Question: If a bread crumb or a lemon pit falls into a beverage on Shabbat, may one remove the object from the cup or does this constitute a forbidden type of selecting on Shabbat?
Answer: In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the primary laws of selecting on Shabbat which is prohibited unless three conditions are met: The “food” must be selected from the “waste” and not the opposite, that one separate by hand and not by means of a utensil, such as a strainer, and that the selecting is done with the intention of eating immediately and not to leave it for a later time.
Regarding our scenario, one removing a bread crumb from a cup filled with a beverage should certainly be considered a forbidden form of selecting on Shabbat, for one is selecting the “waste” from the “food” since one has no use for the bread crumb as he does with the beverage.
The Opinion of the Maharitatz
There is a disagreement among the great Acharonim regarding our case. The Maharitatz (acronym for Moreinu Harav Yom Tov Tzahalon) writes in his responsa (Chapter 203) that there can be no selecting with regards to a liquid, for selecting is a process specific to solids, such as legumes, fruits, and the like (or when one does so in the usual manner liquids are selected/separated, i.e. filtering); however, when a solid falls into a liquid, for instance, if a fly falls into a glass of wine and one wishes to remove it by hand, it is permissible to do so and the prohibition of selecting does not apply here.
The Opinion of Mahari Chagiz
Nevertheless, many great Acharonim disagree with the Maharitatz’s view and write that selecting is indeed applicable to liquids as well. However, Maran zt”l quotes many Acharonim who agree with his opinion including the opinion of Hagaon Mahari (Moreinu Harav Yisrael Yaakov) Chagiz who writes in his Sefer Etz Chaim that anything which is very discernible within the mixture, such as a fly floating on top of a beverage, does not constitute selecting, for removing the fly does not make it any more “selected” than it was before. Accordingly, one would be permitted to remove a bread crumb from a beverage without hindrance.
The Bottom Line Regarding this Halacha
Halachically speaking, Maran zt” l writes that although one may rely on this opinion in order to remove something floating on top of a beverage, it is nevertheless preferable to act somewhat more stringently and in the spoon, one uses to the remove the bread crumb, one should remove some of the liquid as well, for in this way one may certainly act leniently since one is removing some “food” together with the “waste.”
Based on this, we can infer that if one is squeezing lemons into a liquid on Shabbat (which is indeed permissible, as we have already discussed) and the lemon pits are floating on the top of the beverage, one may remove them using one’s hands or a spoon on Shabbat. However, if one squeezes lemons onto a salad on Shabbat and some lemon seeds happened to have fallen into the salad, one may not remove them on Shabbat, since one is selecting “waste” from “food” on Shabbat.
It would seem that it is likewise forbidden to squeeze lemons onto a salad in a way where one squeezes the lemon over his hand and the juice drips into the salad while the pits fall into and remain in his hand since one is ultimately selecting/separating the pits from the liquid.