Are Newly Ripe Avocados Muktzeh?

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by R. Daniel Mann

Question: Today, Friday, our avocados are not quite ready to eat. If they become ripe enough on Shabbat, may we eat them then?

Answer: Fruit that are so unripe that they are inedible are muktzeh (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 308:31). When Shabbat begins, during bein hashemashot (twilight), several matters of halachic status are set for the entire Shabbat. One such matter is muktzeh, i.e., what is muktzeh when Shabbat begins, remains so throughout, even when the situation that made it muktzeh no longer exists (migo d’itkatza’i … – Shabbat 43a). Thus, there is reason to suspect that an avocado that entered Shabbat as muktzeh would remain muktzeh.  

However, there are a few reasons why the avocados in question will not be muktzeh. One is that since avocados usually ripen slowly, it is very likely that if you will want to eat it on Shabbat, it was halachically edible when Shabbat began. Foods do not need to be at their optimal state in order to be non-muktzeh; barely edible suffices. For example, the gemara (Shabbat 128a) and Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) state that uncooked meat is not muktzeh because it can be eaten raw, as can raw eggs (ibid. 328:38). Many poskim (including Igrot Moshe, OC 22) say that nowadays, raw meat is muktzeh because people no longer eat it, so that it must be practically feasible. So too, the gemara (Beitza 26b) discusses a food that is borderline fit to eat, i.e., only some would eat it, and instructs that one who wants to eat it must make an indication in advance to end the muktzeh status. Nevertheless, we assume that your avocados, if desirable to you on Shabbat, would have been marginally fit when Shabbat began. (One does not need to be aware before Shabbat that this was the case – ibid.) 

A further reason that your avocados will not be muktzeh is that migo d’itkatza’i probably does not apply here. The gemara (Beitza 27a) points out that food that is cooking when Shabbat started is often not fit then, and still one may eat it when it is ready. The gemara explains that this is because it is “finished by the hand of man (gomro biydei adam =gba),” (as opposed to fruit drying in the field, which needs time with a strong sun to be fit for Shabbat and therefore stays muktzeh). The expectation that the food will become fit prevents him from removing the prospect of using it from his mind (which is what muktzeh means). 

It is likely though that gba requires certainty that the object will be usable on Shabbat (Tiltulei Shabbat p. 246; Orchot Shabbat 19:(556)) and some posit that this happens by human action (see ibid.). If something is reliant on an unpredictable stimulant (e.g., the sun), it remains muktzeh. Avocados are apparently not affected by the sun; rather, time and/or exposure to ethylene gas (from ripening fruit) are catalysts. There may be a machloket (Ha’amek She’ala 47:7 suggests it could be a machloket between Bavli and Yerushalmi) whether one can extrapolate from the fact it ripened during Shabbat that it should have been clear on Friday that this would happen. 

In any case, a further leniency solves the problem here. The classic case of migo d’itkatza’i is one who puts edible fruit to dry, an action that causes them to “push” them into a period of being unfit. In cases where the object was never fit and pushed off and becomes fit on Shabbat, many poskim say that it loses its muktzeh status as soon as it becomes fit (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 324:7). On the other hand, some poskim posit that even in cases where a status of being fit was not removed, the muktzeh status can continue unless people were “sitting and looking forward” to its becoming fit (see Tosafot, Chulin 14a). However, this level of expectation does not require certainty it will occur, and one who saw the avocados were “not quite ready” and hoped they would be ready on Shabbat definitely qualifies to have their muktzeh status fall off (Orchot Shabbat 19:370; Chut Shani 308:7.8 permits it but uses the term gba).

Therefore, for one or more reasons, if the avocado will be to your liking on Shabbat, it will permitted to eat it.

About Daniel Mann

This column is produced on behalf of Eretz Hemdah by Rabbi Daniel Mann. Rabbi Mann is a Dayan for Eretz Hemdah and a staff member of Yeshiva University's Gruss Kollel in Israel. He is a senior member of the Eretz Hemdah responder staff, editor of Hemdat Yamim and the author of Living the Halachic Process, volumes 1 and 2 and A Glimpse of Greatness.

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