Does tovelling, either for vessels or a person, require kavanah (intent) to achieve the purification?
Let's say someone went bathing in the river, or for whatever reason just fell in naked; for dishes, someone could have just dropped it.

The entire concept of tumah and taharah seems to be of a spiritual/mental nature, which is why it might seem that you need to intend to purify yourself/dishes. On the other hand, the end result either way is that it was dunked in the water.

  • Why is this different from the general machloket over whether mitzvot need kavanah?
    – Daniel
    Jul 1, 2015 at 19:37
  • @Daniel Someone asked specifically about tvilah, so i did some research into tvilah specifically.
    – Scimonster
    Jul 1, 2015 at 19:38
  • 3
    @Daniel Because Tevila may not be a Mitzva, and it may be possible to become pure without fulfilling any Mitzva of Tevilla even if there is one.
    – Double AA
    Jul 1, 2015 at 20:58
  • Can't locate it ATM, but there was a mi.y question about geirus and accidental tevilla a while ago
    – MTL
    Jul 2, 2015 at 0:07

2 Answers 2


This is a machloket in Chulin 31a.

נדה שנאנסה וטבלה אמר רב יהודה אמר רב טהורה לביתה ואסורה לאכול בתרומה ור' יוחנן אמר אף לביתה לא טהרה

A nidah who did not intend to tovel (will be explained later): Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav that she is pure for "her house" (i.e. to be with her husband), but still isn't able to eat trumah. Rabi Yochanan said that she isn't pure for either one. (translation/explanation mine)

As for what נאנסה וטבלה (i translated as "did not intend to tovel") means, this is explained by the Gemara on the next amud:

היכי דמי נדה שנאנסה וטבלה אילימא דאנסה חבירתה ואטבלה כוונה דחברתה כוונה מעלייתא היא ועוד בתרומה נמי אכלה [דתנן החרשת והשוטה והסומא ושנטרפה דעתה אם יש להן פקחות מתקנות אותן אוכלות בתרומה] א"ר פפא לר' נתן שנפלה מן הגשר ולרבנן שירדה להקר:

How does this case work? If we say that her friend pushed her in -- her friend had kavanah, and she would even be allowed to eat trumah. [Source from a mishnah -- snipped.] Rav Pappa said: According to Rav Natan, if she fell off a bridge; according to the Rabbis, if she went in to cool off [and fell in fully - Rashi]. (translation/explanation mine)

The opinions of Rav Natan and the Rabbis were delineated in the Gemara before my first quote, with regards to shchita -- Rav Natan didn't require any kavanah at all, while the Rabbis require some measure of intent.

The poskim are split on this, with the Rambam and the Mechaber ruling like Rav, that tevillah without kavanah works for chulin (ordinary things) but not for kodesh, while the Rema is machmir, and says that one should still tovel again with proper kavanah.

Rambam Hilchot Mikva'ot 1:8:

כל הטובל צריך להתכוין לטבילה ואם לא נתכוין עלתה לו טבילה לחולין אפילו נדה שטבלה בלא כוונה כגון שנפלה לתוך המים או ירדה להקר הרי זו מותרת לבעלה אבל לתרומה ולקדשים אינה טהורה עד שתטבול בכוונה.

Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De'ah 198:48:

נִדָּה שֶׁטָּבְלָה בְּלֹא כַּוָּנָה, כְּגוֹן שֶׁנָּפְלָה לְתוֹךְ הַמַּיִם אוֹ שֶׁיָּרְדָה לְהָקֵר, הֲרֵי זוֹ מֻתֶּרֶת לְבַעֲלָהּ. הַגָּה: וְיֵשׁ מַחְמִירִין וּמַצְרִיכִין אוֹתָהּ טְבִילָה אַחֶרֶת (בֵּית יוֹסֵף בְּשֵׁם רַשְׁבָּ''א וְר' יְרוּחָם וְרוֹקֵחַ וְהַגָּהוֹת אֲשֵׁרִ''י) ; וְיֵשׁ לְהַחְמִיר לְכַתְּחִלָּה.

According to the lenient view: Practically [it seems to me], since we don't have trumah or korbanot nowadays, it means that tevillah without kavanah works.
Note that this is all b'dieved -- lechatchila one should have kavanah.

I only answer the issue of t'vilah for purifying, which is different from ordinary t'vilat keilim for vessels purchased from gentiles.

  • See YD 198:48 beta.hebrewbooks.org/tursa.aspx?a=yd_x5558 as well as OC 159:13 beta.hebrewbooks.org/tursa.aspx?a=oc_x961 The Rambam is not the only opinion on the matter.
    – Double AA
    Jul 1, 2015 at 19:45
  • 2
    One quibble--at the end of your answer, "Practically [it seems to me], since we don't have trumah or korbanot nowadays, it means that tevillah without kavanah works." According to R. Yochanan, you need kavanah for chullin as well, and a major group of rishonim rule like R. Yochanan, as the Rama notes
    – wfb
    Jul 1, 2015 at 20:21
  • 1
    By the way, this doesn't discuss what kavanah would be required if you need kavanah--see Rashash in Chullin ibid.
    – wfb
    Jul 1, 2015 at 20:22
  • @wfb That was left over from a previous revision - clarified that it's according to the lenient view.
    – Scimonster
    Jul 1, 2015 at 20:23
  • 1
    Rashash: hebrewbooks.org/…
    – wfb
    Jul 1, 2015 at 20:28

Regarding tevilas keilim, the Shulchan Aruch paskens (YD 120:15) that a non-Jew can dip the keilim. The Shach (120:28) points out that this means tevilas keilim does not require kavanah, even if tevilas niddah does require kavanah. However, the Gra argues: the reason this is valid is because tevilah never requires kavanah, but if tevilas niddah would need kavanah, then tevilas keilim would as well.

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