Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo| 5764
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Question: After washing silverware on Friday night, I need to arrange each type in its proper place. How do I do that without violating the prohibition of borer (selecting)?
Answer: It is conceivable that there is no problem, as we will explain, but there are also relatively simple ways to separate the silverware into categories without a problem of borer.
Rav Ovadia Yosef shlita (in Yabia Omer V, OC 31) justifies the practice of those who pull out forks, knives, and spoons in groups from a pile of silverware so that each will be in its distinct place to expedite setting the table on Shabbat morning. In classic form, he does so by bringing several possible reasons why the procedure may be permitted, even though each reason is not sufficiently convincing in its own right. We will start with the strongest of the reasons in his eyes.
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 319: 8,9) wonders how it is possible to pick out one type of silverware from a bunch of assorted ones. His first suggestion is that because of their large size, each utensil is distinct in the eyes of he who selects. Thus, the process of removing what he wants is not considered borer,but simply taking. Many Acharonim question this proposition (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 3:(78); Piskei Teshuvot 319:6), which may also depend on how tightly packed the silverware is. In fact, the Terumat Hadeshen (#57) already raised the idea but was reluctant to rely upon it without further indications for leniency.
Another important point is raised by the Pri Megadim (cited by Biur Halacha 319:3). The Rambam (Shabbat 8:12) rules that if one has two useful types of items before him he may take out the one he wants to use in the short term. The time factor can be understood in two ways. Perhaps the fact that one will be used before the other turns the former into ochel (desired object) and the latter into relative pesolet (unwanted). The rule is that we may take ochel from pesolet, but not vice versa. If that is the issue, then if one will use both groups of items at the same time in the future, there is no problem, because there is no distinction between ochel and pesolet. The Biur Halacha (ibid.) is convinced that this is not the explanation of the time factor. Rather, there is a special dispensation when one takes an object to use in the short term, as this is considered “in the manner of consumption” and is permitted. In contrast, selection for later use is more like classic borer.
Additional, weaker grounds for leniency include the possibility that the Torah prohibition of borer applies only to things which grow from the ground or that preparations for the next meal are considered short term even if the meal is significantly later.
The following suggestions are systems to conform to the majority opinion among poskim, which does not accept the aforementioned leniency (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 3:78-79; Hilchot Shabbat (Eider) X,G,4). One is to keep the silverware in a pile and set the table soon before the meal begins, as we saw in the Rambam. It is not sufficient to do the separation soon before setting the table, if that is done long before the meal (Mishna Berura 321:45). Another possibility is to not select utensils from the pile, but to use the opportunity that the utensils are in the hand to create separate piles for each category. After taking them one by one indiscriminately in order to wash or dry, one then puts each one in a separate pile by category. With a little organization, this system need not waste too much time. Others suggest artificially undoing the mixture by throwing them across the surface (like pick-up sticks) and then selecting as desired (Rav Moshe Feinstein, response #11 to Rav Eider).
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