Borer (Part 2) Selection of One Type

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon




By Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon



Shiur #02: BORER (Part 2)



IV) Selection of One Type



When it comes to the prohibition of borer (selecting) on Shabbat, is it permissible to separate larger pieces of fish from smaller ones?  May one separate between types of pastries?  Is it allowed to remove ripe pieces of fruit and leave the unripe ones?  May one select between different parts of a chicken? 


May one separate two items of one type?  For example, if there are pieces of cake of varying size on a table, may one separate a large piece from among the smaller ones? 


The Terumat Ha-deshen, in his Responsa (Ch. 57), permits this:


Question: Pieces of fish are placed on a platter or a plate separately, as people are accustomed to do, and on Shabbat, one wants to eat some of them and leave the others for another meal.  How may one select these from those without violating the prohibition of borer?

Answer: It appears that one need not be so precise in the matter, as I will explain below.  Granted, one of the sages was careful to select specifically the pieces which he wanted to eat at that very moment, and the ones which he wanted to save for the next meal, he would leave on the platter...  However, it appears that even according to this view, there is no bereira (selection) unless one has two types; with one type, there is no [bereira], because the beraita and all of the sources have phrased it as "two types of food"... 


The proof of the Terumat Ha-deshen is that the Gemara (74a) says (according to Tosafot's version) that there is a prohibition of bereira for "two types of food" — which implies that with one type, there is no bereira. 


The Rema (319:3) adopts the view of the Terumat Ha-deshen:


Whenever there is only one type, even though one selects large pieces of it from among small ones, it is not called bereira.  Even if there are two types, and one chooses from both of them the large pieces from among the small pieces (or vice versa) — it is permitted, since one is not selecting one type from another type.


The Taz (ibid., 2) argues with the Terumat Ha-deshen and the Rema, and he maintains that there is a prohibition of bereira with one type.  According to him if a person is interested at the moment in large pieces, these large pieces are considered okhel (food) and the small ones are considered pesolet (refuse), and one who separates them violates borer. 

If so, why does the Gemara specify "two types of food"?  The Taz explains:


It seems that it mentions "two types of food" to make a point: while it is obvious that with one [type of food], bereira is applicable to what one wants to leave, [one might think] that [bereira is inapplicable] to two types of food, since each one is distinct and separate in its own right, an thus it is not considered to be mixed — nevertheless, one must not select. 


According to the Taz, when it comes to two types of food, since each one is distinct, there would have been good reason to say there is no mixture, and the prohibition of borer is not applicable.  As such the Gemara goes out of its way to state that bereira is forbidden with two types — all the more so is there a prohibition of bereira with one type.  The Taz rules:


Since there is concern here for violation of a Torah prohibition, one must be stringent even with one type, and one must not select even among one type — even large pieces from small ones.  One may only take what one wants to eat now, or one may take randomly and then leave something for the next meal, but not in the way of selection (derekh bereira).  So it appears in my humble opinion.


The Root of the Argument


This dispute depends ostensibly on the main question which we saw in our previous shiur.  If the prohibition of borer is tikkun okhel (fixing the food), it may be that only when the two types of food are mixed together may one say that there is tikkun in the fact that each one is separated from the other, but when we consider a number of pieces of one type, separating them is not a significant tikkun.  Since all of the pieces are essentially the same, the size of each does not define the other; thus, taking out one is not considered a real tikkun for the other.  (This would be the opinion of the Terumat Ha-deshen and the Rema, who permit one to do so.) 


Conversely, if the prohibition of borer is the very fact of hotza'at pesolet (removing the refuse) or of purifying the okhel from the pesolet, it may be that the more the okhel and the pesolet are related, the more their separation is significant, and as the Taz claims, if there is a prohibition to select from two types, all the more so there must be a prohibition to select from one type.[1]




The Mishna Berura (319:15) rules that there is no prohibition of bereira for one type.  The Eglei Tal (Borer, 8) and the Arukh Ha-shulchan (319:6) agree. 


In fact, this is implied by the Gemara (134a) when it forbids straining mustard through a strainer because "it looks like selecting."  Why does it only “look like” it?  This is a case of bereira with an implement!  Apparently the mustard and its seeds are considered to be one type, and therefore by Torah law there is no prohibition of borer; however, since the seeds are an inferior element within the mustard, there remains a rabbinic ban.  (This point is raised by the Tehilla Le-David, 319:7; Zera Ya'akov, Shabbat 74b; Ayil Meshullash, Ch. 3, n. 1.) 


The Maggid Mishneh, commenting on the Rambam (Hilkhot Shevitat Asor 1:3), states that when one has lettuce and finds some leaves to be somewhat moldy, even if those moldy leaves are considered edible in extreme circumstances, there is a rabbinic prohibition to separate them from the good leaves.  It is implied that there is no Torah prohibition of borer here because we are talking about one type; however, since the moldy leaves are considered to be pesolet to some extent, there is a rabbinic prohibition to remove them.  This is also the explanation of the Eglei Tal (Borer, 17).[2] 


Therefore, the practical halakha is that we may be lenient and assume that there is no prohibition of bereira of one type, and one may select among different pieces of a given type in any way one wants.  However, if one removes from the okhel something which is barely edible, one violates a rabbinic prohibition (Mishna Berura 319:15, based on the aforementioned view of the Maggid Mishneh).


There are many ramifications of this principle, but before we approach them, we must define what exactly "one type" is.




Recall that the Terumat Ha-deshen and the Rema permit selecting large pieces from among small pieces of a given type.  According to them, when two types of food are mixed together, one may select the large pieces from the small or vice versa, even for a later time, since one is not separating by type. 


Different Names and Types


However, the Terumat Ha-deshen (Ch. 57) writes that types of fish with different names are considered different types, and the Rema (319:3) rules accordingly:


Two types of fish are considered two types of food, and it is forbidden to select one type from another except manually and for immediate use.


The Peri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 319:5) attempts to formulate a rule to decide what creates "two types" of food:


What are two types?  It may be that red and black cherries are considered two types.  See the Magen Avraham 225:10, who rules that if they are considered independent in name or taste when it comes to the Shehecheyanu blessing, the same applies here, but this issue requires further study. 


According to this, a difference in either name or taste creates two types.  The source of this definition is the law of the blessing of Shehecheyanu, which is made over a fruit when it is consumed for the first time in its season: the Shulchan Arukh (225:4) writes that one must make this blessing over every single type of fruit, and the Magen Avraham (ibid., 10) points out that one must make the blessing separately on two types if there is a difference in either name or taste. 


This means that fresh and dried fruit from the same species (e.g., grapes and raisins) each require a Shehecheyanu, since each has a different taste (in this case, they also differ in name).  Correspondingly, different pastries would also be considered independent types for our issue because they have different tastes, and in general, their names differ as well.  Similarly, white bread and black bread would also be two different types, even if they are made from the same species of grain.


Different Use


The Maharil (Hilkhot Yom Tov, 8) writes that one may not separate large pieces of matza (farfel) from small pieces of matza (matza meal).  The Taz (319:2) sees this as a proof to his approach, as there is a prohibition of bereira with one type.  However, given the halakhic consensus that there is no prohibition of bereira of one type, how can we understand the view of the Maharil?  The Peri Megadim explains (Mishbetzot Zahav, ibid., 2) that matza meal and matza farfel are considered two types because they have different purposes: matza balls can be made only out of the former, so the latter (used as a replacement for croutons and the like) are regarded as a different type.  Other Acharonim (Eglei Tal, Borer, 17; Torat Shabbat, 4) explain similarly. 


In light of this, we may suggest another rule: a difference in use may lead us to define two entities as different types.  Consequently, when it comes to shallow and deep plates, small and large pins, Shabbat clothing and weekday clothing, etc., we would regard each pair as two types.  The prohibition of borer applies because they have different uses (see Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhatah 3:27). 


Minor Differences


If two foods or objects share a name and a use, but they are distinguished by minor, insignificant differences, they are considered like one type, and there is no prohibition of borer.[3] 


The reasoning is that the minor differences between the substances do not allow for defining one as okhel and the other as pesolet, as the removal of one is not a significant tikkun of the other.  While the person selecting apparently sees a significant difference — why else would one want to separate them —since the difference is objectively considered to be negligible, this preference is deemed arbitrary, not as indicative of there being two distinct types.  The Ayil Meshullash (3:1-6), in the name of Rav Karelitz, explains the law in this way, and he brings a number of examples (see also the Ma'amar Mordekhai, 319:5):


There is no prohibition of borer regarding one type, all pieces of which are the same, with no significant variation...  Even though one may prefer the large ones or the whole ones, and there is a certain difference between them [and the other pieces], in any case, since this is not a significant difference, this becomes an issue of preference rather than rejection, as it is with two types.  Consequently, the unwanted component is not considered pesolet...

Therefore it is permissible to select the broken matzot from the whole ones,[4] leaving the whole ones in order to make Ha-motzi over them... 

One may select the fresher fruit or the fresher loaves in order to leave them for another meal.  Similarly, among fully cooked pieces of meat, one may pick the softer ones to leave them for a later point...


If so, when there are fresher loaves and loaves that are less fresh (which are still edible by normal standards), they are considered to be one type, and one may pick the fresher bread to be eaten even at a later date.  So too, when one has riper fruit and less ripe fruit (yet both of them are considered reasonably edible), one may select the most appropriate and desirable fruit, or even remove the fruit which one does not want at the moment.  So too, when one is selecting the most well-done pieces of meat from an assortment (assuming that all of them are fit to be eaten under normal circumstances), it is permissible to take them out and eat them after some time, or even to take out the rarer pieces and leave them on the side.


The Parts of a Chicken


The Mishna Berura (319:15) writes that roasted meat and cooked meat are considered two types, and the same applies to the meat of different birds:


Know that roasted and cooked meat are considered two types in this respect, and all the more so the meat of different types of poultry.  Therefore, one must be careful at elaborate feasts when one confronts many types of poultry together and one picks through them to leave something for after Shabbat: one must select what one wants to eat at the moment, not the inverse.


In light of this, it is forbidden to select a piece of chicken from among pieces of turkey and the like, unless one is taking out the piece which one wants to eat now.


From here it seems that different parts of a chicken would be considered two types, and Rav S.Z. Auerbach rules this way (as cited in Mei-or Ha-shabbat, Vol. III, 40:3).  However Rav Karelitz and Rav Elyashiv (as cited by the Ayil Meshullash, 3:7 and n. 17) regard them as one type, since both come from the same type of bird.  The Az Nidberu (YD, Ch. 10) confirms this and notes that, in this respect, we should not compare the laws of Shabbat to the laws of Purim; when it comes to sending two types of prepared food (manot) on Purim, we may indeed regard chicken breast and chicken thigh as two types, "but for the issue of borer we require totally separate types."


Practically, what should one do when it comes to eating a chicken on Shabbat?  It is preferable to take the wanted part and not to remove the part which one does not want.  If other parts are in the way, preventing one from getting to the wanted part, one is permitted to move them; after all, even with two species, the Mishna Berura allows one to move the top layer in order to get to the bottom layer (see above).  What about separating pieces of poultry in order to heat them up for a later meal?  According to Rav Elyashiv and those who follow his approach, one may rule leniently, because these pieces are all of the same type; in fact, even according to Rav S.Z. Auerbach, one may be lenient, since the warming is necessary for the meal, so it is considered bereira proximate to the meal.  (We will deal with this in a later shiur.)


Common Practice vs. Objective Definitions 


We should note that the determination whether two things are considered one type or two types for purposes of borer is not based on objective definitions, but on common practice.  This differs from the laws of kashrut, wherein classification is determined by an item's inherent nature and characteristics.  For example, permitted meat and the forbidden sciatic nerve are considered two types for kashrut purposes, but for issues of borer we regard them as one type (Magen Avraham, 500:12), since this is how people relate to them.  Similarly, water and wooden splinters are definitely two types, but nevertheless the Rema (319:10) permits one to filter water from tiny splinters mixed in it, since people generally drink water with tiny splinters in it. 


This distinction applies in reverse as well: matza farfel and matza meal are definitely one type for kashrut purposes, but nevertheless they are considered two types for issues of borer, since people use them in different ways, as mentioned above.  The reason for this distinction is that the prohibition of selecting food from food emanates from the mindset of the person who looks at one type as pesolet, and therefore it is clear that this depends on common practice, not on objective definitions.  (See Ayil Meshullash, Ch. 2, n. 13; Eglei Tal, Borer, 20; Shevitat Shabbat, Borer, Be'er Rechovot, 22). 


Personal Practice or Common Practice


In this regard, the question arises: do we follow the person who is selecting or the accepted custom?  If, for example, one does not eat fish skin, but many eat it together with the fish, will we say that for this person, skin is considered to be pesolet and a different type, so that its removal improves the fish significantly and is forbidden because of the prohibition of borer?  Or perhaps, since many people eat the skin together with the fish, they are considered one type, and the removal of the skin would not constitute bereira even for that person?


This question is not addressed in the Gemara or by the Rishonim.  It is clear that there is no Torah prohibition, because even if a given person does not eat a specific food, it is still suitable for this person and he might eat it in extreme circumstances, and we have already seen that this is sufficient to mitigate the borer issue on a Torah level; only on a rabbinic level do we rule stringently and consider it to be a separate type.  The question is: will this be permissible even on a rabbinic level, since many regard it as good food; or does the definition follow the person who is selecting, who sees this food as pesolet?  In other words, does the definition of one type follow personal practice or common practice?[5] 


A response to this may be found in the words of the Peri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav, 319:2):


One might say that sour and sweet apples are in fact one type; nevertheless, for one who hates sour apples, they are regarded as pesolet and it is forbidden for him [to remove them].  However, if others are present who like sour apples, we should say that it is permitted for him to select the sour apples from the sweet ones.


  According to him, we follow the intent of the person doing the selecting, and not common practice.  However, Rav Elyashiv (cited by the Ayil Meshullash, Ch. 6, n. 54) qualifies the words of the Peri Megadim:


The Peri Megadim discusses specifically sweet and sour [apples], because it is quite common that many people do not like sour ones, and therefore we say that their opinion is taken into consideration.  However, if this is a rare phenomenon, and only a few individuals dislike them, we say that their opinion is disregarded; thus, even for those individuals, those apples are not considered pesolet. 


According to this view, the Peri Megadim discusses only a case similar to that of sweet and sour apples — i.e., even though most people like sour apples, there is a notable minority which does not, so that the preference of one who dislikes them is deemed significant; however, when a person dislikes a food which most everyone likes, this opinion is disregarded, and even for such an individual the "unwanted" type is not considered pesolet.


Despite this, it seems that in the modern context we may assume that when a given person does not eat a specific food, in general there are many others with the same preference, and therefore the given person must act stringently and regard the "unwanted" food as pesolet, with its removal prohibited as borer.  Nevertheless, if one is not disgusted by this food and merely prefers not to eat it, there is no prohibition of borer (assuming it is considered “one type”), as explained above.


Chicken Skin


In the past, most people would eat chicken skin, but nowadays most people will not, because it is not healthy.  Certainly, according to what we have seen, whoever does not like chicken skin must regard it as pesolet, since this preference is shared by a significant group.  Nevertheless, one may be lenient and remove the skin in order to eat the chicken immediately, since it is similar to peeling fruit, which is permissible, as we will see.  This is the ruling of both Rav Elyashiv (Ayil Meshullash, Ch. 6, n. 55) and Rav Zilber (Az Nidberu, Vol.  VII, Ch. 16), among others. 













V) Selection of Various Items


May one sort a pile of books?  After the Shabbat meal on Friday night, may one arrange the silverware for the next day's lunch?  On Friday night, may one take an article of clothing from a pile of clothes in one's closet in order to wear it the following morning?




Is there a prohibition of borer for non-food items, e.g., clothing, books or silverware? 


The Gemara, in its main discussion of borer (74a), talks about types of food.  Based on this, one might claim that the prohibition of borer applies only with regard to food.  However, this understanding is contradicted by the Gemara on the very next page (74b) when it enumerates the multiple liabilities for manufacturing various items: "Whoever makes a barrel is liable to bring seven sin-offerings....  whoever makes a wicker hive is liable to bring eleven sin-offerings."  Rashi explains that among the prohibitions of each, respectively, is an act of bereira: picking out pebbles from the ground clay for the barrel and picking out the good reeds for the hive.  This clearly indicates that the prohibition of borer applies even among non-food items. 


The Taz (319:12) states this explicitly, making the point that Tosafot's version of the integral beraita of borer (which we discussed in our previous shiur) does seem to suggest that bereira applies to food only, but the inclusion of borer as a component of the barrel-making process — found in Rashi, but undisputed among the Rishonim — undoubtedly indicates that borer has no such limitation.  The Eglei Tal (Borer, 12), Arukh Ha-shulchan (319:7) and Mishna Berura (ibid., 15) concur.




Even though there is a prohibition of borer for things which are not food, one may still claim that the prohibition does not apply to items which do not grow from the ground.  The Gemara (73b, 75a) limits the melakhot of dash (threshing) and me'ammer (bundling) to giddulei karka (that which grows from the ground), and Rabbi Akiva Eger writes in his Responsa (1st ed., Ch. 20) that zoreh (winnowing) also applies only to giddulei karka:


This is what we have seen in Chapter 17... that the Rabbis maintain that threshing only applies to giddulei karka.  This is what we have found and what has been established there... that me'ammer exists only with giddulei karka... 


In light of this, the Chemdat Yisra'el writes (Vol. I, 49a; cited by the Minchat Yitzchak, Vol. I, Ch. 75) that the melakha of borer is applicable only to giddulei karka (as part of his defense of those who discards bones while eating fish without worrying about borer):


It occurs to me that one may justify the common practice according to what it is written in the Responsa of Rabbi Akiva Eger, Ch. 20: just as threshing only applies to giddulei karka, the same applies to zoreh.  Naturally, it is obvious that according to this sage, the same applies to borer as well — that it is limited to giddulei karka — as we have seen in the Gemara that zoreh and borer are one and the same, and fish do not grow from the ground! Consequently, one cannot be liable for borer when it comes to them.


The Chemdat Yisra'el notes that zoreh and borer are identical melakhot, as we mentioned in our previous shiur; consequently, since the melakha of zoreh is limited to giddulei karka, the same applies to borer.  Granted, Rashi applies borer to removing stones from dirt (in the case of making a barrel); however, since the dirt is on the ground, we may consider this giddulei karka. 


However, most Acharonim dispute this point and bring many proofs to the opposite view: that borer applies to items which are not giddulei karka.  For example, the Rambam (8:14) rules that it is a Torah prohibition to filter water: "Whoever filters wine, oil, water or any other liquid in its respective strainer is liable."


Similarly, the Terumat Ha-deshen (Ch. 57) forbids selecting fish from fish, as we saw earlier — even though they are not giddulei karka. 

The Eglei Tal (Borer, 12) writes that there is a Torah prohibition of borer even for items which are not giddulei karka.

The Peri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav, 321:10), the Minchat Yitzchak (Vol. I, Ch. 75) and others confirm this, writing that the prohibition of borer is not limited to giddulei karka.


Selecting Silverware, Clothes and Books


In light of this, the Mishna Berura (319:15) rules: 


The Acharonim write that bereira applies to any case of “two types” — even, for example, utensils and clothing, and therefore one must select the item one desires for now leaving the others in their place, and not vice versa.


The Shevitat Shabbat (Borer, 13) writes that the prohibition of bereira applies fully to books and clothing, and therefore one must not select an article of clothing or a book at night to be used the following morning.  Apparently, this would also mean that there is a prohibition to select silverware at the end of the meal, and similarly it would be forbidden to select silverware (even the type that one wants) in order to set the table on Friday night for lunch the next day.


However, other Acharonim permit this.  For example, the Or Same'ach (8:11) writes:


 Know that borer, by definition, is performed on a consistent mixture, from which one removes the pesolet and leaves the okhel or sorts two types of okhel — this is the melakha.  Thus, if the mixture is not blended, borer does not apply...  However, the Taz writes that borer is not limited to food; it also applies to wood and metals, and he cites the words of Rashi concerning the wicker hive; one is liable in that case for selecting the good reeds, and there one is able to do it when they are blended...  From the fact that he mentions utensils, some authorities who have come after him have ruled that borer applies to utensils, but they err in this, as the melakha of borer only exists when a substance is blended, which can never be said of utensils or clothing — although it need not be edible, as we have explained. 


On this view, the prohibition of borer applies to non-food items as well, but this should not be extended to utensils and clothing.  According to him, the prohibition of bereira applies only to items that are normally used in a blended state — only such items can be defined as in a mixture.  Utensils and clothing are not used while blended, but rather each one on is used on its own, and therefore if a number of utensils or articles of clothing are piled together, this is not considered a mixture, and the prohibition of borer does not apply.


The Arukh Ha-shulchan (319:8-9) offers a sharp analysis of this issue:


According to this, we should ask a major question: how is it that we [are permissive when we] deal with so many issues, e.g., when spoons, forks and knives are placed in a pile and one needs only knives, selecting the knives from the mixture?...  Similarly, when there are many books piled on top of each other and one needs certain books and selects them and takes them?  Furthermore, wealthy people have on their tables many types of large and small plates, and each type of food has a different plate.  There are many other examples of this.  If there is bereira in everything, how shall we deal with this?!

The answer is twofold.

Firstly, if an item is readily discernable, bereira is not applicable — for this is not bereira, but rather the netila (removal) of an item, and all of these things that we have enumerated are readily discernable, e.g., clothing, utensils and books.  And do not object by claiming: are not two types of fruit, such as dates and grapes, readily discernable?  This is not true, since they are small and numerous they require selecting to be separated, unlike clothing, utensils and books.

Secondly, as will be explained, during a meal, one may take okhel from pesolet and eat it, for this is not derekh bereira (the way of selection) but derekh akhila (the way of eating), and thus anything one wants to use immediately — clothing to wear, utensils to use and books to read — has the same status, equivalent to food at mealtime, so that bereira is not applicable to it.  [Certainly, when it comes to sorting books and putting each in its place, or sorting clothing in order to hang each one in its place, or a similar situation with utensils, this latter reason provides no justification to permit one to do so; but according to the first reason, there is no prohibition in the matter.  This requires further analysis.]


The Arukh Ha-shulchan gives two reasons to be lenient when it comes to bereira of utensils, books, etc.:


According to the first reason, the prohibition of borer is applicable only to small items which require analysis and discernment in order to separate them, but items which are easily discernable, such as books, utensils and clothing, are not subject to a process of bereira, but rather simple netila. 


Alternatively, according to the second reason, bereira is essentially applicable to these items, but just as one is allowed to select okhel from pesolet for immediate use, since this is derekh akhila and not derekh bereira, the same permit should apply for non-food items, enabling one to select items for immediate use, as this is not derekh bereira.


The distinction between these two approaches is clear: according to the second reason, one may select utensils and clothing only according to the conditions which allow one to perform bereira on food — namely, to take by hand that which is desired for immediate use.  Whereas according to the first reason, bereira is not relevant at all for these types of items, as long as they are large and readily discernable from one another.


The Shevitat Shabbat (Borer, Be'er Rechovot, Ch. 26) accepts the second reason of the Arukh Ha-shulchan: 


His second reason seems more compelling, as the Yerushalmi (7:5) states...  "[One may not select] even cakes from among cakes and pomegranates from among pomegranates" — meaning that even though they are large items, bereira applies to them...  Similarly, when it comes to the wicker hive, Rashi explains that one selects good reeds, and these reeds are large...  We see from these sources that borer applies even to large and recognizable items; therefore, one may only take the utensils which one wants now in order to use them.


On the other hand, Rav Ovadya Yosef writes in his Yabbia Omer (Vol. V, OC, Ch. 31) that the first approach is correct, and thus there is no prohibition of borer regarding utensils or clothing,.  The Tzitz Eliezer (Vol. XII, Ch. 35) rules accordingly:


What emerges from the words of the Arukh Ha-shulchan is that according to the first reason, it is clear that the prohibition of bereira applies even to non-food items; nevertheless when it comes to clothing, utensils, books and the like, there is no prohibition of bereira...  because they are readily discernable and the definition of a mixture does not apply to them...  However, according to the second reason of the Arukh Ha-shulchan, he admits that when it comes to clothing, utensils, books and the like, the prohibition of bereira applies.  According to this view, it is permitted to select these items only when one has an immediate need to wear that article of clothing or use those utensils or read those books, making it into the halakhic equivalent of mealtime, so that bereira does not apply.

In my humble opinion, the first answer makes more sense, and we have found support for this in other sources, against the view of the Shevitat Shabbat... who endorses the second answer.


In the Yabbia Omer (ibid.), Rav Ovadya Yosef writes that there is another reason to be lenient when it comes to sorting silverware after a meal: we may also enlist the view of the Peri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav, 319:2) that there is no prohibition of borer in sorting, since there is no okhel and pesolet here, as one wants to use everything equally at a later time (as we discussed above).  We may add the view of Rabbeinu Yerucham as well (as we will discuss in a future shiur), that bereira for the next meal, even if it will take place many hours later, is considered bereira for immediate use.  According to this, Rav Ovadya concludes, one is permitted to select silverware for the next meal.


However, many Acharonim rule stringently, in light of the view of the Mishna Berura (319:15).  Rav Neuwirth (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhatah 3:27, 68-69, 78-84) rules that the rules of bereira apply to sorting items such as clothing, silverware and books, and Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, OC Vol. IV, Ch. 74, Borer 12) writes the following concerning books and clothing:


How may one look for a book which one needs for a later time if the book's title is not written on its spine or if it is in a dark room?

Answer: I have already advised to take each book and open it, and once one sees that it is not the right one, one may set it aside...  However, one must not do this in a way which constitutes an act of borer, namely to open it while one is still standing there, look at it briefly and realize it is not the correct book; for this is an act of borer.  Similarly, this method is practicable for clothing as well: namely, one should take it out of the closet casually in a manner of perusal until one finds the desired article, but not in a way that makes clear one intends to select.




The general consensus is to be stringent and forbid bereira of non-food items, e.g., clothing, silverware and books.  However, even when it comes to these items, one may sometimes permit selection when there is not a true mixture, as we shall see in our next shiur.  Similarly, one may be lenient concerning bereira of non-food items when there are other mitigating factors, since there are those who permit this regardless.


Translated by Rav Yoseif Bloch


[1]  In other words, if the prohibition is tikkun okhel, we look at the entire mixture to check if there is any imperfection which can be repaired; if the entire mixture is from that same type, we do not see any problem or imperfection; on the other hand, if the prohibition is hotza'at pesolet, we focus on the piece which one takes out and the way one conceives of it, and if one is desires, for example, the large piece, the removal of the small piece is considered to be the relative elimination of pesolet.

[2]  Still, it is possible to argue and say that the prohibition mentioned in the Gemara and by the Maggid Mishneh exists in every case of bereira with one type, not only when one separates an inferior substance from a superior substance; nevertheless, even one who says this will admit that the prohibition is only rabbinic in nature, and since we are dealing with a rabbinic ban, there is good reason to be lenient (although the Taz himself thinks that the prohibition to perform borer on one type applies by Torah law). 

[3]  This principle parallels the main rule of the Terumat Ha-deshen that even if someone prefers at the moment a large (or small) piece, there is no inherent act of bereira among them, because from an objective point of view the large and small pieces are all the same thing.  This also comes up in the issue of the strainer, as we will see below: one may filter a liquid on Shabbat if most people would drink it without filtering.  This would appear to prove that when bereira comes to solve a problem which is not deemed as significant, there is no prohibition of borer to do so (as Rashi ibid., 139b, s.v. Bein Ha-gittot, points out), even though a given individual may be concerned enough to go to the trouble of trying to fix it.

[4] Apparently, this is regarded as a mere matter of preference, not a significant difference.  However, this seems to require further study, since there is a different use here.  Apparently, Rav Karelitz believes that the main purpose of matza is eating, not considering the preference for whole matzot in making the blessing of Ha-motzi as significant enough to considered them a different type.  In any case, Rav Neuwirth (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhatah 3:28) notes that Rav S. Z. Auerbach disputes this, ruling that broken and whole matzot are two different types.  (Below we will discuss whether a prohibited substance is rendered a different type by the very fact of its forbidden status.)

[5]           When one confronts items that are generally regarded as two separate types, we define what is okhel and what is pesolet according to each person's intent — whatever that person does not want is considered pesolet, as we have seen above (according to Tosafot, 74a, s.v. Hayu).  However, most people would consider this to be only one type, it is not clear that we follow the person's intent and see okhel and pesolet, and it may be that the given person's intent is deemed irrelevant given its divergence from the general perception.