Shabbat Parashat Pinchas| 5764
Ask the Rabbi
Question: Is tevilat keilim (immersing in a mikveh of a utensil that was bought from non-Jews) necessary for all utensils that come in direct contact with food?
Answer: We cannot, of course, go into all of the factors that cause that something be required to have tevilat keilim, but we will give some guidelines, especially on the point of direct contact, which you refer to. First, we should point out that only keilim (utensils) madeof metal or glass need tevila (immersion). An additional point, which is important but beyond our present scope, is that disposable items, even if they temporarily have the same function as classical utensils, are not categorized as keilim and do not require tevila.
The mitzva of tevilat keilim is found in the Torah in the context of doing hechsher keilim, removing through heat any taste of any non-kosher food that might be found in the walls of utensils (see Bamidbar 31:21-24). Rabba bar Avuha stated that tevilat keilim applies even to new pots (Avoda Zara 75b), meaning that the immersion is necessary irrespective of whether anything non-kosher is in the walls. Rav Sheshet asked that if that is the case, then perhaps utensils of all sorts should require tevila. The answer given is that the Torah was referring only to klei seuda (literally, utensils of a meal).
But what is considered a kli seuda? Rashi (ad loc.) says that since the Torah describes utensils that were used with heat from a flame, it must be talking about utensils that are involved in a meal (apparently, including its preparation). The Pri Chadash (YD 120:1) asks that there are utensils that are used in connection with heat but are unrelated to food. Therefore, he prefers the Rashba’s explanation, that these p’sukim are dealing with the type of utensil, which belong to the category of those things that may require kashering.
If one takes a very narrow view of the Rashba, one can come to the conclusion that the kli (or perhaps even the part of the kli which is made of metal or glass) must come in actual, physical contact with the food. However, poskim understand that we are talking about the category of a utensil, namely, one which is used directly in connection with food, whether or not it comes in actual, physical contact.
This understanding of klei seuda contains both elements of leniency and stringency. Does a can opener require tevila? On one hand, if one opens up a can of tuna fish, the can opener almost always touches the food. On the other hand, its job is not, by design, connected to the food but to the can. So presumably, the incidental contact with the food should not make it obligated in tevila. Indeed, the standard p’sak is that it does not require tevila (see Tevilat Keilim (Cohen) 11: 171 and footnote, ad loc.). If, on the flip side, one covers a baking pan with waxed paper, the food is still considered to be baking in the pan, despite the fact that it touches only the paper, and the pan requires tevila (Rav Sh. Z. Orbach, quoted in Tevilat Keilim, 1: (7)).
This is not to say that direct contact between the food and the utensil is not important, but just that it depends on the nature and extent of the direct contact. For example, if a pot made of a substance that does not require tevila is coated in a significant way (not just for beautification) by a substance that does require tevila, then position of the coating could make a difference. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 120:1) implies that only when the obligated substance is on the inside do we require tevila (theRama may argue, seecommentators). Also, if the utensil in question is separated from the food by another kli, then one does not need tevila. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 120:4) says that a tri-pod that holds a pot over the flame is exempt from tevila, and the same is true for the modern devices for suspending pots.
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