By: Rabbi Mordechai Mishanieh
1. What is the missva of tevilat kelim?
When a Jew acquires certain utensils that were made by a gentile, even if it was sold to him by a Jew, he is required to immerse the utensil in a mikveh in order to spiritually purify it. This applies even if the gentile never used the utensil.
Additionally, even if the utensil was made by a Jew but was sold to him by a non-Jew the utensil needs to be immersed.
2. Which types of utensils require immersion?
Any utensil that is made from metal, glass or crystal and is used for eating, food preparation or food storage must be immersed. Wood and earthenware vessels do not require immersion, but if they are coated with glass, such as china, they must be immersed without a beracha. Disposable utensils need not be immersed.
3. How does one immerse the utensil?
Before immersing the utensil in the mikveh, one must ensure there is no dirt or debris on its surface that would prevent the water from touching it. Special attention should be given to removing all residue from stickers or labels. Water must come in contact with all parts of the utensil, including the interior.
One should loosely grasp the vessel with the right hand when immersing it in the water. Since grasping too tightly may prevent full contact with the water, one may first wet his hands with water from the mikveh and then hold the utensil tightly.
If, after cleaning the utensil some residue or stain remains, but the owner of the untesil and most people do not mind if this kind of residue remains, then the stain does not disqualify the immersion, as long as it covers only a minority of the vessel.
4. When may a utensil be immersed?
One may immerse a utensil either during the day or by night on any day other than Shabbat or Yom Tov.
5. What beracha is recited for this missva?
If one immerses only one utensil, then he recites the beracha in the singular form: “Baruch Atta… asher kideshanu…al tevilat keli.” If he immerses two or more utensils, then the beracha is recited in the plural form: “…al tevilat kelim.” If one recited the singular version of the beracha for multiple utensils or vice versa, he has nonetheless fulfilled his obligation and does not repeat the beracha.
One should not recite the beracha when immersing only utensils which do not fully prepare foods, such as meat grinders, or utensils that are only used for food storage and are not brought to the table.
6. What should one do if immersion is not feasible?
If one does not have access to a mikveh or if immersing the utensil would permanently damage the item, such as an electric appliance with sensitive circuitry, the utensil may be disassembled (if possible) or given to a Jewish repairman to take apart in a way that renders it useless and would require a professional to reassemble. Then, when a Jew reassembles the utensil, it will be considered as having been made by a Jew such that it does not require immersion.
If this is not feasible, then one can give the utensil to a gentile, making him the legal owner, and then borrow the utensil from the gentile forever. Since the utensil would technically be the property of the gentile,it would not require immersion.
7. What is the halacha if one is unsure whether a utensil was immersed?
If one is unsure whether a certain utensil was immersed, he should immerse it without reciting a beracha. Similarly, if a utensil that was not immersed got mixed with other utensils which were immersed, and one cannot tell them apart, all the utensils should be immersed without a beracha.
8. Who is qualified to perform the immersion?
Anyone may immerse a utensil, including minors and gentiles. However, if a minor or gentile immerses a utensil, it should be done in the presence of a Jewish adult who can bear legal witness that the utensil was immersed. A Jewish adult does not have to be present with a child in the case of a glass utensil, which requires immersion only by force of rabbinic enactment. Also, a utensil which fell into a mikveh unintentionally does not have to be immersed again.
9. Can a utensil be used before immersion?
One may not use a utensil that requires immersion but had not yet been immersed. A utensil which was not made for eating or food preparation may be used occasionally for these purposes without being immersed. While one may not eat with utensils that were not immersed, food which was cooked using vessels that were not immersed may be eaten.
10. May one dip a utensil that he plans to give as a gift?
One who wishes to give his friend a utensil that requires immersion should not immerse it before he gives it to his friend. However, once his friend takes legal ownership over the utensil, he may perform the immersion on his behalf, even without his knowledge. In such a case, if it can be assumed that the owner of the utensil would consent to the immersion, one can also recite a beracha over the immersion, even without the owner’s knowledge.