Parshas Ki Sisa
Summary of a shiur by Dayan Daniel Dombroff
Borer (selecting) is one of the 39 forbidden melachos of Shabbos, but the Gemara (Shabbos 74a) concludes that it is permitted when performed under all three of these conditions:
- B’yad (by hand)—without a utensil
- Miyad (for immediate use)—shortly before the meal (Rama)
- Ochel mitoch pesoles (removing the desired item from the undesired one)—and not vice versa
Why do these conditions permit borer? Rashi explains that separating b’yad is considered a significant shinui, a change from the norm. This is difficult to understand: In the case of other melachos, performing the act in an unusual manner does not permit it entirely, it only downgrades the violation from a Torah prohibition to a Rabbinic one. Why is this one permitted?
The answer is that selecting food just before a meal is different from other melachos because the food will not exist for much longer, so the effect of the melachah is short lived. By contrast, planting, harvesting, and cooking have longer-lasting results. Pre-meal borer is therefore considered derech achilah, a part of the eating process.
One exception to the rule is that the Rama (O.C. 321) permits peeling fruits and vegetables before eating even when removing the pesoles from the ochel, the peel from the fruit. Because the fruit cannot be accessed without peeling, that is the derech achilah, and the act doesn’t have the significance of a melachah.
Because most nuts in the U.S. today are sold without shells, some poskim maintain that unshelled nuts do not have the status of food in that state, and removing their shells on Shabbos would be forbidden.