Sifting, the av melachah of meraked is forbidden on Shabbat.1 Meraked is similar to the melachahs of borer and zoreh, in that they all achieve the same result: separating items from undesired things with which they are mixed or attached. The Talmud explains that since each was considered a unique step in the construction of the Mishkan they are counted individually, even though they all could have technically been included in one melachah. Meraked specifically involves using a utensil, like a sieve, to separate foods or liquids from undesired things mixed with them. Although zoreh also involves the use of a utensil, i.e. pitchfork, it’s really the wind doing the separating; the pitchfork is just used to throw the produce into the wind.2


Meshamer, straining, is a common toladah of meraked.3 Only liquids which would not be consumed unless strained, are included in the biblical prohibition.4 For example, using a filter to separate granulated coffee from the coffee liquid, since one would not drink the coffee otherwise. If, however, the drink is fully satisfactory as it is, filtering it is permitted. For example, one may remove the pulp from a bottle of orange juice by pouring it through a mesh filter since the juice can be enjoyed just as well with its pulp. The logic behind this is that when the mixture is usually drunk without being filtered, it is considered one entity, and straining it is merely removing one part of the whole. When, however, the impurities are usually removed, the mixture is viewed not as one whole, but as a mixture of two different things, and removing one from the other is a bona fide melachah.5

Meraked in the Mishkan

Flour was sifted to make the lechem hapanim (showbread), which was baked in the Mishkan.6 Others explain that herbs were crushed and sifted before being made into dyes used in the Mishkan.7

Common Activities to Avoid

  • Straining salad dressing from the vegetables
  • Using a slotted spoon to serve a watery salad
  • Making coffee using a french press
  • Making matzah meal by pouring crushed matzah through a sifter