Not too many people have the opportunity to thresh their own grain nowadays. Even the original physical method of threshing has been replaced by large, automated threshing machines. Indeed, city dwellers today might even have a hard time defining what threshing actually is.

Those who have studied the laws of Shabbat, however, will know that the act of threshing is the m’la’cha (creative labor prohibited on Shabbat) known as dosh and is the act of separating a natural product from its natural container. In the agricultural world, this refers to removing the wheat from the chaff when processing grain. Halachically, the m’la’cha of dosh is applied to a wider range of activities, such as squeezing the juice out of a fruit or picking peas out of their inedible pod.

One of the most interesting questions that this law raises is the removal of milk from its natural container. In other words, may one milk a cow on Shabbat? The answer is no. However, if refraining from milking the cow will cause the animal pain, the animal should be milked but the milk may not be used.

In the case of liquids squeezed from a fruit, the rules of dash come into play and is forbidden only if the liquid becomes “independent.” Thus, squeezing the juice of an orange into a container is forbidden, since one desires to drink the juice itself. However, if one wishes to flavor one’s food with lemon juice, one may squeeze the lemon directly onto the food shortly before eating, because the intent is to flavor the food, not to drink the juice itself.

For Shabbat observant nursing mothers, this m’la’cha is particularly important to understand. There is no issue with a baby nursing because the milk is swallowed directly and is therefore never independent. Milk pumped on Shabbat, however, is considered problematic and should not be used.

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