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Dash - part 1

  • Rav Moshe Taragin



Jeffrey Paul Friedman

August 15, 1968 – July 29, 2012


יהודה פנחס בן הרב שרגא פייוועל

כ"ב אב תשכ"ח – י' אב תשע"ב



The melakha of dash involves the separation of produce from the shells and sheaths within which they grow. The most common modern day application of this melakha is probably the extraction of juices from fruit. In this shiur, we will explore the basic definition of this melakha.

As noted, the classic scenario of dash is the separation of kernels of wheat from the stalk and chaff which surround them and protect them during growth. Presumably, this melakha is similar in structure to borer: each melakha separates edible material from inedible chaff. Dash separates produce from the waste (pesolet) to which it is attached, whereas borer separates food from detached waste.

However, several comments of Rashi (Shabbat 74a and 95a) indicate that dash is not defined primarily as separating produce from inedible material. Instead, the melakha is defined as removing a concealed item from its protective coat. The activity is not defined as one of separation, but rather as one of uncovering.

The primary practical ramifications between these two approaches would surround items that are concealed but not attached, or, conversely, attached by not concealed. Gauging the applicability of dash in these two instances can help isolate the primary factor of the melakha.

The Maharil questions the permissibility of removing peas from their pod on Shabbat. The Taz (319:16) suggests that if the peas were detached from the pod before Shabbat, even though the pod was still sealed, dash would not be violated. Presumably, the Taz defines dash as primarily entailing detachment. Thus, if the peas were detached prior to Shabbat, even if they remain concealed, no violation occurs when they are removed from the pod. If dash were defined as removing a shell that covers food, perhaps the Taz's conclusion would not entail. (In practice, we rely on the Maharil's assertion that the husk itself is edible, and dash does not pertain to separating one food item from a different food item; see the continuation of the shiur below.)

The reverse situation is described by a gemara in Shabbat (73b), which discusses the violation of dash in the case of someone who hurls a rock or slab of hardened dirt at a tree, causing the figs to become detached from the tree. Although the figs were originally attached, in this case, they were not concealed, yet dash is violated. Tosafot is bothered by this application of dash, and they therefore reinterpret the gemara to refer to removing an encasing shell surrounding the figs. Rashi may have been concerned with the simple reading as well, as he describes the separation of a fig from an encasing cluster of figs – perhaps maintaining the definition of dash as the uncovering of a concealed (and protected) fruit. However, the simple reading of the gemara does indicate that dash is violated when produce is separated from other material, even if the produce was not encased or concealed. (In this instance, as the gemara itself asserts, both dash and kotzer would be violated, since the figs were separated from the tree as well.)

This query would also influence an interesting question: Is dash violated when the separated item is not needed for any purpose?

The gemara in Ketuvot (6a) famously describes the permissibility of squeezing a rag that has absorbed wine. Rabbeinu Tam claims that if the wine is not needed, dash is not violated, as the action is a “melakha she-eina tzerikha le-gufa.” A melakha is only violated if there is some need for the object upon which the melakha is performed. Since the melakha is performed upon the wine, the melakha is not violated if there is no interest in the use of the wine.

This assertion is logical assuming that dash is defined as an act upon a concealed item (in this case, the wine which is absorbed in the rag). As such, the melakha is performed upon the concealed or absorbed wine, and if the wine has no utility, it is indeed a melakha she-eina tzerikha le-gufa. If, however, dash is defined as separating produce from an attached item, the melakha of separation is performed upon each item. As long as there is some utility in either item, the melakha should be violated. Any melakha that is defined as an act of separation requires utility in either of the materials being separated. This theory is suggested by the Ramban (Shabbat 106), who writes that cutting hair is forbidden even if the cut hair provides no utility. Since cutting (tolesh) is defined as separating body extensions from the body, utility either in the body or the hair and nails that were cut is sufficient to render the melakha a full Shabbat violation.

If dash is defined as separation, it would parallel cutting hair, and Rabbeinu Tam's exemption in situations in which the wine has no utility should not apply. Separating the wine from the cloth by squeezing allows utility of the emptied cloth, and that utility is sufficient to define the melakha as providing utility. Evidently, then, Rabbeinu Tam defines dash as an activity upon the concealed/absorbed wine. Dash constitutes uncovering a concealed or absorbed item. Since the melakha is performed solely upon the wine and it possesses no utility, this melakha is deficient and not forbidden. (See the Kehillat Yaakov, Shabbat 46 and Ketuvot 4, for a fuller description of this application.)

The definition of dash also affects the type of action necessary to constitute a violation. The gemara (95a) describes drawing the blood of a mollusk for dye as a form of dash. Rashi (commenting on a strange language in the gemara) claims that dash is only violated if the person manually squeezes the blood out, rather than letting it flow naturally after piercing the shell or skin of the mollusk. Perhaps Rashi maintains that since dash is defined as removing a concealed item (in this instance, the blood), perhaps a direct action must be performed upon that concealed item. Merely piercing the skin of the mollusk and allowing the blood to flow would not be considered an act upon the blood and would thus not entail dash. By contrast, if dash is defined as separating the blood from the mollusk, piercing the shell would be sufficient to constitute a violation, since the melakha is defined as an act of separation performed on either of the two attached items. The assertion that Rashi claims that dash entails uncovering concealed items, rather than separating attached items, would certainly reflect the aforementioned statements of Rashi indicating this definition of dash.

A final application may surround the applicability of dash to a thin shell (kelipa). The gemara in Beitza (13b) describes a permissible process of removing the husks of barley grains on Shabbat. Tosafot question the permissibility of this activity given the prohibition of dash. The question is even more compelling given the prohibition of removing husks on Shabbat described an earlier gemara in Beitza (12b), (at least according to Tosafot's understanding of that gemara). Tosafot explain that the permissible scenario described by the gemara in 13b relates to barley kernels that have already been removed from the actual husks before Shabbat. The gemara which permits this process refers to separating these kernals from the thin shell surrounding the grain. Based on this Tosafot, many claim that removing thin shells of onions and garlic is not a dash violation (although it may entail borer complications).

Perhaps Tosafot maintain that dash is defined as revealing a concealed item, and removing a grain from a thin coat therefore does not constitute dash. The thin shell does not conceal the grain, and it certainly does not protect it from physical harm. If dash were defined primarily as separating produce from items that it was attached to while it grew, it would be more difficult to accept Tosafot's explanation.