Borer restriction applicable to cutlery and eating utensils

* This article is an excerpt from the above book

Borer by non-food items-Eating utensils:[1]

The general law:

The Borer restrictions is not limited to mixtures of different foods but applies also to mixtures of different objects, even if they are of different sizes. Thus, within a mixture of items, one may only select the item that he currently wishes to use, and may not remove from the pile an item that he does not want to be there. Likewise, he may only select the item that he wants with intent to use it right away.

Washing dirt from vessels:[2]

One may wash vessels for the need of that day, such as if there still remains a meal which one desires to eat with the use of these vessels, then one may wash it even immediately after the current meal.

The laws of Borer which pertain to eating utensils:

May one remove the eating utensils from their drawer in order to set up the table much time prior to the meal?[3] If this is being done in order to currently have a nice table setting, it is allowed in all cases, even if the utensils are mixed with each other.[4] If however this is not the intent and one simply desires to currently set the table so he does not have to do so later on, then if the utensils are mixed, such as forks with knives and the like, it is forbidden to separate them from each other, and one thus must delay the setting of the table until immediately prior to the meal. However, if the utensils are each in their set area, such as the forks with the forks etc., then since the utensils are not considered mixed one may set the table whatever time he wishes. Nevertheless, care must be taken not to place the different utensils in his hand at the same time, thus mixing them in his hand in the process, as if they become mixed in his hand all the separating restrictions would now apply and one would not be allowed to set the table unless it is right before the start of the meal. Thus, one should set up each utensil individually.

If the utensils are mixed, may one only remove the exact number of utensils prior to the meal?[5] Yes. If one knows the exact number of utensils that he will need then he may not separate extra utensils, as doing so is equivalent to separating for no use which is forbidden.

May one remove a utensil from the mixture for the purpose of using it to save his spot on the table, or as a separation between a man and his wife?[6] Yes.      

May one separate the Milk utensils from the meat utensils and the like?[7] If the mixture is of the same utensils, such as dairy spoons which are mixed with meat spoons then one may separate them without restriction, as previously explained in Halacha 6.[8]

May one remove a fork/spoon/knife that fell into a liquid?[9] Yes, one may do so without restriction being that it is not defined as mixed as explained in the Introduction in the Q&A there.

If a vessel fell into the garbage, may one remove it from the garbage without restriction?[10] One may only remove it if he plans to use it right away such as if he plans to wash it.

May one sort out the utensils, each one with its kind, to place them in the dish washer so they are ready for after Shabbos?[11] No. This is forbidden because of the separating prohibition.

May one sort out the utensils in order to wash them separately?[12] No, unless a) one has a need to wash them now, such as he plans to use them now or he desires to wash them to prevent flies from coming and the like. And b) It is easier for him to wash each type of utensil separately. 

May one sort out the utensils in order to dry them separately or place them away each one in their set spot?[13] If it is easier to dry each type of utensil separate from the other type, then this is allowed. If not, then one may either a) as he washes or dries each individual utensil, he places down each type of utensil separate from the other. Or b) One may have another person spread out the mixture of utensils in a way that they are no longer defined as mixed.


[1] Admur 319:8 “Just like there is a prohibition of separating food [from waste] so too there is also [a prohibition in separating] other items from amongst their waste, or [in separating] one type of item which is mixed with another type of item. For example, if one had in front of him two types of vessels which are mixed together and one wants to select one type from amongst another type in order to use it, then this item [which he wishes to take now] is considered like food and the other item is considered like waste and one thus is required to remove the food from the waste and not vice versa, even in a case that one of the items is larger than the other and is [thus easily] recognizable on its own. As well one is required to separate it to use it right away as was explained regarding [separating from a mixture which contains] two types of food.”; Taz 319:12 based on Rashi 74b; Tosefes Shabbos 319:14; Chayeh Adam 16:5; M”B 319:15

Background: Prior to the Taz the Poskim do not mention any case of Borer that relate to vessels. All the examples and cases mentioned of Borer, both in the Gemara Shabbos 74a, Rambam and Tur Shulchan Aruch, only relate to foods. This leads one to think that the laws of Borer do not apply to vessels. The Taz ibid finds a further proof for this from a Tosafos ibid. However, there is one source in the Rishonim that stick out and point towards there being a prohibition of Borer even by vessels. This source is the words of Rashi on the Gemara 74b that states that the making of an earthenware vessel can involve 7 sin offerings. Rashi learns that one of the sin offerings is due to a Borer transgression of separating between large pieces of pottery and small ones. The Taz ibid concludes based on this that there is a prohibition of Borer also by vessels, and so is concluded in Admur ibid and all the other Achronim that came afterwards.

Vessels that are all individually recognizable: Some Poskim rule that the above law of Borer by vessels does not apply by a mixture of vessels that are individually recognizable such as clothing, books and silverware and plates. However, most Poskim rule that the laws of Borer apply even in such cases. See Q&A!

[2] Admur 323:6; Michaber 323:6; M”B 323:27

[3] Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 2 P. 212

[4] Rav SZ”A in letter in Maor Hashabbos 1:8-2

[5] Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 2 P. 212

[6] Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 2 P. 212

[7] Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 2 P. 212

[8] Other Opinions: To note however that the SSH”K rules that this is forbidden being that according to them if one item is forbidden and one is permitted, they are considered like two different species despite the fact that they are all from the same species. This however does not follow the ruling of Admur, and others as explained above in Halacha 6 that a prohibited part is not considered another species in the case of removal of forbidden fats. This is also the opinion of the Magen Avraham and Mishneh Berurah. Vetzaruch Iyun on the Ketzos Hashulchan which seems to imply that two Lulavim of two different people on Sukkos would be considered Borer on the first day of Sukkos when one cannot fulfill his obligation with another person’s Lulav. See Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 2 p. 102.

[9] Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 2 p. 363

[10] Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 2 P. 214

[11] Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 2 P. 214

[12] Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 2 P. 214

[13] Shabbos Kehalacha Vol. 2 P. 214

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