Question: Must a new couple tovel a utensil immediately upon receiving it as a wedding gift?
Short Answer: Many poskim do not require immediate t’vilah. However, because some poskim do require immediate t’vilah, it is certainly preferable to tovel the utensil as soon as possible.
I. The Impure Utensil
The Gemara (Beitzah 18a) discusses the prohibition of toveling an impure utensil on Yom Tov. A few reasons are suggested for this Rabbinic prohibition. Rav Bibi says it is forbidden, lest the owner come to “delay.” Rashi explains that we are afraid that the owner will hold off and delay toveling the impure utensil until he has time, i.e. on Yom Tov, but will accidentally and improperly use the impure utensil with t’rumah before t’vilah. The Gemara subsequently cites a baraisa in support of the reason of Rav Bibi.
Both the Rif and the Rambam cite Rav Bibi, implying that they accept this reason for the prohibition.
Based on all of the above, the Yam Shel Shlomo (Beitzah 2:19), as well as the Elyah Rabbah and the Pri M’gadim (Mishbetzos Zahav, Orach Chayim 323:5) rule that an owner must immediately tovel a utensil upon purchase (or when received as a gift), as this same prohibition applies to t’vilas keilim. In other words, we do not want the owner to use the utensil before t’vilah.
Likewise, the sefer Kli Malchus (p. 6) cites Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l who notes that the Shaagas Aryeh concurs with this opinion, and forbids delaying the t’vilah on newly-purchased utensils.
II. A Crucial Difference
The Biur Halachah (Orach Chayim 323), however, makes a crucial distinction between the impure utensil and the newly-purchased (non-toveled) utensil. One should not delay toveling an impure utensil because he may come to use it in the interim with t’rumah, rendering the t’rumah impure and halachically inedible. On the other hand, the worst that could happen if one delays toveling a newly-purchased utensil is that the owner violates a prohibition. However, the food does not become prohibited. Because the food does not become prohibited, there was no g’zeirah requiring immediate t’vilah. The Biur Halachah adds that there is especially no need to tovel the utensil immediately, because the prohibition of using a non-toveled utensil is only d’Rabbanan.
The sefer Eimek HaT’shuvah (3:69) suggests a further distinction between the cases. An impure vessel has other permitted uses, such as using it for impure food. Thus, there is a good reason to prohibit delaying the t’vilah, as it will possibly be used for foods that are pure, as well. A newly-purchased (non-toveled) utensil, however, is prohibited for all foods, and thus there is no concern that the owner will accidentally use this utensil before t’vilah.
The Eimek HaT’shuvah (ibid) notes, as well, that the Rosh might disagree with Rashi’s interpretation of the “delay” g’zeirah of the Gemara. The Rosh perhaps prohibits toveling an impure utensil on Yom Tov because the utensil should enter Yom Tov pure, so that it is pure all Yom Tov. If this is the case, this g’zeirah has no connection with newly-purchased utensils and the mitzvah of t’vilas keilim. The Eimek HaT’shuvah thus concludes that an owner need not tovel a utensil immediately upon purchase.
III. As Quick As Possible
But regardless of any prohibition of holding on to a non-toveled utensil, perhaps a newly-purchased utensil should be toveled immediately because of “Z’rizin makdimin l’mitzvos”?
The sefer Reishis Darko (T’vilas Keilim, p. 213) cites the Orchos HaBayis who rules that the owner must tovel a utensil as soon as possible, because “shehuyei mitzvah lo meshinan” – that we don’t delay when performing a mitzvah. He likewise cites the Chelkas Binyamin who says that we apply the principle of “Z’rizin makdimin l’mitzvos” to require immediate t’vilah. The sefer Ohel Yaakov (Kashrus L’Pesach U’T’vilas Keilim, p. 251) cites Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l as ruling this way, as well.
On the other hand, the sefer Chadrei Dei’ah (Reishis Darko, ibid) notes that there is no requirement for immediate t’vilah, as the mitzvah of t’vilas keilim is simply in order to allow usage of the utensil. As long as you do not want to use it, no t’vilah is required. This is similar to slaughtering an animal; there is a mitzvah to slaughter an animal, but only when you are ready to eat it. The Ohel Yaakov (ibid) notes that the Avnei Yashfe also ruled this way.
The Chut HaShani (cited ibid) explains this machlokes whether a newly-purchased utensil must be toveled immediately based on how we view this mitzvah of t’vilas keilim. If the mitzvah is on the person, i.e. that he must tovel his utensils, then the requirement applies immediately upon purchase. On the other hand, if the mitzvah is for the food to be used in a toveled utensil, there is no requirement until usage.
Rav Asher Weiss shlita (Minchas Asher 3:55:3) notes that this is not a classical machlokes regarding whether the mitzvah is a “matir” or a “mitzvah,” as even if one understands the mitzvah of t’vilas keilim as a “mitzvah,” there still may not be an obligation to tovel a newly-purchased utensil until usage. This is similar to the mitzvah of tzitzis; while it is not a “matir,” there is still no mitzvah to attach tzitzis until you wear a four-cornered garment.
Next Week’s Topic: Do can openers require t’vilah? What about peelers? Toasters?