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Beit Midrash

Chapter Ten-Part Three

The Principles of Hagala

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8.The Principles of Hagala
As we have learned, a pot absorbs the taste of the foods cooked in it. Cooking has the capacity to mix the tastes of different foods with one another, and just as cooking can cause the taste of meat to be absorbed by potatoes cooked with it, so too it can cause the taste of a food to be absorbed in the walls of the pot in which it is cooked.
There are, however, different levels of intensity in cooking, and the operative principle is ke-bole’o kakh polto. Thus, if the absorption is caused by intense cooking, the koshering process must be equally intense. However, if the cooked food never reaches the temperature of yad soledet (45ºC according to the opinion that sets yad soledet at the lowest temperature), there is no reason to be concerned about absorption, and it is not necessary to perform hagala to kosher the utensil.
The levels of koshering are as follows:
A kli rishon on the flame: The most intense form of cooking is that of a kli rishon (the vessel in which the food is cooked) on a flame, where the fire heats the mixture of food continuously, causing its different tastes to be absorbed into each other and by the walls of the pot. Ke-bole’o kakh polto: In order to kosher such a vessel, one must immerse it into the boiling water of a kli rishon on a flame. It must be emphasized that even if the water in the pot was not boiling when the non-kosher food or ĥametz was absorbed, it must boil during hagala, because the principle of ke-bole’o kakh polto relates only to the type of absorption – kli rishon or kli sheni – but whenever dealing with absorption in a kli rishon on the burner, the koshering must be carried out with boiling water.
A kli rishon removed from the flame:This refers to a vessel that was heated over a flame and then removed, or the flame was extinguished. Such a vessel still has the capacity to cook, and food placed in it will become slightly cooked from the lingering heat from the fire. Nevertheless, the heat continuously dissipates, as does its capacity to cook. Therefore, it need not be koshered in a pot of boiling water on a flame; it is sufficient to place it in a kli rishon that is no longer on a flame.
Liquid poured ("irui") from a kli rishon: This has the capacity to cook the surface layer ("kedei klipa") of a food item. For example, if ĥametz soup was poured into a bowl from a kli rishon, the taste of ĥametz will be absorbed by the surface layer of the bowl but will not penetrate its entire width. To kosher such a bowl, it is sufficient to pour boiling water over it from a kli rishon.
A kli sheni:This refers to hot food that was first cooked in a vessel over fire and then transferred to a different one. The poskim disagree about whether such a food can cause its taste to be absorbed into the surface layer of other foods or utensils. For example, if one places a spoon in a kli sheni, some poskim say it will not absorb the taste of the food in the vessel, and others say it will. Regarding all other forbidden foods, SA (YD 105:2) rules that although, according to the prevailing opinion, hagala is not required, it is nonetheless proper to do so le-khatĥila. Regarding Pesaĥ, however, SA (451:5) rules that hagala is required. Due to the severity of the ĥametz prohibition, the lenient position is not even mentioned (Kaf Ha-ĥayim ad loc. 20).
Some are even stringent regarding a kli shlishi and beyond, that is, utensils at least twice removed from the vessel in which the food was cooked, maintaining that as long as a food remains at the temperature of yad soledet, a vessel will absorb its taste and must be koshered – ke-bole’o kakh polto. However, most poskim are lenient in this respect. Nevertheless, because of the gravity of the ĥametz prohibition, it is customarily preferable to be strict about koshering any vessel that contained ĥametz at the temperature of yad soledet. 10
9.What Determines the Type of Hagala: Main Use or Most Intense Absorption?
According to SA (451:6), if a utensil was sometimes used as a kli rishon and other times as kli sheni it is koshered based on majority usage. Thus, if it was used primarily as a kli sheni, it can be koshered like a kli sheni. Likewise, if it was sometimes used in fire, but primarily used as a kli rishon, it may be koshered in a kli rishon. And if it was sometimes used as a kli rishon, but primarily used cold, it can be koshered in cold water. According to Rema, on the other hand, the utensil must be koshered based upon its most intense usage, not according to its predominant use.
To illustrate, if a particular spoon is usually used to eat soup from a kli sheni, and occasionally used to stir food in a pot on the fire, Shulĥan Arukh maintains that it is koshered based on its primary usage, which in this case would mean hagala in a kli sheni, whereas according to Rema it must be koshered via hagala in a kli rishon, in keeping with its more intense form of absorption.
Rema’s rationale is that once the utensil has absorbed the taste of foods in a more intense fashion, the only way to remove what has been absorbed is by koshering the utensil with the same intensity. Shulĥan Arukh’s opinion is based upon the presumption that the koshering of the utensil takes place more than twenty-four hours after its last use, at which point the absorbed taste is foul. According to the Torah, such a utensil does not require hagala. The Sages, however, required that any utensil that has absorbed the taste of forbidden food be koshered, out of concern that if they were to permit the use of such utensils after twenty-four hours had elapsed, people might misjudge the time and inadvertently treat leniently utensils that had been used in the past twenty-four hours. But the Sages required that such utensils be koshered according to their common use, and not their most intense use.
In practice, the custom le-khatĥila is to be stringent and to kosher every utensil according to its most intense usage. Furthermore, even if a utensil’s most intense usage was irui, the custom today is to kosher all utensils in a kli rishon on a flame, in order to avoid a situation in which one has forgotten that a utensil was in fact used as a kli rishon on a flame. However, in extenuating circumstances, one may be lenient and kosher a utensil according to its primary use (MB 451:47; Kaf Ha-ĥayim ad loc. 100).
If a utensil was used primarily as a kli rishon and occasionally on the fire, even Rema allows koshering via light libun (MB ad loc. 48). If there is a concern that even light libun will damage the utensil, it is considered a be-di’avad situation, and one may kosher it in a kli rishon, in accordance with its primary use (Kaf Ha-ĥayim ad loc. 108). 11
10.Cleaning and Preparing Utensils for Hagala
A utensil must be cleaned properly before undergoing hagala, for although boiling water extracts the taste absorbed in the utensil, it does not clean the utensil of residual food stuck to its walls. If hagala is performed without first removing food residue, it is completely ineffective; the utensil must be cleaned, and hagala must be redone.
If the utensil has crevices containing food particles that cannot be removed, the residue can be incinerated via light libun. It is best to do so before performing hagala, but the utensil becomes kosher even if it the libun is done afterward (MB 451:25; see Kaf Ha-ĥayim 160).
If it is impractical to incinerate the food particles in these areas because it will damage the utensil, one may soak the utensil in a mixture of water and bleach or soap for a short while (thus rendering the food foul and inedible), and then perform hagala. 12
Pot and pan handles must also be koshered because when metal vessels are heated during cooking, the heat spreads to the handles, and if they reach the temperature of yad soledet, the taste might be transferred to them. The handles of wooden pots must also be koshered, even though they do not become very hot, because hot food often spills over or splashes onto them, and they absorb the taste. Therefore, both the utensil and its handles must undergo hagala (SA 451:12; MB ad loc. 68). However, even if the pot itself absorbs at a heat of a kli rishon over fire, its handles can be koshered through irui from a kli rishon, because they do not absorb with the same intensity as a kli rishon over fire (Rema 451:12).
Many pots have handles that are attached with small screws, and food particles get stuck in their grooves. Therefore, before performing hagala the bolts must be taken off so that all of these particles can be removed. If this is difficult to do, one may soak this area of the pot in a mixture of water and bleach or some other harsh liquid cleanser in order to render the food particles completely befouled. 13
11.The Reason to Wait Twenty-Four Hours before Hagala
It is customary not to perform hagala on a utensil until twenty-four hours have elapsed (and it is no longer "ben yomo") since the last time it absorbed a forbidden food. This is because the absorbed taste remains flavorful during these twenty-four hours, and if the boiling water is not sixty times the volume of the utensil, the water will absorb the forbidden taste and transfer it back into the walls of the utensil, rendering the hagala ineffective. But if twenty-four hours have elapsed, the taste in the utensil becomes foul, and the utensil can be koshered even if the water is not sixty times its volume. This is because the utensil releases a foul taste into the water, and such a taste will not render the utensil un-kosher, even if it is reabsorbed. The utensil is only rendered un-kosher if it absorbed positive flavor, in which case it remains un-kosher even once the flavor has become foul. However, if at the time of its absorption the taste was foul to begin with, the utensil is kosher.
Another reason for this twenty-four hour delay is our concern that meat and dairy utensils will undergo hagala in the same water. In such a case, the positive flavors of meat and milk will be released into the water, and if the water is not sixty times the volume of either the meat or the dairy, they will not be batel. Rather, these flavors mingle and then render all of the water forbidden. Consequently, any utensil that undergoes hagala in this water will absorb basar be-ĥalav (the forbidden mixture of milk and meat) and become forbidden. However, once the utensil is not ben yomo, the tastes of milk and of meat in the utensils is foul, and even if the tastes mingle within the water, they do not become forbidden, since noten ta’am li-fgam is permitted (SA 452:2; MB ad loc.). Accordingly, one must ensure that a large pot in which other utensils undergo hagala did not absorb the ben yomo taste of meat, milk, or ĥametz.
The common practice at public hagala stations is to presume that at least some of the utensils brought are not ben yomo. In order to avoid problems, a strong cleanser such as bleach or liquid soap is added to the water, thereby immediately rendering any taste released by the utensils foul. Consequently, there is no concern that meat and dairy flavors will mix or that the tastes released will be reabsorbed by the utensils, because once a taste has become foul, it cannot render utensils forbidden. 14
^ 10.. A kli rishon on the flame must always be koshered in boiling water. Whether its temperature was just barely yad soledet or beyond the boiling point at the time of the absorption, all absorption in a utensil on the fire is treated uniformly and the utensil must always be koshered in boiling water. This principle is explained beautifully in R. Pfeiffer’s Kitzur SA, Basar Be-ĥalav vol. 2. However, some authorities maintain that even a utensil sitting on the fire is subject to the standard principle of ke-bole’o kakh polto, meaning that if it absorbed taste at 80ºC it releases the taste at the same temperature. See Sidur Pesaĥ Ke-hilkhato 1:4, SAH 451, and Kaf Ha-ĥayim ad loc. 82.
Regarding a kli rishon not on the flame, most poskim agree that the koshering process must be done at a temperature of yad soledet bo, as stated in MA OĤ 451:7, Pri Ĥadash 452:3, and Pri Megadim 451 (Mishbetzot Zahav 9). However, Sidur Pesaĥ Ke-hilkhato 1:4 mentions opinions that the koshering temperature must be the same as the absorption temperature, so to avoid uncertainty it is best to kosher such a utensil in boiling water. The temperature of yad soledet is uncertain, somewhere between 45ºC and 71ºC (see Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 1:10:7), so to kosher a utensil, the water must be at least 71ºC. On the other hand, if the utensil was used at a temperature of at least 45ºC, there is concern that absorption took place and therefore one should be stringent.
Most poskim maintain that a kli sheini does not absorb, but due to the stringent nature of the prohibition of ĥametz, they mandated hagala. Be-di’avad, if the utensil was not koshered and was later inserted into hot food, the food is not forbidden (MB 451:11). The vast majority of poskim maintain that a kli shlishi does not absorb at all. Even so, several authorities insist that every utensil, even ten times removed from the fire, must be koshered if its contents reached the temperature of yad soledet (Pri Ĥadash). See Hagalat Kelim 5:52. This is the le-khatĥila practice.
We should also note that the poskim disagree about the status of a solid food ("davar gush") at the temperature of yad soledet: According to Rabbeinu Yona, Me’iri, Maharshal, Shakh, and MA, even if it is in a kli shlishi, the food has the status of a kli rishon removed from the flame, since it retains its heat. Conversely, according to Tosafot, Ran, Rema, and Gra, the food assumes the status of the utensil that contains it. Regarding hagala, the custom is to kosher such utensils in boiling water on the fire.
^ 11.. Among the authorities who rule leniently and allow one to kosher utensils based on main usage: Rif, Rambam, Ran, and Rashba. The authorities who require koshering based on the most intense usage are: She’iltot, Rashi, Tosafot, and Raavya. These groups disagree about ĥametz as well as other prohibitions. There is another reason to be stringent regarding ĥametz alone: According to Rema 447:10, even ĥametz that contributes foul taste (noten ta’am li-fgam) renders other foods forbidden; therefore, one must perform the most intense form of hagala on such a pot. On the other hand, regarding absorption that takes place due to fire, there is a reason to be lenient, namely, there is an opinion that a pot that absorbs ĥametz before Pesaĥ is considered to have absorbed permissible matter (heteira bala). We calculate majority and minority usage based on use with ĥametz that requires koshering; in other words, a utensil that is primarily used for cold permitted food and was used once for hot ĥametz must undergo hagala in boiling water. However, if most of the ĥametz usage was cold, as in the case of a table or countertop, it can be cleaned with cold water according to SA, even though it was occasionally used with hot ĥametz (Ĥazon Ish OĤ 119:15; and see Hagalat Kelim 4:8-17). Since we know that Kaf Ha-ĥayim (451:100 and 107) states that the preferable custom is to be stringent and kosher the utensil according to its minority usage, and Rema and MB also state that one may only rely on the lenient opinion be-di’avad (see SHT ad loc. 144 and Hagalat Kelim 4 n. 18, against the implication of SAH 451:28 and 33, that this leniency is only be-di’avad), I have written that preferably one should be stringent and follow the minority usage, but in extenuating circumstances one may be lenient. This is true according to all customs. Regarding forks that are sometimes used in fire, there is an additional reason to be lenient and require only hagala – the fork that was used in the fire is batel in the majority of forks that were not.
^ 12.. Obviously, once the food residue in the crevices absorbs the taste of the soap, it is no longer edible and thus no longer forbidden (see also Hagalat Kelim 6:4). This seems problematic, though, as MA 451:5, Taz, and many other Aĥaronim state that knives comprised of two pieces cannot be koshered due to the food residue that is stuck in the groove between the pieces. They did not raise the option of simply befouling the taste of the food stuck in between. Perhaps a distinction can be drawn between the crevices that are near the food and grooves that are further away, like where the handle connects with the utensil (see SAH 451:21, which makes this distinction when be-di’avad one forgot to kosher the handle of a utensil). In truth, even the case of the knife needs further examination, since the reason for the rabbinic prohibition against using a utensil even twenty-four hours after absorbing prohibited matter is so that one will not mistakenly use a utensil within twenty-four hours of the absorption. However, the Sages did not include the food stuck in the grooves in this prohibition, and if this food is not fit for a dog’s consumption, it is no longer considered ĥametz. Perhaps one need not take the words of the Aĥaronim literally; rather, they just meant to teach that when the utensil has nicks and grooves that may have trapped ĥametz, simply performing hagala is insufficient. This matter requires further examination.
^ 13.. Regarding a pot in which one cooked prohibited food, if it is known that the pot did not boil over and its handles did not become hot, there is no need to kosher the handles. It is sufficient to boil water inside the pot, as will be explained below (section 13). Additionally, if the handles got hot but are attached to the pot with screws, they do not have to be koshered, since taste does not transfer from metal to metal. Similarly, if one accidentally put a dairy spoon into a meat pot, one must only kosher the section of the spoon that was submerged in the pot and the section that got hot, but not the rest. However, one must kosher the handles of a ĥametz pot, since there is a concern that perhaps during the year some ĥametz splattered onto the handles. Similarly, if one wants to kosher a ĥametz spoon, he must perform hagala on the entire thing; see MB 451:68.
^ 14.. These principles are explained in SA 453:1-2 and in MB 1 ad loc. One who wishes to perform hagala must ensure that one of two conditions is met: 1) the utensil is not ben yomo, rendering any absorbed taste foul and thus incapable of rendering the utensil forbidden, even if reabsorbed; 2) the boiling water is sixty times the volume of the utensil’s walls, so that any taste released into the water is batel be-shishim. If many utensils are undergoing hagala, clearly the water will not have sixty times the volume of all the utensils collectively, so the custom is to kosher only utensils that are not ben yomo, lest the water have less than sixty times the volume of the utensils’ walls (Rema 452:2 and MB 20 ad loc.). These rules pertain to any forbidden food absorbed into a utensil, except for ĥametz. Regarding ĥametz, SA 452:1 states that if one boils a ĥametz utensil before the ĥametz actually becomes forbidden, hagala is effective even if the utensil is ben yomo, and even if the quantity of boiled water is less than sixty times that of the utensil walls, since the ĥametz was permitted at the time of its absorption. The only reason the utensil needs to be koshered is that it contains the taste of ĥametz in its walls, and taste that is released into boiling water and then reabsorbed into the utensil is not sufficient reason to require the utensil to undergo hagala again, as the reabsorbed taste is already twice removed from the original food (noten ta’am bar noten ta’am, or nat bar nat). One need only take care not to kosher ben yomo meat and dairy utensils together. Many questioned this ruling of SA, since in 451:4 it states that one must kosher utensils using libun if they absorbed ĥametz by fire, which means that SA follows those who maintain that ĥametz before Pesaĥ is considered "isura bala." How, then, can it state in 452:4 that ĥametz before Pesaĥ is considered "heteira bala"? Indeed, Olat Shabbat, Pri Ĥadash, and Bi’ur Ha-Gra maintain that even when koshering a ĥametz utensil before the onset of the prohibition of ĥametz, one must ensure either that the utensil is not ben yomo or that there is enough water that anything absorbed in the walls of the utensil is batel be-shishim. This is the custom that is followed. (Perhaps, though, we can solve SA’s apparent contradiction as follows: Hagala addresses a situation of nat bar nat bar nat, in which the taste is thrice removed from its origins. Thus, SA felt it was appropriate to rely on the lenient opinion. But in the libun case, the taste is only once removed from its origins, so SA ruled stringently.)
Regarding whether one may perform hagala on Pesaĥ: According to SA, it is permissible as long as the utensil is not ben yomo; merely having enough water is insufficient, since on Pesaĥ ĥametz is not batel be-shishim. According to Rema (447:10), even a drop of foul-tasting ĥametz renders forbidden whatever absorbs it on Pesaĥ. Thus, there is no permissible method of hagala on Pesaĥ. Only libun, which incinerates the taste absorbed in the utensil, is permitted on Pesaĥ.
Le-khatĥila, no other substance is mixed with the water used for hagala, as explained in Rema 452:5. Be-di’avad, hagala is effective in any liquid. MB ad loc. 26 states in the name of Pri Megadim that if Pesaĥ had not yet begun, one should re-kosher the utensil in boiling water alone. Nevertheless, in communal hagala it is difficult to ensure that everyone’s utensils are not ben yomo, and since we want to avoid any problems that could arise from mixing meat and dairy utensils, the custom is to add soap or bleach to the boiling water. See Sidur Pesaĥ Ke-hilkhato 7:20, which states that the validity of the hagala only comes into question if the water becomes thickened from the added substances. In n. 7 ad loc. it states in the name of Ĥazon Ish that it is preferable to use cleaning fluids to avoid the potential problem of mixing milk and meat and to avoid relying on the opinion that ĥametz before Pesaĥ is considered "isura bala."
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