THE PASSOVER QUESTIONS YOU NEVER THOUGHT TO ASK
By: Rabbi Daniel D. Levy
What is the source and reason
for dipping utensils?
In Parshat Matot (Ch. 31 Pasuk 23), it discusses how Elazar HaKohen instructed the Jewish nation to kosher the vessels after the war of Midyan. The requirement of dipping dishes in a kosher mikveh of 40 se’ahis derived from the wordsAch Bemay Nidah Yithatah. The Yerushalmi explains that the purpose of dipping vessels is to remove any impurity from the vessel of a non-Jew who owned it previously or crafted it new, and have it sanctified by a Jew. It is part of a Jew’s mission in this world to sanctify hisactions and possessions. New vessels made by a non-Jew require dipping.
2 What are the basic guidelines
of dipping utensils?
a) One must make sure that there is no hatzitzah(separation) between the utensil being dipped and the water at the time of dipping (Mishnah Mikvaot 9;5). One should make sure all stickers are fully removed and no sticky substance remains (using Goo Gone helps). However, if one desires to permanently leave on the sticker (because it contains instructions or is part of an expensive object) the sticker is considered batel and part of the utensil itself. It need not be removed before dipping.
b) One should make a beracha prior to dipping those utensils that require a beracha(see question 3).
c) One must ensure that the entire object is immersed underwater. It is recommended that one wet their hands before dipping the utensils and hold them not too tight or loose upon immersing them in the mikveh. The Taz cites the Levush who advises passing the utensil from hand to hand underwater while immersing it. Some advise putting the utensil in a little bucket before immersing.
Which items are dipped
with a beracha (blessing) and which
require dipping withouta beracha?
Metal utensils requires dipping from the Torah (according to most authorities) with a beracha. According to Ashkenazim and many Sepharadim, glass bowls, Pyrex and the like require dipping with a beracha, though the Halabi(Syrian) custom is to dip glass without a beracha. Some advise dipping porcelain and china without a beracha. Hacham Ovadiah interestingly recommended dipping disposable non-plastic kiddushcup without a beracha.
Which serving plates require
dipping and which don’t?
Serving platters that one does not serve food on directly, such as tea saucers or chargers intended to enhance the decorum of the meal, do not require dipping. Serving platters which one puts food on directly require dipping before usage.
Are restaurants and hotels required
to dip their dishes?
There is a dispute amongst the halachic authorities on this matter. The Minhat Yitzhak and Darchei Teshuvah are of the opinion that one who owns a restaurant or hotel need not dip their dishes since these pots are not viewed as klei seudarather klei sechorah– commercial as opposed to personal utensils. However, R’ Moshe Feinstein requires these pots to be dipped before using.
Do items such as meat tenderizers
and metal rolling pins require dipping?
Meat tenderizers, metal rolling pins, potato peelers, and a knife used for slaughtering all don’t require dipping before usage since they are used in the early stages of food development or in directly preparing the food for immediate consumption. The Ben Ish Hai, however recommends dipping these items without a beracha.
If a utensil is composed of material
made from metal and plastic – such as
a baby spoon - does it require dipping?
The Avi Ezri is of the opinion that if there is any metal or glass at all on a utensil, regardless of whether or not it is on the inside or outside, it requires dipping. It should be noted, though, that Tosafot and the Rosh only require dipping if the metal part of the utensil is on the inside of it, touching the food. The Ran and Semag only require dipping if the entire vessel is covered with metal or glass. A hallahboard that contains glass requires dipping rabbinically. Teflon pots should be dipped without a beracha. As for baby spoons which contain metal and thermoses which contain metal or glass, Ashkenazim don’t require a berachalike the Gaon from Vilna, whereas most Sephardic Jews dip it without a berachalike the Ben Ish Hai. Any utensil upon which the food touches the metal or glass should be dipped without aberacha.
Which textures require a utensil
to be dipped?
The Torah mandates that metal utensils such as pots and pans require dipping before usage. Glass utensils, such as bowls and Pyrex require dipping from the Rabbis. Utensils used for food which contain lead or a metal coating also require dipping. Mugs, earthenware, stone, plastic, and wood utensils don’t require dipping. Regarding porcelain or china which are created with glass, some Rabbis advise dipping, since the glass content in them is minute and would not be able to be reconstructed if broken. As for aluminum, R’ Feinstein is of the opinion that items made of this material should be dipped me’dirabanan. However, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky and others, don’t require dipping aluminum at all.
Must one dip a utensil immediately upon
purchasing it or receiving it as a gift?
The Yam Shel Shlomo (Beitzah Ch. 25 Siman 19) is of the opinion that one needs to immediately dip utensils upon purchasing or receiving it, to avoid the pitfall of using it (even accidentally) before dipping it. However, most halachic authorities, including the Biur Halachah and Kaf Hachayim, don’t require immersing it immediately (in consideration of the fact that even if one used it without dipping the utensil first, it is only a rabbinic violation). There is what to rely on in notdipping it immediately if one intends to leave the utensil in the box and not use it for a while; it doesn’t acquire the title “keli seudah”until it is removed from the box.
May a child under Bar/Bat Mitzvah
or a gentile help to dip the dishes?
Since dipping utensils only require following the basic guidelines of dipping without any special “kavanah”(intention), one may allow a child under the age of 13 to assist in the dipping process, especially if an adult is present supervising that everything is dipped according to halacha. The only exception to this rule is metal utensils. Although one may have a gentile help him or her dip the utensils, one may not rely on the gentile to dip it properly without supervision. Furthermore, it is advisable not to allow the gentile to dip it all for you even when overseeing that the process is done in accordance with halacha, as the opportunity for you to make a berachawould be lost.