Borer (Part 7) Selecting Refuse from Refuse

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon

THE LAWS OF SHABBAT

By Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon

 

Shiur #07: BORER (Part 7)

 

XIII) Selecting Refuse from Refuse

 

 

Is it permissible to use a sink strainer?  Is one permitted to separate the scraps of shemitta produce from other scraps? 

 

Sink Strainer

 

We have seen in our previous shiurim that bereira (selection) is forbidden on Shabbat if performed with a keli (vessel or utensil) or by removing pesolet (refuse) from okhel (food).  Thus, it would seem clear that the use of a sink strainer should be forbidden, because the strainer is a keli and the pesolet is caught in it.  Let us try to examine this case, an analysis that will lead us to an important principle regarding the melakha of borer (selecting).

 

The mishna (139b) allows one to put an egg in a mustard strainer (mesannenet), even though the strainer causes the yolk and the white to separate.  The Gemara (140a) explains why this is permitted: "Yaakov Korcha taught: 'Because it is only done for coloring.'"  In other words, since this bereira is done for the sake of coloring with the yolk, there is no prohibition here.  The words of the Gemara are confusing: what difference does it make if one is interested in the yolk for coloring or for some other purpose?  As long as one is interested in isolating the yolk for any use, this should be forbidden bereira!

 

Rashi explains:

 

"Because it is only done for coloring" — for appearance; the yolk is good for coloring, but not the white. Therefore, both of these are okhel, and there is no selection of pesolet from okhel.

 

According to him, since both the yolk and the albumen are edible, there is no bereira of pesolet from okhel, but rather of okhel from okhel.  Rashi seems to follow his view that there is no prohibition of bereira for two types of food.  However, his comments raise a question: if in any case there is no prohibition to select okhel from okhel, for what purpose does the Gemara raise the point that "it is only done for coloring"?

 

The Acharonim argue as to how to explain Rashi's words.  The Bach (319, s.v. Mesannenet) explains that selecting okhel from pesolet is forbidden whether one selects for the sake of okhel or whether one selects for the sake of something else; selecting okhel from okhel is forbidden only if one selects for the sake of utilizing the okhel for its usual use.  Therefore, it is permitted based on the combination of these two factors: a) the two types are both okhel; b) one is interested in the yolk not for eating, but for coloring (this is implied by the Tur as well).

 

The Peri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav, 319:2, 12; see Taz 319:12) explains that there is no prohibition to sort two types of foods when the purpose is for the convenience of eating them separately later.  The prohibition of bereira for two types of food exists only when one type is for immediate use and the other is for later use, for then we define the unwanted type as pesolet, so that there is a separation of okhel from pesolet here.  Thus, the Gemara stresses that it is the yolk, which is used for coloring the mustard, which passes through the mesannenet while the white remains; since both the yolk and the white will be eaten later, and both of them are considered okhel in equal measure, there is no prohibition to separate them.

 

The Magen Avraham (16) explains that the yolk and the white are considered to be of the same type, and therefore it is permissible to perform bereira on them. If so, one wonders, why does the Gemara state: "Because it is only done for coloring"?  The Magen Avraham explains (as understood by the Machatzit Ha-shekel) that this sentence is not the reason that it is permissible; it merely comes to prove that the yolk and the white are both considered to be okhel.  One might have thought that the yolk and the white of a raw egg are not fit to be eaten and are not considered okhel, and only the yolk, which is mixed with mustard, is considered okhel, since one eats it together with the mustard.  According to this understanding, one may not strain an egg with the mustard, since the yolk will become okhel and the white will remain pesolet, and it turns out that one is removing okhel from pesolet.  It is for this reason that the Gemara points out that the yolk and the white are both fit for consumption and are considered okhel in any case.  The yolk is not put in the mustard to change it into food, but only for the purpose of coloring.  Nevertheless, there is a problem with this explanation: if the main innovation of the mishna is that it is permissible to separate between the two parts of the egg, why does it talk specifically about a mustard strainer, and not say simply that one is allowed to strain an egg?  Similarly, it is a bit difficult to say that the reason cited by the Gemara does not justify the practice, but merely makes a side-point. 

 

Let us turn to the explanation of the Bei'ur Halakha (319:3, s.v. Hayu lefanav), who notes an important ramification: 

 

In that case, neither of them will ever be consumed, because the white is mixed with the pesolet of the mustard and one does not want to eat it, and the yolk is extracted for coloring and not for eating.  Thus, the classification of borer is not appropriate, because through one's bereira, one does not prepare it for eventual consumption. However, when one selects two types of food, each one from the other, in order to eat each on its own at a later point, both of them are improved through one's bereira, and it is clearly borer.

 

The Bei’ur Halakha seems to assume that the case is that the white which remains in the strainer is tossed away and not eaten, and even the yolk is not used for eating but for coloring. Assuming that neither component is designated as okhel, both are considered pesolet, thus there is no significant tikkun (improvement) in their separation, and no prohibition of borer is involved.  This is not comparable to an act of borer, because the separation involved in borer is where the person is interested in both of the types for a later point, which renders their separation as a tikkun. Here, on the other hand, one is not interested in either component, and therefore there is no significant tikkun in their separation.

 

It is not clear how the Bei'ur Halakha explains the Gemara’s phrase "only done for coloring," or why he believes that that which is separated for coloring is considered pesolet and not okhel, but in any case he articulates an important principle: borer of two types, both of which are destined to be pesolet, is permissible, since there is no great significance to this separation.

 

Similarly, the Chazon Ish (53, s.v. U-le'inyan barza) explains that it is permissible to select something which immediately goes to waste.  He derives this from the rule of squeezing fruit: one is allowed to squeeze fruit if the juice goes to waste (even though some believe that there is a rabbinic prohibition in doing so; we will deal with this in our next series).  The Chazon Ish seems to say that bereira is forbidden only if it is a tikkun for eating or another use, but when everything will go to waste (or the selected matter goes to waste and the other part is worthless), there is no prohibition of borer at all. 

 

One should add that that this case is defined as bereira of one type because both elements are designated as pesolet.  While the person has interest in separating the two types of pesolet, it is permitted by the same rationale as separating small and large pieces of one type; even though the person is interested in separating them, there is no prohibition, since they are considered one type, and the person's will is a mere preference.

 

In light of this, one can understand why there is no concern of borer when one spills things into a sink which has a strainer — since both types are headed to the garbage, there is no prohibition.

 

Indeed, modern halakhic authorities allow one to use a sink strainer.  For example, the Tzitz Eliezer (Vol. VII, 12:8) writes:

 

I have seen some who are fastidious and remove the sink strainer before Shabbat, as they are concerned about borer, since the thick pesolet is separated from the rest and remains above the drain...  However, in my humble opinion, there is no need to be overly cautious about this stringency, for it appears clear that in every case wherein two types are selected from each other but they both go to waste, the prohibition of bereira is not applicable at all.  In order to remove any question here I will bring a proof to this from the words of the Mishna Berura...  that when neither of them is designated for eating, there is no issue of borer.  I have also seen that the Chazon Ish says the same...  Furthermore, my beloved son... showed me that the Peri Megadim says... that separating pesolet from pesolet is not borer (see ibid.), and in our case it is also pesolet from pesolet.

Thus, it is clear that one should not be concerned at all about borer when one pours on Shabbat into the drain of the sink by way of the strainer, and one need not remove the strainer for Shabbat. 

 

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, OC, Vol. IV, Ch. 74, Borer, 4), Rav Elyashiv and Rav Zilber (cited by the Ayil Meshullash, Ch. 7, n. 111) confirm this, and Rav Neuwirth writes the same in Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata (12:16).  This is the halakhic consensus. 

 

To summarize, one may use a sink strainer, since there is no prohibition of borer in separating pesolet from pesolet.  The reason is that there is no significant tikkun, and indeed the two elements may be considered to be of the same type.

 

Bereira of Shemitta Produce

 

Every seventh year, Jews in Israel confront the challenge of the shemitta (sabbatical) year, the produce of which is considered holy, requiring one to save the scraps and put them in a separate container (until they have decayed).  May one separate shemitta scraps from the rest of the discarded food on Shabbat, or this is a violation of the prohibition of borer? 

 

At first glance, even though this appears to be the removal of desired okhel from unwanted pesolet, there would still be a prohibition in this matter, because the bereira is not being done for immediate use.  However, in light of the principle which we saw above, it appears that one may allow this, since both types of remnants are not designated for akhila (eating), although we put them in different containers.  Since neither will be eaten, this is the separation of pesolet from pesolet, which involves no prohibition of borer. 

 

However, this issue is not clear-cut, since we are not talking about two types of trash, but trash on the one hand and shemitta produce on the other; if so, the two things are different in a very basic way from each other, and perhaps there is in their separation a violation of borer, even though both of them are not designated for akhila.

 

A Halakhic Distinction

 

However, this distinction between two types of scraps is not based on a practical difference between the two, but only a halakhic difference, and here arises the question: is the halakhic status of components found in a mixture significant with regard to the prohibition of borer?

 

This question depends on a dispute among the halakhic authorities.  The Chayei Adam (16:8) wonders: may one filter water which has small bugs in it?  In his Nishmat Adam (ibid. note 5), he explains his ambivalence:

 

One may say that even though one may not drink the water because of the bugs, nevertheless, if not for the recoil from the prohibition, one could drink it...  However from the Responsa of the Rosh... it is clear that if [the filtering] is not at the time of drinking, it is forbidden.  It is possible that one may differentiate between bugs such as flies and the like — which, even without the prohibition, are repulsive and defined as absolute pesolet — and the small bugs which grow in beer and drinks, that if not for the prohibition, one would drink them.  Indeed, the proof is that the non-Jews drink it in this way, so [the small bugs] may be like debris in water... 

 

In other words, we are talking about water which is appropriate to drink because non-Jews drink it as is, and even the Jews avoid it only because of the prohibition of consuming bugs.  We saw in the previous shiur that the filtering of liquids is permissible when it comes to "clear water" and forbidden for "cloudy water," and so one must ask: is the water in our case considered to be clear water, since in a practical sense there is nothing preventing one from drinking it, or is it considered cloudy water, since halakhically it is forbidden to drink it as is?  The Chayei Adam cites the view of the Kol Bo (Ch. 31, s.v. Ha-motzi), who allows one to filter gnats out of water, but the Chayei Adam leaves it as an open question.[1]

 

According to the Eglei Tal (Borer, 11; 20) the existence of a halakhic prohibition is not significant for the issue of borer.  The Shulchan Arukh (500:6) rules in accordance with the view of the Ra'avya (Ch. 730) that on Yom Tov it is permitted to remove the forbidden fat and sciatic nerve from the meat, and there is no problem of borer.  The Eglei Tal explains that since these parts are fit for consumption, and it is only the Divine command which keeps one from eating them, these parts are not considered pesolet, but rather they are considered to be of one type with the rest of the meat, and removing them does not violate the prohibition of borer. 

 

The Minchat Chinukh (Mosakh Ha-shabbat, Borer 6) raises a similar question: if one has a number of fruit of a single type, some of which are halakhically prohibited, do those forbidden foods have the status of pesolet?  Since there is no real, pragmatic difference, from the culinary or biological point of view, between the forbidden and the permitted fruit, is the halakhic distinction enough to turn them into two types? 

 

The Minchat Chinukh notes that a similar question is discussed by the Ran (60a-b of the Rif pagination, s.v. Amar, Va-acherim).  The Ran deals with the question of whether one may milk a goat, when the milk goes directly into a pot of food, on Shabbat.  (There is a special permit for extracting liquid when it is defined as being “extracted directly into food,” as this is not considered to be creating a new substance – liquid; see Shulchan Arukh 319:4.)  This is allowed on Yom Tov because the milk and the goat are both considered okhel (since one may slaughter the goat for consumption on that day).  However, on Shabbat there is a prohibition to slaughter the goat — so how can the goat be considered okhel?  The Ran cites a dispute:

 

One may milk a goat when the milk goes directly into a pot of food... specifically on Yom Tov, but on Shabbat even when the milk goes directly into a pot of food the milking is forbidden.  This is the reason: even though one may squeeze a cluster of grapes into a pot of food on Shabbat, that is because the cluster itself is edible [so you are squeezing directly from food into food], unlike a goat, which is not fit for use on Shabbat... so that it is selecting okhel from pesolet...

Others say that just as we permit one to squeeze a cluster of grapes into a pot of food on Shabbat, so too we permit one to milk a goat when the milk goes directly into a pot, even on Shabbat...  Since the goat itself is fit for consumption and it is the prohibition which prevents one from making use of it, [the goat] is not called pesolet. 

 

The dispute here turns on the question raised above: the goat itself is edible (and therefore apparently it is considered to be okhel), but practically it is impossible to eat it on Shabbat because of the prohibition of slaughtering.  Does the prohibition alone cause the goat to be considered to be undesired?[2]

 

If so, it may be that the question of shemitta scraps also depends on this dispute: the two types of scraps, at the end of the day, reach the garbage, and they are not designated for akhila, and the main distinction between them is their halakhic status.  Naturally, the question of separating them depends on the issue of whether the halakhic status defines the remains of the shemitta produce as another type. 

 

However, there is good reason to say that even if the holiness of shemitta produce does not make it a separate type, one should still prohibited separating them from other remnants, since there is a practical difference between them.  Granted, the two types of scraps will eventually reach the garbage and will not be eaten, but right now the person is careful not to relate to the remains of shemitta produce as pesolet, but rather to place them in a safe place, as opposed to other scraps that one tosses in the trash.  As a result, one may say that this is not a separation of pesolet from pesolet, but a removal of okhel from pesolet.  Of course, it is permitted to remove manually okhel from pesolet, but the problem is that the separation does not appear to be for immediate use, which we have seen is a prerequisite for allowing bereira on Shabbat.[3]

 

Practically, contemporary Acharonim argue about this issue: Rav Wosner (Kovetz Mi-beit Levi, 4, p. 24) and Rav Elyashiv (Ayil Meshullash, Ch. 9, n. 78) rule stringently, while Rav Karelitz (Kovetz Mi-beit Levi, 5, p. 163) inclines to leniency.

 

Practical Halakha: Removing Shemitta Scraps

 

It is preferable not to separate shemitta scraps on Shabbat because of the prohibition of borer.  Practically, one must distinguish between a number of circumstances:

 

1.    When the shemitta scraps are separate from other scraps, this is not considered a mixture, and there is no prohibition to remove the shemitta scraps and put them in their special container.

2.    If the shemitta scraps are mixed with other food on the plate, e.g., when they are different elements of a salad and the like, there is no need to select the shemitta vegetables, and one may put the entire salad into the special container, since the scraps do not immediately ruin one another (see my book, "Shemita: From the Sources to the Practical Halacha," pp. 480-486 {pp. 355-358 in the Hebrew edition}).

3.    When the scraps will cause each other to decay (for example, when the remains of the shemitta salad are mixed in with the remains of a meat dish which contains no shemitta produce), it is not proper to separate them because of the concern of the prohibition of borer.  Similarly, it is also not proper to put everything into the special shemitta container, since doing so will damage the produce already inside (by adding a non-shemitta item which will quickly rot), and therefore in this case, one must take the scraps which are mixed on the plate, put all of them in a separate plastic bag[4]  and put it on the side (or even in the trash can) until the scraps decay.[5]  This act is not considered destruction of shemitta produce, since the produce is already mixed together, so that one does not change their status. 

 

 

 

XIV) Washing Produce

 

Is it permissible to wash fruit and vegetables which are covered with dirt, dust or pesticides?  Is one allowed to soak them in water for this purpose?  Is one permitted to soak lettuce in soap and water in order to remove the bugs? 

 

Karshinin are a type of grain (usually designated for animals) mixed with dust and dirt.  The mishna (140a) says: "one must not cause karshinin to float, nor rub them," and Rashi explains

 

"One must not cause karshinin to float" — flood them with water in order to select them from their pesolet.

"Nor rub them" — by hand to remove the pesolet, because it is borer. 

 

The Shulchan Arukh rules accordingly.[6] 

 

The mishna seems to indicate that soaking karshinin in water is forbidden even if this is done right before one eats.  What is the reason for this?

 

1.    It may be that this is selecting pesolet from okhel.

2.    It may be that bereira through water is considered bereira with a keli. 

 

If we understand this as bereira with a keli, it may be that there will be cases when we allow soaking food in water, since at times we allow bereira with a keli (e.g., if one is able to do the selection manually, so that the utensil does not assist in the bereira, but this helps in keeping one's hands clean).  In any case, the Acharonim seem to endorse the first option, that this is selecting pesolet from okhel (see Mishbetzot Zahav 319:5).

 

This means that one may not wash the dirt off fruits and vegetables, even if one wants to eat them immediately.  This is also indicated by the Mishna Berura (ibid. 29): "The same applies to potatoes and the like, that one may not pour water on them in order to remove the dirt."

 

The Ayil Meshullash (15:3) summarizes the views as follows:

 

There are those who allow one to hold a fruit in one's hand and to wash it off under the faucet in order to eat it immediately, but the Acharonim indicate that even this is forbidden, because one is selecting pesolet from okhel.  I have heard the same in the name of the Chazon Ish, that it is forbidden to wash them off under the faucet.

 

However, there seems to be good reason to allow washing fruit.  In a previous shiur, we have seen that peeling fruit is permitted even if the peel is not edible, at least if one does it soon before eating, because there is no other way to access the fruit.  In halakhic terminology, it is derekh akhila (the way of eating), not derekh bereira (the way of selection).  According to this, it would seem that one should be allowed to remove the dirt from the fruit near the time of eating, because there is no other way to eat the fruit.   

 

On the other hand, it may be that one should distinguish between these cases: the peel is an organic part of the fruit, and removing it is the way one eats the fruit, but dirt is external pesolet (Ayil Meshullash ibid. n. 12).  However, this distinction is itself questionable: it is common for fruit to be dirty; as such, what is the difference between dirt which comes from the outside world and "dirt" which grows with the fruit?  Either prevents one from accessing the fruit, and removing either of them is the ordinary way of eating the fruit!

 

There are a number of proofs that one is allowed to remove external dirt (mentioned by Rav S.Z. Auerbach, cited in Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata, Ch. 3, n. 48).  One proof comes from the Gemara (118a) itself:

 

Our Rabbis taught: "The plates on which one eats in the evening [Friday night] may be washed so one may eat on them in the morning; [those which are used] in the morning may be washed so one may eat on them at midday; [those used] at midday may be washed so one may eat on them from the mincha and onwards; but from the mincha and onwards they may no longer be washed; but regarding goblets, drink-ladles and flasks, one may go on washing [them] all day, because there is no fixed time for drinking." 

 

The Gemara allows washing dishes on Shabbat for Shabbat; "from the mincha and onwards," which is roughly equivalent to the last fifth of the daytime (measured from sunrise to sunset), one may no longer wash dishes because this becomes an act of preparation for after Shabbat.  The Shulchan Arukh (323:6) rules according to this Gemara.  Note that neither the Gemara nor the Shulchan Arukh raise the issue of borer in this context. Apparently, one is allowed to remove external dirt.[7]

 

In addition, the Gemara (114b) permits kenivat yarak on the afternoon of Yom Kippur from the mincha and onwards.  What is "kenivat yarak"?  The Rishonim have a number of different explanations.  While many translate it as "trimming vegetables", the Ramban (ibid.) explains:

 

From the passage in the Yerushalmi, it turns out that the kenivat yarak discussed here is simple washing, and this is what we have learnt in the Tosefta. If this were really "trimming", it would be borer, and one would be liable even if the vegetables were already harvested, because this is done in order to set it aside.

 

The Rashba (ibid.) also explains along these lines.  According to this view, washing fruits and vegetables is permitted on Shabbat. 

 

Another proof arises from the law of washing raw meat on Shabbat.  The Shulchan Arukh (318:2) allows one to eat such meat on Shabbat:

 

Whether the patient has fallen ill the previous day or on Shabbat itself, one who slaughters meat for the patient may eat it raw on Shabbat.

 

However, in terms of the prohibition of consuming blood, one may not eat raw meat on Shabbat unless it is very well washed.  The Mishna Berura writes (ibid. 10): "'One may eat it raw on Shabbat' — but not by salting, for one may not salt on Shabbat, but rinsing is required because of the blood present."  Ostensibly, washing the blood off the meat is like washing dirt off of fruit, but it is nevertheless allowed. 

 

Following these sources, many Acharonim allow one to wash dirt off of fruit and vegetables, as long as one does so proximate to eating.  This the ruling of the Ketzot Ha-shulchan (Ch. 125; Baddei Ha-shulchan, 16), Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, OC, Vol. I, Ch. 125), Rav S.Z. Auerbach (cited in Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata, Ch. 3, n. 48), Rav Elyashiv[8] (cited by the Ayil Meshullash, Ch. 15, n. 10) and others.

 

According to these Acharonim, one must ask: what is the difference between soaking karshinin in water, which the mishna forbids, and washing fruit, which they allow?

 

Soaking in Water and Washing under the Faucet

 

Rav Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, ibid.) explains that one must distinguish between the two issues: 

 

In my humble opinion, I am inclined to suggest that putting items such as karshinin into a vessel filled with water is an act of borer... but to put water on top of them and not to submerge them in water is the way of washing and not the way of borer, and washing was never forbidden for produce, just as it was never prohibited for vessels.

 

On this explanation, there is a distinction between soaking and rinsing.  The mishna forbids soaking the karshinin in water, since this causes the pesolet to float on its own, and this is the forbidden derekh bereira, but when one rinses produce under the faucet, this not derekh bereira; rather, it is derekh rechitza, the way of washing and cleaning, and it is similar to removing the peel (which is allowed for immediate eating).  A similar distinction is advanced by the Ketzot Ha-shulchan (ibid.).[9]

 

Is the Dirt Attached or Mixed in?

 

Rav S.Z. Auerbach (ibid.), Rav Zilber (Az Nidberu, Vol. I, Ch. 17-18) and others suggest that the distinction that answers the above question is between dirt that adheres to the food and dirt that is mixed in with it.  Dirt or dust that is attached to fruit is considered like a peel, and removing it for immediate eating is not considered bereira, but rather derekh akhila, just like peeling.  The mishna, on the other hand, talks about karshinin, which have dirt and dust mixed in with them in a normal mixture, so that removing the pesolet from them is an act of bereira.  This is the ruling of Rav Neuwirth (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata 3:21):

 

If fruits or vegetables have pesolet mixed throughout them to the extent that most people would not eat them, it is forbidden to put them in water so that the pesolet will fall off or rise above them.  Similarly, it is forbidden to rinse the pesolet with a stream of water, because there is an issue of separating pesolet from okhel in this case as well.  Rather, one must prepare and rinse the fruit on Erev Shabbat.

However, if dirt adheres to fruits, or if they have dust or pesticides etc. on them, one is allowed to remove [the dirt] with a stream of water, but one should do so only proximate to eating the fruits.

 

This distinction is strengthened by the view of Rabbeinu Chananel (74a) that the prohibition of borer is not applicable at all when okhel and pesolet are merely touching, but only when the okhel and pesolet are mixed together.

 

As we have said, the Chazon Ish does not accept these distinctions, and he rules that it is forbidden to rinse fruits and vegetables even if the dirt adheres to them, even if one cleans them with a stream of water and even if one eats them immediately (see Ayil Meshullash, Ch. 15, n. 13).  According to him, if one wants to eat on Shabbat fruits and vegetables which have dirt on them, one must wash them off before Shabbat.

 

Dirt which Most People Ignore

 

However, if the fruits and vegetables have no visible dirt on them, but people wash them for the sake of hygiene and health (for example, because of pesticides), washing them off or soaking them in water is permissible even according to the Chazon Ish (Ayil Meshullash ibid. n. 22; Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata, Ch. 3, n. 54).  The Shevet Ha-levi rules (Responsa, Vol. I, 52:2):

 

Concerning what you have asked, whether it is permissible to wash grapes on Shabbat in order to remove dirt... I generally rule that if the rinsing is only because of the contemporary standard of cleanliness, and there is no visible pesolet which would prevent one from eating it, there is no question that it is permissible to rinse them.  However, if there is visible pesolet, which is quite common, it becomes like the karshinin and potatoes of which the Mishna Berura speaks, and it is forbidden.

 

The reason for this is that fruits and vegetables of this type are already considered edible, and many people would be willing to eat them without cleaning.  This issue is comparable to clear water, which can be filtered even with a keli, since most people are inclined to drink the water without filtering.  Thus, there is no significant tikkun, and it may even be that the entire mixture is considered to be of the same type.[10] 

 

Cleaning such as this is apparently allowed even if one does not want to eat the produce immediately (this is the ruling of Rav Feinstein ibid.). 

 

A Biblical or Rabbinical Prohibition

 

How shall we choose among these views?  In order to rule on the practical halakha, one must first examine whether the bereira through soaking in water is a Torah prohibition or a rabbinic one.  On the one hand, it would seem that this would be a Torah prohibition, because this is the selection of pesolet from okhel, and perhaps even using a keli (i.e., the stream of water).  On the other hand, it may be that bereira through water is not the regular manner of bereira, and perhaps it is like removing a peel or washing dishes, as we have explained.  Rashi, commenting on the mishna, writes that one may not rub the dirt off the karshinin by hand "because it is borer." It seems that, in his view, there is a Torah prohibition of borer.  On the other hand, the Tur and the Shulchan Arukh (319:8) forbid it "because it is like borer."  It seems that this is not true bereira, but only analogous to borer.  The Peri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav 319:5) raises a doubt as to whether there is a Torah prohibition. The Bei'ur Halakha (ibid. s.v. De-hava leih) also has some doubt about this and inclines towards forbidding it:

 

The language of Rashi is "because this is borer."  Note that the Peri Megadim has a doubt whether one is liable for this.  In my humble opinion, one should cite the passage in Beitza 13b... because this is also a true melakha from the Torah, and the Yerushalmi there in Beitza implies this as well.

 

On the other hand, the Shevitat Ha-shabbat (Borer, Be'er Rechovot, 50) writes that it is a rabbinic prohibition:

 

It appears that it is only of rabbinic origin, because one should have prepared the previous day, which is not true of dishes; since they become dirty on Shabbat and one needs them for that very day, [the Sages] did not ban this.

 

The Eglei Tal (Borer, 16) and the Livyat Chen (52) seem to follow this approach as well.

 

It appears that it is difficult to establish conclusively whether this is a question of Torah or rabbinical law, but one may enlist the view that the prohibition here is only rabbinic in combination with other mitigating factors.  (This is certainly valid considering that most of the stringent views only have a suspicion that this prohibition may be biblical, while those who are lenient have decisively defined the ban as rabbinic.)

 

Halakhic Ruling

Practically, if fruits or vegetables have pesticides or another unrecognizable substance on them, and some people would eat them without rinsing, one may be lenient and wash them normally, and even soak them in soap and the like if there is a need (in order to remove the pesticides).

 

When visible dirt is stuck to the fruit, one may be lenient and wash it under the faucet for immediate eating, but one may not soak it.  In this way, one may combine the view that dirt adhering to the fruit is considered like a peel with the view that washing under a stream of water is not considered an act of bereira.

 

When the dirt is mixed in with the fruits, for example grapes or berries which have pesolet among them, one should wash them before Shabbat (because it may be that only dirt which is stuck to the fruit is considered a peel, not dirt mingled with fruit).  If one has failed to do so, one who is lenient to wash it under the stream of water has support; as we have said, according to the Ketzot Ha-shulchan and Rav Feinstein, washing produce under the faucet is in any case not derekh bereira, but derekh rechitza.  (See Tzitz Eliezer, Vol. VI, Ch. 37.)

 

Washing Lettuce to Remove Bugs

 

If one buys regular lettuce (i.e., that which was not grown hydroponically) and wants to clean off the bugs on it, one must soak it for three minutes in water with a bit of dish soap, rub each leaf from both sides and after that rinse it off under the faucet.  (Sometimes it is proper to do some of this even for hydroponically-grown lettuce).  Is this allowed on Shabbat?

 

If lettuce has dirt or other undesired material on it and the soaking causes the dirt to separate, it is clear that soaking is forbidden. In this case, one should rinse the leaves in water (as we explained above), so that the dirt comes off and the lettuce will be clean.

 

When the lettuce is clean, the soaking is done only to loosen the bugs from the leaf (their legs actually secrete a substance which helps them hang on, and emulsifying soap loosens their hold).  As such, there is no problem with soaking the lettuce, since the pesolet does not separate; the soapy water only loosens the bugs' grasp.  After this, one may use the stream of water from the faucet to knock the bugs off, as we explained in relation to dirt adhering to fruit. 

 

However, this act will be allowed only if one does not kill the bugs, because killing bugs on Shabbat is forbidden (see Rambam, 11:2; Mishna Berura 316:41 and Bei'ur Halakha; Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata 3:36).  Practically, since regular lettuce has bugs which will die, one may not soak it in soapy water.  However, with hydroponically-grown lettuce, even if one soaks it in soapy water, this is done only as an extra precaution, and it may be that there are no bugs there; therefore it appears that one should be lenient even when it comes to cleaning it on Shabbat.[11]

 

Similarly, inspecting a lettuce leaf under the light is permissible, and if one finds a bug, one may remove it along with part of the leaf which is not infested.  Indeed, if the bug is large, it is essentially permissible even to take it on its own, since it is considered separate from the lettuce.[12]  One may also remove moldy upper leaves and leave the edible inner leaves, since this is similar to removing a peel (Bei'ur Halakha 319:1, s.v. Min He-alim). 

 

Summary

 

To conclude, one is allowed to soak produce in order to remove unrecognizable pesticides (when the fruit is otherwise edible).  It is forbidden to soak produce in order to remove actual dirt which is stuck to it, but it is permissible to wash it under the faucet (and if it is mixed in with the individual berries, etc., it is preferable to wash it before Shabbat).  One is allowed to soak hydroponically-grown lettuce in soapy water, and it is permissible to remove a bug from lettuce with a bit of the leaf, but one may not kill bugs on Shabbat.

 

(Translated by Yoseif Bloch)

 


[1] The Tehilla Le-David (319:16) rejects the proof of the Kol Bo and argues that one is allowed to drink water with gnats, but the Minchat Yitzchak (Vol. VII, Ch. 23) disputes this and supports the doubt of the Chayei Adam.  According to him, the doubt is whether the Kol Bo allows this filtering even when there is a true prohibition of drinking the water; perhaps he allows it only when it is essentially permitted to drink the water "and only for the sake of added caution, the sin-fearing filter the water."

[2] For a broader analysis of this issue, see the following responsa: Be-tzel Ha-chokhma, Vol. VI, 99:1; Maharshag, Vol. I, OC, Ch. 47; Yalkut Yosef, Shabbat, Vol. III, pp. 294-295; Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata, Ch. 3, n. 100.

[3] Unless we say that the use of shemitta scraps is to be contained in the shemitta vessel, and if so, putting them in the vessel is their use, and since this is done immediately after the bereira, this use is immediate.  However, we must weigh carefully if this is considered a use, for one has no benefit from this use; this is only a way to set aside the fruits without ruining them. 

[4] One must be careful to tie the bag only with a knot which is allowed on Shabbat, namely to take the two sides of the bag and tie one to the other with one knot, not to take the two sides together and make a separate knot on top of them.

[5] Another possibility is to remove the shemitta scraps with a few other scraps and leave them in a vessel designed for shemitta products.  In this way, on the one hand one would not violate the prohibition of borer (at least according to the view of the Mishna Berura that one may remove the pesolet with a bit of okhel), and on the other hand, the small amount of other scraps do not impact negatively the shemitta scraps.

[6]  The Gemara (Beitza 14b) states that Rabban Gamliel allowed filling up a pail with lentils and pouring water over them on Yom Tov in order to pick out the pesolet (which floats).  It seems that Rabban Gamliel argues with the mishna and would allow soaking karshinin, and this view requires some explanation (see the Me'iri ibid.).  Regardless, the consensus of the Rishonim and the Shulchan Arukh is to forbid it.

[7] However, it should be noted that washing dishes is not fully equivalent to washing produce, as the former is permitted even not for immediate use.  Moreover, it appears that there are other reasons to be lenient: for example, that the dirt is not considered to be mixed with the dish, or that this act is considered cleaning the dish and not bereira, etc.

[8] However, he writes that it is preferable to wash them before Shabbat, apparently taking into account the view of the Chazon Ish. 

[9] The Mishna Berura says that it is forbidden even to "clean" the karshinin by hand (this is the Shulchan Arukh's ruling), but it may be that the reference is to one who is rubbing off the pesolet stuck to the karshinin, after one has selected the pesolet from the okhel (Rav S.Z. Auerbach, cited in Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata, Ch. 3, n. 53); or that one rubs the karshinin underwater, and after that the water causes the pesolet to float up (Eglei Tal, Borer 16).  Similarly, we should note that according to the Yerushalmi (20:3), the prohibition to clean the karshinin is not because of borer but because of dash, threshing (and this prohibition is not applicable to washing produce, since threshing is an act done in the field, while washing produce is done in the house).

[10] Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata (ibid.), mentions an additional reason to permit this: since the dirt is not recognizable at all, perhaps it is not considered bereira.  According to this, it is permissible to wash the produce even if the person is very fastidious and would never eat unwashed produce.

[11] In this case, it may be that there are no bugs, and even if there are bugs, it may be that they are already dead.  Similarly, while some bugs may not be killed on Shabbat by Torah law, others are only prohibited by rabbinic law (see Mishna Berura 316:41, Bei'ur Halakha there).  Since one does not intend to kill them, but to remove them, this is a case of a double doubt with regard to pesik reisha; moreover, it may even be only a rabbinic prohibition.  Therefore, it seems that it is appropriate to allow it.  As we have said, all this rests on the assumption that the lettuce appears to be clean, so that soaking it will not cause the separation of clumps of dirt and the like.

[12] This is the view of Rav S.Z. Auerbach, cited in Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhata, 3:36 and n. 100.  See there where he notes that in any case it is good to be stringent to remove the bug along with a bit of the leaf, as moving the bug alone is prohibited because it is considered muktze.