The Confused Image of Glass

In common years, Parshas Tzav falls on Shabbos Hagadol, and the piyutim (and perhaps the drosha) of the day teach about kashering for Pesach. Although this year is a leap year and Shabbos Hagadol is a month from now…

Question #1: Tevilas keilim

Why is glass the only material other than metal for which Chazal required immersion?

Question #2: Non-Kosher

May I use a non-kosher drinking glass for a hot cup of tea?

Question #3: Chicken soup and milk

After serving chicken soup in a glass, may I pour hot milk into the same glass?

Question #4: Kashering for Pesach

How do I kasher my chometz-dik glasses for Pesach?

Introduction

Moshe Rabbeinu hid the Egyptian that he killed in the sand; for this reason, striking the earth to bring the makeh of kinnim needed to be performed by Aharon (Rashi, Shemos 8:12). Since the world has huge deposits of sand, mankind attempted to use it for useful items, eventually discovering that, by heating sand to a very high temperature, it can be made into glassware, which is the topic of this article.

There is no mention of glassware in the Torah, although there is one reference to glassware in Tanach, in the book of Iyov (28:17). Iyov declares, regarding wisdom, lo ya’archena zahav uzechuchis, “Gold and glass do not equal it,” meaning that the value of gold or glass comes nowhere near that of wisdom. From this passage we see that, at the time of Tanach, glass was considered an extremely expensive material. As we will see shortly, that glass became less costly with time has halachic ramifications.

Before discussing the halachos of glass, let us note some of its unique chemical and physical properties that affect its halachic status.

Recyclable

Glassware has many uses and can be very beautiful, but at the same time it is fragile and breakable. However, as opposed to pottery, which, when broken, is irreparable and virtually useless, broken glassware can be easily recycled. Glass can be melted down and reused over and over. In this respect, glass shares an important characteristic with metals, which are also recyclable by being melted down. For this reason, Chazal sometimes gave glassware the halachos of metals. For example, germane to the mitzvah of tevilas keilim, the Gemara rules that glass vessels must be toiveled before use, as indicated in the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b): Rav Ashi said, Glass utensils, since when broken they can be repaired, are like metal utensils.

Rav Ashi lived at the very end of the period of the Gemara. A much earlier statement of Chazal, in Avos deRabbi Nosson (Chapter 41), provides the following terse statement:

“Three things were said regarding glassware:

(1) It does not absorb; it does not impart.

(2) It shows whatever is inside.

(3) If you place it in a hot place, it becomes hot. If you place it in a cold place, it becomes cold.”

Avos deRabbi Nosson is not intended to be a scientific work, nor is it a handbook for manufacturers. It is similar to Pirkei Avos, although it contains much more aggaddic material, and so it would probably be best classified as an early midrash, similar to Midrash Tanchuma or Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, or to the much later midrashic collections like Midrash Rabbah or Yalkut Shimoni. So, why is it concerned with categorizing the qualities of glassware?

The answer to this question is that, although Avos deRabbi Nosson is not usually treated as a halachic midrash, in this instance, that is exactly what it is — providing halachic categorization with which to define the unique qualities of glass. By so doing, it provides a background with which to explain the halachos of glassware.

Does not absorb

Laboratory experiments use glass equipment because it does not absorb, nor does it impart or leach into what is heated or stored inside it. Therefore, it should not affect whatever chemical reaction or research for which it is being used. We will soon discuss the kashrus ramifications of this quality of glass, about which the Avos deRabbi Nosson was presumably concerned.

May be clear or opaque

We are accustomed to most glass being clear, but this is really a function of what other chemicals are in the sand from which the glass is made when it is fired. Even glass that is colored is usually transparent, which is one of the common qualities of glass and is highly uncommon in other materials.

This observation about glassware has much halachic ramification, although this distinction does not affect any “kitchen kashrus” issues. It does, however, have ramifications for the laws of tumah and taharah, which we will not disuss in this article because of space considerations.

It is a conductor

The third statement of the Avos deRabbi Nosson is that if you place glass in a hot place, it becomes hot, and if you place it in a cold place, it becomes cold. In other words, glass is a conductor and not a good insulator. The best insulator used today in the kitchen and in carryout shops is Styrofoam. But on the relative scale of things, glass is closer to metal in its ability to conduct heat.

Having used the Avos deRabbi Nosson as a means of explaining the unique properties of glass, we can now discuss the halachic questions that I raised at the beginning of our article.

Tevilas keilim

Our first question was: Why is glass the only material other than metal for which Chazal required immersion?

Allow me to explain. The laws of tumah and taharah germane to tools, equipment and vessels include many different types of materials. Items manufactured from metal, wood, cloth, horn, glass, and plants are all susceptible to tumah, as is food, pottery and boneware. Nonetheless, germane to the mitzvah of immersing utensils prior to food use, the requirement min haTorah  applies only to metal utensils, and not to utensils, pots or pans made of pottery, wood, cloth, bone, horn or any other materials. Therefore, there is no requirement to toivel a wooden spoon, a ceramic dish, cheesecloth used for food (after all, it is called cheesecloth, and not laundry cloth, for a good reason), or flatware chiseled out of horn or bone. However, why is there a requirement to toivel glass bowls and cups?

Based on the Gemara that we quoted above, we can answer this question: Broken glass utensils can be recycled for new manufacture, just as you can recycle broken metal utensils. Since glass shares this quality with metal, Chazal instituted that glass be treated like metalware, germane to the mitzvah of toiveling food-preparatory vessels prior to using them.

Glass and kashrus

At this point, I am going to combine the next three of our opening questions into one discussion:

May I use a non-kosher drinking glass for a hot cup of tea?

After serving chicken soup in a glass, may I pour hot milk into the same glass?

How do I kasher my chometz-dik glasses for Pesach?

There is a tremendous diversity of opinion among the rishonim concerning the kashrus status of glassware. Do we assume, halachically, as does the chemist, that glass never imparts anything that it absorbs? If this is true, it should never require kashering and it may be used interchangeably from treif to kosher, from milchig to fleishig, and from chometz to Pesach without any kashering procedure at all. On the other hand, we have no Talmudic source that expressly permits using any utensil in any of these ways without a kashering procedure in between.

The different opinions that we find among the rishonim on this issue can be categorized loosely as three basic approaches:

1. No need to kasher

Several authorities contend that the nature of glass is that it does not absorb or impart any taste and that, therefore, it does not require any kashering at all (Rabbeinu Tam, quoted by Tosafos, Avodah Zarah 33b s.v. Kunya and Kesubos 107b s.v. Hani,and Rosh, Pesachim 2:8; Rashba, both in Shu”t Harashba 1:233 and in Toras Habayis 5:6; Ran, Pesachim 9a [in the Rif’s pages]; Ravyah,quoted by Mordechai, Pesachim #574). Many of these authorities quote the above mentioned Avos deRabbi Nosson as a proof for this ruling.

2. Does not help to kasher

Halacha treats glassware like pottery. Once pottery was used to cook chometz or non-kosher food, the flavor absorbed into its walls can never be fully removed. Rather than becoming completely extracted when one attempts to kasher pottery, some of the absorbed taste remains and leaches out afterwards with each use, potentially spreading prohibited flavor into all subsequent cooking (Tosafos, Chullin 8a s.v. Shelivna). In other words, once pottery becomes treif, it may be impossible to make kosher again. (There are some circumstances in which it can be kashered, but these unusual situations are beyond the scope of this article.)

Some early authorities contend that, since glassware is made from sand, it should be treated like sand, or, more accurately, like pottery and cannot be kashered (Mordechai, Pesachim #574, and Avodah Zarah #826; Terumas Hadeshen 1:132, 2:151). Most of these authorities quote the source for this approach as Rabbeinu Yechiel of Paris, one of the baalei Tosafos.

3. Glass is like metal

Some rishonim rule that just as Chazal gave glassware the same halachic status as metal regarding the mitzvah of tevilas keilim, it has the same halacha regarding the laws of kashrus (Bedek Habayis of the Re’ah, 5:6; Shibbolei Haleket #207).

However, once we rule that glassware is like metal, in practice, it might become stricter than metal. This is because of a rule that, when a particular method of kashering may break an appliance, Chazal prohibited using that method, out of concern that someone will be afraid to kasher it properly (Pesachim 30b). Thus, although metal can be kashered by boiling the appliance (hag’alah), it may not be allowed to kasher glassware this way, because the owner may be afraid that it will crack (Mor Uketzi’ah end of 451). On the other hand, other authorities permit kashering glassware by hag’alah for Pesach and are not concerned that someone might be afraid to kasher it properly (Shu”t Maharsham 1:53 at end).

A major halachic ramification results from the above. Glassware that is meant to be used in the oven, such as Pyrex, should, therefore, be kasherable for Pesach, since presumably the owner will not be afraid to kasher it properly. Although this is not common custom, there are prominent halachic authorities who permit this (She’arim Hametzuyanim Bahalacha 116:11).

Difference between treif and Pesach

There is a dispute among rishonim whether glass that was used for hot chometz may be used for Pesach. Some authorities are more stringent regarding using chometz-dik glassware for Pesach than using it interchangeably between milchig and fleishig. For example, the Hagahos Semaq, a late baal Tosafos, writes: “Universal custom is not to use for Pesach any used pottery vessels (even those coated with metal or glass). Rabbeinu Yechiel prohibited using even used drinking glasses, since the Gemara compares glass to pottery, and sometimes people place bread into drinking glasses, in which instance they absorb the way pottery does.” The way this statement is quoted, it implies that Rabbeinu Yechiel did not permit any form of glassware kashering for Pesach (Hagahos Semaq 222:5).

Similarly, the Issur Vaheter (58:50), an early Ashkenazic posek, quotes the Semaq as ruling that it is prohibited to kasher glass for Pesach and it should be treated lechumra as questionable whether it is considered metal or pottery.

How do we rule?

Among earlier halachic authorities, it appears that there was a big difference between Sefardic and Ashkenazic practice regarding the use of glassware. The Beis Yosef cites most of the halachic sources we quoted above, and concludes, both in Beis Yosef and in Shulchan Aruch, that glassware does not absorb and therefore may be used for Pesach without any kashering procedure at all (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 451:26). Following his approach, it would appear that someone could purchase or rent used glass equipment from a treif source, without any need to kasher it.

On the other hand, early Ashkenazic custom appears to have been closer to the approach of Rabbeinu Yechiel cited above. For example, the Rema rules that chometz-dik glassware should not be used for Pesach and that it is not kasherable for Pesach use, even when it was used only for serving cold beverages and not used ever to store them.

Although most Ashkenazic authorities subsequent to the Rema follow his approach, some rule that Ashkenazim could follow the Sefardic practice and use glassware for Pesach without kashering it first (Mor Uketzi’ah,end of 451).

Other authorities raise a different question regarding the Rema’s ruling that glassware may not be used for Pesach. The Rema prohibits using glassware for cold drinks on Pesach, even when the glass is used only for cold beverages the entire year. The reason the Rema is stringent is because of concern that chometz may have fallen into the glass and became kavush, which means that chometz flavor absorbed into the glass.

The difficulty with this ruling is that the Rema himself rules that a vessel, even made of pottery, that stored chometz for a lengthy period of time may be used on Pesach, even when this long-term storage would create kavush (Orach Chayim 451:21; see Mishnah Berurah 451:122). How could the Rema treat glassware more stringently than pottery? The only reason to be stringent regarding glassware is according to the minority opinion that treats glassware as pottery!

This question is raised by the commentary Beis Meir (Orach Chayim 451:26), who answers that the Ashkenazic minhag to be stringent not to kasher glass was only regarding drinking glasses, since buying new ones for Pesach is not a major expense. However, the Rema ruled leniently regarding large storage vessels that are expensive, even when they are made from pottery, and certainly when they were manufactured from glass. In other words, even the Rema holds that glassware is inherently kasherable; there is only a custom not to kasher drinking glasses for Pesach since this does not incur a great expense.

There are several ramifications of the Beis Meir’s ruling:

An individual who cannot afford to purchase glassware for Pesach may use his regular, chometz-dik glassware. In this situation, he should kasher his drinking glasses. This approach is followed by the Chayei Odom and the Mishnah Berurah (451:156) who rule that, in a place where glassware is relatively unavailable, glass items should be cleaned well and then kashered for Pesach, by a method called miluy ve’iruy. In this kashering method, glasses are submerged completely in a basin or tub full of cold water for at least 24 hours, the water is changed and glasses are submerged again for at least another 24 hours, and then a third time for at least another 24 hours.

The Mishnah Berurah rules that, if someone does not ordinarily use his glassware for hot chometz or to store chometz, and they used their glasses for Pesach without any kashering at all, the food or beverage placed in them remains kosher for Pesach. More so, in a case of major loss, the Mishnah Berurah permits Pesach-dik food, even when it was placed hot into glassware that was previously used for hot chometz. He permits this only if the glassware was not used for chometz within the previous 24 hours. There are other authorities who are even more lenient (Taz; Pri Chodosh; cf. Shaar Hatziyun 451:196).

According to the Beis Meir’s conclusion, it is permitted to drink a kosher beverage, even a hot tea or coffee, in a “non-kosher” drinking glass. This opinion is mentioned by many halachic authorities (Keneses Hagedolah, Yoreh Deah 121:25 in Hagahos Tur 25; Darkei Teshuvah 121:2; Aruch Hashulchan, Yoreh Deah 121:2). Thus, if you are in a non-kosher house or hotel, the hot tea or coffee you are served in a glass is still kosher. And, if we refer to one of our opening questions: “After serving chicken soup in a glass, may I pour hot milk into the same glass?” — the answer, according to these authorities, is that one may. I suggest that, prior to putting this into practice, our readers should ask this question from their own rav or posek.

Conclusion

The Chiddushei Harim notes that pottery vessels become tamei only from their inside and not when something touches their outside. He explains that this is because a pottery vessel, itself, is considered without inherent value – its value is determined by what it contains, whereas vessels made from other materials have inherent value. On this basis, the Sfas Emes, the grandson and successor of the Chiddushei Harim, notes that man’s value is also determined by what he contains on the inside, not on his outer projected image.

Image above by iprole on Freeimages.com




Toiveling Keilim

Question #1:

“Last time I went to immersesome cutlery, a lady immersing some aluminum bowls asked me to include her with my beracha. When I asked her whether she wanted me to help her recite her own beracha on the mitzvah, she responded softly that she received a psak not to recite a beracha when toiveling aluminum, although she did not know the reason. Why would she not recite the beracha?”

Question #2:

“I have a gift business in which I sell candy dishes with candies, fruits, and nuts already in the glass dishes. Must I toivel these dishes before I fill them?”

Introduction:

In Parshas Matos, the Torah teaches: Only the gold and the silver; the copper, the iron, the tin and the lead: any item that was used in fire needs to be placed in fire to become pure [meaning “kosher”], yet it must also be purified in mikveh water. And that which was not used in fire must pass through water” (Bamidbar 31:22-23). These verses serve as the basis for teaching three different sets of laws:

  1. Absorbing Concepts

How to kasher vessels that were used to cook non-kosher foods. An item that was used directly in fire, such as a spit or grate that broiled non-kosher, is kashered only by burning it directly in fire; an item used to cook on top of a fire, such as a pot that cooked non-kosher, may be kashered via a process similar to the way it was used, etc.

  1. Tainted Metal

Which items are susceptible to tumah. The Torah here teaches that implements made of metal become tamei (spiritually impure) through contact with a tamei item (such as an animal carcass), and that immersing them in a mikveh restores them to tahor status. An item is susceptible to tumah only when the Torah informs us of this fact – if the Torah never taught that an item can become tamei,it does not, and therefore most items in the world are not susceptible to tumah. (Unfortunately, these laws have limited practical application until Moshiach comes and we again have the parah adumah. At that time, we will be able to live according to the tahor status necessary to observe the mitzvos related to the Beis Hamikdash, terumah and maaser sheini.)

  1. Immersed in Holiness

The mitzvah to immerse implements in a mikveh or spring prior to using them for food. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) notes that this immersion is required even if the vessel has never been used. In other words, this mitzvah is unrelated to the requirement of kashering equipment that was used to prepare non-kosher food and to the laws related to purifying implements that became tamei.

Materials that require tevilah

The Torah teaches that utensils owned by a non-Jew that are made of gold, silver, copper, iron, tin or lead require immersion in a kosher mikveh or spring when they are transferred to Jewish ownership. According to most authorities, this mitzvah is a Torah requirement, although there is a minority opinion that this mitzvah is required only miderabbanan (Rambam, as understood by Pri Chadash). We will assume that the requirement to immerse gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead implements is Torah-ordained. (Bear in mind that, although we would not use lead as an ingredient because of valid concerns about lead poisoning, this medical problem was not discovered until the nineteenth century. Therefore, we find much earlier halachic literature discussing immersion of lead or lead-lined utensils.)

There is no requirement to immerse food utensils made of wood, earthenware, ivory, bone, leather, stone or most other materials. We will soon discuss glass and plastic.

Mechiras Chometz and Tevilas Keilim

As we all know, before Pesach one is required to rid one’s house and all one’s possessions of chometz. However, some items, such as toasters, mixers, wooden kneading bowls, and flour bins are difficult, if not impossible, to clean. Shulchan Aruch and Rema (Orach Chayim 442:11) recommend giving wooden kneading bowls and flour bins and the chometz they contain as a gift to a non-Jew before Pesach, with the understanding that the gentile will return them after the holiday. Today, the standard mechiras chometz that we perform includes selling this chometz and these appliances in the sale. However, what do I do if I have metal appliances that may be full of chometz, such as mixers and toasters? If I sell these appliances to a gentile and then purchase the appliance back from him, will I now need to immerse the appliance in a mikveh?

The halachic authorities note that someone selling his or her chometz to a gentile before Pesach should be careful not to sell utensils that require tevilas keilim. Instead, one should rent the appliances to a gentile and sell the chometz they contain (Chachmas Odom; Noda Beyudah, cited in Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 120:13). An item rented to a gentile does not require immersion when it is returned to the Jewish owner.

Cleavers versus Graters!

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) quotes Rav Sheishes as suggesting that anything purchased from a gentile, even a clothing shears, should require immersion. Rav Nachman responded that the mitzvah of tevilas keilim applies only to kelei seudah — literally, implements used for a meal, which includes both utensils used to prepare food, such as pots and knives, and those utilized to eat or drink, such as drinking cups and tableware (Avodah Zarah 75b).

Grates and Grills

One is required to immerse only those items that usually touch the food directly. Therefore, stove grates, blechs, hotplates, knife sharpeners, trivets, can openers and corkscrews do not require tevilah (see Yoreh Deah 120:4), but grills, peelers, funnels, strainers, salt shakers, pepper mills and tongs do require tevilah, since they all touch food.

What about storage vessels?

Is one required to immerse a metal container or glass jar used to store foodstuffs, but that is not suitable for preparing or consuming food?

Rabbi Akiva Eiger (on Yoreh Deah 120:1, quoting Keneses Hagedolah [Beis Yosef 18]) discusses whether storage vessels require tevilah, and concludes that it is unclear whether they should be immersed. Therefore one should immerse them without reciting a beracha, because in case there is no mitzvah to immerse them, reciting a beracha al tevilas keilim before immersing them is reciting a beracha levatalah, a beracha in vain. A better solution is to immerse them at the same time that one immerses an item that definitely requires a beracha.

Kelei Sechorah — “Merchandise”

The halachic authorities note that a storekeeper does not toivel vessels he is planning to sell, since for him they are not kelei seudah, but items he intends to sell. Later authorities therefore coined a term “kelei sechorah,” utensils used as merchandise, ruling that these items do not require immersion until they are purchased by the person intending to use them (based on Taz, Yoreh Deah 120:10). Furthermore, several halachic authorities contend that the storekeeper cannot immerse the vessels prior to sale, since there is as yet no requirement to immerse them (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchak 8:70). This is based on a statement of the Rema that implies that a tevilah performed before one is obligated to immerse a vessel, such as while it is still owned by the gentile, does not fulfill the mitzvah and must be repeated after it becomes the property of a Jew (Rema Yoreh Deah 120:9).

Based on this discussion, we can now address one of our above-mentioned questions:

“I have a gift business in which I sell candy dishes with candies, fruits, and nuts already in the glass dishes. Must I toivel these dishes before I fill them?”

This question is a modification of a situation in which I was involved. I once received a glass candy dish from someone, with a note from the business stating that the dish has already been toiveled. I called the proprietor of the business to inform him that, in my opinion, not only is he not required to toivel the dish, but I suspect that it does not help. My reasoning is that, although the proprietor fills his dishes with nuts and candies, from his perspective this is still merchandise that he is selling. The dish therefore qualifies as kelei sechorah which one need not immerse, and, therefore, immersing them does not fulfill the mitzvah. As a result, not only is the proprietor not obligated to immerse the dishes, but doing so fulfills no mitzvah, and it is a beracha levatalah for him to recite a beracha on this immersion. Including a note that the dish was toiveled is detrimental, since the recipient will assume that he has no requirement to toivel this dish, whereas, in fact, the end-user is required to immerse it. For these reasons, I felt it incumbent on myself to bring this to the attention of the owner of the business.

The proprietor was very appreciative. He told me that, in truth, it was a big hassle for him to toivel the dishes, but he had been assuming that halacha required him to do so before he could fill the dishes.

Some Immersing Details

When immersing the utensil, one should not hold it very tightly in one’s hand, since this will cause the part of the utensil he is holding to not be immersed properly. Instead, one should either hold the utensil somewhat loosely, or alternatively, one should dip one’s hand into the mikveh water before holding the utensil that will be immersed (Rema, Yoreh Deah 120:2; see Taz and Shach).

Prior to immersing a utensil, one must remove all rust and dirt from the utensil. If one immersed the utensil and it had rust or dirt that most people would not want on the appliance, one must clean it, and then re-immerse it (Yoreh Deah 120:13).

When one is immersing an item that definitely requires tevilah, immediately prior to dipping it, one should recite the beracha, Asher kideshanu bemitzvosav vetzivanu al tevilas keili. If one immerses more than one vessel he should conclude instead al tevilas keilim (Yoreh Deah 120:3). Although some authorities mention alternative texts to the beracha, I have quoted the commonly used text, which follows the majority opinion.

If it is uncertain whether the item requires tevilah, one should not recite a beracha. It is preferable, if possible, to immerse it at the same time that one immerses a different utensil that definitely requires tevilah, so that both items are included in the beracha.

May a child toivel keilim?

If a child tells you that he immersed a vessel in a kosher mikveh, may you rely that this indeed happened?

The halacha is that if an adult supervised the child immerse the vessel correctly, one may use the utensil, but one may not rely on the child attesting that he or she immersed the utensil properly (Yoreh Deah 120:14; see also Gr”a ad locum and Pri Megadim, Orach Chayim, Mishbetzos Zahav 451:6). Apparently, this is not a well-known halacha, since one often finds children being used as agents to immerse utensils for their parents.

People eating from glass dishes…

The Gemara teaches that food utensils made of glass must be immersed prior to use, since glassware is similar to metalware in that when it becomes broken it can be melted and repaired, what we usually call recyclable.One recites a beracha prior to immersing glassware, just as one recites a beracha prior to immersing metalware.

Of course, this leads us to a question about plasticware, since many forms of plastic are recyclable in ways very similar to metal and glass. Does repairable plasticware require tevilah just as glassware does? Most people assume that plasticware is not included in the mitzvah of tevilas keilim, but why?

This takes us to an earlier discussion between 19th-century poskim concerning a type of boneware, which, when broken or cracked, could be repaired by melting and melding it. (I personally have no experience with this material, but I imagine that one could probably melt and repair bone, just as one can repair horn by melting and melding. There is much halachic discussion about the repair of a damaged shofar by melting and melding the crack.) Rav Avraham Shaag, the rebbe of Rav Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld (later the Rav of the old Yishuv of Yerushalayim and Eretz Yisrael), concluded that just as one is required to immerse glassware because it is repairable, one is required to immerse boneware (Shu’t Ohel Avraham #24, quoted by Darkei Teshuvah). This position was disputed by Rav David Zvi Hoffman, the preeminent posek of Germany in his day, who contended that since the immersion of glassware is required only miderabbanan, one need immerse only those items that Chazal specifically required, but a newly developed material, albeit similar to glassware, would not require immersion (Shu’t Melamed Leho’il, Yoreh Deah #49).

The late authorities debate whether plastic items require immersion prior to use. Indeed, some authorities (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchak 3:76) require the immersion of reusable plastic plates and the like, because they follow the logic of Rav Avraham Shaag — although without a beracha, since perhaps Rav Dovid Hoffman is halachically correct. Nevertheless, most authorities conclude that one is not required to immerse plasticware (Shu’t Yabia Omer 4: Yoreh Deah: 8; Tevilas Keilim page 226).

Other Metals

When teaching that metal implements become tamei and that one must immerse food utensils before use, the Torah specifies the six metals that were available in ancient times: gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead. (Bronze and brass are both alloys whose main component is copper; in bronze, the most significant minority element is tin, and in brass it is zinc.) However, over the last two hundred years, mankind developed the means to extract and process several other metals, including platinum, chromium, aluminum, and titanium. Do these “new” metals have the same halachic status as the six mentioned in the Torah? Are platinum rings, aluminum urns and titanium airplanes susceptible to tumah?  Do chrome pots and aluminum trays require tevilas keilim?

The Tiferes Yisrael, in his extensive introduction to the Order of Taharos, rules that the newly discovered metals have the same halachic status as the six mentioned explicitly by the Torah, and they are all capable of becoming tamei (Yevakeish Daas #44). It follows from his line of reasoning that one is required min haTorah to immerse food vessels made of the new types of metal, and indeed this is how many authorities rule (Tevilas Keilim page 225). Many authorities contend that, although one is required to immerse aluminum pots, one is not required to immerse aluminum items that are disposable. Since they are meant to be disposed after use, they are not considered “keilim” that require immersion.

On the other hand, other poskim dispute the Tiferes Yisrael’s conclusion that all types of metal become tamei, contending that since the Torah mentions six specific metals (and the Torah could certainly have used a generic term for all metal items that would have been much briefer), choosing a lengthy way of listing six types of metal demonstrates that these are the only types of metal that become tamei, and that any newly developed metals are not susceptible to tumah (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:164; letter from Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky published at end of the sefer Tevilas Keilim).

According to the latter approach, one can argue that chrome pots and aluminum implements do not require tevilas keilim. The prevalent accepted practice is to assume that they do require tevilas keilim, although some authorities consider this a sufficient enough doubt to omit the beracha prior to immersing these items.

Conclusion

According to Rav Hirsch, metal vessels, which require mankind’s mining, extracting and processing, represent man’s mastery over the earth and its materials. Whereas vessels made of earthenware or wood only involve man shaping the world’s materials to fit his needs, the manufacture of metal demonstrates man’s creative abilities to utilize natural mineral resources to fashion matter into a usable form. Consuming food, on the other hand, serves man’s most basic physical nature. Use of metal food vessels, then, represents the intellectual aspect of man serving his physical self, which, in a sense, is the opposite of why we were created, which is to use our physical self to assist our intellect to do Hashem’s will. Specifically in this instance, the Torah requires that the items hereby produced be immersed in a mikveh before we use them, in order to endow them with increased kedusha before they are put to food use. This demonstrates that although one may use one’s intellect for physical purposes, when doing so one must first sanctify the item, to focus on the spiritual.




Must I Immerse a Candy Dish?

Both parshiyos Balak (read this week in Eretz Yisrael) and Chukas (read in chutz la’aretz) discuss relationships with non-Jews, and therefore are appropriate parshiyos to discuss the mitzvah of tevilas keilim.

Question: A Sweet Saga

Avraham Sweet, the proprietor of Candy Andy, wants to know.

“I have a gift business in which I sell glass candy bowls filled with candies, fruits, and nuts. Must I toivel these dishes before I fill them?”

Introduction:

In Parshas Matos, the Torah teaches: Regarding the gold and the silver; the copper, the iron, the tin and the lead: any item that was used in fire needs to be placed in fire to become kosher, yet it must also be purified in mikveh water. In addition, that which was not used in fire must pass through water” (Bamidbar 31:22-23). From these verses we derive the mitzvah of tevilas keilim — The mitzvah to immerse metal implements in a mikveh or spring prior to using them for food. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) notes that this immersion is required even if the vessel has never been used. In other words, this mitzvah is unrelated to the requirement of koshering equipment that was used for non-kosher food or to the laws related to purifying implements that became tamei.

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) further states that in addition to metal items intended for food use, we are also required to immerse glass dishes, because both metal and glass share a similarity – they are repairable by melting and reconstructing, or, as we would say, they are recyclable. This renders them different from vessels made of stone, bone, wood or earthenware, all of which cannot be repaired this way.

What types of dishes must be immersed?

The Gemara cites a highly instructive dialogue about the mitzvah of immersing vessels:

“Rav Nachman said in the name of Rabbah bar Avuha: ‘One can derive from the verse that one must immerse even brand new items, because used vessels that were purged in fire are as kosher as those that are brand-new, and yet they require immersion.’

Rav Sheishes then asked him: ‘If it is true that the mitzvah of immersing vessels is not because of kashrus concerns, maybe one is required to immerse even clothing shears?’

Rav Nachman responded: ‘The Torah only mentions vessels that are used for meals (klei seudah)’“ [Avodah Zarah 75b].

Rav Sheishes suggested that if immersing utensils has nothing to do with kosherizing utensils used for non-kosher, perhaps this mitzvah applies to all paraphernalia — even cameras, cellphones and clothing shears!

To this, Rav Nachman retorted that since the Torah mentions only implements used for a meal, the mitzvah of tevilas keilim applies only to utensils used for preparing and consuming food, not those intended for other purposes.

Klei seudah – appliances used for meals

Rav Nachman did not require that all food preparation utensils be immersed, only klei seudah, items used for meals. Soon, we will see how this detail affects many of the halachos of tevilas keilim. But, what exactly are considered klei seudah, and how is this different from simply saying that all food preparation utensils must be immersed?

Klei sechorah — “merchandise”

The halachic authorities note that a storekeeper is not required to immerse vessels he has for sale, since for him they are not utensils with which he intends to prepare food or eat. Later authorities coin a term “klei sechorah,” utensils used as merchandise, ruling that these items do not require immersion until they are purchased by the end user (see Taz, Yoreh Deah 120:10). Furthermore, several halachic authorities contend that not only is the storekeeper not required to immerse the utensils prior to sale, if he immerses them, it is not valid, since there is, as yet, no requirement to immerse them (Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak 8:70). This is based on a comment of the Rama implying that tevilah performed before the obligation to immerse a utensil exists, such as while it is still owned by the non-Jew, does not fulfill the mitzvah, but must be repeated after the utensil becomes the property of a Jew (Rama 9). Thus, reciting a beracha on this too-early tevilah would be a beracha levatalah.

Based on this discussion, we can now address one of our above-mentioned questions:

“I have a gift business in which I sell candy bowls filled with candies, fruits, and nuts. Must I toivel these dishes before I fill them?”

This question is a modification of a situation in which I was once involved. We received a glass candy bowl as a gift from someone with a note that the proprietor had already toiveled the bowl. I called the owner of the business to inform him that, in my opinion, not only is he not required to toivel the dish, but I suspect that the tevilah does not help. My reasoning is that, although the proprietor fills the bowls with nuts and candies, from his perspective this is merchandise that he is selling. The dish therefore qualifies as klei sechorah that one need not immerse, and immersing them does not fulfill the mitzvah. As a result, not only is the proprietor not obligated to immerse the dishes, but doing so fulfills no mitzvah, and it is a beracha levatalah for him to recite a beracha on this tevilah. Including a note that the dish was toiveled is detrimental, since the recipient will assume that he has no requirement to toivel this dish, when the end-user is required to immerse it. For these reasons, I felt it incumbent on myself to bring this to the attention of the owner of the business.

The proprietor was very appreciative. He told me that, in truth, it was a big hassle for him to toivel the dishes, but he had been assuming that halacha required him to do so before he could fill them.

Shortly after writing these words, I received the following shaylah:

“I want to ask you whether one must toivel an item that is being given away as a present. When I studied the topic, I concluded that, even if I purchase a utensil that requires tevilah, but I am planning on giving it to someone, it does not have a chiyuv tevilah until it reaches the recipient’s hands. Only then does it become kli seudah. This would also apply, for example, if someone gave a shalach manos bowl filled with candy, etc; the utensil wouldn’t require tevilah until the person receives it. What do you think?”

To which I answered:

“It seems to me that since one is purchasing the item for someone’s personal use, and not to sell, that it should have a chiyuv tevilah at this point. Only items meant to be merchandise are absolved from tevilah.”

I received the following response:

“Who says that the recipient is going to use the utensil at his table? Indeed, I had the very same shaylah tonight. My wife took a small receptacle that was holding a plant, filled it with nuts and dried fruit, and brought it to someone as a present. Who said that the recipient will use it afterwards for food? Maybe it will be a candle holder, a decorative piece, etc. It doesn’t become kli seudah until she decides what she will use it for.”

The point the correspondent is making is that it may indeed be that this item will never be a food utensil, and therefore never be required to be immersed. Only the end user determines whether the item is indeed a food utensil, and therefore until he decides what to do with it, there is no requirement to immerse it.

Conclusion

According to Rav Hirsch, metal vessels, which require mankind’s mining, extracting and processing, represent man’s mastery over the earth and its materials. Whereas vessels made of earthenware or wood only involve man shaping the world’s materials to fit his needs, the manufacture of metal demonstrates man’s creative abilities to utilize natural mineral resources to fashion matter into a usable form. Consuming food, on the other hand, serves man’s most basic physical nature. Use of metal food vessels then represents the intellectual aspect of man serving his physical self, which, in a sense, is the opposite of why we were created, which is to use our physical self to assist our intellect to do Hashem’s will. Specifically in this instance, the Torah requires that the items hereby produced be immersed in a mikveh before we use them to endow them with increased kedusha before they are put to food use. This demonstrates that although one may use one’s intellect for physical purposes, when doing so one must first sanctify the item to focus on the spiritual.




Must I Toivel This?

Photo by Thomas Picard from FreeImages

Question #1: The Vanilla Cruet

“We received a gift of a glass cruet, a salad oil dispenser,
that we doubt we will ever use for that purpose. We decided, instead, to use it
is a flower vase and were told that we do not need to toivel it.
Subsequently, we decided that we might use it for soaking vanilla beans and
alcohol to make our own natural vanilla extract. Do we need to toivel
it?”

Question #2: Restaurant Silverware

“I have always assumed that caterers and restaurants toivel
their silverware and glasses. Recently, I was told that some hechsherim
do not require this. Is this true? Am I permitted to use their silverware and
glasses?”

Question #3: The Salami Slicer

“I have a knife that I use for my work, which is not
food-related. May I occasionally slice a salami with the knife that I have
never immersed in a mikveh?”

Question #4: The Box Cutter

“Before I toivel my new steak knife, may I use it to
open a box?

Answer:

After the Bnei Yisroel’s miraculous victory over the
nation of Midyan, they were commanded regarding the booty that they had now
acquired: Concerning the gold and the silver; the copper, the iron, the tin
and the lead: any item that was used in fire needs to be placed in fire to
become pure – yet, it must also be purified in mikveh water. And that which was
not used in fire must pass through water
(Bamidbar 31:22-23). From
these verses, our Sages derive the mitzvah of tevilas keilim — the requirement
to immerse metal implements used for food in a spring or kosher mikveh
prior to use. According to the Talmud Yerushalmi (Avodah Zarah 5:15),
the immersion of the implement elevates it to the sanctity of Jewish ownership,
similar to the requirement that a non-Jew converting to Judaism submerges in a mikveh
(Issur Vaheter 58:76; see also Ritva, Avodah Zarah 75b).

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) rules that, in
addition to metal items, we are also required to immerse glass utensils,
because both metal and glass are similar: they are recyclable. When they break,
one can melt or weld the broken parts to create new utensils or to repair old
ones. As a matter of fact, in the time of the Gemara, people kept broken
pieces of metal and brought them to the blacksmith when they needed to
manufacture new items (see Shabbos 123a). It is also interesting to note
that this function is the basis of the Hebrew word for metal, mateches, which
means meltable or dissolvable (see Yechezkel 22:22; Rashi,
Shemos
9:33). In this characteristic, metal ware and glassware are
different from items made of stone, wood or earthenware, which cannot be
recycled in this manner.

Prior to dipping the metal ware or glassware, one recites a brocha,
Asher ki’deshanu bemitzvosav vetzivanu al tevilas keilim. As we will
soon see, this brocha is recited only when there is a definite
requirement to toivel (immerse) an item.

Used without immersing

If, in violation of the Law, someone used an item that was
not immersed, may one eat the food that came in contact with it? According to
many authorities, this is the subject of a dispute between two opinions in the Gemara.
Some early authorities (Baal Halachos Gedolos, Chapter 55; Or Zarua,
Piskei Avodah Zarah
#293) conclude that, indeed, this food is prohibited.
However, the consensus of halachic authority is that it is permitted to
eat food that was prepared using non-toiveled equipment (Tosafos,
Avodah Zarah
75b s.v. Vechulan; Ritva, ad locum; Rema, Yoreh Deah
120:16). This is useful information when visiting someone who,
unfortunately, does not perform the mitzvah of tevilas keilim. Although
one may not use non-toiveled utensils to eat or drink, the food prepared
in them remains kosher. According to most authorities, if the food is served in
non-toiveled utensils, one should transfer it to utensils that do not
require immersion or were properly immersed.

The halachah is that when I know that someone will use
pots and other equipment that were not immersed, I may not ask him to cook for
me, since I am causing him to violate the Torah (lifnei iveir).

A matir or a takkanah?

Why is it forbidden to use a utensil that has not been toiveled?
There are two different ways to understand this halachah.

A matir

The first approach explains that min HaTorah one may
not use a utensil that has not been immersed, similar to the halachah
that one may not eat meat without first shechting the animal. This logic
holds that when the Torah created the mitzvah of tevilas keilim, it
prohibited use of any food utensils that require immersion, and the immersion
is what permits me to use the utensils. I will refer to this approach as
holding that tevilas keilim is a matir.

A takkanah

Alternatively, one can explain that, although the
requirement to immerse food utensils is min HaTorah, the prohibition to
use non-toiveled utensils is a takkanah, a rabbinic prohibition. The
reason for this prohibition is to encourage people to immerse their utensils in
a timely fashion. Chazal were concerned that if it is permitted to use
utensils without immersing them, people would postpone, indefinitely,
fulfilling the mitzvah.

This second approach appears to be how the Mishnah
Berurah
understood this mitzvah, since he states that although most
authorities contend that the mitzvah to immerse utensils is min HaTorah,
the prohibition to use them if they were not immersed is only rabbinic (Biur
Halachah
323:7 s.v. Mutar). This exact idea is expressed by Rav
Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomoh 2:66:13, 14).

Notwithstanding the Mishnah Berurah’s understanding
of this mitzvah, the Or Zarua,a rishon, writes that the
prohibition to use non-immersed equipment is min HaTorah (Or Zarua,
Piskei Avodah Zarah
#293; A careful reading of Shaagas Aryeh #56
will demonstrate that he was of the same opinion.) This implies that the
mitzvah is indeed a matir, its purpose is to permit the use of the utensil.
If not, where do we have any evidence that the Torah prohibited use of a
non-immersed vessel?

Rushing to immerse

Is there a halachic requirement to immerse a utensil
as soon as I purchase it, or may I wait for a convenient time to immerse it, as
long as I do not use the utensil in the interim?

We find a dispute among the poskim concerning this.
Some rule that there is no requirement to immerse a utensil as soon as possible
(Levush, as explained by Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav, Orach Chayim 323:5),whereas the Maharshal (Yam shel Shelomoh, Beitzah 2:19)
explains that this question is dependent on a dispute in the Gemara (Beitzah
17b-18a). The Maharshal concludes that one is required to immerse
the utensil as soon as possible, out of concern that one will mistakenly use it
before it was immersed. The latter ruling is quoted by other authorities (Elyah
Rabbah
323:12).

Better to borrow?

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) explains that
the mitzvah of tevilas keilim does not apply to utensils that a Jew
borrowed or rented from a non-Jew (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 120:8).
The Torah taught that utensils that a Jew acquires require immersing,
but not items that are not owned by a Jew. Furthermore, whether a utensil
requires immersion is determined by who its owner is and not by who is using
it. We will soon see another ramification of this ruling.

The poskim rule that, under circumstances when one
cannot immerse utensils, one may transfer ownership of a utensil from a Jew to
a non-Jew to avoid immersing it. Therefore, should a Jew own a utensil and have
nowhere to immerse it, or if he does not have time before Shabbos or Yom
Tov
to immerse it, he may give it to a gentile and then borrow it back from
the gentile (Mordechai, Beitzah #677; Shulchan Aruch and Rema,
Yoreh Deah
120:16). Since the utensil is now owned by a gentile, there is
no requirement to immerse it. Consequently, borrowing it from the gentile does
not present any problem.

This ruling applies only to utensils that are owned by a
non-Jew and borrowed from him by a Jew. However, if a Jew owns a utensil that
he has not immersed, another Jew may not borrow or use it without immersing it
(Tosafos and Rosh ad loc., both quoting Rashbam). Once the
owner is required to immerse the utensil, no other Jew may use it without
immersing it first.

Only klei seudah

The Gemara concludes that the mitzvah of tevilas
keilim
applies only to klei seudah — literally, implements used for
a meal. This includes items used to prepare food or to eat. As we will soon
discuss, there are some interesting ramifications of this law.

“Rav Nachman said in the name of Rabbah bar Avuha: ‘One
can derive from the verse that one must immerse even brand-new items, because
used vessels that were purged in fire have the same kashrus status as brand
new, and yet they require immersion.’

Rav Sheishes then asked him: ‘If it is true that the mitzvah
of immersing vessels is not because of kashrus concerns, then maybe one
is required to immerse even clothing shears?’

Rav Nachman responded: ‘The Torah mentions only vessels that
are used for meals (klei seudah)'” (Avodah Zarah 75b).

Rav Sheishes suggested that if the immersion of utensils is
not a means of kashering a non-kosher vessel, then perhaps we have many
more opportunities to fulfill this mitzvah, and it applies to any type of
paraphernalia — even cameras, cellphones and clothing shears! However, the
conclusion is that the mitzvah is limited to items used for food.

Kitchen or Leather?

Reuven is a leather worker who purchases a brand-new kitchen
knife that he intends to use exclusively for this leather work. Does this knife
require immersion in a mikveh?

Although this utensil was manufactured for food use, since
Reuven is now the owner and he purchased it for leather work, it is no longer a
food utensil.

The early authorities dispute whether someone who borrows
the knife from the owner to use it for food is required to immerse it. The
primary position contends that the borrower is not required to immerse the knife
(Hagahos Ashri, Avodah Zarah, 5:35; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 120:8).
This approach understands that the halachic status of a utensil is
determined by its owner and not by the person borrowing it. There is, however,
a dissenting opinion that contends that since the owner himself would not be
allowed to use the knife for food, even temporarily, someone else may not
either (Issur Vaheter 58:89, quoted by Shach, Yoreh Deah 120:16).
Thus, the latter approach requires that the borrower immerse this knife before
using it for food. As a compromise position, some authorities conclude that one
should immerse this utensil, but should not recite a brocha before doing
so (Shach, Yoreh Deah 120:16).

However…

All this holds true as long as the owner, our leather worker,
uses the knife exclusively for non-food use. The owner may not use it for food,
even temporarily (Rema, Yoreh Deah 120:8). Furthermore, later
authorities note that the Shach implies that, should Reuven decide to
use the knife for food, albeit only once, he may not use the knife even for
non-food use
without first immersing it (Darchei Teshuvah 120:39,
quoting Ginzei Elimelech; Sefer TevilaskKeilim, page 104,
quoting Pri Eliyahu).

We see from this Shach a very interesting ruling. The
halachah is not that food use requires that the vessel be immersed. The halachah
is that a food utensil must be immersed before use – no matter what type of
use.

This last ruling means that someone who purchased a knife
that he intends to immerse, may not use it, even to open a package, before it
has been immersed.

We can therefore answer one of our opening questions:

“I have a knife that I use for my work, which is not food
related. May I occasionally slice a salami with the knife that I have never
immersed in a mikveh?”

Although many people may find this ruling to be surprising,
according to the Shach, you may not.

The vanilla cruet

At this point, I would like to discuss one of our opening
questions, an actual shaylah that I was asked: “We received a gift of a
glass cruet, a salad oil dispenser, that we doubt we will ever use for that
purpose. We decided, instead, to use it is a flower vase and were told that we
do not need to toivel it. Subsequently, we decided that we might use it
for soaking vanilla beans and alcohol to make our own natural vanilla extract.
Do we need to toivel it?”

This is an interesting question. I agree that if someone
receives a vessel that is usually klei seudah, but one does not intend to
use it for this purpose, there is no requirement to immerse it. Subsequently,
the individual decides that he might use the cruet to process vanilla flavor, a
use that would require immersing. (For reasons beyond the scope of this
article, I would suggest not reciting a brocha, when immersing the
cruet.) According to the Shach, once they decide to use the cruet for
making vanilla flavor, not only do they now need to immerse it, but they can no
longer use it for anything else. This is because a cruet is inherently a vessel
that should require immersion. The only reason they were not required to
immerse it until now was because they had decided not to use it for food. But
once they decide to use it for food, they may not use it for anything without
immersing it.

The salami knife

We can also now address a different question that was asked
above: “I have a knife that I use for my work, which is not food related. May I
occasionally slice a salami with the knife that I have never immersed in a mikveh?”

The answer is that, if this is a knife that was made for
food use, one would not be allowed to use it for food without immersing it. On
the other hand, if it is a box cutter, which is clearly not meant for food use,
we have no evidence that one is required to immerse it. There are sources in halachah
that state that an item that is not meant as klei seudah may be used
occasionally for food, even by the owner, without requiring tevilah
(see, for example, Darchei Teshuvah 120:70, 88).

Klei sechorah — “merchandise”

The halachic authorities note that a storekeeper does
not toivel vessels he is planning to sell, since for him they are not klei
seudah
, but merchandise. Later authorities therefore coined a term “klei
sechorah
,” utensils used as merchandise, ruling that these items do
not require immersion until they are purchased by the person intending to use
them (based on Taz, Yoreh Deah 120:10).

In the nineteenth century, a question was raised concerning
the definition of klei sechorah. When rail travel became commonplace,
enterprising entrepreneurs began selling refreshments at train stations. (No
club car on those trains!) A common occurrence was that Jewish vendors would
sell beer or other beverages at the stations, which they would serve to their
customers by the glassful. The question was raised whether these glasses
required immersion and whether one was permitted to drink from them when the
vendor presumably had not immersed them. Although it would seem that one may
not use them without tevilah, there are authorities who rule that these
vessels are considered klei sechorah for the merchant and that,
therefore, the customer may use them (Darchei Teshuvah 120:70, 88; Shu”t
Minchas Yitzchak
#1:44).

According to this approach, a restaurateur or caterer is not
required to immerse the utensils with which he serves his guests. Although most
authorities reject this approach (Minchas Shlomoh 2:66:14), I have found
many places where, based on this heter, hechsherim do not require
the owner to toivel his glassware, flatware and other items.

Conclusion

According to Rav Hirsch, metal vessels, which require
mankind’s mining, extracting and processing, represent man’s mastery over the
earth and its materials. Whereas vessels made of earthenware or wood involve
man merely shaping the world’s materials to fit his needs, the manufacture of
metal demonstrates man’s creative abilities to utilize natural mineral
resources to fashion matter into a usable form. Consuming food, on the other
hand, serves man’s most basic physical nature. Use of metal food vessels, then,
represents the intellectual aspect of man serving his physical self, which, in
a sense, is the opposite of why we were created; to use our physical self to
assist our intellect to do Hashem’s will. Specifically, in this
instance, the Torah requires that the items hereby produced be immersed in a mikveh,
to endow them with increased kedusha before they are put to food-use.
This demonstrates that, although one may use one’s intellect for physical
purposes, the product of one’s creative power must first be sanctified in order
that we focus on the spiritual.




Which Utensils Must I Immerse?

Question #1: With Cookie Cutter Precision!

Rivkah Baker asks:

“Do I need to toivel the cookie cutter that I just purchased?”

Question #2: Butch’s Cleaver

Butch Katzav, the proprietor of the local glatt kosher meat market, inquires: “Under my previous hechsher, I was told that I did not need to toivel my meat cleavers, since they are used only for raw meat. However, my new rav hamachshir requires me to toivel them. Why is there a difference?”

Introduction:

In Parshas Matos, the Torah teaches: Regarding the gold and the silver; the copper, the iron, the tin and the lead: any item that was used in fire needs to be placed in fire to become kosher, yet it must also be purified in mikveh water. In addition, that which was not used in fire must pass through water” (Bamidbar 31:22-23). From these verses, we derive the mitzvah of tevilas keilim — the mitzvah to immerse metal implements in a kosher mikveh or spring prior to using them for food. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) notes that this immersion is required, even if the vessel has never been used. In other words, this mitzvah is unrelated to the requirement of koshering equipment that was used for non-kosher food, or to the laws related to purifying implements that became tamei.

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) further states that in addition to metal items intended for food use, we are also required to immerse glass dishes, because both metal and glass share a similarity – they are repairable by melting and reconstructing, what we call today recyclable. This renders them different from vessels made of stone, bone, wood or earthenware, all of which cannot be repaired this way.

Immediately prior to immersing something that definitely requires tevilah, one recites a beracha: Asher kideshanu bemitzvosav vetzivanu al tevilas keilim. One does not recite this beracha when it is uncertain that immersion is required, such as, when the authorities dispute whether tevilah is necessary. When there is no mitzvah to immerse a utensil, reciting a beracha is prohibited, becauses it constitutes a beracha levatalah, one stated in vain. Therefore, when we are uncertain whether an item requires tevilah, we immerse it — but without reciting a beracha. A better solution is to immerse something that definitely requires a beracha at the same time that one immerses the “questionable” item, and to recite a beracha on the “definite” item/utensil. We will soon see an example.

Is this a kashrus law?

The Gemara cites a highly instructive dialogue about the mitzvah of immersing new vessels:

“Rav Nachman said in the name of Rabbah bar Avuha: ‘From the verse, one can derive that one must immerse even brand new items, because used vessels that were purged in fire are as kosher as those that are brand-new, and yet they require immersion.’

Rav Sheishes then asked him: ‘If it is true that the mitzvah of immersing vessels is not because of kashrus concerns, then maybe one is required to immerse even clothing shears?’

Rav Nachman responded: ‘The Torah mentions only vessels that are used for meals (klei seudah)'” (Avodah Zarah 75b).

Rav Sheishes suggested that if the immersion of utensils is not a means of koshering a non-kosher vessel, then perhaps we have many more opportunities to fulfill this mitzvah, and it applies to any type of paraphernalia — even cameras, cellphones and clothing shears!

To this, Rav Nachman retorted that the Torah includes only items used for klei seudah – as Rashi explains, household implements used with fire are normally pots, pans and other cooking implements. Thus, the mitzvah of tevilas keilim applies only to utensils used for preparing food, and not those intended for other purposes.

Klei Seudah – appliances used for meals

We should note that Rav Nachman did not say that all food preparation utensils require immersion, but he required immersion only of klei seudah, items used for meals. We will soon see how this detail affects many of the halachos of tevilas keilim.

What exactly are considered klei seudah, and how is this different from simply saying that all food implements must be immersed?

Early halachic authorities provide some direction about this issue. For example, the Mordechai (Chullin #577, quoted by Beis Yosef, Yoreh Deah 120) rules that a shechitah knife does not require immersion. Why not? After all, it is used to prepare food.

The answer is that since meat cannot be eaten immediately after shechitah, this knife does not qualify as klei seudah. Only utensils that prepare food to the point that they can be eaten are called klei seudah. This is the approach that the Shulchan Aruch follows (Yoreh Deah 120:5).

Making a point!

According to this approach, cleavers used for raw meat, tenderizers (mallets used to pound raw meat), and reidels, the implements used to perforate matzoh dough prior to baking, would all not require tevilah, since the meat or dough is not edible when these implements complete their task (Darkei Moshe, 120:4, quoting Issur VaHeter).

However, not all authorities reach this conclusion. Indeed, the same Darkei Moshe, who ruled that reidels do not require tevilah, quoted that both the Rash and the Tashbeitz, two prominent early authorities, toiveled shechitah knives before using them. Why did these poskim toivel their shechitah knives? Did they contend that any implement used to process food at any stage requires tevilah? If so, would they also require immersing reidels, meat grinders and rolling pins?

We find a dispute among halachic authorities how to explain this opinion. According to the Taz (120:7) and the Gra (120:14), the Rash and the Tashbeitz indeed require immersing appliances whose finished product is not yet edible. In their opinion, the Rash and the Tashbeitz require the toiveling of reidels and presumably, also, meat grinders. Since the matter is disputed – the Mordechai contending that these items do not require tevilah, and the Rash and the Tashbeitz requiring tevilah — the Taz and the Gra rule that we should follow a compromise position, immersing shechitah knife and reidels before use, but without reciting a beracha, because maybe there is no requirement to immerse them, and the beracha will be in vain.

What is the difference between a reidel and a knife?

On the other hand, the Shach (120:11) disputes the way the Taz and the Gra understand the opinion of the Rash and the Tashbeitz. The Shach contends that although the Rash and the Tashbeitz rule that one must toivel a shechitah knife, they would not require the immersion of a reidel before use. A shechitah knife must be toiveled because it can potentially be used for food that is ready to be eaten. The Shach concludes that an implement that can be used only for items that are not yet edible does not require immersion, and therefore a reidel does not require tevilah.

Cookie cutting precision!

Most of our readers probably do not regularly use shechitah knives or reidels, but may have more experience with cookie cutters. If a cookie cutter is used only for dough, then according to the conclusion of the Mordechai and the Shulchan Aruch, it would not require tevilah. However, my wife informs me that cookie cutters are often used to form shapes in melons or jello; therefore, they must be immersed.

There are other items where this question is germane, such as items that would be used only for kneading, e.g., a metal rolling pin; or for items used for processing raw meat, e.g., a meat grinder, or a schnitzel mallet. Must one immerse these items?

The answer is that it is dependent on the above-quoted dispute between the Gra and the Shach. According to the Gra, those early authorities who require the toiveling of a shechitah knife require that all food implements be toiveled. Since we usually require toiveling shechitah knives, we must also toivel reidels, meat grinders, and rolling pins, although we would toivel all of these items without a beracha (see Pri Megadim, Orach Chayim 451:6).

However, according to the Shach, there is a big difference between a shechitah knife, which can be used to cut ready-to-eat foods, and a reidel, which can be used only for food that is not ready to eat. Since reidels are never used for ready-to-eat food, they do not require tevilah.

Major improvements

There is yet a third approach to this issue. Some other authorities contend that an item used for a major tikun, or change, in the food, such as shechitah, requires tevilah, even if the food is not edible when this step is complete. However, an item that performs only a minor tikun, such as the reidel, does not require immersion, if the food is not yet edible (Pri Chodosh and Aruch Hashulchan). In their opinion, the potential use of the shechitah knife is not what requires the tevilah. It is the fact that the shechitah performed with this knife is a major stage in making the finished product, the meat, edible. Those who follow this approach would rule that one need not toivel a meat grinder, whereas the Gra and the Taz would rule that one should.

The saga of Butch’s cleaver

We can now address Butch Katzav’s question:

“Under my previous hechsher, I was told that I did not need to toivel my meat cleavers, since they are used only for raw meat. However, my new rav hamachshir requires me to toivel them. Why is there a difference?”

In true Jewish style, let us answer Butch’s question with a question. Is a cleaver like a shechitah knife or like a reidel?

In certain ways, a cleaver is like a knife, in that it can be used both for raw meat and for cooked, ready-to-eat food. On the other hand, it is unlike a shechitah knife which performs a major tikun by making the meat kosher, and in this way, the cleaver is more similar to a reidel which performs a relatively minor function.

Now we can answer Butch’s question. The previous hechsher may have ruled like the Pri Chodosh and the Aruch Hashulchan that an item used for a minor change does not require tevilah, unless it is used with edible food. The current rav hamachshir may follow the opinion of the Shach that an item, such as a knife or cleaver, requires tevilah when used for food that is not yet edible, since it could be used for ready-to-eat food. It is also possible that the current rav follows the opinion of the Gra and the Taz that any food implement requires tevilah without a beracha, and would require that even a reidel be immersed.

Conclusion

According to Rav Hirsch, metal vessels, which require mining, extracting and processing, represent man’s mastery over the earth and its materials, whereas vessels made of earthenware or wood only involve man’s shaping the world’s materials to fit his needs. The manufacture of metal utensils demonstrates man’s creative abilities to utilize natural mineral resources to fashion matter into a usable form. Consuming food, on the other hand, serves man’s most basic physical nature. Use of metal food vessels, then, represents the intellectual aspect of man serving his physical self, which, in a sense, is the opposite of why we were created — to use our physical self to assist our intellect to do Hashem’s will. Specifically in this instance, the Torah requires that the items thereby produced be immersed in a mikveh, to endow them with increased kedusha before they are put to food use. This demonstrates that although one may use one’s intellect for physical purposes, when doing so, one must first sanctify the item to focus on the spiritual.

 

 




Where Do I Toivel My Keilim?

Since this is the parsha in which the mitzvah of tevilas keilim is taught, we ask:

Where Do I Toivel My Keilim?

Question #1: Gently in the stream

“Where I live, there is no mikveh that can be used for immersing new cutlery. May I dip the flatware in a local stream?”

Question #2: Make my own mikveh

“Alternatively, how difficult is it to make my own keilim mikveh?”

Question #3: Tap water mikveh

“If I make my own mikveh, may I use regular tap water exclusively?”

Background:

Metal and glass food implements that were previously owned by a gentile must be immersed in a spring or a mikveh prior to using them (Avodah Zarah 75b). I have written articles in the past on many of the halachos of this mitzvah. However, I have never written on the questions pertaining to where one may immerse these implements, so that will be the topic of this article. As always, the discussion here is not intended to provide final halachic guidance – that is for one’s rav or posek. The purpose of this article is to provide halachic background.

In many communities, a local keilim mikveh exists that was built under rabbinic supervision to expedite observance of this mitzvah. However, not all communities have such a facility, forcing people to seek alternative arrangements. Also, at times a person is traveling and needs to immerse some items that he has just acquired to use on the trip. May one use a nearby stream for this purpose? This is one of the questions we will be addressing in this article.

Introduction:

The Torah describes many different types of tumah (spiritual contamination), each with its own highly detailed laws. Although people or items contaminated by some of the more severe types of tumah, such as tumas meis or tzaraas, require other steps prior to immersion to become tahor (spiritually clean), the common denominator to remove all types of tumah is the requirement to immerse them in water. This means submerging the entire tamei person or item at one time, either in a spring or in a mikveh. (As we will see shortly, one category of tamei person, a zav, can become tahor only by immersion in a spring, not in a mikveh, and only in a spring whose water is potable.)

Conversion and tevilas keilim

In addition to purification from tumah, there are two other instances that require immersion in order to create sanctity. Someone converting to Judaism completes the process by immersing in a spring or mikveh. Similarly, a metal or glass food utensil previously owned by a gentile requires immersion when it is acquired by a Jewish person (see Talmud Yerushalmi, Avodah Zarah 5:15; Issur Vaheter 58:76; Ritva, Avodah Zarah 75b).

Ma’ayan versus mikveh

There are two types of water that can be used for these required ablutions. One is a natural spring that runs from underground, which is called a ma’ayan in Hebrew. The other type is a mikveh consisting of rainwater.

There are several halachic differences between a ma’ayan and a mikveh. As I mentioned before, although the immersion for virtually all types of tumah may be performed either in a mikveh or in a spring, the Torah specifies that one type of tumah, zav, becomes tahor only via immersion in a spring consisting of potable water (Mikva’os 1:8). There are two other halachos where use of drinkable spring water is essential. The ashes of a parah adumah must be mixed into spring water for its purification to be valid, and the purification of a metzora that involves two birds requires the use of spring water. In both of the latter instances, a small amount of spring water is drawn into a vessel to facilitate the procedure.

For the purposes of the rest of our article, we will focus on a different, critical distinction that exists between a mikveh and a ma’ayan. Whereas a spring can make things tahor even when its water is flowing, a mikveh’s water must be stationary for it to make people or items tahor. Even a leak in a mikveh could invalidate it; one should consult a rav for guideline as to when a leak is severe enough to nullify the mikveh.

Snow

We should also note that snow is treated like rain, and that, therefore, snow, or the water that results when snow melts, can be used for immersion only when it is stationary. We will soon learn of a major halachic ramification that results from this information.

Minimal mikveh

The minimal quantity of water required for a mikveh is 40 sa’ah, which Chazal say is the amount required for someone to immerse fully and properly at one time. There are many opinions how much this equals in contemporary measures of volume. Accepted practice is to construct mikva’os that are far larger than halachah requires, even when building a mikveh that is meant only for keilim.

Mekabeil tumah

An essential requirement is that nothing that can become tamei may be part of the mikveh, may move the water into the mikveh or may be used to keep its water stationary. This means that the piping used to transport the rainwater to the mikveh must not be susceptible to become tamei, and that no part of the mikveh itself be made of anything that is mekabeil tumah. Therefore, if a mikveh has a plug somewhere, it may not be made of material that is susceptible to tumah.

To apply this halachah, we need to define what it means that something is mekabeil tumah. Usually, it means that the item has been fashioned in a way that it is now considered to be a “vessel” or a “utensil.” Most vessels that can hold a liquid qualify as mekabeil tumah, although the term mekabeil tumah is not restricted to such utensils. For example, a metal plug is mekabeil tumah and therefore cannot be used as a stopper in a mikveh. If a mikveh requires a stopper, a rubber plug is used, since this is an item that is not susceptible to tumah. A full treatment of the topic of what is mekabeil tumah is beyond the parameters of this article, and it is one reason why someone who is constructing a mikveh should always be in contact with a posek familiar with mikveh construction, even if it is meant only for keilim.

Drawn water

For a mikveh to be kosher it must also meet several other requirements. The mikveh must, originally, be filled with water that was never inside a vessel. Water that was once in a bucket, drum or similar container is called she’uvim (literally, drawn) and invalid for use for purification, unless it became connected to a kosher mikveh or spring. The laws here are highly complicated, again providing a reason why one should not construct a mikveh without guidance from someone well familiar with these halachos.

Once a mikveh contains the minimal amount of water needed to be kosher, one may add she’uvim water to the mikveh, and it remains kosher. There are early authorities who contend that this holds true only as long as one is not actively removing water from the mikveh, but that once one begins to remove water from the mikveh one must be certain that the majority of the remaining water in the mikveh is not she’uvim. Although many authorities rule that one does not need to be concerned about this minority opinion, the Shach (Yoreh Deah 201:63) and others rule that one should build a mikveh that is kosher even according to this opinion, and that is the usual practice. (However, see Shu”t Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah #203, 212, 214, who did not feel it necessary to take this into consideration when constructing a mikveh.)

In order to accommodate the Shach’s concern, most mikva’os are built according to one of three basic designs or a combination of them. In one design, a mikveh that was originally filled with rainwater lies alongside the pool used for immersion, but with a concrete wall between them in which there is an opening in the concrete above the point to which the pool will be filled. Regular tap water is added to the mikveh until its water rises high enough so that it spills through the hole into the adjacent pool that is meant for immersion. After this process is performed, the pool may be used for ablution according to all opinions. This approach, which is called zeriyah, was the approach recommended by the Chazon Ish (Yoreh Deah 123:5) and the Taharas Hamayim (Chapter 46), and is the most common construction used in most mikva’os today.

The second approach has a similar appearance, in that there are two adjacent pools separated by a concrete wall which has an opening between them that is high on the wall. However, in this instance, the water is added to the side that is used for immersion until the water level raises high enough that its water touches the mikveh water which is located adjacent to it. The minimum size for such an opening is kishefoferes hanod, the opening of a flask, which means that it is large enough for one to place two fingers inside and rotate them comfortably. This approach is called hashakah.

A third approach, used in some mikva’os, is that they are constructed such that there is an additional rainwater mikveh immediately below or alongside the ablution pool, and that there remains a small opening between the ablution pool and the mikveh that is always open. This approach is called hashakah beshaas tevilah. The intrepid reader wishing to read up on the controversy concerning this mikveh will read Shu”t Divrei Chayim 2:98 and Pischei Mikva’os by Rav Yaakov Blau, Chapter 9, footnote 41.

Sink or swim

As we have now seen, constructing a mikveh requires that one knows how to do so in a halachically correct way. It is unlikely that someone without this knowledge will be able to construct a mikveh correctly. It is for this reason that one should be careful not to use a mikveh without finding out which halachic authority sanctioned it. I have found mikva’os in hotels that were halachically problematic, because they were not constructed according to proper halachic instruction. Similarly, in many places it is common that hardware and houseware stores construct their own keilim mikveh on the premises. These mikva’os may indeed be kosher, but one should not rely on their kashrus without finding out which rav verifies that the mikveh was manufactured correctly or having the mikveh checked by someone familiar with the laws of mikva’os.

Make my own mikveh

The simplest type of mikveh, far easier to make than those described above, is sometimes constructed for immersing vessels. In these instances, water, usually gathered from the roof of an adjacent building, is channeled into a concrete basin. The pipes used for this endeavor may not be mekabeil tumah, susceptible to tumah, something not difficult to arrange, and the walls of the mikveh must be constructed in a way that they contain nothing that is mekabeil tumah.

By the way, there is nothing wrong with having steel mesh reinforcing the concrete walls of a mikveh. Although a steel vessel would be mekabeil tumah and is therefore unacceptable in the construction of a mikveh, steel mesh is not itself an implement and it may therefore be used to reinforce the concrete basin of a mikveh.

At this point, we can address the second of the questions raised at the beginning of this article: “How difficult is it to make my own keilim mikveh?”

If someone is looking to make a small keilim mikveh, it is not that difficult or expensive a project. However, prior to making the mikveh, he should contact a rav or posek who knows how a mikveh is constructed. Indeed, someone building a proper keilim mikveh is performing a major chesed for his community and receives reward for everyone who ultimately uses it.

Let me explain what one needs to do. A keilim mikveh requires two basic factors: a pool where the keilim will be dipped, and the means of draining rainwater into that pool. The manufacture of the pool requires only that one pour concrete in a way that the pool will hold the requisite volume of water. Since this is being used only for vessels, there is no need to construct any building around it, and one does not need to be concerned about hot water, plumbing, or heating. Again, I suggest that this construction should not be undertaken without first consulting with someone who has the halachic expertise to ascertain that it is done properly.

City water

Why don’t we use only regular tap water for the mikveh? What could be wrong with this?

Although indeed some have advocated that regular piped water does not qualify as she’uvim and can therefore be used all by itself for filling mikva’os (see, for example, the work, The Secret of the Jew, by Rabbi David Miller), most authorities are hesitant in recommending its use. To understand why, there is a thorough essay on the topic in Chapter 40 of Taharas Hamayim, an encyclopedic work on the laws of mikveh with an emphasis on contemporary issues, authored by the late Rav Nissen Telushkin. In that chapter, Rav Telushkin describes how he made an exhaustive study of the New York City water system, and includes the various sources of water that New York City used in the 1950’s when he performed his study. The chapter includes detailed diagrams and descriptions of the various pumps, holding tanks, filters, meters, and pressure tanks that were used then in the processing and the transporting of the water. Rav Telushkin carefully analyzed each piece of equipment to see whether it was mekabeil tumah. He concluded that, in his day, in most places of New York City, the city water supply could be used, if needed, as the main source for the water in a mikveh, but that there were areas where this would not be allowed. The reason for these exceptions was that in these places, the water was transported through a pressure tank that, halachically, might have been equivalent to it being in a vessel. Based on all his research, he concludes that one should never use the publicly- supplied tap water as the original water of a mikveh unless one has done the exhaustive research necessary to see that in your locale such water is indeed kosher for mikveh use.

In the stream

At this point, let us examine the first of our opening questions: “Where I live, there is no mikveh that can be used for immersing new cutlery. May I dip the flatware in a local stream?”

Obviously, this stream is not a kosher mikveh, because its water is flowing. The question that we need to determine is whether a stream qualifies as a ma’ayan, according to halachah, in which case it can be used, even though its water is flowing constantly. How does halachah determine whether the water source of a stream is a spring, or whether it is rainwater?

Halachah recognizes three types of streams. One is a stream which is fed mostly by spring water, but has a minority of its water (that is, less than fifty percent) from rainwater. Since a majority of its water volume is composed of spring water, this stream can be used while it is flowing (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 201:2).

A second type is a stream that normally consists of spring water but that now has swollen to more than twice its volume after a rainfall, or when the snow melts. According to the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch, since most of the volume of the stream is now rainwater, it may not be used to make items tahor, unless one can make its waters stationary. The Rema (ad loc.), however, rules that, although it is preferable to follow this ruling, there was a prevalent custom based on halachic sources to permit use of this stream, even when it is flowing. He concludes that one need not correct someone who relies on this approach.

The third type of stream

The third type is a stream that dries up completely when there has been no rainfall. Such a stream may not be used as a spring and can be used only if one can make its water stationary (Rema ad loc.).

We can now answer the question raised: May a stream be used to dip vessels that require immersion? When the stream’s volume does not double after a rainfall, all opinions agree that one may use it, even when its water is flowing. When its volume is doubled, or more, there is halachic basis to permit its use when its water is flowing, although the Shulchan Aruch and others prohibit this. A stream that dries up completely when there is no rain may be used to immerse utensils only as a mikveh, which means one would have to make the water stationary in order to use it.

Conclusion

The Torah provides us with a mitzvah to immerse food utensils, because this immersing elevates their sanctity so that they can now be used for a Jew’s table. Thus, we see that not only is the food that a Jew eats required to have special care, but also the equipment with which he prepares and eats that food.