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The Shabbos Weekly
Halachos Series on Hilchos Shabbos

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Published by
Pirchei Shoshanim

A Project of
The Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Based on the Shiurim Given by

Rabbi Dovid
Ostroff, shlita

developed from the Chabura of the
Pirchei Shoshanim Shulchan Aruch Learning Project

These Halachos were shown by Rabbi Ostroff to
HaGaon HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita


Questions for the Week of Parshas Mishpatim


Can you please define the essence of the melacha called Borer?

Borer is one of the 39 melachos of Shabbos being that it was one of the melachos incorporated in the construction of the Mishkan. Borer means to separate or to sort the items in a mixture. As a matter of fact there are two other melachos that also deal with sorting and separation, namely (??) Dush - Threshing and Meraked - Sifting. Even though they all one of a kind in the sense that they separate between good and bad, food and waste, nevertheless Chazal tell us that each one is a melacha in its own right. [1]


Does Borer apply to the sorting of food items as well or only to separating between waste and food?

Obviously the main feature of Borer is to separate between food and waste in a mixture. Nevertheless Tosefos in Shabbos 74a, which is the halacha, says that Borer also applies to the sorting of food items that are in a mixture. In other words, when there are inedible particles in rice and one removes them or when peas and carrots are mixed and one separates the peas from the carrots, this is the melacha of Borer.


I can understand that extracting the inedible items from rice is Borer because it ‘improves’ the rice but peas and carrots are not impaired and that separating them ‘improves’ them, so why should that be a melacha?

Firstly it is correct that all the melachos must improve or enhance something, as all the melachos are constructive. (Even the destructive melachos such as demolition - S’tirah, must be done for a constructive purpose). Secondly, the Yeshuos Ya’akov offers a similar argument saying that separating one food from another is not the original melacha because one food is not impaired by the other food.

The Bi’ur Halacha [2] disagrees and says that when one wishes to separate food items in a mixture, he is declaring that one item impairs the other (to a certain extent) and the separating of the two will enhance and ‘improve’ each particular item.

Hence separating waste from food or the sorting of food items involves a melacha d’oraisso of Borer. Utmost care must be taken when sorting or separating on Shabbos because it is a hairsbreadth that separates between a permitted action and one that is ossur mid’oraisso.


How or when is one permitted to separate items on Shabbos?

The Shulchan Aruch at the beginning of simon 319 tells us that there are three cardinal rules pertaining to Borer and compliancy with these rules permits Borer on Shabbos.

They are 1) removal of the food from waste, 2) with one’s hand, 3) immediately prior to eating. As we will see, each one of these criteria requires elaboration. In short we must remember: Food, by Hand, for Now or ???? ??? ????.

A mixture

The most basic concept regarding Borer is that Borer only applies to the sorting or separating of items in a mixture. Items not mixed together may be separated or sorted. Defining a mixture is complicated because the poskim say that a mixture is determined according to the impression of the beholder, which only aggravates matters being that one is often unsure as to the classification of a given situation.

For example, are bottles lined in the refrigerator door considered a mixture? What about books on a bookshelf? How about a fly in the soup, is it considered on its own or is it ‘mixed’ in the soup? As we progress we will B’ezras Hashem attempt to answer these questions.

Food From Refuse

When food and waste are in a mixture one must remove the food from the waste and not the waste from the food, regardless of the effort that must be invested to remove the food and even if removing the waste would take less time and is easier to do. [3]

[On Yom Tov one must seek the easier method, and if it is easier to remove the waste from the food one must do so]. [4]

Removing the food from the waste immediately prior to eating is called ??? ????? - the way one eats and hence it is not Borer.

[1] See R’ Ovadia MiBartanura on the Mishna in Shabbos 7:2.

[2] Bi’ur Halacha 319:3 ‘????? ???’.

[3] Simon 319:1,4,5 and M”B 3.

[4] M”B simon 319:18, because of simchas Yom Tov.

Food For Thought

I am supposed to separate with my hands, does that mean I cannot remove food from a mixture with a fork?

How can I prepare prior to eating when the item I wish to prepare is for the 4th course of a meal?

What happens if I removed an item I thought I wanted and then either changed my mind or realized I did not want it, must I then use or eat it?

If I mistakenly separated food contrary to the halacha am I permitted to eat it?

Answers coming next week.

Vort on the Parsha

Behold the beauty of the Torah. When a friend of yours is struggling to unload his donkey and your enemy (someone you saw commit a sin) is struggling to load his donkey, you are commanded to help your enemy. Not only are you passing up the mitzvah of ??? ???? ???? – taking pity on animals, because you are helping to load an animal instead of helping to offload one, you are aiding your enemy.

The reason Chazal wanted you to aid your enemy is because you have a chance to break your evil inclinations. Such an opportunity overrides all other considerations. May we all reach such spiritual heights, think about it!

For a printed version, click here.


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Note:  The purpose of this series is intended solely for the clarification of the topics discussed and not to render halachic decisions. It is intended to heighten everyone's awareness of important practical questions which do arise on this topic.  One must consult with a proper halachic authority in order to receive p'sak.