Going Kosher – Immersing Vessels in a Mikvah – Chapter 6

By: Rabbi Amiram Markel


Immersing vessels in Mikvah

1) Vessels or utensils manufactured, purchased or received from non-Jews[1], which come in contact[2] with food[3] during preparation, cooking or eating[4], require immersion in a ritual pool, called a mikvah.[5] This brings them from a state of impurity into the domain of the holy[6] similar to the transition of a convert to Judaism from the impurity of the Gentiles to the holiness of the Jewish People through immersion in a mikvah.[7]

2) Therefore, unless the manufacturer is Jewish, such as vessels manufactured in Israel; new vessels must be immersed in a mikvah.

3) On the other hand, if the manufacturer is Jewish, even if he is non-observant, the vessels need not be immersed.[8] However, if they were owned by a non-Jewish middleman, they do require immersion.

4) All vessels that require immersion in a mikvah require the recitation of the appropriate blessing. However, if there is doubt whether a vessel requires immersion or not, it should be immersed without a blessing.

5) Since there is a high probability in the United States of America that Jews own, are partners, or have a majority of shares in companies that manufacture vessels, they should be immersed in a mikvah without reciting a blessing.[9]

6) If an American company imports vessels from a foreign manufacturer, even if their company logo is engraved upon the vessel, nonetheless, since they are merely acting as importer and distributor, the vessel should be immersed with the appropriate blessing. On the other hand, if they own the factory in the foreign country, immersion is not required altogether. Since it is not common knowledge whether they are the original manufacturers or just the importers, or whether there were non-Jewish middlemen who owned the vessels in-between, the vessel should be immersed without a blessing. However, if it is certain that the original manufacturer is not Jewish, as in the case of knives produced in Germany, a blessing must be recited.[10]

7) The Torah requires metal vessels made of gold, silver, iron, copper, bronze, brass, tin and lead to be immersed in a mikvah.[11] They therefore are immersed with a blessing. However, since aluminum does not exist naturally, but is produced chemically, there is controversy amongst the rabbinic authorities as to its status as a metal in regard to immersion.[12] Therefore, aluminum vessels should be immersed without a blessing. On the other hand, alloys, such as bronze, brass and steel, which contain a majority of the above pre-existing metals, require immersion with a blessing.[13]

8) Metal vessels coated with enamel or Teflon should be immersed in a mikvah without reciting a blessing. This is because there is doubt whether the metal should be taken into consideration, in which case they require immersion, or whether the enamel or Teflon should be taken into consideration, in which case they may not require immersion.[14]

9) Metal vessels should be scrubbed free of rust before being immersed in a mikvah. However, if they were scrubbed or severe heat was applied to them, but residual rust still remains, it is considered to be inconsequential and does not obstruct the immersion process.[15]

10) According to most opinions glassware must be immersed in a mikvah[16] with a blessing, by rabbinical ordinance.[17] However, a minority of authorities hold that the obligation is biblical.[18] In any case, the practical outcome is that glassware is immersed with a blessing. Crystal, Pyrex and Corelle also fall into this category. However, as stated above in regard to vessels manufactured in the United States of America, if it is likely that they were manufactured by a Jewish owned company, they should be immersed without a blessing.[19]

11) Since there are varying opinions as to whether[20] or not[21] glazed china and porcelain need to be immersed in a mikvah, it is common practice to immerse them without reciting a blessing. Corning-ware also falls into this category.[22]

12) Stone, wood, unglazed china, clay pots, paper and nylon do not need immersion in a mikvah.[23]

13) Though it is not common practice to immerse them[24] there are opinions that plastic-ware should be immersed in a mikvah without reciting a blessing.[25] Consult your rabbi for his opinion.

14) Vessels that were used exclusively for kosher food on a long term basis but failed to be immersed in a mikvah must be immersed regardless of how much time has elapsed.[26] However, it must be pointed out, that though these vessels required immersion in a mikvah, the food consumed from them before they were immersed was not rendered non-kosher.[27] Nonetheless, if one finds himself in such a situation, he should not eat the food directly from the vessel until it is immersed.[28]

15) Of course, non-kosher vessels that have been koshered must also be immersed. However, it is important that they be koshered before immersion. If they were first immersed and then koshered, the immersion should be repeated after koshering them.[29] However, if a kosher vessel became non-kosher and was subsequently rekoshered, it does not need to be re-immersed in a mikvah.

16) However, with all the above in mind, it must be pointed out that only vessels that are owned by a Jew require immersion. Vessels rented or borrowed from non-Jews, such as from a party rental business, need not be immersed in a mikvah.[30]

17) According to some opinions, vessels owned by kosher bakeries, restaurants, caterers, banquet halls or Jewish owned party rental businesses etc. which are for customer use only, need not be immersed in a mikvah.[31] Nonetheless, if the policy of the kosher certifier follows the stricter view that these vessels should be immersed,[32] it should strictly be adhered to.

18) If a Jew takes possession of an ownerless vessel that has been abandoned by a non-Jew, such as an item placed outside for trash pickup, he should kosher it and then immerse it in a mikvah without reciting the blessing.[33]

19) If a vessel which has already been immersed is given to a non-Jew for repair and in the course of doing so he dismantles and reconstructs it, it must be re-immersed in a mikvah without a blessing. This is likewise the case if a vessel is given to a non-Jew for refurbishing or re-plating.[34] However, knives that are given to a non-Jew for sharpening need not be re-immersed.[35]

20) A convert to Judaism must immerse his vessels in a mikvah after koshering them. However, he does so without reciting the blessing.[36]

21) A vessel that requires immersion should not be used, even on a one-time basis, until it is immersed.[37]

22) However, disposable vessels that were manufactured for one-time use need not be immersed. Nonetheless, if they will be used repeatedly, they should be immersed before the second usage.[38] However, if they are flimsy and become unusable after several usages, such as aluminum pans, they need not be immersed.[39]

23) Food sold in metal or glass jars with lids may be used without immersion until their contents are emptied.[40] However, if they will be reused, they should be immersed before their second usage.[41]

24) Metal cans that must be opened with a can-opener are not considered to be vessels before opening. Therefore, if they are opened by a Jew he is the one creating a vessel. This being the case, they do not require immersion, even when reused.[42] Cans, such as sardine cans, that are always discarded after use even by poor people, are not considered to be vessels even after being opened.[43]

25) In principle, vessels that do not come in contact with food but only with the vessel in which the food is placed do not need to be immersed in a mikvah. An example of this is a tea saucer. The tea is poured into the cup which sits upon it[44] and the saucer never comes in contact with the tea. Even if there is some spillage onto the saucer, it is never consumed but is, rather, discarded. However, if it is not used exclusively as a saucer, but is sometimes used as a plate, it must be immersed in a mikvah, as does any other plate. Since it is common practice that saucers are sometimes used as plates, they should be immersed in a mikvah. However, this should be done without a blessing.[45]

26) Covering a vessel with baking parchment, a napkin or even aluminum foil does not constitute a sufficient partition between the food and the vessel. The baking parchment and napkin are absorbent, thus causing leakage onto the vessel, whereas the aluminum foil has a tendency of ripping. Besides this, these are temporary, rather than permanent coverings. The vessel would, therefore, still require immersion in a mikvah.[46]

27) However, a vessel which is used exclusively with disposable plastic inserts and, therefore, never comes in contact with the food, does not need to be immersed in a mikvah. An example of this is baby bottles designed to hold plastic inserts. These have no bottoms and are impossible to use without the inserts. Even if they are made of metal they do not require immersion in a mikvah.[47]

28) Likewise, any vessels that are used only as decorations, such as decorative plates that are hung on the wall or vases displayed in a salon for their aesthetic value; do not need immersion in a mikvah.[48] Moreover, even if they are needed for one-time use for serving food or drink, this may be done without immersion.[49]

29) Generally, vessels which do not need immersion should not be immersed lest an unnecessary blessing be inadvertently said over them.[50]

30) An easy remedy to avoid all the above mentioned complications and to be safeguarded from error is to always begin by immersing a utensil that definitely needs immersion with a blessing, such as a knife or spoon manufactured in Germany, and to continue by immersing vessels that may not need to be immersed.[51]

31) As stated above, vessels that are borrowed or rented from non-Jews do not need to be immersed in a mikvah. Therefore, if a person lives in an area where there is no mikvah or any other body of water that qualifies as one, he should give his vessels to a non-Jew as a gift and then borrow them back from him. In this way, the vessels do not require a mikvah and may be used without immersion.[52]

Electronic Appliances

1) According to some opinions an electric bread toaster does not require immersion in a mikvah. This is because it is used exclusively to toast bread slices or bagels which were edible before toasting and is, therefore, a vessel which is superfluous to the meal.[53]

2) In regard to appliances that have removable parts which are attached to an electronic base, such as mixers, blenders and food processors etc., only the attachments require immersion in a mikvah. The base itself need not be immersed.[54]

3) Appliances, such as electric pots or frying pans that would usually require immersion in a mikvah and will not suffer electrical damage, should be immersed.

4) If there is concern about electrical damage to the appliance there are several available options to avoid this:

a) According to some, since electrical appliances must be plugged in to be functional, they are considered to be attached to the ground[55] and do not require immersion in a mikvah.[56] Of course, if there are any detachable parts, such as metal blades etc. they still would require immersion.

b) The appliance may be dismantled to the point that it no longer is considered to be a vessel and then reassembled by a Jewish technician. It then is a vessel made by a Jew and does not require immersion.[57]

c) The appliance may be given to a non-Jew as a gift and then borrowed back from him.[58] As stated above, vessels that are borrowed from a non-Jew do not require immersion.[59]

However, before doing any of the above consult your rabbi for his opinion.

Performing the Immersion

1) When immersing a vessel in a mikvah one should have in mind that he is doing so to purify it. However, if he failed to do so, the vessel does not need to be re-immersed, even if it slipped out of his hand unintentionally and fell into the mikvah. If he wishes to re-immerse it, he should do so without a blessing.[60]

2) Though some are accustomed to immerse each vessel three times, it is not a Halachic requirement. Rather, one immersion per vessel is sufficient.[61] Ask your rabbi for his opinion.

3) Vessels may be immersed in a mikvah at any time of day or night.[62] To be immersed vessels must be clean and free of rust. Furthermore, to assure that all surfaces are covered by water, any labels and stickers should be removed before immersion. This includes the adhesive that may be stuck onto the surface of the vessel.[63] Moreover, if they were immersed without removing the labels, the immersion must be repeated, minus the labels.[64]

4) However, if there is a small label that is extremely difficult to remove,[65] the vessel may be immersed without its removal.[66] Nonetheless, this only applies if it is on the outside surface of the vessel. If it is on the inside, it must be removed regardless of size.[67] Consult your rabbi.

5) If a vessel requires immersion with a blessing, the blessing should be recited in a standing position[68] even if it is necessary to crouch to perform the immersion. However, if it was recited while crouching, it is still a valid blessing and does not need to be repeated while standing. The blessing should be recited immediately before the immersion[69] and there should be no interruption[70] between the blessing and the immersion, but rather, the one should lead directly into the other. However, if something must be said or done which is directly necessary to the immersion, it is not considered to be an interruption.[71]

If only one vessel is being immersed, the blessing is:[72]

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על טבילת כלי

Blessed are you, HaShem our G-d, King of the universe, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us concerning immersing a vessel.

If two or more vessels are being immersed, the blessing is:[73]

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על טבילת כלים.

Blessed are you, HaShem our G-d, King of the universe, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us concerning immersing vessels.

6) The vessel must be immersed fully into the mikvah so that it is all submerged at once and covered with water, including the inner chamber of the vessel.[74] This being the case, the lid should be removed and immersed separately. If the lid is attached to the vessel it does not need to be disassembled from the vessel in order to be immersed. Rather, it must be put in an opened position to allow water to enter the inner chamber as well. Likewise, cups, glasses, jars, carafes, pitchers or bottles should be immersed on their sides in order that they fill with water.[75]

7) As stated above the vessel must be fully submerged with all its surfaces covered with water. In order to facilitate this, it is best to submerge it in a perforated basket even if there are several vessels, side by side, in the basket.[76] However the vessels should not be piled on each other since this may interfere with water reaching all their surfaces.[77] Similarly, all folding utensils, such as folding corkscrews or pocketknives, should be immersed in an open position to assure that all their surfaces be covered with water.[78]

8) If the use of a basket is impossible, the vessel may be held by hand. However, it is important to wet one’s hand[79] in the mikvah water[80] before lightly grasping and immersing the vessel into it. Since his hand is wet, it is not regarded as an obstruction between the vessel and the water.[81] In addition, once the vessel is in the mikvah, it is advisable to release one’s grip momentarily[82] or to grip the vessel on a different spot by rotating it somewhat.[83]

9) If necessary, a pot may be immersed by tying a rope onto it loosely[84] or by suspending it from a hook, such as a clothes-hanger.

[1] שו”ע יו”ד קכ:א.

[2] שו”ע יו”ד קכ:ד.

[3]  ראה ב”י שם  וערוה”ש יו”ד קכ:לב.

[4] ט”ז יו”ד קכ:א.

[5] במדבר לא:כג וראה רש”י שם. וכן גמ’ ע”ז עב ורש”י שם. וראה שו”ע יו”ד קכ:א.

[6] ריטב”א על ע”ז עה בשם הירושלמי

[7]  ט”ז יו”ד קכ:א, רשב”א על יבמות מז.

[8] חת”ס לשו”ע יו”ד קכ:טו, שו”ת אג”מ או”ח ג:ד, שו”ת דובב מישרים א:סה, שו”ת יבי”א ח”ב יו”ד ט, שו”ת צי”א ח:יט.

[9] ראה שו”ת אג”מ או”ח ג:ד ואג”מ יו”ד ב:מ. וראה דרכ”ת יו”ד קכ:פא ושו”ת תשובות והנהגות ב:רנח.

[10] על פי הבנת אג”מ או”ח ג:ד, אג”מ יו”ד ב:מ וכו’.

[11] במדבר לא:כא, וראה רמב”ן שם. וראה רמב”ם מאכלות אסורות יז:ו ולח”מ וכ”מ שם. וכן ראה ערוה”ש יו”ד קכ:ד.

[12] לגר”מ בשו”ת אג”מ יש ספק אם כלי אלומיניום צריך טבילה מדאורייתא, אולם לפי התפא”י אולי צריך טבילה. וראה מבקש דעת מד.

[13] אג”מ יו”ד ב:קסד. היינו מפני שהכתוב מנה מתכות אלה דוקא הם מקבלים טומאה.

[14] פמ”ג או”ח תנא.

[15] שו”ע יו”ד קכ:יג.

[16] גמ’ ע”ז עה ע”ב.

[17] ראה פמ”ג או”ח תנא.

[18] ראה דרכ”ת יו”ד קכ:כא שיש הסוברים שהחיוב מדאורייתא.

[19] אג”מ או”ח ג:ד, אג”מ יו”ד ב:מ, דרכ”ת יו”ד קכ:פא.

[20] ש”ך יו”ד קכ:ב שכן צריכים טבילה, וראה דרכ”ת יב:יח.

[21] שאילת יעבץ א:סז, וראה דרכ”ת יו”ד קכ:ב.

[22] ערוה”ש יו”ד קכ:כט.

[23] רמב”ם מאכלות אסורות יז:ו, ערוה”ש יו”ד קכ:כט, שו”ת חלקת יעקב ב:נז, דרכ”ת יו”ד קכ:ע.

[24] שו”ת מלמד להועיל ח”ב מט.

[25] דרכ”ת יו”ד קכ:יד, וראה שו”ת מנחת יצחק ג:עז.

[26] חכמ”א עג:כ וערוה”ש יו”ד שם.

[27] רמ”א יו”ד קכ:טז, וראה ערוה”ש יו”ד קכ:יז.

[28] שו”ת אג”מ יו”ד ח”ב מא.

[29]שו”ע יו”ד קכא:ב, וראה פרי תאר קכא:ד.

[30] שו”ע יו”ד קכ:ח.

[31] דרכ”ת על יו”ד קכ:ע וקכ:פח, וראה שבט סופר יו”ד סז, שו”ת לבושי מרדכי חיו”ד פג, שו”ת מנחת יצחק א:מד. אבל הגר”מ פיינשטיין במאסף לתורה והוראה, חוברת ב עמ’ כ מחייב טבילה.

[32]  דעת הגר”מ פיינשטיין, ראה מאסף לתורה והוראה חוברת ב עמ’ כ, וכן דעת החזו”א.

[33] שו”ת הר צבי יו”ד קט. אחרי מלחמת סיחון ועוג כאשר נשמדו הם וכל עמם לא נצטוו ישראל בטבילת הכלים שנשארו הפקר. על כן יש חשש אם צריכים טבילה כלל ולפיכך טובלים בלא ברכה.

[34] שו”ע יו”ד קכ”י. וראה חכמ”א עג:ד ובינת אדם שם. וראה דרכ”ת יו”ד קכ:צה.

[35] שו”ת מנחת יצחק ד:כח.

[36] דרכ”ת יו”ד קכ:ד, וראה מערכת השלחן עמ’ קמד.

[37] רמ”א יו”ד קכ:ח.

[38] ראה מאסף לתורה והוראה, חוברת ב עמ’ מ.

[39] אג”מ יו”ד ח”ג כג.

[40] ראה ספר טבילת כלים עמ’ קד. וראה המאור-כסלו תשט”ו.

[41] שו”ת פרי השדה ג:קט, שו”ת חלק”י ב:נז, ספר שמלת חיים ד, ה אות ד וב, טו.

[42] ראה שו”ת צי”א ח:כו.

[43] אלא דינם כקליפה. אג”מ או”ח א סי’ קכב:י.

[44] ב”י ושו”ע יו”ד קכ:ד. ראה גר”א שם וכן ראה ערוה”ש שם.

[45] או”ה נח:פה.

[46]  ספר הכשרות ד:יח הג’ מא.

[47] ספר טבילת כלים עמ’ נה, על פי דעת הגרש”ז אויערבך.

[48] ש”ך יו”ד קכ:יז. וראה חכמ”א עג:ז.

[49] פר”ח יו”ד קכ:יט.

[50] או”ה נח:פה.

[51] ספר הכשרות ד:טו הע’ לד.

[52] רמ”א יו”ד קכ:טז.

[53]  ראה אג”מ יו”ד ג:כד. וכתב שם שאין להחשיבו צורך הסעודה.

[54] שו”ת מנחת יצחק ג:עז.

[55] מחובר לקרקע.

[56] מובא בספר טבילת כלים עמ’ קז’.

[57] ראה חכמ”א עג:יג, בינת אדם שער או”ה סו.

[58] דרכ”ת יו”ד קכ:קיב, שו”ת זכר שמחה קה, שו”ת מנחת יצחק ה:קכו.

[59] שו”ע יו”ד קכ:ח.

[60] שו”ת מהר”ם ערה, שו”ת רדב”ז לד, ט”ז יו”ד קכ:טו, וראה משנ”ב ח:יט, ס:ז.

[61] רשב”ם באור זרוע ע”ז סי’ רפט.

[62] שו”ע יו”ד קצז:ג, ועין נדה סז ע”ב ורש”י ומאירי שם.

[63] שו”ע יו”ד קכ:ב, ועיין שו”ע רב:ב.

[64] או”ה נח:צג

[65] או”ה נח:צג.

[66] שו”ע יו”ד קכ:יג, וראה דרכ”ת ק, ערוה”ש יו”ד קכ:ג.

[67] ספר הכשרות ד:לג בהג’ צד.

[68] שו”ע הרב ח:ג, כה:כז.

[69] שו”ע הרב סי’ תרנא.

[70] שו”ע הרב מז:ז, נט:ד, קסז:ט, רו:ג, תלב:ו, תעה:ח, תקצב:ז.

[71] שו”ע הקצר נ:טו.

[72] שו”ע יו”ד קכ:ג.

[73] שו”ע יו”ד קכ:ג.

[74] חכמ”א עג:טו, ראה פת”ש יו”ד קכ:ג, וכן ראה קצור שי”ע לז:ו.

[75] שו”ע יו”ד רב:ח, חכמ”א עג:יז, דרכ”ת יו”ד קכ:כ.

[76] שו”ע יו”ד רא:ט

[77] ש”ך יו”ד רב:ו, וראה משנ”ב תנב:כב.

[78] ערוה”ש קכ:יח, דרכ”ת יו”ד קכ:קב

[79] שו”ע יו”ד קכ:ב.

[80] רמ”א יו”ד קכ:ב.

[81]  טהרת ישראל אות לז.

[82] שו”ע יו”ד קכ:ב, וראה פת”ש שם קכ:ה, וכן עיין באור הגר”א ו.

[83] דרכ”ת יו”ד קכ:ב.

[84] שו”ע יו”ד רב. ראה ש”ך הת חכמ”א עג:טז. קצור שו”ע לז:י.

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