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Thought for the Day: Checking for Bugs On Shabbos -- בורר, מוקצה, Murder

I really want to talk about why bugs in flour is a problem (and I really hope/plan to someday soon), but I heard a shiur just now about the bug issue on Shabbos in which I heard a very interesting correction to my understanding of dealing with בורר in general on Shabbos.  Also, it's way more practical.  Also, it's still about bugs.  Finally, I don't recall sharing thoughts on murder before.  It's all good.

Assuming we are talking about bugs that a Jew is forbidden to consume, the first order of business is to remove the bugs from the food.  During the week that is no problem whatsoever, either pick it off or wash it off.  What about on Shabbos?  First off: all critters (except small children; go figure) are מוקצה.  Second problem: The whole problem is that you want to eat something that is currently mixed up with something you are not allowed to eat -- you are not going to find a better example of פסולת מן האוכל/"removing the bad from the good" than this one.  Finally: you are not allowed to murder any critters (refraining from obviously poor taste joke regarding small children here) on Shabbos, so you whatever you do to get rid of those bugs has to be gentle (maybe not PETA gentle, but gentle none-the-less).

Let's start with picking it off.  Clearly you can be gentle with little darling, so no murder here.  How are we going navigate the בורר issue, though?  No problem, take a little of the food with it.  Why does that work?  I always thought it was just a special rule in the myriad of rules about בורר.  As it turns out, that is wrong.  The Chazon Ish explains that when you you have a small quantity of פסולת, then you can look at the whole business as plain food with patches of food that have some פסולת in it.  Therefore, when you remove some food with the פסולת, you are only separating food from food; which is clearly not בורר.  One point for picking it off.  Regarding מוקצה, by removing some food with the bug you are moving something that is permitted with something that is forbidden -- that's ok for מוקצה!  Moreover, the Chazon Ish says that you are allowed to move מוקצה if it is between you and food.  (I feel that way about coffee in the morning every day; do not get between me and the coffee!)  That's two and a half for pulling that little bugger off with some food.

What about washing?  Washing is not a problem for מוקצה, obviously, since you aren't even touching it.  בורר could be an issue, but R' Moshe says that washing is one thing and בורר is another thing.  On the other hand, you are drowning them.  Yahoo Answers says that all bugs can be drowned; there you go, it's on the internet.  Fine, fine, it is an unintended (albeit welcome) outcome, so maybe it doesn't violate the Torah (except according to the Rambam), but it is certainly forbidden.  Let's call it one and a quarter points for washing them off.

Bottom line: picking them off with a little of the food is your best option for Shabbos.

Now, if it's not Shabbos and killing bugs really, really bothers you; I found a wikiHow page for you with instructions on saving drowning bugs.  If you click there because you really do want to dedicate your time and resources to saving drowning bugs, then you should definitely also click here.

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