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Thought for the Day: מוקצה ובורר -- Two Great Reasons to be Jewish!

Every day when I leave Beis Medrash I thank the Good Lord for the opportunity to be in the community of those who learn Torah.  Some days are just plain amazing,  Other days, though, are over the top fun.  That was the kind of day I had yesterday.  Two gems in hilchos Yom Tov, siman 510: Several things that you are forbidden to do on Yom Tov, and which of them are permitted if you do them a little differently than usual.

First of all, you just gotta love a title like that.  Of course, anything necessary for food preparation that could not have been done the day before without compromising the quality of the food is permitted.  That's why you are allowed to bake bread and even slaughter a cow on Yom Tov; you can't compare the taste of fresh baked bread and cow-to-bbq-in-less-than-an-hour to the stale bread and leftover meatloaf.  On the other hand, you may not sharpen the knife to slaughter the cow nor grind the wheat into flour on Yom Tov. The activities in this siman are regarding things on/near that boundary.  One of those things is בורר/selection.

Just a reminder: בורר means to use a specially designed separating tool (such as a sieve), or to separate for later use, or to take the bad from the good.  I want to be careful to avoid the common sloppy/false statement that: "בורר is permitted on Shabbos if it is done by hand, for immediate use, and the good is removed from the bad."  That is patently false; בורר is absolutely forbidden on Shabbos.  The precise statement is: selecting by hand, for immediate use, and taking the good from the bad, is not called בורר; it's called eating.  I want to be precise, because on Yom Tov, בורר actually is permitted; with some caveats, of course.. you have to do things a little differently.

Now comes the fun!  Once בורר is permitted, there are other issues that crop up; issues that just don't occur on Shabbos.  We are going to focus on two issues that come up regarding taking the bad from the good.  On Yom Tov, since בורר is permitted, there is no reason to struggle to remove the good from the bad when it would be much easier to remove the bad; either because there is a lot more good in the mixture, or the good is itty bitty and the bad is coarse.  Still, you need to make some change to the norm.  There are two opinions as to why that modification is required.  The Chayei Adam says it is because it looks too much like ordinary, work day activity; that is, the normal way just isn't in the spirit of the day.  The Shulchan Aruch HaRav says it is when the ordinary way of doing things is usually done to produce many days of stuff.  The difference appears, for example, in removing bones from fish before serving.  The Chayei Adam says "no way!' because of not being in the spirit of the day; the Shulchan Aruch HaRav says it is fine, because no one does that for many days of stuff.

Now... suppose you are in a situation where you can remove the bad from the good.  You now have the bad in your hand... which is מוקצה!  Isn't that cool?  I never thought of that before.  True enough, the מוקצה came into your hand permissibly, but even so, מוקצה of this variety (intrinsic; not a utensil) needs to be dropped immediately.  Why don't you have to immediately drop the bad stuff?  Two reasons are given: (1) it is part of the food preparation process; this isn't included in the category of מוקצה, but in the category of food (food you no longer want, but food none the less).  (2)  it is מוקצה, but you are permitted to move מוקצה for the sake of non-מוקצה (food, in this case).

Why, you may be wondering, did this put an extra spring in my step and add vitality to my day?  The moment that I decided a bit over 25 years ago to become and Orthodox Jew (not when I became one, when I decided I wanted to become one), I made that decision based on the beautiful precision and all encompassing nature of the Torah and the way our Sages understood it.  When I see an extra level of precision I had not before noticed and the grace with which it is handled, it is like a replay of that excitement of that initial decision and conviction that it was Right and True all over again.


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