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New York - Halachic Analysis: 'Tovling' For Electric Food Appliances and Other Vessels

Published on: February 23, 2011 01:10 PM
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VIN News File - New York - It is a Jewish Halacah when buying new housewares used for cooking or eating to use a Kelim Mikvah that is specially made for dipping cooking and eating utensils into.  In this photo a father dips new flatware while his kids look on at the Mikvah at 14th Ave hardware store in Borough Park section of Brooklyn On Mar 28 2010.  Photo: ShiaHDVIN News File - New York - It is a Jewish Halacah when buying new housewares used for cooking or eating to use a Kelim Mikvah that is specially made for dipping cooking and eating utensils into.  In this photo a father dips new flatware while his kids look on at the Mikvah at 14th Ave hardware store in Borough Park section of Brooklyn On Mar 28 2010.  Photo: ShiaHD

New York - Few couples think about it when they first become engaged.  Their thoughts are focused more on the Simchah, the wedding plans and preparations.  They do not focus on the tedious hours of unpacking, unwrapping, removal of glue, packing in a box, the drive, and then the Mitzvah – the immersing of the vessels in the Mikvah, natural lake or ocean.  Nor do they think about the repacking, the drive back, the cleaning and drying off of the vessels.

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Where do we find Tovelling in the Torah?  The nation of Israel was returning from battle with the Midianites.  In the battle, they captured booty.  Some of the booty, of course, was an ancient type of Farberware.  Elazar HaKohen instructed the triumphant soldiers in the laws of Kashering dishes (See Bamidbar 31:23).  The verse states “Kol davar asher yavoh ba’aish ta’averu ba’aish..”—All utensils that cooks in fire must be purged in fire.  The Gemorah in Avodah Zarah (75b) notes the use of an extra word at the end of the verse – v’taher – purified.  Most Poskim view this Gemorah as more than a biblical allusion – but as a full fledged requirement of an additional purifying process – namely Tevillah.

Use of the vessel before Tevilah is forbidden – even if it is used only once.  We rule that the obligation to Tovel dishes is biblical in origin.  Therefore, if we are unsure whether something that requires immersion biblically was immersed or not – we do so again, but without a bracha.  The requirement to Tovel metal vessels is biblical – glass is only rabbinic.  Wood vessels and plastic do not require immersion at all.  Stoneware does not need to be Tovelled either.

Used vessels should first be koshered and then Tovelled.  If they were tovelled before being koshered they should be tovelled again but without a bracha.

When immersing and holding onto the vessel in the water, immerse your fingertips in the water first so that your fingers will not be considered a Chatzizah.

What about electric food appliances?  The toasters, grills, gridirons, and all those new-fangled devices that purport to make your job easier?  Most Poskim hold that they do need to be immersed.  But what if they have a warning label – “DO NOT IMMERSE IN WATER?”

Even still.  Often if you let the item sit and dry out for a few days the device will still work.  A few caveats, however.  The life span of the device will definitely shorten if you do immerse it and let it dry.  Plus, returning it would constitute a violation of the Torah laws of theft – so make sure that the item is not returned after one does immerse it in the Mikvah.

Is there an alternative solution?  As a matter of fact, there is.  It involves the rationale for the immersion in the first place.

The Jewish nation is commanded in the Torah to maintain a state of purity in order to function best in the role that Hashem had ordained for them – coming close to HaKadosh Boruch Hu.  They are an entire nation of priests – so to speak.  Because of this role, vessels that were previously owned by those who do not function in this role, must be immersed in a Mikvah in order to purify them.

And herein lies the answer to our electrical item dilemma.  If the item under discussion was taken apart by the Jewish owner to the point where it would no longer function, and then reassembled, then it would be considered as if it was built by a Jew and would not require Tevilah.

How much of the item must be taken apart?  As a young man I once heard a relative of Rav Moshe Feinstein discussing the possibility of merely cutting the power cable to the item and splicing it together again.  Unfortunately, there are two problems with this approach.

The first problem is that spliced power cords are rather dangerous.  Most people do not do it properly and things can come apart and create a fire hazard or lead to shock.  It is best to avoid this.

The second problem is that some of our leading Psokim have ruled that the solution does not work.  Rav Shlom Zalman Auerbach zatzal ruled (See Minchas Shlomo Volume III Siman 66:4) that a cord that is outside of the actual body of the unit may not be considered part of the unit itself regarding issues of Tumah and Tahara.  Rav Auerbach zatzal,  is not opposed to the opinion of making the item no longer a functioning item.  He therefore recommends removing a wire that is actullay found within the unit itself.  If it is in the casing of the device then it would certainly be considered as if the Jew had fashioned the vessel, and one would be exempted from using it.


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1

 Feb 23, 2011 at 01:21 PM HaNavon Says:

R' Henkin held that the electricity makes it "m'chubar l'karka", does not need tvila.

2

 Feb 23, 2011 at 01:23 PM The_Truth Says:

Thats it?
Is this the only solution?
Does this wire need to be a vital component? does it need to be completely removed from the unit & then put back in, or is disconnecting one end & then re-connecting it ok?
Do I need to do it or can another Jew (who does not own the item) do it?
Is there anyone / a store out there that provides this service?
Does the item need to be "built" by a Jew or does ownership count? - If I buy the unit from a non-Jewish store, then sell it to a Jew, who then sells it back to me, do I still need tevila?

3

 Feb 23, 2011 at 01:43 PM Anonymous Says:

I married off already four Dauthers, there is a store called wilhelms in williamsburg and boro park they take care of all toivling needs under rabbincal supervision so it doesnt have to be on the kallahs mind.

4

 Feb 23, 2011 at 02:05 PM zoup_mit_lukshen Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

I married off already four Dauthers, there is a store called wilhelms in williamsburg and boro park they take care of all toivling needs under rabbincal supervision so it doesnt have to be on the kallahs mind.

The only thing on the kallahs mind should be the Choosen

5

 Feb 23, 2011 at 02:06 PM great_unknown Says:

Rav Ruderman also held that a plug-in appliance is mechubar and does not need tevila. However, there are battery-powered appliances which can be problematic.

6

 Feb 23, 2011 at 02:44 PM stamm Says:

this is very informative. I always considered toasters as an oven. why don't we toivel the oven?
I hope someone can explain the difference. I am very interested

7

 Feb 23, 2011 at 03:16 PM AshMan Says:

Never thought about it. If you have basic electrical skills, you should actually be able to remove and reinsert the powercord just taking out a few screws. Sounds like a good service for a local hardware or appliance store.

8

 Feb 23, 2011 at 04:18 PM curious Says:

Reply to #6  
stamm Says:

this is very informative. I always considered toasters as an oven. why don't we toivel the oven?
I hope someone can explain the difference. I am very interested

Because an oven, which is meant to be planted in a specific place due to its large size is definitely considered mechuber likarka, attached to the ground.

9

 Feb 23, 2011 at 04:26 PM rescue Says:

Reply to #6  
stamm Says:

this is very informative. I always considered toasters as an oven. why don't we toivel the oven?
I hope someone can explain the difference. I am very interested

We don't put food directly on an oven surface. IIRQ only items that are made to come directly in contact with food require tevilah.

10

 Feb 23, 2011 at 04:53 PM Mechon-Havdale Says:

Let's start again. The electrical device, even new, is NOT complete. It does NOT work. It is NOT finished. In order to finish it, that is to get it do work, you have to do one very important step. You have to plug it into the electrical socket. In a sense, the device then becomes part of the electrical system. The ownership of that system changes at the meter; from there outward, the system belongs to the electric company. So unless you bought your electrical appliance to be a passive container for food, your appliance is not completely constructed until you attach the plug properly to the electric socket. You have then completed the construction of appliance. However, if you only wanted to use it as a passive container, then don't worry about getting it wet, because you never intended to connect it to the electric; and you can even cut off the chord and throw it away to confirm your intention to only use it passively. Similarly, it it runs on batteries, putting them properly in place is the significant completion of the construction. BTW plugging it in on Shabat should be a final hammer blow too.

11

 Feb 23, 2011 at 05:17 PM Anonymous Says:

"Do not immerse in water" Anyone with common sense would know not to immerse it in water without the warning. So it surprises me that we would do it on purpose for any reason. You can never get the internals to dry out completely. Corrosion can form and cause a fire. Ask any licensed electrician. (and don't tell me its never happened before) Yes we have to observe Jewish law, but im sure not at the expense of safety. The Rabbis are not electricians and we are not Rabbis so I think they should talk to each other.

12

 Feb 23, 2011 at 05:38 PM ShmuelG Says:

Reply to #10  
Mechon-Havdale Says:

Let's start again. The electrical device, even new, is NOT complete. It does NOT work. It is NOT finished. In order to finish it, that is to get it do work, you have to do one very important step. You have to plug it into the electrical socket. In a sense, the device then becomes part of the electrical system. The ownership of that system changes at the meter; from there outward, the system belongs to the electric company. So unless you bought your electrical appliance to be a passive container for food, your appliance is not completely constructed until you attach the plug properly to the electric socket. You have then completed the construction of appliance. However, if you only wanted to use it as a passive container, then don't worry about getting it wet, because you never intended to connect it to the electric; and you can even cut off the chord and throw it away to confirm your intention to only use it passively. Similarly, it it runs on batteries, putting them properly in place is the significant completion of the construction. BTW plugging it in on Shabat should be a final hammer blow too.

And this approach to the problem occurred to not a single Godol...

13

 Feb 23, 2011 at 05:56 PM ShmuelG Says:

Reply to #11  
Anonymous Says:

"Do not immerse in water" Anyone with common sense would know not to immerse it in water without the warning. So it surprises me that we would do it on purpose for any reason. You can never get the internals to dry out completely. Corrosion can form and cause a fire. Ask any licensed electrician. (and don't tell me its never happened before) Yes we have to observe Jewish law, but im sure not at the expense of safety. The Rabbis are not electricians and we are not Rabbis so I think they should talk to each other.

"Yes we have to observe Jewish law, but im sure not at the expense of safety."

Then your alternative is not to use any appliances that require toiveling. You can always brew your coffee in a džezva.

14

 Feb 23, 2011 at 06:30 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #11  
Anonymous Says:

"Do not immerse in water" Anyone with common sense would know not to immerse it in water without the warning. So it surprises me that we would do it on purpose for any reason. You can never get the internals to dry out completely. Corrosion can form and cause a fire. Ask any licensed electrician. (and don't tell me its never happened before) Yes we have to observe Jewish law, but im sure not at the expense of safety. The Rabbis are not electricians and we are not Rabbis so I think they should talk to each other.

I personally have toiveled many electrical appliances before and never had any issues, all you have to do is dunk the whole thing into the water and then let it dry out completely for a couple days and leave it in positions where the water can go out, also try putting it on heaters to speed up the drying process,
the only time water will damage an electrical appliance, is when there is actually electricity flowing through the appliance but if it's disconnected from any power source you have nothing to worry about.

15

 Feb 23, 2011 at 08:00 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #14  
Anonymous Says:

I personally have toiveled many electrical appliances before and never had any issues, all you have to do is dunk the whole thing into the water and then let it dry out completely for a couple days and leave it in positions where the water can go out, also try putting it on heaters to speed up the drying process,
the only time water will damage an electrical appliance, is when there is actually electricity flowing through the appliance but if it's disconnected from any power source you have nothing to worry about.

Just because you have done something before and nothing happened doesn't prove its safe. And you are wrong, water will damage an appliance even if electricity is not flowing through it. Torah is supposed to make you smart and all I see is ignorance here. Lets hear from an electrician.

16

 Feb 23, 2011 at 08:01 PM Normal Says:

Don't try and explain this to a goy as they will probably think you're crazy.

The trouble with trying to disconnect wires, is that sometimes the connections are one way only and the wires do not really want to come off the connector that easily or at all, eg sandwich maker where you don't want active wires floating around.

Ask YOUR Rov.

17

 Feb 23, 2011 at 08:11 PM shredready Says:

Because of this role, vessels that were previously owned by those who do not function in this role, must be immersed in a Mikvah in order to purify them.


when we buy today new stuff if was never used as vessel and in many cases maybe never touched buy a human, so how come it must be toveled

in addition regarding toasters and such, why cannot one just toval the parts the trays, that come in contact with the food.

19

 Feb 23, 2011 at 08:26 PM bookman Says:

what do you do with aluminum trays and containers? do they need to be toiveled? Can one transfer ownership of the electrical appliance to a non Jew and then just borrow it for his usage and then it will not need to be toiveled. i.e. sell it with the chametz but don't buy it back.

20

 Feb 23, 2011 at 08:26 PM Villager Says:

Another solution I heard once from a godol is to give it as a gift for a non-jew and borrow it back from them, you are only required to toivel when its yours but not as long it belongs to a gentile.

21

 Feb 23, 2011 at 10:01 PM kalman1 Says:

Reply to #10  
Mechon-Havdale Says:

Let's start again. The electrical device, even new, is NOT complete. It does NOT work. It is NOT finished. In order to finish it, that is to get it do work, you have to do one very important step. You have to plug it into the electrical socket. In a sense, the device then becomes part of the electrical system. The ownership of that system changes at the meter; from there outward, the system belongs to the electric company. So unless you bought your electrical appliance to be a passive container for food, your appliance is not completely constructed until you attach the plug properly to the electric socket. You have then completed the construction of appliance. However, if you only wanted to use it as a passive container, then don't worry about getting it wet, because you never intended to connect it to the electric; and you can even cut off the chord and throw it away to confirm your intention to only use it passively. Similarly, it it runs on batteries, putting them properly in place is the significant completion of the construction. BTW plugging it in on Shabat should be a final hammer blow too.

according to your logic a pan or pot is not complete until the fire is turned on, a fork would not be a keli until it was held by a human.

22

 Feb 23, 2011 at 10:24 PM TeachersNotebook Says:

I just bought a new toaster oven and had this question. When I asked my Rabbi, he told me to tovel the trays and not immerse the entire thing. The food only touches the trays, nothing else. Although halachic articles are good starters for debate, they can't be taken as psak. You always need to ask your rabbi.
@14- that is really really dangerous. A ton of electrical fires have started because of that. b"H nothing has happened in your case. But I really would not tempt "fate."
I can't imagine that halacha would make you do something so dangerous. Halacha does not make you do anything this dangerous in any other area. Playing with electricity is not a job for every Jew, nor should we have to rely on electricians to do it for us. For those who don't rely on my rabbi's psak, there must be a safer alternative.

23

 Feb 23, 2011 at 11:04 PM ShatzMatz Says:

A word of practicle advice" If you do decide to toivel your electrical appliances, make sure to do so in a Mikva that is not chlorinated. The chlorine that exists in most Mikvas will corrode the internal parts rather quickly.

24

 Feb 24, 2011 at 12:24 AM Nisht Ah Groysa Na Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

I married off already four Dauthers, there is a store called wilhelms in williamsburg and boro park they take care of all toivling needs under rabbincal supervision so it doesnt have to be on the kallahs mind.

However they are WRONG! They tvilas keylim MUST be done by the owner so your daughter's keilim need to be toyviled again!

If you think I am nuts, ask a COMPETENT local orthodox rabbi.

25

 Feb 24, 2011 at 12:58 AM bystander Says:

The warning label "Not to emerse in water" is actually a general warning, to protect the manufacturer, but is meant, a) while plugged in, which will create a shock hazzard or b) for fear that it might not be dry enough if emersed and plugged in later, to cause a shock hazzard.
As far as fire is concerned, the circuit breakers, especially in the kitchen where GFI circuits are required, are there to protect the appliance and wiring from fire.
As far as a one time emersion doing damage to the appliance or shortning its lifespan is nonsense 99% of all components are either aluminum or stainless or other coated metals which will not be harmed by a one time quick emersion.
As far as wiring disconection, (without going into the halacha issue) only people that really know what they are doing, and posess the knowledge, should attempt to do this.

26

 Feb 24, 2011 at 09:04 AM YossieR Says:

Reply to #24  
Nisht Ah Groysa Na Says:

However they are WRONG! They tvilas keylim MUST be done by the owner so your daughter's keilim need to be toyviled again!

If you think I am nuts, ask a COMPETENT local orthodox rabbi.

What happened to "sh'liach shel udom k'moso"?

27

 Feb 24, 2011 at 12:29 PM awacs Says:

Reply to #24  
Nisht Ah Groysa Na Says:

However they are WRONG! They tvilas keylim MUST be done by the owner so your daughter's keilim need to be toyviled again!

If you think I am nuts, ask a COMPETENT local orthodox rabbi.

So? Didn't the store own the keilim while it toivled them? It certainly owned them before; it could hold off transferring title until it handed over the (toiveled) goods.

28

 Feb 27, 2011 at 01:03 PM AYONEMAN Says:

Reply to #24  
Nisht Ah Groysa Na Says:

However they are WRONG! They tvilas keylim MUST be done by the owner so your daughter's keilim need to be toyviled again!

If you think I am nuts, ask a COMPETENT local orthodox rabbi.

The store owner can toivel the merchandise ONLY AFTER the customer has fully paid for the merchandise. In fact, if you pick out merchandise yourself, you yourself cannot toivel in that very same store only AFTER you paid for the merchandise.
MOST STORES HAVE A SIGN TO THAT EFFECT.

29

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