai and Rav Ovadya Yosef, as demonstrated by their views of "immediate use," as we will discuss later), while the Ashkenazic sages seem to follow the shinnui approach (Rashi, Tosafot among the Rishonim; among the later halakhic authorities: the Mishna Berura, the Chazon Ish, et al.), and they therefore rule more stringently concerning bereira while eating — though this is not absolute, as the Rema rules leniently about tochen for immediate use.  (We will discuss these issues in later shiurim.)

[5] The Eglei Tal (Borer, 24) also prefers this understanding of Rashi’s view.  However, he also cites the Magen Avot, who understands that Rashi also forbids the sorting of two types of food; the Peri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav 319:2, s.v. Da) accepts this latter interpretation.  

[6]     This is how the Peri Megadim, in his work Rosh Yosef (Shabbat 74a), understands the view of the Rambam.  He explains that, according to the Rambam, the basis of the melakha of borer is not hotza'at pesolet or the tikkun okhel achieved by purifying it from pesolet, but the very separation of two types so that each exists on its own.  On this definition, it stands to reason that the prohibition of borer would apply to two types of food even if neither is defined as pesolet.  (Still, removing okhel by hand for immediate use is not included in the prohibition, so that when one is confronted with two types of okhel, one is allowed to remove whichever type one wants). 

[7]     The general question of the applicability of bereira to non-food items will be fully addressed in a later shiur.

[8]     See above, footnote 6, that this is the Peri Megadim's understanding of the Rambam. 

[9]     The Peri Megadim also explains the mishna (139b) which allows one to strain an egg in a mustard strainer along these lines.