The Orthodox Union - via its website - fields questions of all types in areas of kashrut, Jewish law and values. Some of them are answered by Eretz Hemdah, the Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, headed by Rav Yosef Carmel and Rav Moshe Ehrenreich, founded by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l, to prepare rabbanim and dayanim to serve the National Religious community in Israel and abroad. Ask the Rabbi is a joint venture of the OU, Yerushalayim Network, Eretz Hemdah… and the Israel Center. The following is a Q&A from Eretz Hemdah…
Removing a Licked Candy from Clean Ones on Shabbat
Question: I was at a friend’s home, and he brought out a platter of candies, all of the same type. My little daughter grabbed for a candy and put it in her mouth. I chided her for her behavior, so she put the (licked) candy back in the platter. I was very embarrassed and took the candy out from the platter. My friend claimed that in the process, I had violated the prohibition of borer (selecting). Was he correct?
Answer: In order for there to be a question of borer, there has to be a basic level of ta’arovet (intermingling of different objects), where one wants to separate between different types. On the level of a physical ta’arovet, even relatively big objects, such as different pieces of fish on a platter, can be considered intermingled and be subject to the laws of borer if they are not distinct one from the other (Rama, Orach Chayim 319:3; see Terumat Hadeshen 57). While it is not always easy to determine how separate things have to be distinct, a platter of candies is very likely to be considered a ta’arovet.
There is another factor that can cause borer to not be an issue: the lack of contrast between the different items. According to the great majority of poskim (see Mishna Berura 319:15), there is borer only when there are at least two different categories of objects. If there is only one type, just that one wants some of the items now and some he wants for later, the laws of borer do not have to be followed. (The Taz, OC 319:2 is a lone stringent opinion on this matter). In your case, there is only one type of candy, and thus one might claim that borer does not apply. However, even within one type of item, if some of the objects are considered pesolet (undesired objects), borer applies to them. The Rama (OC 319:1) says that when there are spoiled vegetable leaves among good leaves of the same type, the former is pesolet. The Magen Avraham (319:5; see Machatzit Hashekel 319:3) breaks the matter up into different categories. If the pesolet is inedible, there can be Torah-level borer. If the pesolet is edible but not readily so, there is the potential for rabbinic-level borer. If the food is totally edible, just that it is less desired, then there is no borer in selecting among the more and less desired items of the same type. (See discussion of the status of whole and broken pieces of matza in Sh’mirat Shabbat K’hilchata 3:28). If the laws of borer apply, you have a problem, as one may not take out the undesired from the desired (Shulchan Aruch, OC 319:4) which is what you did.
If your daughter was selecting the licked candy to remove from the rest, we can say that for her it was a totally edible piece of candy, and borer would not exist. You could even have taken out the candy, even if you would not eat it licked, in order to give it to your daughter. (See Sh’mirat Shabbat K’hilchata 3:23, who allows someone who does not eat onions to remove onions from a salad to give them to someone else for the latter’s immediate consumption). The fact that something is edible for one person does not help in regard to the selection performed by and for one for whom it is not edible (Be’ur Halacha to 319:10).
If, as appears from your question, you did not want to let your daughter eat the candy, what else could you have done? Even when one ideally prefers not to use something, if he takes it out in order to use it under the circumstances, it is permitted. For example, one can remove a bone from fish if he sucks the bone before throwing it out (Be’ur Halacha to 319:4). If you would not eat the candy as it is, you still could have taken it out, washed it, and then eaten it directly thereafter.
One other thing that you could have done according to the consensus of authorities is to take out a group of candies, including the licked one and untouched candies, together. This is based on the Taz (319:13) that one may remove a fly from a drink if he removes some of the drink as well (see Orchot Shabbat 3:64).
Rav Daniel Mann, Eretz Hemdah Institute
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