The Talmud Shabbos 74a quotes a Teaching from a Mishna:
One who has [two types of] food before him, he may sort and eat sort and place. He must not sort and if he does sort, he is liable to bring a חטאת offering.
There seem to be a blatant contradiction in this Mishna. The first section teaches the way permitted to sort, while the second section seems to forbid any sorting.
Abayei’s explains that sorting is permitted only when these 3 conditions are present” 1- Sorting only for immediate consumption. 2- Sorting with his hand. 3- Sorting food from refuse While the latter part of the Mishna evokes the case if one of these conditions is missing.
Rashi and Rabeinu Channanel argue about the correct version of the Mishna: Is the Mishna talking about the choosing between two foods or simply addressing the sorting of the bad from the good?
The Shulchan Aruch [Shabbos 319:1] statutes:
One who separates food from refuse, or if two food types were placed in front of one and he separated one from the other.
According to the above ruling, it is obvious the laws of sorting apply in both cases.
The Rama states:
Sorting for the forthcoming meal is permitted. The Taz clarifies that both the Mechaber and Rama agree about this ruling.
The above ruling confirms 2 Halachos:
Last course: The Mishna Brura explains that what defines the permissibility to sort is not the amount of time that elapsed since the sorting, but rather that it was performed prior to that meal. Therefore, even if it is the last course, the sorting can be done before that meal.
Long meal: I.e for a Sheva Brochos, if the preparation of the meal requires an extensive number of hours, even sorting so far before the Seuda is considered “for immediate consumption” and permitted. [This is a critical point that will be clarified and quantified through the next Shiurim].
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