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Is it Permissible to Squeeze Fruits on Yom Tob?

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Today's Halacha:

Although the restrictions that apply on Yom Tob generally correspond to the restrictions that apply on Shabbat, it is permissible to cook food on Yom Tov. Unlike on Shabbat, when it comes to Yom Tob the Torah permitted "Melechet Ochel Nefesh" – activities done for the purpose of preparing food for Yom Tob.

However, the Shulhan Aruch rules (Orah Haim 495:2; listen to audio recording for precise citation) that while cooking food is permissible, there are other activities which are forbidden on Yom Tob even though they are done for the purpose of food preparation. These include harvesting stalks of grain, grinding wheat, squeezing fruits and hunting animals. Two different reasons have been given for this prohibition. According to one explanation, the Sages forbade these activities out of the concern that one might engage in them for the purpose of preparing food for after Yom Tob. When one engages in these kinds of activities, it is usually for long-term preparation, and not merely to prepare that day’s food. Harvesting, for example, is done in bulk, and not to collect food for that day. Since the Torah forbids preparing food on Yom Tob for after Yom Tob, the Sages forbade these activities out of the concern that one may prepare food for after Yom Tob. Others explain that these activities are generally laborious and time-consuming. If a person starts hunting or harvesting, for example, this will likely occupy most of his day, thus undermining his fulfillment of "Simhat Yom Tob" – rejoicing on Yom Tob. (It should be noted that according to the Vilna Gaon, based upon the comments of the Rashba regarding a passage in the Talmud Yerushalmi, performing these activities on Yom Tob constitutes a Torah prohibition, and is not forbidden merely by force of Rabbinic enactment.)

For this reason, it is forbidden on Yom Tob to squeeze fruits to extract their juice. Sehita (squeezing) is included in the list of activities forbidden on Yom Tob even for the purpose of food preparation, and one therefore may not prepare freshly-squeezed orange juice or grape juice on Yom Tob. Even though cooking is permissible on Yom Tob, Halacha does not allow squeezing fruits to extract their juice.

It is, however, permissible to squeeze a fruit onto food on Yom Tob, just as this is allowed on Shabbat. If one squeezes a fruit over a food such that the liquid is absorbed by the food, this does not violate the prohibition of Sehita, neither on Shabbat nor on Yom Tob. Thus, for example, it would be permissible to squeeze a grape onto a banana to moisten it before feeding it to an infant. Likewise, it would be permissible to squeeze a lemon onto kibbeh. The prohibition of Sehita applies only to squeezing fruits into a cup to make juice; it is permissible to squeeze fruits onto dry food on Shabbat or Yom Tob.

By the same token, the Ben Ish Hai (Rav Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909) rules that one may prepare lemonade on Shabbat or Yom Tob by first placing sugar in the pitcher, and then squeezing the lemons over the sugar. He commented that preparing lemonade may be done following the sequence represented by the Hebrew word "Sulam" – "Sukar," "Limon," "Mayim" (sugar, lemon, water). Hacham Ovadia Yosef disagrees, and maintains that lemons differ from other fruits and one may squeeze lemons on Shabbat or Yom Tob even into an empty cup. It would seem, however, that since placing the sugar in the pitcher first entails no additional difficulty, one should certainly do so in order to satisfy all opinions.

Summary: Although one may cook on Yom Tob, one may not prepare freshly squeezed juice on Yom Tob. It is, however, permissible to squeeze fruits over food such that the food absorbs the liquid. In fact, this is permissible even on Shabbat.


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