Dash (Part 1) The Definition of the Melakha

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon


By Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon



Shiur #09: DASH (Part 1)


I) The Definition of the Melakha



What is the difference between the melakha of dash and the melakha of borer?  Why is one allowed to remove grapes from a cluster?  Can one use a nutcracker?  Can one shell peanuts? 


As we have already seen, the first stage of processing harvested grain is 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 (disha; the melakha is dash), and it is performed by striking the wheat with a stick or using a threshing instrument.  Next is zeriya, winnowing, separating the husk and the stalks from the grain. During disha, each wheat kernel is removed from its husk, but the kernels, stalks and husks are still mixed together, and they must be separated.  For this purpose one uses 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.  Finally, in bereira (selection; the melakha is known as borer), one removes the stones and dirt which remain among the kernels, so that they are ready to be ground.


Practically, the melakha of dash is similar to the melakha of borer: these two melakhot come to separate the kernels from the various forms of refuse (pesolet).  However, the Gemara (73b) makes it clear that these are two different melakhot.  If so, what is the difference between dash and borer?  What is the definition of dash?


Removing Pesolet Adhering to Okhel

One answer is given by Rabbeinu Chananel (74a):


Dash is one who separates pesolet which is attached to the okhel and prepares it for bereira...  It turns out that zoreh (winnowing), borer and merakked (sifting) all serve to remove pesolet which is mixed with okhel and is not attached to it.


On this view, dash is the removal of pesolet which adheres to okhel (food), while borer is removing pesolet which is mixed in with the okhel.  When the okhel and the pesolet grow together as a single entity, and one separates this entity into okhel and pesolet, this is the melakha of dash; while in the case that the okhel and the pesolet are separate bodies which are mixed and one separates them, this is the melakha of borer.  (See Shevitat Ha-shabbat's Introduction to the Melakha of Dash, 1, where he deals with this at length.)[1]


Extracting Okhel from Its Covering


Other Rishonim provide alternative definitions for the prohibition of dash.  Rashi (74a, s.v. Ve-lichshav nammi) writes that crushing wheat in order to remove the husk is comparable to the melakha of dash, "Because this also is removing it from its attire."  From his words it appears that the melakha of dash is removing the okhel from its "attire" — i.e., the covering in which it grows.  Similarly, the Gemara (95a) writes that one who milks an animal[2] is liable for mefarek, and Rashi explains that mefarek is a subcategory of dash:


"Mefarek" means unloading: one unloads the okhel from the packaging with which it is covered, and this is a subcategory of dash.


Rashi indicates that the melakha of dash is extracting okhel from its natural covering.  Other Rishonim point to the same idea, and the Peri Megadim (Eshel Avraham, Introduction to Ch. 320, 5) writes that "mefarek applies to [extracting] okhel from the pesolet in which it is concealed and in which it has grown."


Let us try to sharpen this basic point further.  Some melakhot are involved in the process of manufacturing the okhel, while other melakhot prepare the okhel for consumption: the melakhot of threshing, sowing and harvesting, for example, allow one to produce the okhel in the first place, while the melakhot of winnowing, selecting, grinding, sifting, kneading and baking make the okhel edible.  Where does dash fit in along this continuum?


At first glance one would assume that dash should be considered along with the latter group, because the "creation" process is completed at harvesting.  However, on closer investigation, it seems reasonable that dash may fit better with the first group.  Before disha, the wheat kernel is still attached to its stalk and hidden within it.  Although it has already been harvested from the ground, it has not been "harvested" from the stalk!  Only after this second harvest, one can see the wheat as fully-formed and complete, such that one may begin to prepare it for eating: to remove the pesolet found next to it (whether we define borer as removing the pesolet or fixing the okhel), to grind it, to knead it and to bake it.  [The Shevitat Ha-shabbat (Introduction to the Melakha of Dash, 2, in the name of the Pe'er Etz Chayim) explains the melakha along these lines.] 


As such, we can sharpen the distinction between dash and borer: disha is the creation of okhel, while bereira is the tikkun (fixing) of the okhel which has already been created.  Naturally, the prohibition of dash is applicable only to something which has been hidden until now and is suddenly revealed.


Removing Okhel from Its Natural Place


There are Rishonim who define the prohibition of dash more broadly.  The Gemara (73b) says:


Rav Pappa said: "One who throws a clod of earth at a palm tree and dislodges dates is liable twice, once for tolesh (detaching flora) and one for mefarek."


As we have said, mefarek is a subcategory of dash: removing grain from the stalks is the primary melakha, and removing other things is the subcategory (Rashi ibid.; Rambam 8:7).  Why does knocking down dates make one liable for dash?


Tosafot (s.v. Ve-achat) write in the name of Rabbeinu Shemuel:


Dates have an upper peel, and when one knocks the dates off the tree, one removes the peels from the dates, and it is like dash, in which one removes the grain from the stalk.


Tosafot assume that dash is relevant here because dates have an upper peel, and their fall causes it to come off.[3]  This act is forbidden because of dash, since one is extracting okhel from its covering.  It may be that Tosafot believe that the prohibition of dash applies specifically when one removes a peel or covering from okhel.


The Ran (31a, Rif) explains the words of the Gemara differently:


When the cluster is detached from the tree, one is liable for tolesh, and when it hits the ground, the dates fall out from the cluster, one is liable for mefarek.


In other words, the date branch is detached from the tree, falls to the ground and makes impact, and, as a result, the dates are detached from their cluster. This detachment, removing the dates from their cluster, renders one liable for dash.  The Ramban (ibid.) explains this in the same way, and so one may understand in Rashi (ibid. s.v. Mefarek).[4]  According to this, the prohibition of dash is not limited to okhel which is covered and wrapped in pesolet; it applies to detaching any okhel from the place where it has grown.  Rashi in Ketubbot (60a, s.v. Mefarek) writes the same, defining mefarek as "detaching something from the place where it has grown."[5]


Actions Not Forbidden as Dash


The question remains: if removing the fruit from the cluster is forbidden because of dash, it should be forbidden by Torah law to eat grapes on Shabbat, because we pick them out of the cluster!  Practically, the view of Tosafot also raises some problems: if disha only applies to removing okhel from its cover, one must ask how it is permissible to peel a banana or an orange; since we remove each from its covering, this is precisely the prohibition of dash!


Another question comes up based on the words of the Rema.  In light of the ruling of the Shulchan Arukh (319:6) that it is forbidden to remove grain from its stalks because of the prohibition of dash, the Rema writes: "Therefore, one may not remove almonds or walnuts from their green hulls."


Almonds and walnuts both have a green hull which often falls off on its own when the fruit ripens, and beneath it is a dark, hard shell (indeed, almonds have another peel below this, but most people do not remove it at all).  It seems that the Rema rules that removing the green hull is forbidden because of dash, however from his words it appears that if the green hull has already been removed, there is no prohibition to remove the hard, brown shell.  The Mishna Berura (24) explains his view along these lines, pointing out that removing the green hull is like removing grain from the stalks, while removing the hard shell is like peeling fruit, which is permissible just before eating.


However, the Peri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 320:1) challenges this ruling of the Rema as follows: "How is the green hull different from the hard shell?"  Indeed, the matter requires some explanation: why should taking grain out of the stalk and removing the green hull of a walnut, be forbidden because of dash, while peeling fruit, removing the hard shell and picking grapes out of a cluster are not?  In all of these cases, the okhel is removed from the place where it has grown!


The Eglei Tal (Dash, 3:1-2) discusses these questions and establishes an important principle in the laws of dash, based on the concept of she'at akhila — the time of eating — as opposed to the time of harvesting or processing:


It is permissible to peel garlic or onions to eat immediately...  The fact that one wants to eat it immediately means that [the action] cannot be considered dash.  Even though in Ch. 319 it is explained that [removing] stems or the outer hull of walnuts is considered dash even if one eats them immediately, one must say that it is different here.  This is because the customary way is to peel [onions] at she'at akhila, unlike walnuts, where the outer hull is removed before she'at akhila.  The same is true of parched ears, so it is forbidden there... even in order to eat it immediately, because grain is generally threshed when it is heaped [in the field].  For this reason, one may crack walnuts on Shabbat, and this is not considered dash... since the customary way to do it is only at she'at akhila.  The same is true of a cluster of grapes and the like.


On this view, the prohibition of dash is not applicable to actions which are generally performed at she'at akhila; it is only relevant for actions which are usually performed before eating.[6]  Removing the wheat from the stalks is done in the field long before eating, and the removal of the green hull of the walnuts is done in the field or in the factory, so that commercially-available walnuts usually do not have this hull.  Therefore, these actions are forbidden because of dash.  On the other hand, one peels produce or removes the brown shells of the walnuts at she'at akhila, and therefore these actions are not included in the prohibition of dash.[7]  Similarly, removing dates from their cluster is prohibited because of dash, since this is generally done in the field, while removing grapes from their cluster is permitted, since one generally does so at home at she'at akhila.  Similarly, one can take bananas out of the bunch, since one generally does this act near she'at akhila.


Derekh Akhila


Why does the prohibition of dash not exist in actions that are generally performed at she'at akhila?  One may understand that we are talking about the concept of derekh akhila, the way of eating, a familiar concept from our study of the melakha of borer: the Torah allows a person to eat and to prepare one's food in the normal way on Shabbat, and it does not forbid those actions which are done in the framework of regular eating.  According to this, these actions may only be permissible when they are done proximate to eating, but someone who is peeling fruit or detaching grapes from the cluster a long time before eating would be liable for dash.  This indeed seems to be the view of the Eglei Tal (ibid. 3-4).


Fieldwork and Housework


However, many Acharonim (Magen Avraham 321:30; Mishna Berura ibid. 83; et al.) seem to indicate that peeling fruit long before she'at akhila is not forbidden because of dash but rather because of borer.[8]  According to this, it appears that if the action of removing okhel from its natural cover is generally done proximate to eating, it is not included in the melakha of dash at all.  The reason for allowing it is not because of derekh akhila, but that the prohibition of disha is not applicable to such actions.  The Ketzot Ha-shulchan writes (Ch. 126; Baddei Ha-shulchan, 7):


Disha only applies to something which is going to be stored, but something which is generally done just before akhila is permissible.  Thus, [disha] is threshing wheat from stalks or legumes from stems or walnuts from green hulls, because all of this [pesolet] is customarily removed through disha before one puts the produce in the storehouse, so that even if one threshes them near akhila it is forbidden.  However, with the peels which are customarily removed only proximate to akhila for the sake of akhila, there is no issue of disha at all.


On this view, the melakha of dash includes only actions of extraction which are done generally "to store" — in other words, in great quantities and for a commercial need, while actions which are generally done in small amounts close to akhila are not included in the melakha of dash.


This approach works well with the general view which we presented before concerning the melakha of dash.  The nature of disha is the completion of the "creation" of the produce.  Therefore, only actions which are performed generally in the field may be seen as relevant to this process.  Once the produce reaches the house for eating (or after the disha in the field has been completed and it has moved on to zeriya), it is considered to be a complete product, and all of the actions that one does with it from that point forward are considered "fixing" the okhel and preparing it for akhila, not creation of the food.  Therefore, these actions are not included in the melakha of dash; if anything, it would be a prohibition of borer.[9]


Peeling Barley


This approach may help us understand another question as well.  The Gemara in Beitza (13b) notes that the wife of Rav would peel a lot of barley on Shabbat for him.  Tosafot (s.v. Ve-im kalaf) are surprised by this, because this one would expect that this would be forbidden because of dash:


It is surprising: how could Rav's wife peel a lot of barley for him?  We have already seen above that one should rub parched ears on Erev Shabbat, which implies that it is forbidden on Shabbat.  One may say that there we are talking about detaching from the stalks, which is mefarek, a subcategory of dash, the primary melakha; here, on the other hand, we are talking about those which were already detached on Erev Shabbat from the stalks but are still in their outer shell, and therefore it is permissible.


According to their answer, removing the barley kernels from the stalk is forbidden because of dash;[10] however, after removing the kernels, one may remove the inner husk, and there is no prohibition of dash.  The Beit Yosef (319, s.v. Ein Molelin) and the Magen Avraham (319:8) rule accordingly.


Why is removing the inner husk of the barley not forbidden because of dash?  After all, this involves extraction of the okhel from the covering in which it has grown!  The Peri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 319:8) and Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Glosses, end of Ch. 321) explain that the light husk of the barley adheres to the kernel, and therefore it is insignificant in relation to it, and the prohibition of mefarek is not applicable at all.  The Bei'ur Halakha (321:19, s.v. Le-altar) takes a different approach, explaining that the allowance is based on the fact that one removes the husk by hand and not with a utensil.[11]  However, according to the view that we have raised, one may explain this matter simply:[12] removing the barley kernels from the stalk is done in the field; thus, the prohibition of dash applies to it.  The light husk, however, which covers the kernel, would apparently be left to be taken off only at home, and therefore its removal does not involve a problem of dash.[13] 


Dash vs. Borer


Paralleling our analysis of the definition of the prohibition of dash, one should discuss the specific definition of the prohibition of borer: is the prohibition of borer applicable only to okhel which is fully-formed but has pesolet mixed in it; or perhaps this prohibition is applicable in every separation of okhel and pesolet, even if this separation is considered to "create" the okhel?  Might it be that certain actions are forbidden because of both dash and borer? 


This issue is apparently a subject of debate amongst the Acharonim.  The Mishna Berura (Shaar Ha-tziyun 319:15) seems to indicate that removing legumes from their stalks is forbidden because of both dash and borer; in fact, classical disha itself would make one liable for borer if the grain were totally separate from the husks, rather than mixed with them.  The Eglei Tal (Borer, 10) also writes along these lines. 


This issue also comes up is a debate amongst Acharonim regarding the following question: why is someone who squeezes fruits, who is liable for dash (as we will see later), not liable for borer as well?  (See Magen Avraham 319:16, Eglei Tal ibid, et al.)  There are those who understand that one who squeezes fruits is indeed liable for borer (see Peri Megadim, Introduction to Ch. 320).  The Shevitat Ha-shabbat, however (Introduction to the Melakha of Dash, 1-2), maintains that there is an absolute distinction between dash and borer: dash involves taking out the okhel which is absorbed in the pesolet, while borer involves the separation of pesolet which is mixed in with okhel, and it cannot be that one can be liable with one action for these two melakhot.  This also emerges from the words of Rabbeinu Chananel which we saw above: dash applies to pesolet which is attached to the okhel while borer applies to pesolet which is separate but mixed in with the okhel.  This issue underlies the argument of the Acharonim whether the issue of borer applies in peeling fruit, as we have discussed in a previous shiur.


Summary: Defining the Melakha of Dash


To conclude, the melakha of dash relates to removing okhel from the covering in which it has grown or separating it from the place in which it has grown.  This act "creates" the okhel, unlike borer, which merely "fixes" the already-extant okhel.  Therefore, disha applies only to an action which is customarily done in the field, an extraction which creates the okhel, while an act which is normally done in the home, such as peeling produce or taking grapes off the cluster, is not forbidden because of dash.     



[1] Rabbeinu Chananel notes that the action of disha is a preparation for the action of bereira: even though the attached pesolet has been removed, it is still mixed with the okhel, and it is necessary to pick it out.  It may be that on his view, the melakha is defined based on this notion: the basis of the melakha of dash is the preparation of the okhel for bereira, while disha which eliminates the need for bereira is not included in the prohibition.  Now it is possible to explain why peeling fruit is not forbidden because of dash — after the peeling of the fruit, it is ready to eat without any additional bereira.  However, the Arukh (s.v. Dash), who presents a view similar to that of Rabbeinu Chananel, adds a few words that imply otherwise: "Dash... this is removing from okhel the pesolet which is attached to it and preparing it for bereira...  Similarly, it is removing from the okhel the pesolet which is attached to it, so that it will be ready for eating."  This last line indicates that disha is prohibited both as a preparation for bereira, and as a preparation for eating. (Perhaps the preparation for bereira is mentioned to make a point: not only disha which prepares okhel for immediate consumption is forbidden, but even if the pesolet is still mixed and there is a need for bereira, there is still a prohibition of dash).  According to this, one must explain in another way why peeling fruit is not forbidden because of dash, which we will deal with shortly.

[2] We will deal at length with the issue of milking animals in a future shiur.

[3] It is difficult to understand what the peel is to which Tosafot refer, and the Shevitat Ha-shabbat writes (Introduction to the Melakha of Dash, 5): "I asked a sage from Babylonia, where palm trees grow, and he said...  that, according to his understanding, he did not merit to comprehend these abovementioned words of Rabbeinu Shemuel, because the peel exists only before the dates form, and once the dates form, there is no peel."

[4] However, Tosafot, the Ramban and other Rishonim understand the view of Rashi to be that severing the date from the tree makes one liable for dash, but a full treatment of that discussion is beyond the scope of this shiur.

[5] According to Rashi, the prohibition of dash is applicable to okhel covered by pesolet, even if they are not attached (like milk in the animal's body and juice inside the fruit), and the same is true when okhel is attached to the pesolet, even if it does not cover it (Shevitat Ha-shabbat, ibid. 5).  Rashi's view requires some more discussion, but that is beyond our scope here.

[6] The Me'iri indicates the same (114b, s.v. Kenivat yarak), explaining that one may break open nuts or pomegranates on Shabbat because "this is their derekh akhila."

[7] However, when it comes to these actions, it may be that there is a problem of borer, as we discussed in our shiurim on this topic.  Later on we will deal with other details of cracking nuts.

[8] The Eglei Tal himself writes (Borer, 6) that peeling fruit to eat later renders one liable for borer and not for dash, and the Ketzot Ha-shulchan (Ch. 126; Baddei Ha-shulchan, 8) notes that he contradicts himself.

[9] The Maharshag writes in his Responsa (Vol. II, Ch. 108): "Nothing can fall into the category of mefarek or dash unless it is generally performed by the farmer.  Thus, following the standard procedure for grain: the farmer threshes and takes the wheat out of the stalk and the husk, and this is the end of the field labor...  However, that which is not done by the farmer but by each householder at home... this is not dash, but rather derekh akhila...  Now, we may understand the common practice to peel eggs on Shabbat — as well as garlic and onions — since when it comes to all of these [foods], since these are generally done [peeled] at home, and the farmer does not generally do it, it is not included in dash." The Chelkat Yaakov (OC, Ch. 133) explains along similar lines, and he claims that the Chayei Adam (14:1) should also be understood in this way.

[10] Rabbeinu Chananel indicates (73b) that when one separates the stalk from the kernel by rubbing one's hands together, one violates the Torah prohibition of disha.  The Rambam (14:21), on the other hand, rules that one who does so only appears to be violating dash, so it is only rabbinically banned.  The rulings of both the Shulchan Arukh (319:6) the Mishna Berura (ibid. 20; Shaar Ha-tziyun, 11) seem to follow this latter approach.

[11] The Bei'ur Halakha does not explain why peeling barley is not forbidden at least rabbinically, as a melakha performed with an alteration is generally banned.  What is the reason for the distinction between removing the kernel from the stalk and the removal of its inner husk?

[12] It may be that the Acharonim who present other answers also agree with this logic, but they understand the removal of the barley husk as fieldwork, and therefore they seek out other reasons to allow for removing it.

[13] This explanation can also help us understand the Rema's ruling (336:8) that one is allowed to take fruit off of a branch which has been cut off before Shabbat.  Most fruits are harvested directly off the tree (unlike dates, which are taken off the branch only after it is severed from the tree), and therefore removing fruit after cutting off the branch is not considered fieldwork, and is not included in the prohibition of dash (see Eglei Tal, Dash, 2:4).