By Popular Demand: After the silverware is washed and laying in a pile following the Shabbat meal, may one select the forks, knives, and spoons and place them in their designated compartments or does this constitute a prohibition of selecting?
Answer: In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the forbidden work of selecting on Shabbat. We have mentioned that one may only select on Shabbat when three conditions are met: One must select 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 to leave it for a later time).
Regarding our question, one may certainly not be lenient and sort the silverware just because one is selecting the “food” from the “waste”, i.e. selecting the specific silverware that one wants from the items that he does not want, for this cannot be considered selecting in order to eat “immediately”, as one intends to leave the utensils for use during the next meal.
Selecting Items that do not Grow from the Ground
We have mentioned in the past that according many Poskim, the prohibition of selecting only applies to things which grow from the ground, such as fruits, vegetables, and grain; however, cutlery utensils which do not grow from the ground are not included in this prohibition. Although we rule that halachically, one should not select even items that do not grow from the ground, nevertheless, this opinion may be included as a reason for leniency regarding sorting silverware on Shabbat.
Selecting Regarding Two Items that are Equal in One’s Eyes
Another important reasoning to be lenient which Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l quotes in his Responsa Yabia Omer is that since when one sorts silverware there is no “food” and “waste” present, for all the utensils are equal in one’s eyes, it seems that the prohibition of selecting does not apply to such utensils.
The Bottom Line
Maran zt”l concludes by writing that it seems that those who customarily sort forks, knives, and spoons that were mixed together and place them in their designated compartments following the Shabbat meal do not transgress the prohibition of selecting on Shabbat. It is preferable though that after washing these utensils, one should dry each utensil that comes to his hands separately and afterwards place it in its designated compartment, for in this way, the prohibition of selecting certainly does not apply.