Question: Do Snapple bottles, pickle jars, and other glass utensils that are purchased with food inside require t’vilah?
Short Answer: Most poskim do not require the purchaser to tovel the utensil unless he plans on putting other food content into the utensil. Poskim are split on whether one may pour back the emptied contents of the utensils without first toveling the utensil. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, however, even permits a purchaser to put other food content into the utensil without toveling it first.
I. The Supermarket’s Obligation?
We previously explained (Article #2) that glass utensils require t’vilah. Accordingly, because much of our food and drink is purchased in glass containers, we must address whether one must dump out all the food or drink from glass utensils – which presumably are not toveled – immediately after purchase. In truth, though, a more fundamental question is whether the Jewish supermarket or distributor must dump out food from non-toveled glass containers and repackage it in toveled containers.
The Chelkas Yaakov (Yoreh Dei’ah 37) addresses this question. He rules that the Jewish supermarket or distributor does not need to dump out the food from the non-toveled containers because it is simply selling the containers and the food inside. From the perspective of the supermarket or distributor, the container is a “keili ha’naaseh lis’chorah,” a utensil created for business. According to the sefer Tuv Ta’am VaDaas, adopted by the Chelkas Yaakov, such a utensil is exempt from t’vilah. See also Shiurei Halachah B’rurah (T’vilas Keilim 25).
The purchaser, however, does not have this leniency, as he or she is purchasing the glass utensil as a “kli s’udah” requiring t’vilah. Must the purchaser immediately dump out the food in the container so as not to benefit from a non-toveled utensil? There are a handful of different approaches to this question, as detailed herein.
II. Use As Normal
There are some poskim who do not require the purchaser to dump out the food or liquid but rather permit the purchaser to use the container in a normal manner, pouring out and using the food or liquid to eat or drink as necessary. Two different rationales are offered for this leniency:
First, the Maharil Diskin (Kuntres Acharon, p. 79) writes that the purchaser need not dump out the contents because it is “sheiv v’al ta’aseh” and not considered “usage” by storing the food or liquid in this non-toveled container. In other words, the Maharil Diskin holds that the prohibition is to place food into a non-toveled utensil, but there is no prohibition to continue to allow a non-toveled utensil to contain food. This reasoning is likewise adopted by the Sh’miras Shabbos K’Hilchasah (9:11:41).
Second, the Chelkas Yaakov (Yoreh Dei’ah 42) cites the Pri HaSadeh (2:109) who rules that the purchaser need not dump out the contents because the purchaser never intends to acquire or purchase the utensil, but only the contents inside the utensil. This is based on the principle that “lo nicha lei d’likni” – that a person does not intend to acquire something that is detrimental to him. Indeed, the K’tzos HaShulchan (146:9) (cited in Shiurei Halachah B’rurah (ibid)) writes a story about one of the Lubavitcher Rebbes who was once riding on a train and threw a cup out the window after he finished drinking in order to show that he never intended to purchase the non-toveled cup. The sefer Reishis Darko (120:58) notes that this is the opinion and reasoning of the Mishneh Halachos and the Yabia Omer, as well.
III. A Crucial Difference
Notably, pursuant to both reasons, it would presumably be forbidden to use the utensil to store additional food or liquid after it was emptied, as by doing so the purchaser would be actively “using” the utensil, as well as showing that he wants to acquire the utensil. However, it is not so clear whether these two opinions agree on the following scenarios: whether the purchaser may drink or eat directly from the bottle (e.g., like a Snapple bottle) or whether the purchaser may pour back some of the contents into the bottle if he accidentally poured out too much (e.g., take out three pickles when you only want two).
Indeed, the T’shuvos V’Hanhagos (1:446) holds that according to the reasoning of the Maharil Diskin (“sheiv v’al ta’aseh”), these scenarios are forbidden. Since you are “using” the bottle by drinking from it or by putting the drink back into it, you are no longer merely “sheiv v’al ta’aseh,” but rather an active participant in allowing the bottle to serve its function. See also Reishis Darko (ibid). According to the reasoning of the Chelkas Yaakov (“nicha lei d’lo likni”), however, these scenarios should be permitted without t’vilah, as you still have not shown any intent to acquire the bottle.
The Sh’miras Shabbos K’Hilchasah (ibid) cites Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l who disagrees. According to Rav Shlomo Zalman, even the Maharil Diskin would permit these two scenarios without t’vilah, as drinking from the bottle or pouring back the extra liquid does not show that you are actively using the bottle and you are still considered “sheiv v’al ta’aseh” until you add new contents to the bottle.
IV. The Strict Opinion
The Chazon Ish (Orchos Rabbeinu 4, p. 54) personally observed a strict approach to the question of whether the purchaser must dump out contents of a glass (or metal) container upon purchase. The Chazon Ish reportedly used to dump out the contents and did not rely on the leniency of the Maharil Diskin and others, even though he allowed others to rely on such leniency. [It is important to note, though, that the Orchos Rabbeinu acknowledges that the Chazon Ish did not immediately empty out the contents upon purchase, but only after the utensil was opened for the first time.]
The T’shuvos V’Hanhagos (1:446-447) appears to follow this stringency with respect to metal containers, as t’vilah on metal containers is d’Oraisa (as opposed to glass containers which are only d’Rabbanan: see Article #2).
V. Adding New Contents
On the other side of the halachic spectrum, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Yoreh Dei’ah 2:40) not only permits the purchaser to use the food or drink as necessary, but even allows the purchaser to keep the utensil and fill it up with other food contents. Rav Moshe reasons that the utensil is “batul” to the original purchased contents and thus the Jew only “created” the utensil when he decided to refill it with other contents. Since at this point the utensil is owned by him – a Jew – no t’vilah is required. Rav Moshe concludes that this leniency certainly works for glass bottles (only a t’vilah d’Rabbanan), but one may also rely on this reasoning for metal containers (t’vilah d’Oraisa).
The sefer Reishis Darko (ibid) questions this Rav Moshe based on the Pri M’gadim (451:6), who rules that a metal slab purchased from a nachri requires t’vilah when the Jew uses it for food items and does not make any physical change to the utensil. This implies that even when a utensil is first “created” and used for food in the possession of the Jew, t’vilah is still required.
Next Week’s Topic: Must a new couple tovel a utensil immediately upon receiving it as a wedding gift?