Question: Do can openers require t’vilah? What about peelers? Toasters?
Short Answer: Can openers do not require t’vilah, but peelers require t’vilah. If the peeler is primarily used for peeling potatoes, no brachah should be recited on the t’vilah. While Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l held that toasters do not require t’vilah, most other poskim disagree and require t’vilah.
I. Meal Utensils
The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 120:1), based on the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b), rules that only klei s’udah – meal utensils – require t’vilah. The tricky issue is determining what utensil is a “meal utensil.” Herein are a few examples that highlight some of the complicated factors involved in the determination.
II. Can Openers
The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 120:5) cites an opinion that a sh’chitah knife does not need t’vilah. The Rama (ibid) comments that others disagree and rule that a sh’chitah knife needs t’vilah. The Rama concludes that it is best therefore to tovel a sh’chitah knife without a brachah. The Rama also rules that “barzalim” – metal sticks used to make matzos – do not require t’vilah.
The Shach (11) explains that the Rama holds that the sh’chitah knife does not require t’vilah with a brachah because the food that the knife is used to prepare (i.e., the meat of the kosher animal) needs additional processing before it becomes edible (i.e., you need to wash and salt the meat, etc.). The knife is therefore not really a “kli s’udah.” The Shach further explains that the barzalim (metal sticks) do not require t’vilah at all because not only does the matzah need additional processing (i.e., baking), but the barzalim have no other food purpose. In other words, the barzalim are not a food utensil that is commonly used for multiple foods.
The Shach concludes by citing the Maharil who holds that a “m’kadei’ach” (some type of sharp utensil), which is used solely to puncture closed containers of food or drink, requires t’vilah. The Shach, however, disagrees and holds that a m’kadei’ach “surely” does not require t’vilah at all. But what is the “surely” in the Shach? What is the extra deficiency of a m’kadei’ach that makes its exemption of t’vilah more obvious than barzalim?
The Avnei Yashfeh (1:147) suggests that the Shach understands that the m’kadei’ach has the same two deficiencies as the barzalim (i.e., the food still needs processing and the m’kadei’ach has no other food use), but also has an additional deficiency, that the m’kadei’ach does not touch the actual food item but only the container. Based on this, the Avnei Yashfe concludes that can openers do not require t’vilah, as they only touch the container and not the food.
The Ohel Yaakov (Kashrus L’Pesach U’T’vilas Keilim, p. 303-304) likewise cites the Chayei HaLevi, Rav Yisroel Belsky zt”l, and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, who ruled that can openers do not require t’vilah, even if they happen to sometimes touch food, since their purpose is to open the container and have no usage vis-à-vis the food. [The Ohel Yaakov does note that the sefer Taharas Yisrael requires t’vilah on can openers like the Maharil (cited in the Shach), as they touch food].
Indeed, the Riv’vos Ephraim (4:187:2) initially thought to rule that can openers require t’vilah because they touch food, but writes that after he saw all the poskim who ruled otherwise, he switched his opinion to agree that no t’vilah is required.
The sefer T’vilas Keilim K’Hilchasah (11:129) rules that a peeler requires t’vilah because it touches food, and the food is edible immediately after peeling.
The Avnei Yashfe (1:146), in a t’shuvah addressed to the sefer T’vilas Keilim K’Hilchasah, challenges this ruling. He notes that the Rama (120:8) rules that a “sakin shel k’lafim” – perhaps a knife to cut parchment – requires t’vilah if used for food, but the Pri Chadash (120:19) disagrees. The Pri Chadash explains that such a knife is exempt from t’vilah because the majority of its use is for non-food items.
Based on this, the Avnei Yashfe concludes that a peeler whose main use is for peeling potatoes should only be toveled without a brachah. Since a potato still needs additional processing (i.e., cooking) after it is peeled before it can be eaten, according to the Pri Chadash no t’vilah is necessary. Thus, it is preferable not to make a brachah upon its t’vilah.
The Avnei Yashfe includes a subsequent letter from the author of the sefer T’vilas Keilim K’Hilchasah, where he ultimately agrees that if the majority of the use of the peeler is for potatoes, the t’vilah should be performed without a brachah.
[Interestingly, the Avnei Derech (6:108) appears to misquote the Avnei Yashfe’s ruling by writing that he holds that no t’vilah is required. This appears incorrect to this author, based on the words of the Avnei Yashfe.]
The Ohel Yaakov (ibid) cites the above sources, but also cites the sefer Y’vakeish Torah who rules that a peeler always needs t’vilah with a brachah.
As an initial matter, there is a general issue whether electric appliances require t’vilah, and if so, how should the t’vilah be performed. We will, b’ezras Hashem, address this issue in an upcoming article. A separate issue, though, is whether a toaster is even considered a “kli s’udah.”
The Igros Moshe (Yoreh Dei’ah 3:24) rules that a toaster does not require t’vilah. He reasons that a toaster simply warms the bread so that certain people enjoy the bread more, but without the toaster, the bread is still edible. He contrasts this to hot water urns in the Gemara, which substantially affect the water by making it warmer – a “tzorech gadol,” a great need. Rav Moshe concludes that certainly warming the bread is not considered a “tikun” (beneficial change) to the bread and thus no t’vilah is required, even l’chatchilah.
The Reishis Darko (p. 173) vehemently disagrees with Rav Moshe, and cites the T’shuvos V’Hanhagos (1:450), Chut HaShani, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l and Rav Shmuel Wosner zt”l who all disagree, as well. Indeed, the Mishneh Halachos (9:162) attacks Rav Moshe’s ruling and notes that the facts are to the contrary; every house has a toaster, which is used to change bread for the better, and thus certainly requires t’vilah.
Next Week’s Topic: Must caterers, kosher hotels, and restaurants tovel their utensils?