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There are three requirements in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 319 to separate food (or other needed articles) from a mixture on Shabbos without it being a melacha of borer.

  1. Good from the bad.
  2. With one’s hand.
  3. Immediate use.

It's usually understood that a spoon is considered to be an extension of one's hand, but this doesn't seem to apply to a cholent pot because cholent can be very hot so taking it with one's hands directly would be difficult and probably somewhat painful. If I wouldn't be able to separate the cholent without the help of the spoon, how can I still consider that spoon to be an extension of my hand?

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    What are you separating? – Alex Apr 15 '18 at 18:17
  • I'm separating the cholent that I'm taking from the cholent that I'm not taking. This clearly satisfies requirements 1 and 3, but what about #2? – Moshe David Rubenstein Apr 15 '18 at 18:19
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    @Moshe does it clearly satisfy 1? Which is good and which is bad, and why is the good part better than the bad part? – Double AA Apr 15 '18 at 18:59
  • Welcome to Mi Yodedya Moshe! – David Kenner Apr 15 '18 at 19:21
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    I still don't understand why borer is relevant to taking a small glob from a big glob. I feel this question is based on a faulty understanding of what borer (ie: sorting) is. If I take one almond from a group of 50 almonds, and they're all the same, and I don't eat it until later, that's not borer.... – robev Apr 16 '18 at 3:20
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Cholent is considered a mixture of beans, potatoes, meat, etc. If you dip into cholent with a spoon, you are separating one glob of cholent from another glob. IOW, you are taking a mixture from a mixture. Since what you took is still mixed up, you have not performed "selection" of one type from another. So you have not performed borer at all.

The Shulchan Aruch in O.C. 319 (as another user has already shown) is the source of these laws.

A technical way to look at it, is that borer can only be violated if you separate one "type" from another "type". (see Rema 319) The poskim explain that a type is defined by a piece either having a different taste, or a different name. (see for example Pri Megadim on 319: 5, and 19)

For example, salty crackers mixed with sweet crackers, may look similar and are made from almost similar ingredients and are both called cracker; but they taste different. Also, salami and bologna etc.

OR if they have a different name (or function) like kosher candy mixed with non kosher candy of the same type and flavor (one has a hechsher while the other does not because it has a treif ingredient) or juice oranges mixed with eating oranges. Also, forks and spoons mixed up in a close pile together. Some also say size matters if the item is specifically sold in different sizes. But as shown by another user, 319 tells us that bigger slices and smaller slices of the same thing is not a borer mixture.

So based on this we can easily see that your spoon of cholent as compared to the remaining cholent in the pot you left behind is a) also called "cholent" and b) tastes just like "cholent", so it is not two types being separated at all. Therefore there is no borer.

However, the Taz is of the strict opinion to not allow separating even one type from its own type! But the Mishnah Berurah tells us that many poskim do not agree with the Taz. In any case, the Taz allows you to take what you want (the "good") from what you wish to leave behind (the "bad") as usual. so you can take what you want, with your hand, for use right away, even according to the Taz when taking one type from itself.

(According to everyone then, the way to encounter forbidden borer with cholent is if you do not like potatoes and use a spoon to sift and pick out the potatoes from the cholent mixture in order to discard the potatoes.)

However, how can we say that a Ladel is an extension of (or just like) your hand?

Sefer Shmiras Shabbos K'Hilchasah explains (Ch:3:126) that there are actually 3 ways to use a utensil as merely an extension of your hand (so it counts as "by hand" and not a "kli")

1) Convenience: avoiding getting your hands dirty.

2) You cannot reach deep into the pot without it (The utensil merely facilitates covering distance or accessibility).

3) If the utensil is the only way you can perform the act (like peeling an apple with a regular knife, which is permitted.) In this case, we say that since you would not be willing to take your nails and scratch the peel off, the knife is your only way to eat the apple in a normal manner (without the peel). Therefore, the knife becomes a mere extension of your hand because this is considered "derech achilah" or the way it is normally eaten and is considered part of the eating process.

However, a spoon used for skimming fat off the top of soup is not allowed, since you could pour the fat off without it, but the spoon skimming is a more efficient way of separating the fat off cleanly without wasting as much soup to do it. Since the spoon increases efficiency of borer, it is not considered "your hand". But (as above) if there were no practical way for you to do it except with the utensil (like the apple peel above) then it is considered your hand.

And besides this source, (and what another user gave as a source in Mishnah Berurah 319:24,) it would also help to see Mishnah Berurah 319:55, with Shar HaTzion 319:44; also Igros Moshe Orach Chayim I:124.

I hope this helps. :)

  • I heard thta "good" and "bad is defined as if its dible or not, 'cause once I asked if I can take out chikcen bones from my soup, and someone said yes, because they're fit for use as dog food – bluejayke Nov 12 '18 at 22:41
  • edible or not edible, may be a condition for the laws of "muktzeh"; However, borer relies on good and bad based on what you want and what you don't want; even if both items are edible. The chicken bone in the soup question for borer would ask if the bones are really mixed with the soup enough to call it a mixture? – David Kenner Nov 12 '18 at 23:42
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Shulchan aruch Orach chaim 319: היו לפניו שני מיני אוכלים מעורבים בורר אחד מאחד ומניח (השני כדי) לאכול מיד:

הגה: ושני מיני דגים מיקרי שני מיני אוכלים ואסור לברור אחד מחבירו אלא בידו כדי לאכלן מיד אף על פי שהחתיכות גדולות וכל אחת נכרת בפני עצמה אבל כל שהוא מין אחד אף על פי שבורר חתיכות גדולות מתוך קטנות לא מיקרי ברירה ואפילו היו שני מינים ובורר משניהם ביחד הגדולות מתוך הקטנות או להיפך שרי הואיל ואינו בורר מין אחד מתוך חבירו (תרומת הדשן סימן נ"ז).

Mechaber:if one has 2 different types of food in a mixture one can pick one type to eat straight away.
Rema:2 spiecies of fish are a mixture.
But big and small pieces of the same spices, one can do pick out one from the other (even for later on) as there is no borer.
If their is a mixture of several spiecies and you take from both the big ones from the small ones it is not Borer as you are not picking one species out of 2.

A cholent you take a spoon from all the different ingredients. This is not borer so you can use your spoon even though its boiling hot and you can't touch with your hand.

Even if you only want the meat,Mishna Brura says in seif koton 24: אבל לכו"ע מותר לשבר הקליפה הקשה ולקלוף גם הקליפה הדקה שעל האגוז גופא, for the sake of eating if there is no way of getting to the nut other than breaking the shell it is permissable to break and separate the shell from whats inside. like wise here there is no other way of getting to boiling cholent, so use a spoon (which is not specialized equiptment like a sieve, rather merely an extention of your hand) to get what you want as long as you eat it straight away.

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