Last week we provided an overview of Me’amer – the prohibition of gathering produce on Shabbos and Yom Tov. This week’s article will complete the topic and discuss the toldaos – “offspring” of the prohibition – actions that are similar in action or intent, and are similarly forbidden.
The melacha of Me’amer involves collection of produce or other natural items in their natural habitat, and consolidating them into one entity. Can dried fruit be mashed together? Does the use make a difference? Can fruit be strung together as a chain or set into a fruit platter? Can flowers be collected on Shabbos to create a bouquet? And what about tying together the arba minim (Four Species) for the first day of Succos? And is there any connection to stringing pearls on a string? Of this, and more, in the coming article.
Shabbos and Shmita
In this week’s article we read about Shabbos: in Eretz Yisroel the Torah reading discusses the Shabbos of the Land – Shmitta. Outside of Eretz Yisroel the Torah reading is Emor which mentions the holidays, the first of which is Shabbos.
The halachos of Shabbos require constant review because they involve myriad details which can be easily forgotten or confused. Therefore, we will continue this week with the details of Meleches Me’amer – collecting fruit and vegetables.
Last week we discussed the main prohibition which involves collecting plants where they grew. This week we will complete the topic with a focus on the prohibition outside the field or orchard.
The Rambam (Shabbos 8:6) lists the “offspring” of Meleches Me’amer – actions that are similar to the main melacha and are similarly forbidden. One of them is binding produce together to create one lump. The Achronim debate as to what the Rambam intends: is combining fruit only prohibited where they grow but permitted elsewhere just like classical Me’amer, or that even though classical Me’amer is only prohibited in the field creating a lump is prohibited even outside the field? We should note that the Mishna Beruro (340, 38) rules stringently on this issue.
The Shulchan Aruch mentions two examples of this prohibition (OC 340:10):
1) Mashing dried figs together into one lump, often into a circular shape. (Historically, this was a common method for preserving figs.)
2) Piercing dates and stringing them together, then securing the string with a tie (obviously in a way that is permitted on Shabbos).
In both cases, although not necessarily done outdoors, the action is forbidden under the umbrella prohibition of Me’amer.
The poskim debate why classical Me’amer is only forbidden in the field and yet binding together is prohibited even outside the field:
The Ma’ase Rokeach (Shabbos 8:6) writes that the prohibition depends on where the action customarily takes place. Most produce is usually gathered in the field or orchard where it grew, therefore only gathering them there on Shabbos is a Torah prohibition. But binding together is also done at home or indoors, therefore this prohibition applies even indoors and is a Torah prohibition.
The Nishmas Adam (13:1), however says it depends upon the action. Collecting produce into one basket is forbidden only where they grew, but combining them into one mass is prohibited anywhere. The action of combining them together is the prohibition – pressing them to one mass, stringing them, or tying them together on a string.
The Mishna Brura (340:38) only mentions the Ma’ase Rokeach’s explanation. Therefore, the Orechos Shabbos (18:125) writes that this is obviously the overriding halacha, but remains undecided. Many other poskim (see Shevet Halevi 4:39) mention also the Nishmas Adam’s opinion.
Skewers are often used to create fruit or vegetable arrangements. Seemingly, in light of the above ruling, skewering fruit or vegetables on Shabbos would be prohibited. However, the Ketzos Hashulchan (146:49, footnote 24) maintains that the prohibition only applies when the action is classified as a farmer’s action. Something done by way of eating (i.e., by the cook) is permitted. The Piskei Teshuvos (340:32) explains that the prohibition of Me’amer only applies when skewering is done for decoratorial purposes, or when that is the way to prepare fruit for sale or long-term storage. Skewering fruit for aesthetic immediate consumption is therefore permitted.
Creating a skewered Tu Bishvat arrangement to be eaten later, or packing fruit for long term storage, besides being prohibited under the prohibition of preparing for the weekday, is a Torah prohibition of Me’amer.
A practical application applies to strings of dried garlic. One may not return a head of garlic to the string since it is included in the prohibition of Me’amer.
We find a halachic dispute regarding the prohibition of mashing dried fruit before eating them. Rabbi Abdullah Somech (Zivchei Zedek II, OC Shabbos 20) writes that one who plans on eating the fruit immediately is permitted to mash several together, presenting as an example a dish served in Bagdad containing mashed dates and walnuts. If done for future use, preparation of this dish would have been classified as a prohibition of Me’amer, but when done immediately before consumption it is permitted. He compares this action to the prohibition of Borer, which when done immediately before consumption is permitted. He writes that the yeshiva scholars agreed with this ruling, reasoning that the Torah prohibited only an action done by way of work, not for immediate consumption.
However, his disciple, Rabbenu Yosef Chaim (Rav Pe’alim I, OC 19) notes, that while the scholars in the yeshiva agreed with this opinion, he disagrees. In his opinion, the reason that the Torah permits actions done by way of eating is not because it is not for work purposes, but because the Torah permits to eat, and one who eats needs to separate the edible from the inedible and grind food with one’s teeth. Therefore, separating (Borer) or grinding (Tochen) are permitted right before eating. However, Me’amer is different, because combining foods is not necessary for eating. Therefore, even when done right before consumption on Shabbos, Me’amer is forbidden.
(As an aside, it appears that the presence of two species — dates and walnuts, or the fact that the nuts were peeled, were both not enough reason to permit the action.)
While cutting cling wrap on Shabbos is prohibited, can one use precut sheets to make vegetable or fruit packs? In order to answer this question, we must first determine the purpose for wrapping them. If the wrap serves simply as a container to hold produce together for freshness, wrapping is permitted provided it is not done where the produce grew. However, if it is done for storage purposes, wrapping them tightly together that will cause the food to cling together violates the prohibition of Me’amer.
The Piskei Teshuva (340:32) writes that placing fruits together in a bag to enable carrying is certainly permitted. However, bagging them in order to throw them in shul or distributing on Tu Bishvat, and tying them closed should be done before Shabbos. Reprimanding those who fail to do so, though, is unnecessary. My rebbe, Rabbi Wiesel shlita, told me that placing fruit in one bag and tying it is not considered combining them. Only when they are tied tightly into one bundle is the prohibition of Me’amer incurred.
Flower Arrangements and Tablescapes
Arranging flowers in a bouquet can also incur the prohibition of Me’amer (ladies, prepare your tablescapes before Shabbos!). According to the Ketzos Hashulchan (146:17) the prohibition includes gathering flowers (precut, obviously) outdoors, because that is where they are usually collected. Combining them in a store, though, is not Me’amer because it is not done in their habitat. However, Piskei Teshuvos (340:31) and Rav Eider understand that the Ketzos Hachoshen maintains that tying together flowers or branches with a string or rubber band is forbidden everywhere.
The Igros Moshe, however, maintains that only combining wheat stalks into one pile is forbidden, while arranging a bouquet according to color, shape, or height is not forbidden because they don’t turn into one entity. His ruling here is not definitive, and he leaves his approach open for debate.
My rebbe, Rabbi Wiesel shlita, told me that one should refrain from tying a bouquet together with a rubber band or ribbon when the bouquet is regarded as one entity.
In any case, the Igros Moshe forbids creating flower arrangements on Shabbos for another reason –it is considered creating of a new item. He debates if the prohibition falls under the melacha of Make B’patish (Hammering – completion of a new item), or another one. In any case, it is certainly forbidden by the Rabbonon, and bouquets or floral arrangements must be prepared before Shabbos.
I was told by my rebbe, Rabbi Wiesel shlita, that creating fruit platters where every fruit has its own place and which serves as a decoration is not included in the prohibition of Me’amer, even if done for future use and secured with plastic wrap. If the platter includes more than one kind of fruit, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 340:3) writes that Me’amer is certainly irrelevant.
Tying The Four Species
If tying together plants is prohibited, why is it permitted to tie together the Four Species on Succos? Shouldn’t this incur the prohibition of Me’amer?
The Gemara permits tying them together on the holiday if one forgot to do so beforehand. This, explains the Egli Tal, proves that tying together plants of more than one kind is not included in Me’amer (despite there being two and three of the same species in the holiday bouquet.)
This proof, writes the Egli Tal, can be refuted according to several approaches mentioned by the Rishonim:
1) The prohibition only applies where the plants grew (field or orchard). This refutation does not apply if we follow the Nishmas Adam’s approach as mentioned earlier.
2) Plants that were already gathered once cannot incur a second Me’amer (according to the Shevet Halevi quoted in last week’s article, this too, is not the mainstream ruling.)
3) Some authorities permit this melacha for ochel nefesh (food preparation) on Yom Tov. Accordingly, it would also be permitted for a mitzva.
4) Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank reasons that it is permitted because it is an action not done for its own sake – the species are not tied together just for creating a bundle, but for the mitzva. When done for a mitzva, since it is not necessary for its own sake it is permitted.
5) The Igros Moshe writes that while creating a bouquet is forbidden under the prohibition of creating a new item, this applies only when the bouquet is an item of beauty. When the purpose of the bouquet is for a mitzva it is not considered creation on the holiday, and permitted. The prohibition of Me’amer is irrelevant here, because according to the above-mentioned Igros Moshe, creating a bouquet in which every plant has its own purpose (just as in the four species on Succos in which every one of the species has its own designated spot) is not included in Me’amer.
Some poskim (Me’orei Ohr p. 156; Orechos Chaim 340:13; Kaf Hachaim 340:80) forbid stringing pearls and other natural stones because they are considered giduley karka (see last week’s article for details). However, stringing wood, glass, or plastic beads is permitted because they are not giduley karka (they no longer resemble their natural form). Securing a string of beads of any kind is forbidden according to the Igros Moshe under the prohibition of completing a new product (tikun mono). Children’s beads or stringing toys in which beads are strung and unstrung is not included in the prohibition.