After purchasing new utensils from a non-Jew, a Jew is obligated to immerse them in a mikva (ritual bath). Does this apply to all utensils? How does one fulfill this mitzva?
Which Utensils Must Be Toveled?
The determination of tevilat keilim depends on three things: Firstly, the materials of which the utensil is made. Mi'd’oraisa (the Torah prohibition), only objects of metal must be immersed, and a bracha made; the Torah lists six types of metal requiring immersion: gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, and lead (Bamidbar 31:23). Hybrid metals such as stainless steel, which contains large quantities of iron, also require tevila with a bracha.
Disposable metal such as aluminum pans, however, do not fall under this rubric and do not require tevila, according to Rav Moshe Feinstein, as durability is one of the defining features of a utensil. Nevertheless, if the pans are re-used regularly, they are ipso facto “durable” and require tevilat keilim with a bracha. (This is commonly, and erroneously, taken to mean that one may use a utensil once or twice before toveling. In fact, all the classic authorities agree that even a single use of a vessel requiring tevilat keilim is prohibited prior to immersion.)
Mi'd’rabbanan (the rabbinic prohibition), glass and Corelle must be immersed, and a bracha made (as tevilat keilim is no different from any rabbinically mandated mitzva for which a blessing must be pronounced). Glass-coated utensils, such as glazed chinaware, are a subject of debate among contemporary poskim, but it has become common practice to tovel them without a bracha. The same is true of porcelain-enameled pots and utensils made from two or more materials, such as Teflon-coated frying pans.
Utensils of wood, paper, stone, plastic, heavy stoneware or unglazed ceramic do not require immersion. (See Pischei Teshuva, Yoreh Deah 120:2.)
|Type of Material||Is Immersion Required?|
|Ceramic (Glass-Coated)||Subject of Debate; Immersion with a bracha is customary|
Secondly, the determination of tevila depends on the owner’s intent: a utensil purchased for some other purpose and occasionally used to hold food (such as a screwdriver used as an emergency fork) does not require tevila; likewise, utensils which cradle food contained in other utensils, such as oven racks on which pots are placed. Toasters do not require tevila according to Rav Moshe Feinstein.
Utensils used to prepare food still in an inedible state, such as grinders, mixers, or butchering knives, should be toveled without a bracha, preferably together with metal utensils, so that the bracha recited over the latter will cover the former as well. (See Taz, Yoreh Deah 120:7.)
Utensils that come into direct contact with food, of course, require tevila. The category, though, is far broader than one might suppose. Besides silverware, bowls, plates and cups, it includes griddle and grill tops on which foods are placed directly, pizza cutters, peelers, rolling pins, salt-shakers, pot covers (see Rema, Yoreh Deah 120:5), and electrical appliances such as urns. An appliance that cannot be immersed, therefore, should not be purchased. (Practice has demonstrated that immersion generally does not harm most equipment if allowed three days to dry out.)
Finally, tevila depends on the utensil’s provenance, as noted above: if it was manufactured by, purchased from, given as a gift by, or bought back from a non-Jew, it requires tevila. It is for this reason that many poskim prohibit the selling of chametz utensils before Passover, as they are of the opinion that the utensils would require tevila upon “re-purchase” after Passover. Utensils may also require a second tevila if they were given to a non-Jew to repair. The determination would depend on the type and extent of the repair. Utensils jointly owned by a Jewish and non-Jewish partner do not require tevila.
The Procedure for Tevilat Keilim
The utensil must be free of any non-essential parts or accrued substances, such as glue residue from the manufacturer’s label. The immersion must take place in a mikva or in an ocean or river that flows year-round. (One should be aware that some men’s mikva’ot are not suitable for tevilat keilim. Consult a competent authority regarding a mikva not designed for keilim.) All sides of the utensil, in and out, must come into contact with the water.
One begins by wetting his own hand(s) with the mikva water. He then takes the utensil, recites the bracha (“…asher kiddeshanu b'miyzvotav v'tzivanu al tevilat keilim“), and plunges the utensil into the water. (If he forgot to make the bracha, the tevila is still acceptable.)
If two utensils are being immersed together, they should not touch so as not to impede the flow of water in and around. Thus, if one chooses to use a basket or milk crate for small, easily lost items like silverware, they should immerse the basket and then drop the individual utensils in one by one. This prevents the utensils from jumbling together and obscuring some of the surface areas.
In addition, it may often be necessary to turn the utensil so that its opening faces upward, permitting trapped air bubbles to escape.
Anyone may perform the actual immersion, including a small child and a non-Jew, so long as a Jewish adult is present to supervise. If the utensil cannot be brought to the mikva (perhaps it is too heavy or too large to carry), a competent rabbinic authority should be consulted.
This article was written to touch briefly on some of the fundamental aspects of tevilat keilim. It should be viewed merely as a primer; the topic is a complex one. As always, one should consult one’s experienced local Orthodox rabbi with any questions or concerns.