- The prohibition of borer is to separate two or more items that are mixed together, by removing the undesirable object or, in some situations, even by selecting the desirable object.1 Borer isn’t limited to food, and it applies to any mixture of items.2
- Selecting a preferred piece from many of the same type is permitted. For example, if one wants all the pieces of fish on a tray to be of uniform size or appearance, it is permitted to either select the desirable piece or to remove the undesirable one.3
- Three conditions are needed to permit selecting on Shabbos: (1) Selecting the good from the bad. (2) Selecting by hand, not using a special sorting device (i.e. strainer). (3) For immediate use, not to prepare for later.4
- One is permitted to select the necessary game pieces to play, but one may not separate the pieces when putting them away, since it is not for immediate use.
- Selecting cutlery to set the Shabbos table is permitted shortly before meal time, which some poskim set this as the time when the men leave shul.5 However, some poskim point out that if one wants to have the Shabbos table set for the house to lookshabbosdik, it is permissible to set it up even earlier, since the pleasure from the setting is immediate. Of course, this is only applicable if people will be in the room for the time that follows.6
- It is only considered selecting when the various items are mixed together, however if they are lying apart but near each other (food on a tray or toys on the floor), there is no problem of borer. The rule of thumb is that if they are apart to a degree that no effort is needed to select one of them, it is not considered a mixture.
- Thus, some poskim suggest that one can grab a pile of mixed toys or clothes and throw it into the air, causing them to land apart from each other, and then put them each away without sorting them.7 Others doubt this ruling since throwing the pile into the air is simply the beginning of the borer process (some therefore allow it only if one person throws and another picks them up.)8
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