| Halachah |

Separate Situation

Can I sort, set, or separate it? Breaking down the laws of borer


Prepared for print by Faigy Peritzman

I don’t like mushrooms. What’s the correct way to avoid eating them on Shabbos if I’m served a salad or dish containing mushrooms?

Use your spoon or fork to eat the rest of the salad or dish while avoiding the mushrooms. If that doesn’t work for you, then use your fork or spoon to push away the mushrooms, along with some of the salad or dish, to the other side of the plate. If that doesn’t work either, then it’s permitted, according to the Mishnah Berurah, to completely remove the mushrooms, as long as you are removing some of the salad or dish along with the mushrooms.

I opened several cans of corn and chickpeas on Erev Shabbos, but didn’t strain them. How can I go about doing this on Shabbos?

It’s permitted for you to pour out the majority of the liquid, as long as you leave some liquid remaining in the bottom of the can. You may use the can cover to hold back the corn or chickpeas from falling out while you pour out the liquid.

I’m making a kiddush and will be serving fruit platters. I wanted to prepare the platters on Shabbos, but was wondering if this was a problem of borer.

If all the different types of fruit are mixed together, and as you place them on the platter you put each type of fruit separately, that would be considered “sorting” and would be a problem of borer. But if each type of fruit is packaged individually, you may take one type of fruit at a time and place it on the platter, even if that will result in the different types of fruit becoming mixed together on the platter.

Is there any way to use a peeler on Shabbos?

The consensus of most poskim is that even when fruits and vegetables are peeled for immediate use, it’s forbidden to use a peeler (although it is permitted to use a peeler on Yom Tov). While some poskim hold that fruits whose peel is sometimes eaten — such as apples and pears — may be peeled at any time and even with a peeler, many poskim disagree and forbid it. But fruits that are almost always eaten with their peel — such as grapes and peaches — are permitted to be peeled at any time and even with a peeler.

Are the halachos of borer the same for Yom Tov?

The halachos of borer on Yom Tov are completely different from the halachos of borer for Shabbos. While there are many different details, which cannot be reviewed here, suffice it to say that in many cases borer doesn’t apply on Yom Tov at all.

I often set my table on Shabbos morning and then go out to daven in my community shul. My son-in-law thinks this violates borer. Is he correct?

It is forbidden, because of borer, to pick individual pieces of silverware out of a jumble and set them on the table in their correct positions. However, it’s permitted to do so immediately before the meal. For example, if the meal is supposed to start at noon, and it takes about 30 minutes to prepare for the meal, then the table may be set at about  11:30, but not earlier. Even if you would like to set the table before going to shul, it’s forbidden to do so.

When the silverware isn’t mixed together, e.g., it’s removed directly out of the compartments in the silverware drawer, there’s no concern of borer. It’s permitted to take each type of silverware and set it on the table in its appropriate place, at any time. However, it’s prohibited to take different types of silverware from their individual compartments, allow them to become mixed together in your hand, and then set them on the table in their correct places — unless it’s done immediately before the meal, as explained.

Some poskim maintain that one may pick up a jumble of mixed silverware and throw it across the table so that the individual forks, spoons, and knives scatter and become separate. Once the pieces are no longer jumbled, they may be set on the table in their correct place at any time.

Is there an issue of borer when it comes to peeling cooked eggs on Shabbos?

Peeling eggs on Shabbos is considered borer since you’re separating the peel from the actual egg. But since you are using your hands (and not a utensil) to peel the egg, it may be done immediately before a meal, as described in the previous answer.

When clearing the dirty dishes from the table on Shabbos morning, do I have to worry about borer?

Although poskim permit placing dishes inside a dishwasher on Shabbos, it’s forbidden, because of borer, to sort different types of dishes or cutlery before placing them in the dishwasher, even if your intention is to make room for the rest of the dishes. It’s permitted, however, to pick up a few similar items, e.g., a stack of cups or fish plates, and place each one in its designated slot. If the dishes were improperly placed, they may not (because of the prohibition of hachanah) be rearranged according to size and type to make them ready to be washed after Shabbos, but they may be rearranged if the purpose is to make more room for other dishes.

My baby spit up, and I hadn’t folded her clean laundry before Shabbos. May I go digging in the basket to find her a clean outfit?

It’s permitted to search in the basket to find the correct outfit even if it will become necessary to move the other items in the basket out of the way. But it’s forbidden to reach into the basket and remove other items in order to reach the outfit.

I always insist that my children clean up the toys before going to sleep. My ten-year-old refuses to clean up the toys because of borer. Is he correct?

It depends on the type of cleanup that is necessary. If the children played with different types of toys that are now all mixed together in a jumble, such as Lego and Magna-Tiles, and the intermingled toys need to be separated, sorted, and put away, then borer will apply. If, however, the cleanup consists of picking up and putting away large toys (or books) that aren’t mixed together in a jumble and don’t need to be sorted, then borer doesn’t apply.

I was trying to catch up on my magazine reading on Shabbos and was dividing the various magazines I wanted to get to into piles. My son pointed out that this may be borer.

A pile of magazines stacked one on top of the other isn’t considered a mixture. It is, therefore, permitted to pick up one magazine at a time and place it in a pile and then pick up another magazine and place that in another pile, and so on.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 877)

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