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The Proper Way To Extract the Broth From Vegetables in a Vegetable Soup on Shabbat

Many people enjoy soup on Friday night, whether it’s vegetable soup, chicken soup, or “kibbehamda” which contains meatballs and vegetables. Often, a person prefers eating only the broth, without vegetables. The question arises as to how he can separate the vegetables from the broth without violating the Shabbat prohibition of “Borer,” which forbids separating “Pesolet” (unwanted food) from “Ochel” (the food which one wants). In our case, the vegetables, which the individual does not want to eat, is considered the “Pesolet,” and the broth is considered the “Ochel.” It is thus forbidden for him to remove the vegetables from a bowl o soup, as this would transgress the prohibition of “Borer.”

The solution in such a case is to insert a large spoon or ladle into the bowl of soup, lift out of the bowl whatever happens to enter the ladle, and then carefully pour the broth from the ladle into one’s bowl, without allowing the vegetables to be poured. This is permissible on Shabbat because the “Borer” prohibition forbids only removing “‘Pesolet” from “Ochel.” Separating in the opposite manner – removing “Ochel” from “Pesolet” – is permissible, provided that one does not use a utensil for this purpose. A spoon or ladle is considered an extension of one’s hand, rather than a separate utensil, for the purposes of this Halacha (unless it is a spoon with holes to separate liquid from solid, in which case it may not be used on Shabbat). Therefore, it is permissible to use a spoon to separate the broth – the “Ochel” – from the vegetables – the “Pesolet.”

However, although it is permissible to separate the broth from the vegetables with a spoon, it is forbidden to press the back of the spoon down on the vegetables so that only liquid collects in the spoon. Since the back of the spoon is not normally used for eating, it would be considered a “utensil” with respect to the Halacha of “Borer,” and it may therefore not be used for separating foods, in any manner.

It goes without saying that if the vegetables have sunk to the bottom of the bowl, and on the top there is only broth, then one may simply take broth from the top of the bowl with a spoon or ladle.

Summary: If a person has a bowl or pot of soup with vegetables, and he wants only broth but not vegetables, he should insert a large spoon or ladle (that does not have holes), remove from the bowl or pot whatever happens to enter the spoon, and then carefully pour the broth out of the spoon into his bowl, without the vegetables. He may not remove the vegetables from the bowl, or push down with the back of the spoon on the vegetables so that only broth enters the spoon. If the vegetables are all at the bottom of the pot, then he may simply remove some broth from the top.


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