Question: Must glass utensils be toveled? Plastic utensils? If yes, is a brachah recited?
Short Answer: The Gemara rules that glass utensils must be toveled and the vast majority of poskim rule that a brachah is recited. Plastic is trickier, and is a dispute among contemporary poskim. The general custom is that plastic utensils do not need toveling.
I. The Source
The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) states that one of the Amora’im purchased a “mana d’marda,” a type of utensil, and was going to tovel it when another Amora cited a ruling from Rav Yochanan that only metal utensils are mentioned in the Torah. Rashi explains that the Amora was going to tovel an earthenware utensil, but was informed that only metal utensils must be toveled, as the pasuk in Matos (BaMidbar 31:22), which is the source of this obligation (see Article 1), lists only metals: gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, and lead.
The Gemara (ibid), pursuant to Rashi’s interpretation, further expounds that a glass utensil has the same status as a metal utensil and requires t’vilah since it can be welded together after it breaks just as a broken metal utensil is welded back together.
The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 120:1) codifies this source in the Gemara and rules that both metal and glass utensils require t’vilah. The Pri Chadash (120:3) and Pischei T’shuvah (120:14) assume, as do many other poskim, that the requirement for t’vilah on a glass utensil is only d’Rabbanan. [As an aside, see the Aruch HaShulchan (120:25) who has an interesting suggestion why we are so strict with glass utensils and require t’vilah. Since both glass and metal are created from “dust” and “sand,” and are “changed” into different forms when processed, they have similar halachos with respect to t’vilah].
II. Brachah on Glass Utensil
There is a general misconception that no brachah is recited upon toveling only a glass utensil. This is incorrect, as explained herein.
In general, a brachah is recited when a utensil is toveled. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 120:3) writes that the brachah is “al t’vilas keli” (for one utensil) or “al t’vilas keilim” (for more than one utensil). The Shach (8) cites the Bach that the proper nusach of the brachah is “al tevilas k’li matchis,” mentioning a “metal” utensil, as this will teach people that only certain utensils require t’vilah.
The Bach (ibid) notes that the proper brachah on a glass utensil is “al t’vilas k’li z’chuchis,” mentioning the type “glass.” While the Pri Chadash (ibid) disagrees with the nusach of the brachah and rules that a generic “al t’vilas keilim” is recited on both metal and glass, he agrees that a brachah is recited on glass, despite it being only d’Rabbanan.
Nevertheless, the sefer V’Darashta V’Chakarta (Yoreh Dei’ah 1:12) notes that some siddurim list that no brachah is recited on a glass utensil. However, he writes that this is an error, as the Gemara compares a glass utensil to a metal utensil. Indeed, the Chochmas Adam (73:1) is explicit that a glass utensil requires a brachah.
The T’shuvos V’Hanhagos (2:209) agrees that a brachah should be made on toveling a glass utensil. But, he explains a possible rationale for those siddurim who suggest that no brachah is recited. Since a company forms the glass, it is possible to determine whether this utensil was formed by a Jewish-owned company and then does not need t’vilah at all. Because of this determinable safeik, and the fact that glass only requires t’vilah on a Rabbinic level, the T’shuvos V’Hanhagos suggests that some have the custom not to recite a brachah on them, lest they are truly formed by a Jewish company and don’t really require t’vilah, leading to a brachah l’vatalah.
Notably, the sefer Reishis Darko (p. 168) cites the sefer Mitbach K’Halachah, who quotes Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l as ruling that even glass that cannot be welded together after it is broken requires t’vilah with a brachah. The g’zeirah applies to all types of glass. Indeed, the Reishis Darko cites many poskim who require t’vilah on all glass utensils, including Pyrex and Duralex.
III. What About Plastic?
The sefer Shiurei Halachah B’rurah (siman 5) cites the Minchas Yitzchak (3:76-78; 4:114:4) who has a lengthy discussion about t’vilah on plastic utensils. The origin of the discussion is a machlokes between the Ohel Avraham and the Melamed L’ho’il more than one hundred years ago about some “new” type of utensil made out of bone (“k’li etzem”) that could be welded back together after it breaks. The Ohel Avraham ruled that since it has the same key characteristic as glass, that it can be welded back together after it breaks, it requires t’vilah. The Melamed L’ho’il disagreed, as the g’zeirah of glass is limited to what the Rabbis specified and knew about at that time, i.e. only glass, and not “k’li etzem.”
The Minchas Yitzchak notes that this same machlokes should apply to plastic, which also can be welded back together. Therefore, he rules that plastic utensils require t’vilah, but without a brachah (lest the Melamed L’ho’il is correct and no t’vilah is required). Shiurei Halachah B’rurah (ibid) writes that this is likewise the opinion of Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlita, as well.
Interestingly, the Ohel Yaakov (Kashrus L’Pesach U’T’vilas Keilim, p. 259) cites the Sh’arim M’tzuyanim B’Halachah (37:4) as ruling that plastic needs t’vilah with a brachah. [This author, however, respectfully disagrees with this interpretation of the Sh’arim M’tzuyanim B’Halachah, as he only compares it to glass that it requires t’vilah, but doesn’t weigh in on the brachah issue.]
On the other hand, the Be’er Moshe (2:53) writes that according to a chemist that he spoke with, plastic is welded together differently from metal or glass, in the sense that “external” parts are used to fuse the plastic together. [This author is not a chemist and is thus paraphrasing his language]. Accordingly, he rules that plastic should not be toveled, as it is an unnecessary chumra. Shiurei Halachah B’rurah notes that this is the opinion of the Chelkas Yaakov, Rav Wosner, and the Chazon Ish, as well.
The Sefer T’vilas Keilim (11:147) cites Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l as similarly ruling that plastic does not need t’vilah. Reishis Darko (ibid) cites Rav Felder who explains Rav Moshe’s leniency that plastic is synthetic and doesn’t come from the ground like metal and glass.
The Tzitz Eliezer (7:37) likewise rules that a plastic utensil does not need t’vilah, as the g’zeirah was only on glass utensils. He notes that the Aruch HaShulchan (cited above) would likely agree, as plastic is made from different particles than metal or glass.
Next Week’s Topic: Do aluminum pans and other disposable utensils require t’vilah?