Salad spinner on shabbat - Matan - The Sadie Rennert

Salad spinner on shabbat Rabbanit Surale Rosen

Av 5580/August 2020

Topic : Shabbat & Yom Tov ,


May one use a salad spinner on Shabbat?


The first question we should ask ourselves is whether a salad spinner falls under the category of a special tool for selection. The Gemara Shabbat 74a clarifies the distinction between selection using a sieve/sifter and selection with a basket or a large plate:

Rav Yosef said: One selects and eats by hand, selects and puts aside by hand. However, with a basket [kanon] or with a plate, both of which are large, flat vessels used for sorting sizeable quantities, one may not select. And if he did select, he is exempt from bringing a sin-offering if he did so unwittingly. If he did so intentionally he is exempt from stoning. However, it is prohibited. And one may not select with a sieve or with a sifter. And if he did select with those utensils, he is liable to bring a sin-offering.*

Rashi (Shabbat 74a ‘Kanon’) explains that a kanon is a wooden tube created for sorting different sized coins wide at the top growing narrow towards the end. When you place a mixture of legumes and waste at the wider end, the legumes, naturally round, come out the other end leaving the waste inside. The reason it is forbidden is due to its similarity to the act of separating, but only מדרבנן(according to Rabbinic law) because this is not the way we normally separate flour and waste.  

Rav Feinstein (Igrot Moshe Orach Chayim A:124)understands the Kanon and the large plate mentioned in the Gemara to be tools that aid the separation process but aren’t designated specifically for the melacha of borer. They are forbidden מדרבנן due to the similar resultreached by using them: “…it is similar to separating…and the food is thus separated from the waste”. RavFeinstein adds that we learn from the prohibition to use the kanon and the large plate that any other tool that aids separation falls under this category as well and is therefore forbidden. 

Another question we need to examine is whether water left on the leaves of a lettuce constitutes a mixture that we wish to separate or whether it is merely a wet vegetable, similar to a cucumber or a tomato that we wish to dry. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 320:7) following the Gemara Shabbat 145a rules “squeezing pickled (fruit and vegetables preserved in vinegar and salt) and stewed vegetables: if done for their own improvement i.e one does not need the liquid and is merely squeezing to enhance them for eating purposes…it is permissible”. The Mishna Berura 320:24 adds: “… just as it is customary to squeeze lettuce after it has been soaked in water.  One is not in violation of mefarek [a subcategory of threshing], even if one squeezes the liquid into a bowl and does not let it immediately go to waste; in any case, since one is not interested in the liquid, it is not included in the melakha”. 

We now know that squeezing lettuce is permissible, however, why is there no problem of borer – separating the desirable (lettuce leaves) from the non-desirable (water)?

In order to answer that, we need to examine yet another aspect of Hilkhot Shabbat – filtering liquids. The Mishna (in Gemara Shabbat 139b) rules “one may filter wine through cloths (sudar) and through an Egyptian basket”. Ze’iri in Gemara Shabbat 139b allows for the use of a strainer for filtering wine and water: 

“Ze’iri said: A person may place clear wine and clear water into a strainer on Shabbat, and he need not be concerned over the prohibition of selecting, as the wine is drinkable even without this filtering. However, doing so with murky liquids – no, one may not strain them”.

The Rambam (Shabbat 8:14) rules that one can only filter clear wine or water and only with a cloth. There is no allowance to filter liquids using a strainer. The Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 319:11) explains that the Rambam’s understanding of Zeiri is that the strainer Zeirimentions is in actual fact the sudar of the Mishna. It’s not that Zeiri allows for a usual strainer.

The Ran Shabbat 57b: ‘Matnitin’ (as well as the Rashba) has a different understanding of the Gemara: “the cloths and the Egyptian baskets…  and everything of this like is an alteration, since one is not straining with a strainer.  The cloudy wine discussed here is still drinkable; if it were clear wine, even using a strainer would be permissible, as is stated in the Gemara; and if it is cloudy wine which is undrinkable, even [using] cloths or an Egyptian basket would be forbidden, because it would be borer regardless”.

We can deduce from the Ran that the two reasons for this being allowed in the Mishna are: the liquids are drinkable regardless of the filtering and the tools used (sudar and an Egyptian basket) are an alteration.  

The logic for permitting filtering clear liquids even using a strainer is because it is an unnecessary process – the wine or water can be drunk as is. All you’re doing is making them clearer. The Shulchan Aruch (319:10) brings both opinions regarding using a filter for clear water. The Mishna Berura (41) clarifies that the ShulchanAruch ruled by the first opinion of the Ran and the Rashba.

However, were a person to say that he/she is fastidiousand unable to drink clear water without filtering,  thenfor that particular individual some Poskim deem that it may be forbidden (Pri Megadim brought in the Be’urHalakha 319:10). But, in most cases, one follows the preferences of the majority, and since the overwhelming majority drinks unfiltered water, there is no issue of borer since there is no mix of desirable and undesirable material.

The same logic can be applied regarding water left on the leaves of a lettuce – since most people are happy to eat freshly washed leaves and are not fussy over water left on the lettuce, then shaking them off vigorously or even squeezing the leaves would be permissible. There is no desirable and undesirable matter mixed together. 

Following this logic, using a salad spinner may be permitted since you’re not actually separating food from waste by spinning the leaves and, moreover, the lettuce and water residue weren’t a mixture in the first place. If we go back to the Mishna Berura’s heter of squeezing lettuce, we understand that the Mishna Berura did not have a problem of borer since shaking off water from salad leaves is similar to filtering wine. One can drink the wine freely without filtering it just as one can eat salad leaves with water on them. In both cases there is no mixture of desirable and undesirable substances.

However, to conclude הלכה למעשה: Going back to RavFeinstein’s Teshuva, we see that he applies the prohibition to use the Kanon and large basket to other tools that aid the process of separation. The salad spinner was indeed designed for the sole purpose of separating water and salad leaves of any type, thus enabling one to have what we might consider a more ‘professional’ salad (some people are particular with the salad dressing being absorbed better when the leaves are dry). Also, the person wishing to use the salad spinner is indeed exhibiting that he/she does care about having the leaves dried (not like the majority of people who do not care).We have seen in the Beur Halakha that it may be forbidden for a fastidious person to filter or separate. Adding up all of these considerations and since it is an action similar to the forbidden process of separation, it is recommended not to use a salad spinner for preparing food on Shabbat.




1) * It’s true that Rav Yosef’s opinion was not accepted as an explanation of the Beraita but at the conclusion of the sugya, his understanding of the different prohibitions regarding tools used for separation is ruled הלכה למעשה. A sieve and a sifter are forbidden מדאורייתא since those are the tools we normally use for sifting flour, while a Kanon and a large plate are forbidden מדרבנן.

Rabbanit Surale Rosen is a graduate of Hilkhata, Matan's Advanced Halakhic Institute and is a certified Meshivat Halakha. She is the Director of Shayla. In addition she is a certified To'enet Rabbanit and a graduate of Matan’s Advanced Talmud Institute. Surale has taught Midrash, Talmud and Halakha and Daf Yomi in a wide array of shuls and communities, including the Matan Beit Midrash. Surale is a graduate of Bar Ilan University and holds degrees in English Literature and Talmud. This past year she wrote the weekly Parashat HaShavua column for Chumash Shemot in the leading religious Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon and periodically writes Divrei Torah for weekly Torah publications.

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