In this week’s Parsha, the Jewish people fought a battle with Midyan whom they defeated. They captured many spoils and came to Moshe with a difficult question. Among the captured spoil were utensils that had been used by the Midyanites. These were utensils that had been used for non-kosher foods. Therefore, the Jewish people wanted to know what they could do - if anything - to make them useable.
Elazar the son of Aharon answered the people, “Gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead, anything that comes in fire you shall pass it through fire, but it must be purified with the waters of sprinkling. And anything that does not come through fire, you shall pass through water.”
Rashi explains that “its koshering is done in the manner that it is used. That which is used for cooking by hot water is koshered in hot water. That which is used for cooking by roasting, such as a spit and grill, he shall make it white hot in fire. The Torah also requires immersion in a mikva to cleanse them of impurity. Anything not used on the fire, such as cups and jars, and have not absorbed forbidden matter, must be immersed in a mikva and that is enough. This is only true of metal vessels.” Those are the words of Rashi.
Since the laws of “toveling” utensils is mentioned in the Parsha, I thought that it would be good to “immerse” ourselves a bit in the laws of “toveling” utensils in the mikva – get our feet a little wet in the subject.
The Torah speaks here of two different procedures necessary to render utensils fit for use. One procedure is that they must be kashered if they were used for non-kosher. They are kashered in the same manner that they were used. The second procedure is dipping – “toveling” - them in the mikva to purify them. Dipping itself is not enough to kasher utensils.
What types of utensils require “toveling”? The Torah only mentions utensils made from metal. Therefore, those types of utensils are the only ones that require “toveling” as prescribed in the Torah. The Rabbis also require “toveling” glass because it has characteristics like metal. Pottery is not mentioned in the Parsha.
Therefore, new pottery does not require “toveling”. Glazed utensils require “toveling”. Plastic, ceramic, china, etc. – anything not made from metal or glass – does not require “toveling”. Also, a utensil made by a Jew does not require “toveling.”
What is the procedure for “toveling”? First, all stickers and attachments must be removed from the utensil. Then, the entire utensil, including the handles, must be immersed at one time and it only has to be for a moment. A bracha is said before “toveling” utensils. (The bracha is always said before doing the mitzvah because it is a preparation for the mitzvah. Shabbos candles are an exception because of no choice; therefore, the women cover their eyes). Only utensils used for serving or handling food require “toveling.
What about borrowed utensils? If they are borrowed from a Jew and the Jew has not immersed them in the mikva, they must be “toveled.” If a Jew retrieved his utensils that were stolen, they do not require mikva immersion.
A boy under 13 or girl less than 12 cannot fulfill one’s obligation to “tovel” utensils unless it is done under adult supervision. One cannot “tovel” utensils on Shabbos or Yom Tov. If one by mistake used a utensil without “toveling” it, the food is still edible (assuming the person knows how to cook) and the utensil should be “toveled” later.
There are many basic laws in the Torah that we should become more familiar with them. Since eating is a favorite pastime and is required every Shabbos and Yom Tov, we should make sure that what goes into our mouths goes in with the proper preparation. That brings spirituality and holiness into our physical action of eating. Through increased spirituality and holiness, we can raise ourselves and the Jewish people to higher levels. G-d willing, we should then be blessed that our eating should always be done only for happy occasions.