Tevilas Keilim – Immersing New Utensils


 dishesBy Rabbi Avi Zakutinsky

כּל־דּבר אשׁר־יבא באשׁ תּעבירוּ באשׁ וטהר אךְ בּמי נדּה יתחטּא וכל אשׁר לֹא־יבא בּאשׁ תּעבירוּ במּים (מטות ל”א:כ”ג)

Whatever is used in fire you shall pass through fire and then it will be clean; it must, however, [also] be cleansed with sprinkling water, and whatever is not used in fire you shall pass through water

The Mitzvah of tevilas keilim is alluded to in Bamidbar 31:23 where Elazar HaKohen instructs the army returning from war with Midyan regarding the booty they have captured “Kol davar asher yavoh ba’aish ta’averu ba’aish v’taher”-All utensils that have been used to cook ma’achalos assuros must be purged of the flavor they have absorbed in the manner that they were used. V’taher-they are then made tahor through an added step of purification. According to the Gemara, Avodah Zara 75b this added step of purification is accomplished through immersion in a mikvah

This process is required for all utensils which are bought from a non-Jew, even if they are brand new. Just as a convert requires immersion, when transitioning from non-Jew to Jew, so too, utensils require immersion when being transferred from non-Jewish to Jewish ownership. To discuss the intricate details of tevilas keilim would be extremely difficult, therefore, in this article we will be focusing on which materials and items require tevilah in a mikvah.

The Obligation

Most Rishonim assume that this obligation is biblical in nature while there are those that feel it is merely rabbinic, see Sefer Tevilas Keilim page 34 for a complete list. The question arrises, are the utensils permitted before use. The Piskei Harid feels that one is allowed to use them before they were immersed, however, the majority of the poskim, including the Rama (Y.D. 120:8), feel that in addition to the obligation to immerse these utensils, there exists a prohibition not to use them before they are placed in the mikveh.

The poskim discuss the nature of this prohibition. The Ohr Zarua (Avodah Zara 293) is of the opinion that this issur is biblical in nature. Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach zt”l (cited in Tevilas Keilim page 241) deduces that the Shagas Aryeh agrees with the opinion of the Ohr Zarua. However, after analyzing the works of the achronm it seems that this prohibition is merely rabbinic in nature. This is indeed the opinions of the Yeshuos Yaakov (Y.D. 120:1), Mishnna Berurah (Biur Halacha 323:7) and Rav Ovadia Yosef shlit”a (Yechave Daas 4:44 Yabia Omer vol. 2 Y.D. 9,2).

A. Metals (Including Steel and Aluminum)

When describing the obligation to kasher and tovel utensils that were owned and used by non-Jews the Torah mentions only six types of metals; Gold, Silver, Copper, Iron, Tin and Lead. These items need immersion on a biblical level. The poskim discuss whether metals like aluminum or steel, which were not listed explicitely in the verse, are required to have a tevila and whether the obligation is biblical or rabbinic in nature. It would seem that according to the Tiferes Yisroel (Kuntres Yevakesh Daas) the obligation is biblical. The Sefer Tevilas Keilim (page 225, footnote 113) cites the oral ruling of Rav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a, that all types of metals, including aluminum and the like, are requires to be immersed m’doraysa.

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:22) adresses this question and he feels that there is no biblical obligation to immerse any metal which was not enumerated in the verse. He explains that G-d was obviously aware of all materials that were in use and that will be in use and if he did not list it in the posuk, clearly He felt that there is no mitzvah to immerse them in the mikvah. That being said, there is a rabbinic obligation to immerse these utensils due to it’s similarities to the metals listed in the verse (a similar ruling exists regarding glass items, as we shall discuss iy”h later on).

B. Glass

The Shulchan Aruch rules that glass utensils require tevilah. Since glass is similar to metal in that it can be melted down and reformed, it requires tevilah. The Poskim disagree as to whether this obligation is rabbinic or biblical (most authorities feel that it is merely rabbinic, see Tevilas Keilim page 40 for full list), however, either way a bracha is recited.

C. Wood and Stone

The Chida (Shiurei Bracha Y.D. 120:2) writes that utensils made of wood or stone do not require immersion in the mikvah.

D. Plastic and Nylon

When annalyzing whether plastic and nylon items require immersion one would assume at first glance that they do not, as the only items that do require them are metals and glass. The only possibility to require immersion is based upon the following premise. On a biblical level only metals require tevilah, however, according to most authorities; the Rabbis extended this obligation to glass utensils as well. It may very well be possible that this extension can be advanced to obligate immersion for plastic and rubber utensils.

The Rav of Debritzin (Beer Moshe 2:53) writes that utensils made of plastic or nylon do not require tevilah in a mikveh. These items have no connection to metal or glass utensils which do require immersion and thus the obligation was never extended towards these materials. The Chelkas Yaakov (Y.D. 45) adds that because these materials were not in existence during the times of the Gemara when the obligation to immerse glass was instituted (according to most authorities) we are unable to create our own gezeiros and extend these laws to these new materials. A similar view can be found in the Sefer Tzitz Eliezer (7:37, 8:26). This is indeed the opinions of many great poskim, including Rav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a (cited in Chaya Halevi 4:56:3), Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, Rav Eliyahu Henkin zt”l and the Chazon Ish (all cited in Sefer Tevilas Keilim page 227). Rav Ovadia Yosef shlit”a (Yabia Omer Y.D. 4:8) has a permissible view as well, he does write that if one wishes to immerse these items (without a blessing) “may he be blessed”.

It should be noted that the Minchas Yitzchak (3:76) rules that because some forms of plastic can be melted down and reformed (similar to glass) one should immerse them without a blessing.

Rabbi Avi Zakutinsky is the author of the Hebrew Sefer Umekareiv Biyamin on Halachic Shailos Posed To Thos In Kiruv, he currently teaches at Yeshivas Hashevaynu in Queens. Questions or comments may be email to avizakutinsky@gmail.com.

{Rabbi Avi Zakutinsky-Matzav.com Newscenter}