From the verse in Parashas Matos(31:23) ...Everything that can not come in
fire should be passed through water, the Talmud1 derives that
utensils which are bought from a non-Jew, even if they are brand new,
require immersion in a kosher mikveh. Just as a convert requires immersion,
symbolizing his conversion from non-Jew to Jew, so too, utensils require
immersion when being transferred from non-Jewish to Jewish ownership. Many Rishonim hold that this is a Biblical command. What
follows is a basic review of which types of utensils require immersion.
Utensils fall into three categories with regard to the obligation of
immersion: a) utensils that definitely require immersion and the blessing of
Al tevilas keilim; 4 b) utensils which—for one reason or
another—may or may not require immersion and the blessing is therefore not
recited; c) utensils which do not require immersion at all.
The halachos concerning which type of utensil requires immersion are based
on two criteria: 1) The material from which the utensil is made; 2) the
function of the utensil. Let us review each of these criteria individually:
1. The material from which the utensil is made
Min ha-Torah only metal utensils require immersion. 5 But
according to Rabbinic law, utensils made out of material which, “when broken
can be melted down and reformulated,” such as glass, are considered like
metal and require immersion. 6 Therefore, all utensils made from
any type of metal, including brass, steel, and aluminum, or any type of
glass, including Pyrex, Duralex and Corelle, 7 are required to
be immersed and a blessing recited. 8
Note: Disposable aluminum pans which are used once and then
discarded do not require immersion. If they are going to be used more than
once, most poskim require them to be immersed (even before using them the
first time), 9 while others allow them to be used two or three
times and then discarded. 10
Utensils made out of wood, 11 stone, 12 bone or
ivory, 13 plastic, melmac, rubber or nylon, 14
non-glazed earthenware (flowerpot dull finish), 15 paper or
Styrofoam do not require immersion at all.
There are, however, utensils made from certain types of materials whose
status is questionable. Many poskim recommend, therefore, that they be
immersed but the blessing be omitted. These include: Earthenware utensils
which are lined or coated with lead16 or glass (glazed),
17 and porcelain (or porcelain enamel, or
Corningware18 ), which includes most of today's “china” dishes.
Although some poskim maintain that these dishes do not require immersion at
all19 and one may follow this view, 20 the custom in
many communities follows the opinion of the poskim who disagree21
and require such “china” to be immersed but without a blessing. 22
2. The function of the utensil
Having established what type of material a utensil must be made of in order
to require immersion, we must still determine some other factors before
deciding whether or not the utensil must be immersed. The Talmud states that
only kelei seudah, utensils used for a meal, must be immersed. This includes
all utensils which have direct contact with food—either during
preparation23 or at mealtime. Utensils which are clearly not
kelei seudah do not require immersion at all, even if they are made out of
metal or glass. [Since the status of some items as kelei seudah may be
undetermined or in dispute, the poskim recommend that they be immersed but
the blessing omitted.] Here are some examples:
• Bottle or can openers do not require immersion. 24
• A stove, oven rack or a blech on which pots—but not food—are normally
placed does not require immersion. A grill or a toaster-oven rack, however,
upon which food is placed directly, requires immersion with a blessing.
• Vegetable bins and refrigerator racks, even if the food touches them
directly, do not require immersion. 26
• A serving tray is exempt from immersion—unless food (as opposed to plates
and dishes) is placed directly on the tray, in which case it would require
immersion with a blessing. 27
• A nutcracker requires immersion. Some poskim require a blessing as well,
28 while others rule that a blessing should not be made.
• A fruit and vegetable peeler requires immersion30. If the
peeler is used exclusively for vegetables which are not normally eaten raw,
e.g., a peeler used exclusively for potatoes, some poskim maintain that no
immersion is required. 31
• An arts and crafts knife does not require immersion, even if the knife is
occasionally utilized for food preparation. 32
• Jars, bottles, or metal containers which are used to store food but are
never brought to the table, require immersion without a blessing. If they
are brought to the table, then they require immersion with a blessing.
• Any utensil which is normally used for wrapped food only, does not require
immersion. But if the food is unwrapped, then even if the utensil is always
lined with aluminum foil or a towel, it requires immersion. 34
• Some poskim do not require immersion for a bread toaster. 35
Many others require immersion with a blessing. 36
Note: Many people mistakenly believe that utensils may be used one
time before being immersed. This notion is wrong, and it has absolutely no
basis in Halachah. 37
Question: What should one do if he is served food that was cooked in
pots (owned by a Jew) that were not immersed?
Discussion: The food is permitted to be eaten. While it is forbidden
to cook food in pots that were not immersed, once cooked, the food does not
become forbidden to eat. 38 This is true even if the person who
did the cooking was aware that it is forbidden to cook in such pots.
If the food is served on dishes or cutlery that was not immersed, it is
forbidden—mi-deRabanan40 —to eat from or with those utensils. The
food should be removed and placed on dishes that were immersed or on dishes
that do not require immersion. 41
Under extenuating circumstances, if one finds himself in a situation where
he is served on dishes which were definitely not immersed, 42
and he cannot refuse to eat, 43 some poskim permit eating from
those dishes, particularly if the dishes are made from glass or from
porcelain, which require immersion mi-deRabanan but not min ha-Torah.
Question: Does the same halachah apply to eating in a Jewish-owned
restaurant or hotel whose dishes are immersed?
Discussion: Some poskim hold that eating in a Jewish-owned
restaurant or hotel where the dishes are not immersed is more lenient than
doing so in a private home. 45 They base their reasoning on the
ruling of many early authorities who maintain that utensils that were bought
for business use, even if they are used for eating, are not considered
keilei seudah and are exempt from immersion. Since a restaurant or a hotel
owner buys dishes in order to serve his guests for profit, it is considered
as if he bought those dishes for business use and the dishes need not be
immersed at all. While this ruling is not accepted by all
authorities46 and it is proper to be stringent, several
contemporary poskim47 rule that, when necessary, there is room
for leniency in this matter. 48
A patient in a hospital need not be concerned as to whether or not the
dishes have been immersed. 49
Most poskim hold that it is permitted to leave dishes which are not immersed
around the house, 50 as long as they are clearly marked as “not
If one utensil which was not immersed got mixed up with other utensils
which were immersed, one should immerse the entire batch, but without
reciting a blessing. 51 If the re-immersion will involve
monetary loss or major exertion (torach gadol) one may use the entire batch
without re-immersing them. 52
1. Avodah Zarah 75b.
2. Ritva, Avodah Zarah 75b, quoting Ramban, based on Yerushalmi.
3. See Tevilas Keilim, pg. 34, for a complete list. See also Yechaveh
Da’as 4:44 who maintains that most poskim hold that it is mi-deRabanan.
4. Our custom is to recite this text whether immersing one utensil or
many; Aruch ha-Shulchan, Y.D. 120:22, quoted by Taharas Yisrael 9; mi-Beis
Levi (Nissan 5753, pg. 49).
5. While the Torah itself mentions only six different types of
metals—gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, and lead—as requiring immersion, the
poskim agree that all metals are included; Aruch ha-Shulchan 120:23; Igros
Moshe, Y.D. 3:22.
6. Y.D. 120:1. For a more detailed explanation, see Aruch ha-Shulchan
120:25 and Emes l'Ya'akov, Y.D. 120:1.
13. Several poskim quoted in Tevilas Keilim, pg. 232. A minority opinion
requires them to be immersed; see Darchei Teshuvah 120:14.
14. This is the view of most poskim; see Chelkas Yaakov 2:163; Kisvei Rav
Henkin 2:60; Rav M. Feinstein (quoted in l'Torah v'Hora'ah, vol. 1, pg. 11;
vol. 2, pg. 20 and pg. 42); Tzitz Eliezer 7:37; 8:26; Be'er Moshe 2:52;
Yabia Omer 4:8; 10:10. A minority opinion holds that plastic dishes should
be immersed without a blessing; see Minchas Yitzchak 3:76-78; Shearim
Metzuyanim b'Halachah 37:4. See Kol ha-Torah, vol. 42, pg. 14, quoting Rav
15. Chochmas Adam 73:1.
16. Rama, Y.D. 120:1. See Darchei Teshuvah 28 who rules that even if they
are coated with lead on both the outside and inside, no blessing is recited.
17. See Darchei Teshuvah 120:19 who quotes several views on this issue.
22. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 37:3 and Misgeres ha-Shulchan.
23. Some poskim hold that only utensils which are used in the final stage
of food preparation require immersion, e.g., a pot, but not utensils which
are used in the preliminary stages, e.g., a cookie cutter.
24. Shach, Y.D. 120:11. Even if the can opener touches the food it does
not require immersion; Rav S. Wosner (quoted in Tevilas Keilim, pg. 233).
25. Y.D. 120:4 and Pri Chadash 12.
26. Minchas Shelomo 2:66-8; Ashrei ha-Ish, Y.D. 9:32. See also Be'er Moshe
27. Tevilas Keilim, pg. 213.
28. Minchas Shelomo 2:66-6.
29. Rav M. Feinstein (quoted in Ohalei Yeshurun, pg. 46); Ashrei ha-Ish,
Y.D. 9:17; Chelkas Binyamin 120:35, based on Shevet ha-Levi 6:245-4.
30. Tevilas Keilim, pg. 221.
31. Avnei Yashfei 1:146 based on Aruch ha-Shulchan 120:35-36. The same
halachah applies to a pocketknife, etc.
32. Darchei Teshuvah 120:45, quoting Peri Chadash; Aruch ha-Shulchan
120:40-45. See Tevilas Keilim, pg. 52.
33. Minchas Shelomo 2:66-7; Rav M. Feinstein (quoted in Ohalei Yeshurun,
34. Minchas Shelomo 2:66-5. See Chelkas Binyamin 120:34.
35. Igros Moshe, Y.D. 3:24.
36. See Tevilas Keilim, pg. 208.
37. Minchas Shelomo 2:66-12.
38. Rama, Y.D. 120:16
39. Igros Moshe, Y.D. 2:41.
40. Yeshuos Yaakov, Y.D. 120:1; Beiur Halachah, O.C. 323:7, s.v. mutar.
See Chelkas Binyamin 120:1 for dissenting opinions.
41. Igros Moshe, Y.D. 3:22; Yechaveh Da’as 4:44.
42. In a situation where one is unsure whether or not the utensils were
immersed and cannot determine their status, there is an additional argument
for leniency, since the prohibition to use dishes which were not immersed is
mi-deRabanan, and one may be lenient when in doubt of a Rabbinic prohibition
(safek d'rabanan l'kulah); See Minchas Yitzchak 1:44.
43. If the food served to him is dry, such as slabs of meat, one may
remove the food with his hands or with plastic cutlery and eat it; Igros
Moshe, Y.D. 3:22.
44. Rav S.Z. Auerbach in Minchas Shelomo 2:66-11, Shulchan Shelomo, O.C.
323:6-4 and Shalmei Moed, pg. 549.
45. See Darchei Teshuvah 120:70, 88 and Shevet Sofer 67.