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Borrer on Shabbos


  1. Would I be able to take out a shirt from a basket full of different clothes (the clothes are scattered in a disorderly fashion), in order to wear the shirt immediately, but in the process, I will need to remove other clothing from the basket so I can reach the shirt?
  2. Also, the toys always get scattered around the floor on Shabbos – am I or the children allowed to clear them up by putting each type of toy in its own box?


  1. Although borer applies even to large items that are mixed, there is however a leniency, that when large items are piled one on top of another, one may remove the upper item in order to gain access to the lower one[1]. For example; if one has a pile of seforim or hats, he may lift or remove an upper one to reach a lower one. Other examples of “piles” would be;  Matzohs in a box[2], Food in the refrigerator or freezer[3], Index cards in a box[4], Fruits in bowl, Platter of cold cuts[5].

One must remember that even with this heter, the actual removal of the wanted item may only be done for immediate use.  Borer is not permitted, even when taking good from bad, if not done for immediate use. For example, if one removes his hat or coat from a pile, it may not be done in middle of davening to prepared for later. Therefore, the leniency of Borer with piles only applies when three conditions are met:

  1. The items are large
  2. The פסולת is removed only for access.
  3. It is being done for immediate use of the “wanted” item.


The above heter applies when the items are piled one on top of each other, however when the items are intermingled with each other it is controversial if this heter will apply[6]. Therefore in your case you should preferably move the upper clothing aside while keeping them in the pile, rather than removing them totally from the pile.

  1. Cleaning up scattered toys will depend if they are still considered a mixture or if they are scattered far enough from each other that they are no longer considered a mixture. It is even possible that some of the toys will be close enough to each other and considered mixed, and others will not be. A practical way to avoid this issue would be to scatter[7] the mixture. Borer only applies when there is a mixture, therefore by scattering, the mixture is destroyed, and the borer issue will no longer exist.

Best wishes


[1] Biur Halacha 319-3 D:H Lechol Myad. The reason for this heter is because the separating is not being done with an intention of removal, but rather for access. It is, therefore, considered a melocho sheino tzreicha lgufo, which is permitted by large items.

[2] Shmiras Shabbos Khilchoso 3- 28 (old edition).

[3] Nishmas Shabbos 108.

[4] Shmiras Shabbos Khilchoso ibid 43.

[5] M:B 319-15, Shmiras Shabbos Khilchoso ibid 41.

[6]  Be’er Moshe 6-68( 94), Orchos Shabbos pg. 182, Meohr Hashabbos 3 mictav 40 (2), Igros Moshe O:CH 4 74 Borer 12, however from his terminology it isn’t vlclear if he is referring to a case where the clothing are piled onto of each other or intermingled.

[7] Shabbos 72a, Igros Moshe ibid Borer 11, Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchoso ibid 3 ftnt 6, Ayol Mishulash Borer 9 ftnt. 19, and 25.

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