Shabbos 143-144 Squeezing lemons on Shabbos

Our Mishna (143b) tells us that it is forbidden to squeeze fruit on shabbos in order to remove their juice, and that if the juice flows out on its own, it is forbidden to drink it.

Rashi explains that the prohibition of squeezing fruit for its juice falls under the melacha of דש (threshing.) Just like threshing involves extracting the edible grain from the inedible kernel, so squeezing fruit involves extracting the drinkable juice from the undrinkable (though edible) fruit.

It is important to note that not all squeezing is forbidden under this melacha, some forms of squeezing are forbidden under the melacha of מלבן (whitening or laundering,) seeing as squeezing water out of wet clothes is part of the laundry process, and other types might be permitted, at least biblically.

As a rule, when one needs the “new” product derived from the extraction, the action falls under the prohibition of threshing, either biblically or rabbinically.

Rabbi Yehuda is more lenient and rules that so long as the fruit were intended for eating and not for juicing, the juice that comes out on its own may be consumed.

The reason for the prohibition against drinking the juices that flowed out of the fruit on their own is in order that one doesn’t come to squeeze the fruit himself, which could be an אסור דאורייתא (biblical transgression.)

As one is less likely to come to juice a fruit which he intended for eating in its solid state, this concern is significantly lower in such cases, which is why Rabbi Yehuda is lenient.

The Gemara concludes that this debate is limited to one of 3 categories of fruit:

  1. The most stringent category is זיתים ורימונים (olives and grapes.)

As these are usually grown and intended for their juices (the oil and the wine,) considered as one of the 7 liquids regarding the laws of impurity, and given special status in the Torah in various places , they are most similar to threshing wheat which is usually grown and intended for the edible grain (There is much discussion amongst the Rishonim and poskim as to which of these factors is primary.)

They thus fall under the biblical melacha and even Rabbi Yehuda agrees that if the oil or grape-juice flows out on its own on shabbos, it is forbidden to drink it.

  1. The middle category is תותים ורימונים (strawberries and pomegranates,) which are usually eaten, but also commonly squeezed for their juice.

As the original fruit has a perfectly usual use to start off with, this is not the same as threshing the less usable unthreshed grain and might thus only be rabbinically forbidden. This is where the Tana Kama and Rabbi Yehuda argue regarding the juice that comes out on its own.

  1. The third category is שאר פירות (other fruits), which are almost always not used for their juice. Not only do the Chachamim agree with Rabbi Yehuda that the juice that comes out by itself is permitted, even squeezing them lechatchila (in the first place) could be permitted!

The Gemara brings a Beraisa which gives some examples of fruit that fit into the category , namely בפגעין ובפרישין ובעוזרדין(identified by some as plumbs, quinces, and sorb-apples [acc]) and that explicitly rules that it is permitted to squeeze them on shabbos . The Gemara understands that this is because they are לאו בני סחיטה נינהו (not fit or meant for squeezing.)

There are some essential questions that need to be discussed regarding the above 3 categories:

  1. Are the examples given here meant דוקא (specifically,) or are they are simply examples of each of these 3 categories?
  2. If they are simply examples, are the members of these categories cast in stone by the Torah and/or Chazal, or dependant on their usage in each time and place?
  3. Does the term לאו בני סחיטה נינהו mean that they are not meant for squeezing at all, or that their juice is not usually fit for most people to drink?
  4. If the juice of a particular fruit is not meant or fit for most people to drink as is, but is meant or fit for drinking when mixed with other drinks or diluted with water, is the fruit considered fit for juicing and thus in the first or second category, or does it still belong in the third permitted category?

From the actual wording of the Gemara, defining the first category as “olives and grapes,” the second as “strawberries and pomegranates,” and the third as “other fruit,”

It seems that the first two categories could be specifically limited to the two species mentioned in each category, and that other fruit fall into the “other fruit” category by default.

However, it makes little sense that fruit which are usually or often squeezed for their juice should be exempt from the prohibition of squeezing, just because they have not been listed explicitly in the first two categories.

Whereas the Torah itself accords oil and wine special status, and this might be the primary reason for squeezing them being biblically forbidden, the examples brought for the middle category hardly seem to be unique- there are plenty of fruit that are both commonly eaten whole and squeezed for their juice, such as apples, oranges, mangoes and more, certainly in our time.

One very important נפקא מינה (practical ramification) of this analysis would be squeezing lemons in order to add their juice into tea, water, or other drinks, or even to drink “neat” if a person is unusual enough to enjoy doing so.

The commonly accepted halacha, as stated in Shulchan Aruch )O.C. 320/6), was that lemons fall into the third category, and squeezing them is thus permitted, possibly even into an empty container, and even more so directly into another liquid, which he records in Bet Yoseif as being the custom in Egypt while making lemonade.

This indeed remained the opinion of the Aruch haShulchan in relatively recent times.

Yet other later poskim, such as the Mishna Berura, have noted that in today’s times, lemons are grown on mass for their juice and squeezed by the barrel- as such they question whether they truly belong in the third category today.

However, an argument can be made that even if we accept that even the first category is neither unique to olives and grapes, nor cast in stone, but differs according to time and place, lemons might still fit into the third category that are not meant or fit for squeezing.

This is because even though are very often squeezed into juice, the resulting product is not fit for the average person to drink on its own, due to its acidity, and is only really used to add flavor to other drinks or foods.

This is very different to the threshed product which can be and is commonly eaten raw, and thus not included in the biblical melacha, or even in the rabbinical one.

This argument is made explicitly by the Beit Yoseif in the same siman to justify the Egyptian practise of squeezing lemons for lemonade on shabbos and as mentioned above, it is clearly endorsed by the Aruch haShulchan.

Although it seems that the more common practise in Ashkenazi circles today is to be stringent, there is certainly what to rely on for those Ashkenazim who are lenient as well as for Sephardim.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

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