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Disposable Pans & Electrical Devices

By Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Administrative Rabbinic Coordinator

Q. Do I have to toveil disposable aluminum pans and electric devices?

A. Metal or glass utensil used in the preparation or consumption of food, must undergo tevillah when a Jew acquires it from a non-Jew.  At first glance, this should include aluminum pans and electrical devices, since they are both made of metal, but as we will see, not all agree with that.

Contemporary Poskim have voiced different opinions as to whether disposable aluminum pans require tevillah.  Rav Elyashiv said that tevillah is required since they are made of metal and have direct contact with the food during cooking.  In contrast, Minchas Yitzchak notes that as relates to hilchos tumah, a disposable utensil does not have the status of a “kli”, and anything which is not a “kli” as relates to tumah is also not a “kli” that requires tevillas keilim.  Therefore, his opinion is that disposable aluminum pans do not require tevillah at all.  A third opinion is reported by several talmidim of Rav Moshe Feinstein, that if a person uses the pan only once, then tevillah is not required, but if they plan on using it more than once, then they must perform tevillah even before using it the first time.

Manufacturers of electronic devices all say that submerging the device in water – as would be done for tevillas keilim – will ruin the device. Several Poskim suggest that this, itself, is a reason why tevillah is not required, as follows:  Rema (YD 120:11) says that an item which is owned by a Jew and non-Jew in partnership, does not require tevillah.  Shach explains that it is not that the non-Jew’s partnership is a reason why tevillah is not required, but rather that as long as he is there, he retains some ownership, and, therefore, it is not possible to perform tevillah.  Every time the utensil comes out of the mikvah, it requires a fresh tevillah due to the ongoing non-Jewish ownership.

That explains why tevillah is not possible, but why can you use the item if it is required to have tevillah but did not yet have it?  The answer is that although there is a mitzvah d’oraisah to perform tevillas keilim, the prohibition against using the utensil before tevillah is only Rabbinic in nature.  Chazal created that prohibition as a way of “encouraging” people to toveil their dishes, but in cases where it is impossible to perform that mitzvah, the Rabbinic prohibition does not apply, and the person may use the utensil without tevillah.

In other words, the Rabbis do not punish a person for failing to do something which is physically impossible.  Therefore, since tevillah cannot be performed (due to the non-Jewish partner), the issur d’rabannan to not use a utensil before tevillah does not apply.  The same logic is applied to the case of electrical appliances.  Those electrical appliances which will get ruined by tevillah are like the utensil owned by a Jew and non-Jew in that both cannot physically undergo tevillah.  The utensil with a non-Jewish partner cannot have tevillah because tevillah is not effective, and the electrical appliance cannot have tevillah because the tevillah will break it, but the result is the same: in both cases it is not possible to perform tevillah before using the item.  Therefore, since the mitzvah d’oraisah of tevillah is not possible, the issur d’rabannan against using an item before tevillah does not apply.

This article first appeared in the Let’s Talk Kashrus column, Yated Ne’eman, June 9, 2023.