As we saw (section 2), the prohibition of Borer only applies when it is done through derekh melakha. Separating okhel from psolet in order to eat it immediately is not considered Borer because it is derekh akhila. Therefore, one who wants to shell nuts for his family and serve them immediately may do so. But if he intends to serve them later, it is prohibited by Torah law, because that is derekh melakha. Similarly, if one has a mixture of watermelon seeds and sunflower seeds but wishes to eat only the sunflower seeds, he may not remove the sunflower seeds to eat later on. If he does so, he has transgressed the Torah prohibition of Borer. However, if he wishes to eat them immediately, he may remove all the sunflower seeds he wishes to eat.
One who is preparing a meal may separate enough food for the entire household, including guests. For example, if peanuts and almonds are mixed together and one wishes to serve just almonds, he may take out the almonds and place them on a serving bowl before the meal in order to serve them at the end of the meal. Even if the meal lasts for three hours, since the separation is done near the beginning of the meal and it is normal to prepare all the foods to be served at a meal in advance, removing the almonds is considered derekh akhila and not derekh melakha.
The key is that the okhel must be removed shortly before the meal, i.e., during the normal preparation time for the meal. However, if he does so prior to the normal preparation time, he transgresses the prohibition of Borer. The precise definition of “the normal preparation time” depends on the number of people and the size of the meal. A meal for five demands less preparation time than a meal for thirty, and a meal with one course demands less preparation time than a three-course meal.
If one does not know exactly when the meal will begin, one may separate the okhel for the meal from the psolet a little early in order to ensure that the meal begins on time. However, one should take care not to do it earlier than is necessary to ensure that the meal will be ready on time.
If one intended to separate okhel from psolet for the needs of an upcoming meal but ultimately finds that he prepared enough for an additional meal has not transgressed, as long as he did not intentionally and deceptively overprepare (SAH 319:3; MB 5).
. This is implied by Rema 319:1 and MB ad loc. 4-6. Igrot Moshe OĤ 4:74, Borer 13 states accordingly, as do SSK 3:69 and Menuĥat Ahava 2:7:6. Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 2, Beshalaĥ 1 is lenient and permits Borer up to an hour before a meal.. One who separates okhel from psolet in order to eat it later transgresses a Torah prohibition. Even if he ends up eating it immediately, he has still transgressed the prohibition. According to Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 2, Beshalaĥ 3, if one separated food with the intention of eating it immediately but then changed his mind, he has transgressed a rabbinic prohibition. SHT 319:5 presents a similar idea in the name of Pri Megadim. In contrast, if circumstances beyond his control prevented him from eating it immediately, he has not transgressed the prohibition (Menuĥat Ahava 2:7:31).
If one has a mixture of good and rotten fruits and wants to prepare a fruit bowl for his guests, he may separate an entire bowl full of good fruits if this is the accepted way of serving fruit to guests, even if he knows that they will eat only a few fruits. Since presenting a full bowl is a way of honoring one’s guests, the host reaps immediate benefit even from fruit that is left uneaten (Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 2, Beshalaĥ 3; SSK 3:44 and n. 129).