From the verse in Parashas Matos(31:23) …Everything that can not come in fire should be passed through water, the Talmud1 derives that utensils which are bought from a non-Jew, even if they are brand new, require immersion in a kosher mikveh. Just as a convert requires immersion, symbolizing his conversion from non-Jew to Jew, so too, utensils require immersion when being transferred from non-Jewish to Jewish ownership. Many Rishonim hold that this is a Biblical command. What follows is a basic review of which types of utensils require immersion.
Utensils fall into three categories with regard to the obligation of immersion: a) utensils that definitely require immersion and the blessing of Al tevilas keilim; 4 b) utensils which—for one reason or another—may or may not require immersion and the blessing is therefore not recited; c) utensils which do not require immersion at all.
The halachos concerning which type of utensil requires immersion are based on two criteria: 1) The material from which the utensil is made; 2) the function of the utensil. Let us review each of these criteria individually:
1. The material from which the utensil is made
Min ha-Torah only metal utensils require immersion. 5 But according to Rabbinic law, utensils made out of material which, “when broken can be melted down and reformulated,” such as glass, are considered like metal and require immersion. 6 Therefore, all utensils made from any type of metal, including brass, steel, and aluminum, or any type of glass, including Pyrex, Duralex and Corelle, 7 are required to be immersed and a blessing recited. 8
Note: Disposable aluminum pans which are used once and then discarded do not require immersion. If they are going to be used more than once, most poskim require them to be immersed (even before using them the first time), 9 while others allow them to be used two or three times and then discarded. 10
Utensils made out of wood, 11 stone, 12 bone or ivory, 13 plastic, melmac, rubber or nylon, 14 non-glazed earthenware (flowerpot dull finish), 15 paper or Styrofoam do not require immersion at all.
There are, however, utensils made from certain types of materials whose status is questionable. Many poskim recommend, therefore, that they be immersed but the blessing be omitted. These include: Earthenware utensils which are lined or coated with lead16 or glass (glazed), 17 and porcelain (or porcelain enamel, or Corningware18 ), which includes most of today’s “china” dishes. Although some poskim maintain that these dishes do not require immersion at all19 and one may follow this view, 20 the custom in many communities follows the opinion of the poskim who disagree21 and require such “china” to be immersed but without a blessing. 22
2. The function of the utensil
Having established what type of material a utensil must be made of in order to require immersion, we must still determine some other factors before deciding whether or not the utensil must be immersed. The Talmud states that only kelei seudah, utensils used for a meal, must be immersed. This includes all utensils which have direct contact with food—either during preparation23 or at mealtime. Utensils which are clearly not kelei seudah do not require immersion at all, even if they are made out of metal or glass. [Since the status of some items as kelei seudah may be undetermined or in dispute, the poskim recommend that they be immersed but the blessing omitted.] Here are some examples:
•Bottle or can openers do not require immersion. 24
•A stove, oven rack or a blech on which pots—but not food—are normally placed does not require immersion. A grill or a toaster-oven rack, however, upon which food is placed directly, requires immersion with a blessing. 25
•Vegetable bins and refrigerator racks, even if the food touches them directly, do not require immersion. 26
•A serving tray is exempt from immersion—unless food (as opposed to plates and dishes) is placed directly on the tray, in which case it would require immersion with a blessing. 27
•A nutcracker requires immersion. Some poskim require a blessing as well, 28 while others rule that a blessing should not be made. 29
•A fruit and vegetable peeler requires immersion30. If the peeler is used exclusively for vegetables which are not normally eaten raw, e.g., a peeler used exclusively for potatoes, some poskim maintain that no immersion is required. 31
•An arts and crafts knife does not require immersion, even if the knife is occasionally utilized for food preparation. 32
•Jars, bottles, or metal containers which are used to store food but are never brought to the table, require immersion without a blessing. If they are brought to the table, then they require immersion with a blessing. 33
•Any utensil which is normally used for wrapped food only, does not require immersion. But if the food is unwrapped, then even if the utensil is always lined with aluminum foil or a towel, it requires immersion. 34
•Some poskim do not require immersion for a bread toaster. 35 Many others require immersion with a blessing. 36
Note: Many people mistakenly believe that utensils may be used one time before being immersed. This notion is wrong, and it has absolutely no basis in Halachah. 37
Question: What should one do if he is served food that was cooked in pots (owned by a Jew) that were not immersed?
Discussion: The food is permitted to be eaten. While it is forbidden to cook food in pots that were not immersed, once cooked, the food does not become forbidden to eat. 38 This is true even if the person who did the cooking was aware that it is forbidden to cook in such pots. 39
If the food is served on dishes or cutlery that was not immersed, it is forbidden—mi-deRabanan40 —to eat from or with those utensils. The food should be removed and placed on dishes that were immersed or on dishes that do not require immersion. 41
Under extenuating circumstances, if one finds himself in a situation where he is served on dishes which were definitely not immersed, 42 and he cannot refuse to eat, 43 some poskim permit eating from those dishes, particularly if the dishes are made from glass or from porcelain, which require immersion mi-deRabanan but not min ha-Torah. 44
Question: Does the same halachah apply to eating in a Jewish-owned restaurant or hotel whose dishes are immersed?
Discussion: Some poskim hold that eating in a Jewish-owned restaurant or hotel where the dishes are not immersed is more lenient than doing so in a private home. 45 They base their reasoning on the ruling of many early authorities who maintain that utensils that were bought for business use, even if they are used for eating, are not considered keilei seudah and are exempt from immersion. Since a restaurant or a hotel owner buys dishes in order to serve his guests for profit, it is considered as if he bought those dishes for business use and the dishes need not be immersed at all. While this ruling is not accepted by all authorities46 and it is proper to be stringent, several contemporary poskim47 rule that, when necessary, there is room for leniency in this matter. 48
A patient in a hospital need not be concerned as to whether or not the dishes have been immersed. 49
Most poskim hold that it is permitted to leave dishes which are not immersed around the house, 50 as long as they are clearly marked as “not immersed.”
If one utensil which was not immersed got mixed up with other utensils which were immersed, one should immerse the entire batch, but without reciting a blessing. 51 If the re-immersion will involve monetary loss or major exertion (torach gadol) one may use the entire batch without re-immersing them. 52
1. Avodah Zarah 75b.
2. Ritva, Avodah Zarah 75b, quoting Ramban, based on Yerushalmi.
3. See Tevilas Keilim, pg. 34, for a complete list. See also Yechaveh Da’as 4:44 who maintains that most poskim hold that it is mi-deRabanan.
4. Our custom is to recite this text whether immersing one utensil or many; Aruch ha-Shulchan, Y.D. 120:22, quoted by Taharas Yisrael 9; mi-Beis Levi (Nissan 5753, pg. 49).
5. While the Torah itself mentions only six different types of metals—gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, and lead—as requiring immersion, the poskim agree that all metals are included; Aruch ha-Shulchan 120:23; Igros Moshe, Y.D. 3:22.
6. Y.D. 120:1. For a more detailed explanation, see Aruch ha-Shulchan 120:25 and Emes l’Ya’akov, Y.D. 120:1.
7. Kashrus Kurrents.
8. Chochmas Adam 73:1.
9. Chelkas Yaakov 3:115; Minchas Yitzchak 5:32; mi-Beis Levi (Nissan 5753, pg. 47).
10. Igros Moshe, Y.D. 3:23.
11. Y.D. 120:6.
12. Rambam, Hilchos Ma’achalas Asuros 17:6.
13. Several poskim quoted in Tevilas Keilim, pg. 232. A minority opinion requires them to be immersed; see Darchei Teshuvah 120:14.
14. This is the view of most poskim; see Chelkas Yaakov 2:163; Kisvei Rav Henkin 2:60; Rav M. Feinstein (quoted in l’Torah v’Hora’ah, vol. 1, pg. 11; vol. 2, pg. 20 and pg. 42); Tzitz Eliezer 7:37; 8:26; Be’er Moshe 2:52; Yabia Omer 4:8; 10:10. A minority opinion holds that plastic dishes should be immersed without a blessing; see Minchas Yitzchak 3:76-78; Shearim Metzuyanim b’Halachah 37:4. See Kol ha-Torah, vol. 42, pg. 14, quoting Rav Y.Y. Weiss.
15. Chochmas Adam 73:1.
16. Rama, Y.D. 120:1. See Darchei Teshuvah 28 who rules that even if they are coated with lead on both the outside and inside, no blessing is recited.
17. See Darchei Teshuvah 120:19 who quotes several views on this issue.
18. Kashrus Kurrents.
19. Pischei Teshuvah, Y.D. 120:2; Shalmas Chayim 1:13; Rav M. Feinstein (quoted in l’Torah v’Hora’ah, vol. 2, pg. 20); Emes l’Yaakov, Y.D. 120, note 52.
20. Yabia Omer 4:8.
21. Melamed leho’il, Y.D. 47; Aruch ha-Shulchan 120:29; Darchei Teshuvah 120:12.
22. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 37:3 and Misgeres ha-Shulchan.
23. Some poskim hold that only utensils which are used in the final stage of food preparation require immersion, e.g., a pot, but not utensils which are used in the preliminary stages, e.g., a cookie cutter.
24. Shach, Y.D. 120:11. Even if the can opener touches the food it does not require immersion; Rav S. Wosner (quoted in Tevilas Keilim, pg. 233).
25. Y.D. 120:4 and Pri Chadash 12.
26. Minchas Shelomo 2:66-8; Ashrei ha-Ish, Y.D. 9:32. See also Be’er Moshe 4:99.
27. Tevilas Keilim, pg. 213.
28. Minchas Shelomo 2:66-6.
29. Rav M. Feinstein (quoted in Ohalei Yeshurun, pg. 46); Ashrei ha-Ish, Y.D. 9:17; Chelkas Binyamin 120:35, based on Shevet ha-Levi 6:245-4.
30. Tevilas Keilim, pg. 221.
31. Avnei Yashfei 1:146 based on Aruch ha-Shulchan 120:35-36. The same halachah applies to a pocketknife, etc.
32. Darchei Teshuvah 120:45, quoting Peri Chadash; Aruch ha-Shulchan 120:40-45. See Tevilas Keilim, pg. 52.
33. Minchas Shelomo 2:66-7; Rav M. Feinstein (quoted in Ohalei Yeshurun, pg. 45).
34. Minchas Shelomo 2:66-5. See Chelkas Binyamin 120:34.
35. Igros Moshe, Y.D. 3:24.
36. See Tevilas Keilim, pg. 208.
37. Minchas Shelomo 2:66-12.
38. Rama, Y.D. 120:16
39. Igros Moshe, Y.D. 2:41.
40. Yeshuos Yaakov, Y.D. 120:1; Beiur Halachah, O.C. 323:7, s.v. mutar. See Chelkas Binyamin 120:1 for dissenting opinions.
41. Igros Moshe, Y.D. 3:22; Yechaveh Da’as 4:44.
42. In a situation where one is unsure whether or not the utensils were immersed and cannot determine their status, there is an additional argument for leniency, since the prohibition to use dishes which were not immersed is mi-deRabanan, and one may be lenient when in doubt of a Rabbinic prohibition (safek d’rabanan l’kulah); See Minchas Yitzchak 1:44.
43. If the food served to him is dry, such as slabs of meat, one may remove the food with his hands or with plastic cutlery and eat it; Igros Moshe, Y.D. 3:22.
44. Rav S.Z. Auerbach in Minchas Shelomo 2:66-11, Shulchan Shelomo, O.C. 323:6-4 and Shalmei Moed, pg. 549.
45. See Darchei Teshuvah 120:70, 88 and Shevet Sofer 67.
46. Levushai Mordechai, Y.D. 83; Chazon Ish (quoted in Tevilas Keilim, pg. 89); Igros Moshe, Y.D. 3:22; Ashrei ha-Ish, Y.D. 9:57.
47. Minchas Yitzchak 1:44; Yechaveh Da’as 4:44. Rav S.Z. Auerbach also rules leniently on this issue, although he does not agree with the logic presented above; Minchas Shelomo 2:66-14.
48. Concerning glass utensils there is more room for leniency, since the entire obligation to immerse them is Rabbinic in nature.
49. Rav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Nishmas Avraham, Y.D. 120).
50. Beiur Halachah, O.C. 323:7, s.v. mutar. See Minchas Shelomo 2:66-14 and Chelkas Binyamin 120:1, Beiurim, s.v. ha-koneh.
51. See Darchei Teshuvah 120:36, Har Tzvi, Y.D. 93, Ashrei ha-Ish, Y.D. 9:58 and Yabia Omer 10:10.
52. Based on Y.D. 102:3 and Shach.
Weekly-Halacha, Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Torah.org.
Rabbi Neustadt is the Yoshev Rosh of the Vaad Harabbonim of Detroit and the Av Beis Din of the Beis Din Tzedek of Detroit. He could be reached at [email protected]