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Tevila of Something that Turns into a “Meal Utensil”

I received an ornamental honey dispenser and glass plate. I want to use the plate every Shabbat to hold challa rolls for lechem mishneh. Does it require tevilat keilim, assuming that it was made by a non-Jew(ish company)?

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Rabbi Daniel Mann

Cheshvan 25 5782
Question: I received an ornamental honey dispenser and glass plate. I want to use the plate every Shabbat to hold challa rolls for lechem mishneh. Does it require tevilat keilim, assuming that it was made by a non-Jew(ish company)?

Answer: You correctly imply that you could use the plate for its intended purpose without tevilat keilim, as we will illustrate. The gemara (Avoda Zara 75b) posits that only "klei seuda" (utensils for meals) require tevila, and the poskim understand that it must be used to come in direct contact with food, as opposed to serving/touching a utensil that holds food (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 120:4), e.g., the plate for the dispenser.

What happens when something is designed for a purpose to which tevila does not apply but is now being used for a purpose that requires it, e.g., a plate for bread. The Rama (YD 120:8, based on the Issur V’heter 58:85), says that if one bought and uses a knife for cutting parchment, he may not use it, even occasionally, for cutting food. Most of the classic commentaries of the Shulchan Aruch/Rama seem to accept this ruling. On the other hand, the Pri Chadash (ad loc. 19) argues, invoking a (not unanimous) rule (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 451:6) regarding the companion halachot of hechsher keilim (kashering) that determinations of status follow the majority of usage. Here, says the Pri Chadash, all should agree that if the majority of usage is such that does not require tevilat keilim, it is not required.

The two opinions likely disagree as to the heart of tevilat keilim – is it the mitzva to do the tevila or the lack of permission to use the kli before tevila. Logically, the mitzva should depend on the overall status, but not using without tevila could apply to even sporadic usage. Our chakira likely gives us the opposite outcome in a case where a kli requires tevila but one wants to use it beforehand for a non-seuda use. If it the main point is the usage prohibition, this is likely only relevant to seuda uses. If the main thing is a tevila obligation, then it might be necessary to not use it for anything before discharging one’s obligation. See Chelkat Binyamin (p. 284) for opinions on this matter.

As far as practical halacha is concerned, Chelkat Binyamin (120:68) finds it difficult to ignore the near consensus of the classical poskim who requiring tevila before any seuda usage. He also does not dismiss the Pri Chadash and therefore advocates not making a beracha on that tevila. Rav Zvi Cohen (Hagalat Keilim 1:2) rules like the Pri Chadash regarding keilim whose purpose is not as a kli seuda, as the Aruch Hashulchan (YD 120:40) agrees fundamentally and this is apparently the more prevalent practice. There is also more room for leniency regarding a glass utensil, where the maximum obligation is Rabbinic (see Hagalat Keilim 1:3; see Chochmat Adam 73:8 regarding a similar context)) or when there are other grounds for exemption.

However, in your case, the lenient opinions do not suffice. That is because when one decides to change a non-kli seuda into a kli seuda, it becomes obligated in tevila. As we find such decisions change the status even to remove a tevilat keilim obligation (Shach, YD 120:17), all the more should it add an obligation. Perhaps you were thinking about Rav Moshe Feinstein’s novel leniency (Igrot Moshe YD II:40) that one who buys a container that does not require tevila because it is disposable and decides to use it regularly does not thereby create a tevila requirement. However, his (not unanimous) idea is that we view it as a Jew "creating" the status of a kli, and one can even exempt himself from tevila by physically undoing a kli status and then have a Jew repair/restore it (Pitchei Teshuva, YD 120:1). There is no precedent that a kli that was not yet obligated in tevila when acquired from a non-Jew would not become obligated later based on a new usage (see Shulchan Aruch, YD 120:8). Therefore, barring other grounds for exemption, the plate needs tevila before it can be used regularly for challa.
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