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10. Zoreh: Blowin' in the Wind

April 28, 2015 | by

Separating two things by use of wind or air power.

We've spent a lot of time dealing with the labor category of Dosh. Now we'll turn to a new melacha, called 'Zoreh'.1

Zoreh Then and Now

'Zoreh' literally means "winnowing" – that is, a further separation of the wheat kernel from inedible parts of the plant. (This process was begun by threshing, which we read about in Dosh, part #1.) To winnow, a person would toss the threshed wheat into the air, and the lighter, unusable parts (the "chaff") would get blown off by the wind.

Zoreh is the first of three melachot that deal with separating parts of a mixture. (The other two – which we'll examine soon, G-d willing – are Borer and Meraked.) Even back in the Talmud, the Sages wondered why we have three labor categories that deal with essentially the same activity.

One answer is that, although all of these melachot lead to a similar result, the separating is accomplished by different means. So, as we'll see

  • Zoreh involves separating through wind or air power2
  • Borer involves separating by hand
  • Meraked involves separating via a strainer or similar tool.3

As it turns out, there aren't that many practical applications of this melacha. Let's examine some of them.

In Practice

Beyond the actual winnowing of grain, what other activities would be covered by Zoreh?

Examples would be blowing the seeds off a dandelion, or throwing confetti into the air. Similarly, one would not be allowed to shake crumbs off a tablecloth out the window, as this would probably cause the crumbs to be blown by the wind.

One contemporary author suggests that the list should also include blowing dust off a book; blowing excess sugar off a cookie or other pastry; shaking dust from a blanket; and similar things.4

A seemingly logical extension of Zoreh would be using an aerosol spray (ozone issues aside), since this appears to work by using air power to project material outwards. In fact, however, aerosols work by using pressure, not air. Therefore, it is acceptable to use them.5

A Further Issue

Okay, you may be thinking, what if there's no wind? Would it then be permissible to do the activities we've been discussing?

The halacha says that you should avoid Zoreh activities even if at that moment there is no wind or a very light wind, since wind is unpredictable (i.e. you don't know if a strong wind is about to come along).6

In Closing

Zoreh has a limited number of practical applications, but conceptually it's an important link in the chain of activities comprising 'the Order of Bread'.

We now move on to Borer (Sorting), one of the most fascinating and detailed of all of the melachot.

  1. Pronounced ‘zoh-REH.’
  2. Some include “the scattering of anything into the air” under the heading of Zoreh (see Jerusalem Talmud – Shabbat ch. 7; 39 Melochos, p. 375).
  3. See 39 Melochos, p. 375, for a discussion of this issue, based on Talmud – Shabbat 73b.
  4. Based on Magen Avraham 446:2, Rabbeinu Chananel – Shabbat 74; 39 Melochos, p. 376.
  5. 39 Melochos, p. 377-8; Halachos of Shabbos, IX:D.6 (p. 131) as heard from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.
  6. See Iglei Tal, Borer 4.
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