The Essence of Borer
The Yeshuos Yaakov raises a fundamental question: Why is sorting forbidden? As for an action [Melacha] to be forbidden on Shabbos, it specifically requires that one benefits from the outcome of this action. Hence, if the action does not provide a benefit there is no prohibition. Logically then, sorting the refuse from the food should be permitted as one will not draw any benefit from the refuse, so why is sorting prohibited?
The Yeshuos Yaakov innovates a new definition; sorting is not prohibited merely when separating mixed items, but also when improving one of these items. For example, fish served with skin and bones; removing the skin or the bones from the flesh is clearly Borer and is forbidden, as the action “improved the food” which is now became eatable. This new aspect provides a host of Dinim.
- If there are two foods that are mixed and one wants one to eat one now and not the other, the one he wants to eat is called the ‘food’ and the unwanted one is called the ‘refuse’ and so it is forbidden to take the unwanted one from the other. [SA 319:10, MB 319:13]
- For example, if almonds and walnuts are mixed, and one only intends to eat the almonds, one may take the almonds from the mixture but not the walnuts. [SSK 3:3]
The Biur Halacha applies the concept of the Yeshuos Yaakov to items layered on top of each other. Since, neither item is spoiling the other and there is no problem of Borer whatsoever. He concludes though, that when removing one of the layered items (e.g. a pile of sweaters or shirts), it should still only be separated prior to use. Conversely, removing the top item with the intention to make the item under it accessible, this is not considered sorting and may be done even not prior to use.
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