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Yes, we tovel due to Bamidbar 31:23, but what is the logic?

I am looking for an explanation that will address the following questions.

Do we tovel to kasher or to remove tuma or for another reason?

In either case, why cannot a peson tovel a dish for subsequent owner? ("Therefore a shopkeeper does not have to Tovel his inventory, indeed, even if he does so it won’t help for the customer." http://www.torahlab.org/doitright/dipping_your_dishes .)

Why does it matter if you own the dishes, or if the dishes are owned by another Jew or owned by a commercial enterprise? (See Eating on someone else's untoveled dishes.)

Perhaps plastic is relevant to this question. We do not, as a rule, tovel plastic dishes. Can plastic become tamei? Surely, plastic can become non-kosher.

Sources for not toveling plastic: http://www.star-k.org/kashrus/kk-containers-tevilas.htm http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/662253/jewish/Immersing-Utensils.htm

  • Plastic cannot become Tamei (yet). – Double AA Apr 28 '15 at 2:02
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Tevilat keilim is a separate mitzva (neither directly related to kashrut nor to tumah) that is most plausibly compared to the ritual immersion of a person who commits himself to the service of G-d by joining the Jewish people. In a similar vein, a utensil that originally had been owned by a non-Jew, when it now is "consecrated" for use by the "mamlechet kohanim" (Kingdom of Priests) also must first be ritually immersed in a mikvah.

In fact one could argue that for those born into the Jewish faith, the only direct connection they have to the tevilah (ritual immersion) of gerut (conversion) is through tevilat keilim. Keilim (utensils) in general are an extension of the body which is itself a keli (utensil) which can be used for the service of G-d or for mundane/secular matters. When a ger (convert) draws close to G-d by joining His service he is consecrating his body toward that end. Similarly, whenever he acquires a new utensil that was originally from the mundane/secular world, to use in his newly-consecrated life devoted to G-d, he must also first ritually immerse that utensil for that service. (See also http://halachipedia.com/index.php?title=Tevilat_Keilim.)

Since the mitzvah is based on the "consecration" of the utensil for the use of a Jew, it is only binding when the Jew first acquires it for actual use, not if he is merely reselling it. It is only when he plans to use it that it is conceptually an extension of his actual body, and therefore requiring of tevilah.

As far as why there is room for leniency for a guest, see, e.g., http://www.dinonline.org/2014/04/13/eating-from-non-toveled-dishes-2/:

There is a prohibition, in principle, against using dishes that were not toveled (Rema, Yoreh De’ah 120:8). Authorities discuss the nature of this prohibition (rabbinic or Torah).

This obligation applies specifically to the owner of the dishes. However, somebody who borrows dishes from a Jew also needs to ensure they are toveled, and a guest is possible considered as a sho’el.

However, it is possible that somebody eating as a guest is not considered as “borrowing” the dishes, because it is the owner’s use to have guests in his home (see Shut Beis Avi no. 116).

Rav Shlomo Zalman adds a point in that if the guest has an obligation to take the food out of the dish to place it in another (toveled) dish, he can for the same price place it in his mouth (Tevillas Keilim p. 86). This will apply specifically to dishes and not to cutlery.

Another consideration is the status of porcelain (china) dishes. These dishes might be considered kli cheres (earthenware) and therefore exempt from the obligation of tevillah, though most are stringent to tovel them because of their similarity (today) to glass. Again, this consideration will not apply to cutlery.

Therefore, because of the noted considerations there is room for leniency under extenuating circumstances (though for cutlery one should try to avoid the use of non-toveled metal cutlery).

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    Whence your claim that shopkeepers can tovel (a claim directly contradicted by the source in the question)? It's not klei seudah for them, but klei otzar. See too judaism.stackexchange.com/q/14213/759 – Double AA Apr 27 '15 at 17:06
  • @loewian If the problem is Tuma, why may we eat from untoveled dishes owned by a commercial establishment or another Jew? Also, tuma could be a problem for something owned by a Jew. Also, how do we square the idea that we do not sell our hametz dishes before Pesach for fear that it would trigger a requirement to tovel them on return, with the fact that our dishes are always securely stored in our homes. How could they become tamei? – Yehuda W Apr 27 '15 at 21:50
  • @YehudaW "why may we eat from untoveled dishes owned by a commercial establishment or another Jew" Who said we can? – Double AA Apr 28 '15 at 2:01
  • @DoubleAA I deleted that bit for now. – Loewian Apr 28 '15 at 3:08
  • @YehudaW I've edited the question substantially. Indeed the connection to tumah is loose at best. – Loewian Apr 28 '15 at 4:23

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