Question: Do aluminum pans and other disposable utensils require t’vilah?
Short Answer: Contemporary poskim are divided whether disposable utensils made out of metal or glass, such as aluminum pans, require t’vilah. The general custom appears to be that no t’vilah is required, assuming these utensils will only be used one time.
I. The Tum’ah Connection
The Rambam appears to hold that disposable utensils are not susceptible to tum’ah. For example, the Rambam writes (Hil. Keilim 5:7) that a certain container (“keren”) that is discarded after one use is not susceptible to tum’ah. Additionally, the Rambam writes (Hilchos Keilim 2:1) that utensils that are made out of various fruit peels are not susceptible to tum’ah because they “only last for a short period of time.”
Does this law of tum’ah have any bearing on the laws of t’vilas keilim for disposable utensils? Note, though, that we are only talking about disposable utensils that are made from metal or glass materials that otherwise would require t’vilah, see Article #2. Aluminum pans are good examples.
II. The Lenient Opinions
The Minchas Yitzchak (5:32) rules leniently and allows the usage of disposable utensils without t’vilah based on the Rambam’s leniency (in Hilchos Keilim 5:7) with respect to tum’ah for these utensils. He notes that the Shev Yaakov rules that utensils that are not susceptible to tum’ah do not require t’vilah. Even though the Gidulei T’rumah disagrees and generally holds that tum’ah and t’vilas keilim are distinguishable, here, even the Gidulei T’rumah would agree that disposable utensils such as aluminum pans do not require t’vilah since (i) the food gets ruined when left in them for a long time, and (ii) they are often not used more than once. He concludes that the minhag is to be lenient and this is the correct halachah.
In a subsequent t’shuvah, the Minchas Yitzchak (8:69:1) addressed challenges to his lenient ruling by the Medier Rav, Rav Pinchas Asher Goldberger zt”l of Forest Hills. The Minchas Yitzchak clarified that the leniency is not based on the fact that the food gets ruined when left in them for a long time, but rather because – for whatever reason – these aluminum pans are only used once and are then disposed. Regardless, he adds that aluminum pans are flimsy and often get ruined after one use.
In a third t’shuvah a few years later, the Minchas Yitzchak (10:23) discussed using plastic cups for Kiddush. In the midst of the t’shuvah, the Minchas Yitzchak reiterates that disposable utensils are not utensils, both for the laws of t’vilas keilim and for Kiddush. Notably, though, if the disposable utensil is intended for permanent use, then it may be used for Kiddush in extenuating circumstances.
The Igros Moshe (Yoreh Dei’ah 3:23) likewise rules leniently with respect to disposable utensils and t’vilas keilim. Citing the Rambam’s leniency (in Hilchos Keilim 2:1), Rav Moshe holds that utensils that are not long-lasting, even if they are used a few times, do not require t’vilah. However, he concludes that utensils that are long-lasting, but are simply thrown out because they are cheap, may require t’vilah.
The sefer Ohel Yaakov (Kashrus L’Pesach U’T’vilas Keilim, p. 254-255) cites Rav Yisroel Belsky zt”l as relying on Rav Moshe’s leniency, especially for aluminum pans, since aluminum is not one of the metals listed in the pasuk.
The sefer Reishis Darko (p. 176) notes that the Chelkas Yaakov (Yoreh Dei’ah 46), Az Nidb’ru (7:71) and Chelkas Binyamin (69) all adopt this lenient opinion and allow usage of disposable utensils without t’vilah. The Reishis Darko also posits that all of the above-cited poskim would even allow a disposable utensil – created for short-term use only – to be used two or three times without t’vilah.
III. One Time Only
Many poskim, however, slightly disagree with the above leniency. They hold that a disposable utensil does not need t’vilah if you only plan on using – and indeed only use – the utensil one time. If you plan on using the utensil more than one time, t’vilah is required, even for the first usage.
This is the opinion of Rav Shmuel Wosner (Kovetz Mi’Beis Levi, 56), as cited in Shiurei Halachah B’rurah (T’vilas Keilim, siman 9). The Shiurei Halachah B’rurah suggests that it is certainly appropriate to be machmir for this opinion for utensils made out of metal, as t’vilah on metal utensils is d’Oraisa (see Article #1).
Similarly, the T’shuvos V’Hanhagos (3:259) rules that disposable utensils that are only to be used once do not need t’vilah. However, if the majority of people typically use a certain type of disposable utensil more than once, then this type of utensil loses its status as a “one-time utensil” and requires t’vilah, even for a person who generally only uses this utensil one time. In a later t’shuvah (4:192), the T’shuvos V’Hanhagos reiterates that the key issue is whether the general population uses this type of utensil more than one time. For example, he notes that aluminum pans are complicated, as even though aluminum is arguably only d’Rabbanan, sometimes people use it more than one time before disposing. He does not provide a definite resolution with respect to aluminum pans.
IV. The Strict Opinions
The Mishneh Halachos (7:111) writes that since aluminum pans could last for a long time, they are utensils, and require t’vilah. The owner’s mindset is irrelevant. The sefer VaYomer Gavriel (p. 38) cites a similar ruling in the name of Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l. The Reishis Darko (ibid) notes that this strict opinion is adopted by Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l and Rav Nissim Karelitz zt”l. The t’vilah, though, is performed without a brachah. See K’li Malchus (p. 29).
The Reishis Darko (ibid) notes that some poskim suggest a solution how to avoid t’vilah even according to these poskim. If the owner flattens out the aluminum pan and then reshapes it before use, it is as if the owner is creating a new utensil. Since this “new” utensil was owned by a Jew the entire time, no t’vilah is required. However, the Cheishev HaEfod and Chut HaShani (cited ibid) do not accept this solution, as simply flattening the sides does not constitute destroying the utensil, and thus reshaping it again does not make the utensil into a “new” utensil.
Next Week’s Topic: Do Snapple bottles, pickle jars, and other glass utensils that are purchased with food inside require t’vilah?