Halacha for Sunday 12 Elul 5777 September 3 2017

Draining the Water out of Canned Foods on Shabbat

Question: May one drain the water or brine out of cans of pickled cucumbers, olives, or tuna so that only the food item stays in the can or does this constitute the forbidden work of selecting on Shabbat?

Answer: In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the forbidden work of selecting on Shabbat. We have mentioned that it is only permissible to select on Shabbat when three conditions are met: One must do so by hand and not with the use of a utensil (such as a strainer), one must select the food from the waste and not the opposite, and one must do so in order to eat the food immediately (and not leave it for a later time). Now, let us deal with the question at hand.

The Reasoning to Prohibit This
In our situation, it would seem that it should be forbidden to drain the water from the canned food by tilting the can gently, for this seems like “selecting waste from food,” as the water (or brine), which one does not want, is considered the waste, and the cucumbers, olives, or tuna is considered food.

Draining the Water is Considered Selecting Food from Waste
Nevertheless, the great Poskim write that selecting in this manner is not considered selecting “waste from food”; on the contrary, since the food is what remains in the hand of the individual perform the selecting, he is actually selecting the food from the waste which is being spilled out.

Similarly, the Mishnah Berura writes (in his introduction to Chapter 319) that when the Torah prohibits selecting using a sieve or a strainer, this means that the prohibition exists only when the food falls through the holes of the strainer and the waste remains within it. However, if the opposite occurs, i.e. if the food is large and bulky and the waste is thin and it is what falls through the holes of the strainer, this is indeed considered selecting food from waste (it is nevertheless prohibited to do so on Shabbat for this constitutes selecting with the use of a utensil). Several great Poskim, among them Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, write likewise.

May One Act Leniently and Drain the Water Even if this is Being Done for Non-Immediate Use
Based on this, the same would apply to our situation in that tilting the canned food so that only the water spills out would be considered selecting food from waste. Nevertheless, even when one selects food from waste, we have already established that doing so is only permissible when this is done in order to eat the food immediately; however, if one has in mind to partake of the can’s contents in a half-hour or more, one may not act leniently regarding this matter.

In any case, there is another reasoning that would allow complete leniency in our situation which is that the olives or cucumbers are quite discernible in that the stand separately from the brine they are in. Therefore, according to many Poskim, the prohibition of selecting on Shabbat does not apply here at all; even if one only plans to partake of them after a half-hour’s time, the letter of the law indeed permits one to act leniently and pour out only the water.

Maran zt”l rules likewise that one may act leniently and drain the water out of pickled olive and cucumber cans on Shabbat and this does not constitute the forbidden work of selecting.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Laws of the Holiday of Sukkot

As per the request of many of our members and as a public service, we shall now list a synopsis of some laws which are essential for the upcoming Sukkot holiday: The Sukkah must be made of three walls and Sechach (the roof). The walls may be made of any material which can withstand a normal wi......

Read Halacha

The Customary Order of Rosh Hashanah

It is customary to eat certain symbolic foods during the two nights of Rosh Hashanah which signify good fortune for the entire upcoming year. It is therefore customary to eat black-eyed peas, pumpkin, leek, spinach, dates, pomegranates, apples dipped in honey, and meat of a sheep’s head on the......

Read Halacha

Megillah Reading-The Proper Procedure for One Who Has Missed Hearing a Portion of the Megillah

Every member of the Jewish nation is obligated to read the Megillah on the day of Purim. One must read it during the night and once again the next day, as the verse states, “My G-d, I call out to you during the day and you do not answer; during the night I have no rest.” This verse is wr......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Hearing Parashat Zachor

On the Shabbat preceding Purim, which is this coming Shabbat, after the opening of the Ark immediately following Shacharit prayers, two Sifrei Torah are removed; in the first one, we read the weekly Parasha (which is Parashat Tetzaveh this year, 5777) and in the second one we read the portion of &ld......

Read Halacha


The Custom of the “Commemoration of the Half-Shekel”-5777

It is customary to donate money before Purim as “a commemoration of the Half-Shekel” which was donated by the entire Jewish nation when the Bet Hamikdash stood. This money is customarily collected on the eve of Purim before reading the Megillah, as our Sages tell us (Megilla 13b) that &l......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Chametz and Kitniyot (Legumes) on Pesach

The Essence of Leavening The Torah (Shemot 13) tells us regarding the holiday of Pesach: “Matzot shall be eaten for seven days; neither leaven nor sourdough shall be seen in all of your borders.” The leaven that the Torah prohibits is produced by the combination of grain-flour and water......

Read Halacha

Motza’ei Yom Kippur-Unique Laws for this Year

Adding From the Mundane Onto the Holiness One must add some of the mundane weekday onto the holiness of Yom Kippur upon its exit, i.e. one should not end this holy day immediately with nightfall; rather, one should wait another few minutes. Thus, it is prohibited to eat or perform work on Motza&rsq......

Read Halacha

Some Detailed Laws Regarding Kitniyot (Legumes) on Pesach

In the previous Halacha we have briefly discussed the primary laws of Chametz and Kitniyot (legumes) on Pesach. We have explained that according to all communities, legumes such as rice and chick peas are not actual Chametz, for only grain products can be considered Chametz. However, Ashkenazim cust......

Read Halacha