Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo| 5765
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Question: When I give my baby cereal to eat, I usually pour in enough milk to make it wet and soft but then strain out most of the milk into the sink so that he should not make too big a mess. On Shabbat, I simply hold back the cereal with my fingers, as using a utensil is a problem of borer (sorting). Is that sufficient to solve the problem?
Answer: With the system you are using, avoiding the use of a utensil is not sufficient. You are still missing one of the three major requirements to avoid borer (see Mishna Berura’s introduction to siman 319). The three are: 1) Taking the desired element (ochel) from the undesired; 2) Not using a utensil that enhances the sorting process; 3) Using the ochel in the short term. In this case, you failed requirement #1, as you removed the undesired milk. There are a few ways to rectify the situation, from which you can choose.
1) Remove the cereal from the milk- This simply eliminates the problem that we mentioned. You could even use a spoon to do so, as the spoon is not specifically designed for sorting/straining, and, in theory, your fingers could have been similarly efficient (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 3:45). Just be careful that if you take a spoonful that has too much milk in it, you shouldn’t rectify the situation by purposely tilting the spoon to make the excess milk fall out. You can, though, take the spoon out on an angle from the beginning. Depending how much your baby eats, this system might be tedious.
2) Have someone drink the milk you pour off- The problem you have stems from the fact that you are treating the milk as p’solet, something not to be used, at least in the short term. However, if the baby or someone else drinks the milk in the short term, then the milk is considered another type of ochel, and it is permitted to remove one ochel from another to eat immediately. Even if someone removes an element that he does not desire and does not eat it, if he takes it out to give to someone in the vicinity who does want it, the solution works (ibid.:23).
3) Remove some cereal along with the milk- The Taz (319:13) says that if one wants to remove a fly from soup, where the fly is obviously the p’solet, he may do so by taking out some soup along with the fly. This is understood as follows. The prohibition of borer exists when one takes one element from another, not when one takes a certain percentage of the two elements that make up a mixture from the rest in a manner that changes the relative concentration. The chidush of the Taz is that even if by removing the two elements, one is left with only one element (fly-less soup) it is still permitted. That is because halacha is concerned with that which one removes, in relation to the original mixture, not that which remains (Eglei Tal, Borer, note 6). Since there was a mixture of soup and a fly and one is removing a mixture of soup and a fly, there is no problem. Although some argue on the Taz, the Mishna Berura (319:61) and a broad consensus of poskim accept his view. In this case, the situation is even better, as you will be leaving behind milk in the bowl, just at a lower concentration. You just have to be careful when you remove the milk and cereal to remove them together. If you drain out the milk by itself for a few seconds, then the fact that you subsequently throw in some cereal at the end will not retroactively fix the previous act of borer. If you use this system correctly, it is not considered a process of borer at all, and so it would not make a difference if the baby ate the food in the short term or significantly later (see The 39 Melachos, vol. II, pg. 433).
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