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If a dish (or the like) is used primarily for such use as doesn't demand that the owner tovel it, but occasionally for such use as does demand t'vila, then does the owner need to tovel it?

Here are some possible examples:

  • If food won't directly touch a dish, and that's how the dish is normally used, it doesn't require t'vila (CYLOR). Consider a metal bowl that's purchased for serving bread wrapped in napkins, and that's its normal use, and it's used that way primarily, but it's used occasionally for serving bread without napkins.
  • Consider a vase marketed for use with flowers, but purchased (and used) for use primarily with flowers but occasionally to serve licorice ropes.
  • Consider something marketed as a candy dish but purchased (and used) as a decorative dish for holding pretty beads — but used occasionally as a candy dish.
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+50

See Yoreh Deah siman 120 siff 8 where the Ramma explicitly says that a non-food item utensil can not be used even temporarily for food.

But there is an interesting side point where we find that a utensil which does not need tevila but might come to be used for food should be toveled anyway, as a precautionary measure, albeit without a bracha. See there siff 5 concerning a knife used for slaughtering. The Mechaber brings an opinion that it does not need tevila, the reason brought in the Shach is this is not called an item used for meal use as the animal is still lacking being cooked or roasted. The Ramma brings a dissenting opinion and says it's better to be tovel them without a blessing. He goes on to say that the metal devices used for preparing the Matzah do not need tevila.

The Shach there #11 explains the reasoning of the Ramma to differentiate between the slaughtering knife and the matzah devices is a slaughtering knife can sometimes be used for a food item which would necessitate its being toveled, whereas the matzah device are not used for any other food. The Gra #14 takes issue with this Shach quoting multiple sources that a knife for slaughtering is never used for anything else and ends off saying we don't go after the possible uses but rather actual use.

The Pischei Tshuva #6 brings a Shev Yaakov concerning a ladle of sorts used for baking which would not need tevila but is sometimes used for making tea. He entertains the thought that it does not need tevila as we judge it by the majority of it's use. Unfortunately in this singular instance the Pischei Tshuva left out the fact that the Shev Yaakov wrote this according to the opinion of the Mechaber, not the Ramma and the little va'v was printed in the text of the Ramma so it is confusing. But taking the parallel of this opinion in the Ramma and that of the Shach into consideration, what we end up with is an opinion of the Ramma to tovel, without a Bracha, the utensils which may be used in the future. According to the Gra, this would not be a necessary precaution, but once one chooses to actually use it, it would need tevila at that point. He points to siff 8 and there in the Ramma we find explicitly as mentioned before that tevila is needed before its actual use.

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Consider the case of a "magic fork". You know those magician wands that "break" as soon as someone else picks it up? Well, we had a fork like that. It's not intended for food, but can theoretically be used to eat, if you're willing to risk it breaking on you. :)

At the time, i was told by a rabbi that it couldn't be used (even just on the once-in-a-blue-moon occasion) without being tovelled.

  • If the fork broke and you put it back together, it might not need Tevilah at all, as it was made by a Jew. – Double AA Jul 18 '16 at 17:08
  • @DoubleAA the break I'm referring to here is not actually broken - the fork is on a hinge. – Scimonster Jul 18 '16 at 17:50

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