Shabbat Parashat Miketz | 5768
Ask the Rabbi
Question: I will be traveling to a place with no mikveh for tevilat keilim (immersion of utensils) for the utensils I will need to buy. If I do not do tevilat keilim, does the food become non-kosher?
Answer: The Torah speaks at once about the often overlapping laws of hechsher keilim (ridding utensils of non-kosher residue) of used utensils and tevilat keilim of even new utensils obtained from non-Jews (Bamidbar 31:23). A major difference is that the former is needed to solve technical kashrut problems, whereas the latter is a mitzva of purification. One of the ramifications of this difference is that even if one failed to perform tevilat keilim, the food that came in contact with the utensils remains kosher (Tosafot, Avoda Zara 75b). The continued use of the utensil before tevila is the problem (see Rambam, Ma’achalot Assurot 17:3).
Rav Shlomo Zalman Orbach (cited in Tevilat Keilim (Cohen) 4:(2)) points out that there must be a full-fledged violation of the law of tevilat keilim if one uses a utensil before tevila. After all, since one does not have to do tevila unless and until he uses the utensil, if one were allowed to use it before tevila, when would he be required to immerse it? However, if the reason to disallow usage is not a classic prohibition but a failure to perform the positive mitzva to do the tevila, then if one is incapable of doing the tevila (e.g., there is no mikveh) the fundamental violation would not exist. Nevertheless, in that case, there is likely a rabbinic prohibition to use the utensil prior to the tevila (compare ibid. with ibid. 3:(24)).
However, there is an idea that you can implement in a variety of ways which will enable you to use the keilim without tevila. The halacha is that one must do tevila on utensils that are acquired from a non-Jew. However, if they remain the non-Jew’s property and one only borrows them or even rents them, he does not need tevila (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 120:8). Although you are not likely to find a non-Jew who is willing to lend or even rent you new utensils at a modest price, you can spend the same money as he is willing to sell them for and have in mind not to acquire them but to only rent them. The problem you will have in this scenario is that if the utensils remain his, you should have to return it to the store at some point. Here is at least one way to deal with that problem. Arrange with the storeowner (who may think you are strange, but that’s not the end of the world), that you are renting the utensils for part of the price, but you will give him the full price for the possibility that he does not want to accept back used utensils and/or you do not take the opportunity to return them.
Another technical idea is that you can find another non-Jew (perhaps a hotel worker or a neighbor) and say as follows: “I am not going to need these utensils after I leave so I want to give them to you as a present as of now. Since I am nice enough to give you them as a present, I ask that you agree to let me use them and that you be responsible to retrieve them when I leave.”
In theory, one could always use this type of ha’arama (shrewd halachic ploy) to get out of doing tevilat keilim. However, we are not supposed to be interested in getting out of mitzvot. However, in a case like yours, where you would be happy to the mitzva if you could but you cannot, this type of system is very appropriate.
(Note that many bodies of natural water are kosher as mikva’ot, and one may be available in the area you are visiting. However, since it is hard to know when this is the case, you do not need to try to do such a tevila that you will not even know if it was valid. Also, realize that neither disposable utensils nor utensils made out of substances other than metal and glass require tevila.)
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