Shabbat Parashat Shoftim| 5767
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In honor of the publication this week of the sixth volume of our Hebrew responsa work, B’mareh Habazak, we proudly bring you a question and answer from that forum (siman 45). It is not only translated from Hebrew but also adapted to the different format we employ in Hemdat Yamim. (Copies of the sefer are available in our office, along with other of our publications.)
Question: Is it permitted, while serving on Shabbat, to transfer vegetables or kenaidelach from the soup to the bowls with the use of a special spoon that has holes in it?
Answer: The baraita (cited in Shabbat 74a) mentions cryptically that selecting (borer)some food from other types of food is sometimes forbidden and sometimes permitted. The following three distinctions that are brought to explain the various possibilities are accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 319:1-2) as halacha. 1) The selection is done by hand, not by a utensil whose purpose is selection. 2) The food which one wants to eat is removed from that which he does not want now. 3) The food which is removed will be used in the short term. Only if all three are satisfied will it be permitted to select (see also Tosafot, Shabbat 74a).
At first glance, our question fails the first test, as a utensil is being used, not hands. One could try to apply the following important rule which Rav M. Feinstein used (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayim I, 124). One is allowed to remove food that he wants to eat from its surroundings with a spoon or fork if the selection could have been done as efficiently by hand and the utensil was used for a side reason (e.g., to keep his hands clean). One could claim that in our case one would use his hand if not for technical factors such as hygiene and not wanting to dirty or burn his hands. On the other hand, the spoon in question here is a special one which is made to have the effect of a strainer. It is likely that in such a case Rav Feinstein would not have been lenient.
However, we can permit using the spoon in this context for a combination of factors. The Maharitatz (Shut 203) says that it is not considered borer when one removes a solid from the medium of a liquid. He used this rule to explain his ruling that one may remove a fly that fell into a drink. It is true that many argue (including the Taz, Orach Chayim 319:13) and the more accepted halachic practice is to take out some liquid along with the fly (Biur Halacha to 319:4). The Yalkut Yosef (319:28) rules that the halacha is like the Maharitatz, just that it is preferable to remove some liquid with the fly. Furthermore, the Shevitat Shabbat (Borer, 11) says that when the solid pieces inside the liquid are large, even those who argue on the Maharitatz should agree that removing the pieces is not borer.
In the standard case you refer to, there is another significant reason to be lenient. The person who takes out the vegetables presumably does not care if a modest amount of liquid is transferred along with the vegetables. His intention is just to efficiently move a large amount of vegetables from one place to another. Thus, even if liquid falls out along the way, it is not considered borer. Based on this concept, the Yalkut Yosef (ibid.:28) allows using a spoon with holes to remove pieces of meat from chulent even though some gravy slips out in the process. He bases himself partially on a similar ruling in Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (3:54). There, Rav Neuwirth says that one can use a ladle with holes to quickly remove wet spaghetti from a pot to a plate in such a way that he does not have a significant amount of water fall out in the process.
In summary, there are several reasons for leniency to allow using a spoon with holes to move vegetables from the pot of soup to people’s bowls on Shabbat, and it is permitted to do so.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.
Hemdat Yamim is also dedicated by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z"l.
May their memory be a blessing!