THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
Ask A Question about the Daf
Avodah Zarah, 75
AVODAH ZARAH 72-76 - Sponsored by a generous grant from an anonymous donor.
Kollel Iyun Hadaf is indebted to him for his encouragement and support and
prays that Hashem will repay him in kind.
1) THE OBLIGATION OF "TEVILAS KELIM"
OPINIONS: The Gemara teaches that when a Jew purchases utensils used for
food from a Nochri, not only must he perform the necessary procedures to
remove the non-kosher food particles absorbed in the utensils, he must also
immerse the utensils in a Mikvah. Even if he purchases a new utensil, he
must be immerse the utensil before using it.
2) THE UTENSILS OF A CONVERT
The Gemara derives this from two phrases in the verse. The verse says
"v'Taher" and it says "b'Mei Nidah" (Bamidbar 31:23)." Why are both phrases
necessary? The Gemara explains that the phrase of "v'Taher" implies that the
utensils may be immersed in any amount of water. "Mei Nidah" teaches that
they must be immersed in a Mikvah containing at least forty Se'ah of water.
If the verse said only "Mei Nidah," then that would imply that a person must
wait until sundown to use the utensil, and thus "v'Taher" teaches that it
may be used immediately after Tevilah.
Is the obligation of Tevilas Kelim mid'Oraisa or mid'Rabanan?
(a) The fact that the Gemara finds it necessary to explain the two phrases
in the verse implies that the verse is not merely an Asmachta for a Din
d'Rabanan, but an actual source for a Din d'Oraisa. If the verse was only an
Asmachta for a Din d'Rabanan, then the Gemara would not have been bothered
with the necessity of each phrase, since there would have been nothing wrong
in having two verses on which to base the Asmachta. This indeed seems to be
the view of RASHI (DH Zuza), TOSFOS (DH Mayim), and the other Rishonim here.
(b) However, the RAMBAM (Hilchos Ma'achalos Asuros 17:5) writes that the
immersion of utensils purchased from Nochrim is "m'Divrei Sofrim", and he
adds that the "Chachamim said" ("Amru Chachamim") to add this extra act of
Taharah. The wording of the Rambam clearly implies that he maintains that
the obligation of Tevilas Kelim is only mid'Rabanan.
Are there any practical differences whether Tevilas Kelim is mid'Oraisa or
In truth, however, these words -- "m'Divrei Sofrim" and "Amru Chachamim" --
alone do not prove that the Rambam considers Tevilas Kelim to be
mid'Rabanan, because it is the style of the Rambam to refer to any law
derived from the thirteen Midos she'ha'Torah Nidreshes ba'Hen (the thirteen
exegetical principles of expounding Torah law) as "Divrei Sofrim" (see
Rambam, Hilchos Ishus 1:2, and MAGID MISHNEH there). However, many Rishonim
write that the Rambam indeed considers Tevilas Kelim to be mid'Rabanan (see
RITVA and RAN here, MAGID MISHNEH in Hilchos Yom Tov 4:18; although the
KESEF MISHNEH cites the RASHBA who writes that the Rambam maintains that
Tevilas Kelim is mid'Oraisa, it is evident from the words of the Rashba
there and in our Sugya that this is a typographical error and it should read
instead "Ramban" in place of "Rambam"). Moreover, the Rambam earlier (17:3)
uses the words "Divrei Sofrim" to refer to an Isur that is clearly
The Ran adds that the Rambam is consistent with his own opinion elsewhere
(in 17:6), where he writes that a person who is in possession of a utensil
that he received from a Nochri as a Mashkon (collateral for a debt) does not
need to be Tovel it. In our Gemara, this question is left unresolved, and
the Rambam apparently is ruling leniently in accordance with his view that
Tevilas Kelim is only mid'Rabanan, and thus the principle of "Safek
d'Rabanan l'Kula" applies.
However, the HAGAHOS MAIMONIYOS (#8) cites Rishonim who write that even if
Tevilas Kelim is mid'Oraisa, we may be lenient in the case of a Safek, since
b'Di'eved one may use the utensil even without Tevilah, and even
l'Chatchilah, since he has the option to use another pot (that does not need
Tevilah) if he wants and thus we allow him to use this pot without Tevilah.
Therefore, we may be lenient in cases of doubt and not require Tevilah at
The RITVA writes that the Rambam's source is the fact that the Gemara
derives from the requirement to immerse Kelim in forty Se'ah from the verse
that teaches that utensils acquired from Nochrim must be immersed. If the
Gemara maintains that Tevilas Kelim is mid'Oraisa, then we would not be
required to use forty Se'ah, because we never find that it is necessary to
immerse a utensil that is Tamei in forty Se'ah in order to make it Tahor.
Rather, it is sufficient for the water to cover the utensil on all sides,
and even if there is not forty Se'ah of water, the Tevilah is valid to make
the utensil Tahor. The Halachah that a utensil must be immersed in forty
Se'ah is mid'Rabanan, as we find in the Gemara in Nazir (38a). Since the
Gemara mentions forty Se'ah, it is evident that Tevilas Kelim is
mid'Rabanan, and it is the Rabanan who required the Tevilah to be in forty
However, the Ritva cites the RAMBAN who refutes this proof. He says that
when the Gemara mentions forty Se'ah, it means that mid'Oraisa there is an
obligation to immerse the utensil in enough water to cover it, and
mid'Rabanan one must immerse it in forty Se'ah; it does not mean that the
Torah requires 40 Se'ah, nor does it mean that the entire obligation of
Tevilas Kelim is only mid'Rabanan.
TOSFOS (DH Mayim) suggests another answer to this proof. The verse regarding
the utensils acquired in the war with Midyan is giving a special requirement
of Tevilah in forty Se'ah, even though Kelim (to become Tahor from Tum'ah)
normally do not require forty Se'ah.
(a) One practical difference is in a case of a Safek, such as in the case of
the Safek in the Gemara (a utensil received as a Mashkon, collateral, from a
Nochri), or a case in which a person is in doubt whether the utensil was
immersed or not. As we mentioned above, if the obligation of Tevilas Kelim
is mid'Oraisa, then one would have to be Machmir in cases of doubt. If it is
mid'Rabanan, then one could be lenient (except according to the Hagahos
Maimoniyos, who maintains that even if Tevilas Kelim is mid'Oraisa, one
would not have to be Machmir).
HALACHAH: The SEFER TEVILAS KELIM (by Rav Tzvi Cohen, 11:142, footnote 113)
cites the TIFERES YISRAEL in his introduction to Taharos (#44) who says that
newly discovered metals have the same status as the old metals, and
therefore, in practice, he rules that aluminum utensils must be immersed in
a Mikvah, with the appropriate blessing.
(b) RAV MOSHE STERNBUCH, shlit'a, in TESHUVOS V'HANHAGOS (1:449) suggests
another practical difference between whether the obligation of Tevilas Kelim
is mid'Oraisa or mid'Rabanan, with regard to whether or not one needs to
immerse an aluminum utensil purchased from a Nochri. Aluminum is a new metal
that was discovered relatively recently and that was unknown at the time the
Torah was given and during the times of the Gemara. The requirement to
immerse it is questionable. The Gemara here says that metal utensils require
Tevilah. However, the requirement of Tevilah is based on the verse (Bamidbar
31:22) that discusses the utensils the Jews received in the war against
Midyan. That verse mentions six different types of metals (gold, silver,
copper, iron, tin, and lead). The fact that the verse mentions six different
names of metals and does not use a general term for all of them implies that
the intention of the verse is that only these metals require Tevilas Kelim,
and we cannot derive through a Binyan Av that other metals require Tevilah.
Rashi in Rosh Hashanah (beginning of 19b, DH va'Chachamim) writes that the
only "Klei Matachos" that can become Tamei mid'Oraisa are the six metals
listed in the verse, and no others can become Tamei mid'Oraisa. (Rashi there
implies that had we been able to learn a Binyan Av from these metals, then
even glass would have been included, since it, like metal, can be molten;
see RASHASH there.)
Rav Sternbuch suggests as follows. If the obligation of Tevilas Kelim is
mid'Oraisa, then aluminum would not require Tevilah mid'Oraisa, because we
cannot learn from the verse that any other material requires Tevilah.
Regarding whether there is an obligation mid'Rabanan to immerse aluminum
utensils, we find that the Rabanan added only glass to the Torah's list, and
therefore we have no grounds for obligating aluminum in Tevilas Kelim, even
mid'Rabanan. On the other hand, if the obligation of Tevilas Kelim is
mid'Rabanan, then it is logical that when the Rabanan enacted this
obligation, they used the wording of the Gemara and instituted that "Klei
Matachos" require Tevilah. Since they used the general term, aluminum should
also be included in the obligation.
However, it can be argued that the Halachah of aluminum does not necessarily
depend on whether Tevilas Kelim is mid'Oraisa or mid'Rabanan. Even if
Tevilas Kelim is mid'Oraisa, perhaps the six metals mentioned in the verse
were meant to exclude any other materials which existed at that time (such
as glass, which we might have thought should be included in the same
category, since it can be molten). The verse does not intend to exclude
materials that might be discovered in the future and that have similar
characteristics to these six metals. Conversely, even if Tevilas Kelim is
mid'Rabanan, the Rabanan may have instituted that Tevilah is required only
for those materials mentioned in the verse, since those are the ones that
can become Tamei mid'Oraisa, as Rashi in Rosh Hashanah mentions. Although
the Gemara uses the term "Klei Matachos," that is merely a shorthand
reference to the types of materials mentioned in the Torah. Therefore, the
Halachah regarding aluminum remains unclear.
OPINIONS: The Gemara teaches that utensils purchased from a Nochri require
Tevilah. What is the Halachah regarding the utensils of a Nochri who
converts and becomes Jewish? Must he immerse all of his utensils, just as a
Jew must immerse the utensils that he acquires from a Nochri?
(a) This question seems to depend on the logic behind the obligation of
Tevilas Kelim. If the obligation of Tevilas Kelim is similar to the Halachos
of the prohibition of Stam Yayin -- which the Rabanan instituted in order to
distance Jews from Nochrim ("Harchakah") -- then a Ger would not need to
immerse his Kelim, because he does not need to distance himself from his
previous self! However, the Rishonim cite a Yerushalmi (Avodah Zarah 5:15)
which states that the reason for Tevilas Kelim is not for the purpose of
"Harchakah," but because the Kelim are leaving the Tum'ah of
Nochri-ownership and entering the Kedushah of Jewish-ownership. Accordingly,
the Tevilah is similar to the Tevilah of a person who is Tamei, who immerses
in order to elevate himself to Kedushah. Therefore, a Ger's utensils should
require Tevilah in order to elevate them from Tum'ah to Kedushah, just as
the Ger himself requires Tevilah to elevate himself to the Kedushah of
In fact, the RAMBAN (cited by the Ritva here) writes that the verse compares
the Tevilah of Kelim to the Tevilah of a Ger, and that is why it must be
done in forty Se'ah (rather than in just enough water to cover the utensil).
RAV MOSHE STERNBUCH in TESHUVOS V'HANHAGOS (1:451) cites the RASHBA in
Yevamos (47b) who makes a similar comparison between the Tevilah of a Ger,
which is done only after Milah, and the Tevilah of Kelim, which is done only
after the non- kosher food particles absorbed in the Kelim have been
removed. Accordingly, the Kelim of a Ger should require Tevilah, just like
the Ger himself needs Tevilah.
According to the Yerushalmi, why is it that only metal Kelim require
Tevilah, and why is it that only Kelim used for food require Tevilah?
Anything acquired from a Nochri should require Tevilah! The RITVA here (DH
Klei Se'udah) answers that the reason is because these Kelim, even if they
are new and have not yet been used, are considered more Tamei than other
Kelim, since they are destined to be used for forbidden food items and to
absorb non-kosher food. Therefore, when they are purchased by a Jew and will
now be used only for permitted food, they are being elevated from Tum'ah to
(b) The SEFER TEVILAS KELIM (p. 245) cites RAV YITZCHAK DOV BAMBERGER as he
is quoted in the periodical, ha'Ma'ayan (5739). Rav Bamberger cites proof to
exempt the utensils of a Ger from Tevilah after he converts. Why did Hashem
tell Moshe the Mitzvah of Tevilah for Kelim made by a Nochri only after
forty years in the Midbar, at the time of the war with Midyan? Why did they
not need to know that Halachah earlier? The obvious answer would be that
they did not acquire any utensils from Nochrim until that point, when they
conquered Midyan and took their Kelim, and thus they did not need to be
commanded that Mitzvah before that point. However, from the verses it seems
that the Jews *had* acquired gold and silver Kelim from Nochrim earlier --
at the time of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, when they took the Kelim of the Mitzrim
(as the verse says in Shemos 12:35)! Those Kelim probably included eating
utensils as well. Why, then, were they not taught the Mitzvah of Tevilas
Kelim at that time? The obvious answer is that they were not yet given the
Torah, and just as the other Halachos did not apply to them at Yetzi'as
Mitzrayim, so, too, this Mitzvah was not yet given to them.
However, the question remains, why were they not taught the Mitzvah of
Tevilas Kelim at the time of the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai, when they
still had the Kelim of the Nochrim in their possession? (We can understand
that they did not need to be taught the Mitzvos of Hag'alah, because the
Kelim were not "Benei Yoman," and thus mid'Oraisa they did not require
Hag'alah, as the Gemara says on 76a. In addition, since the Jews already
cooked in the Kelim, the cooking removed the Beli'ah of Isur which the Kelim
has absorbed, in a permissible manner before the Beli'ah was prohibited.)
Rav Bamberger writes that apparently Tevilas Kelim was not necessary,
because the Kelim already were in the Jews' own hands before the giving of
the Torah, and they did not receive them from Nochrim after the giving of
the Torah. If this is true, then it may be inferred from the fact that the
Jews were not commanded to be Tovel their utensils when they became Gerim at
Har Sinai that there is no requirement for a Ger to immerse his own utensils
when he converts! The reason for this is because the Torah requires Tevilah
only for utensils similar to Klei Midyan, which the Jews obtained through an
actual transfer of possession.
How, though, are we to understand the logic behind this distinction? If the
Torah requires Tevilah only for utensils similar to the Klei Midyan, then
Tevilah should be required only for utensil obtained in times of conquest
and not for utensils obtained from Nochrim through a purchase!
Perhaps we may suggest that the logic to make a distinction between Kelim
that are purchased from a Nochri and Kelim of a Ger is that a Ger is
required to be Tovel himself in order to raise his own Kedushah to that of a
Yisrael. Once he raises his own Kedushah, the Kedushah of all the items that
are subordinate ("Tafel") to him -- such as his utensils -- is raised along
with him. Consequently, it is not necessary to be Tovel his Kelim
If this is correct, then perhaps we may propose a way to refute the proof of
Rav Bamberger. Perhaps the only time at which the utensils of a Ger were
elevated along with the Ger is when the nation became Jewish at Har Sinai,
when they became Jewish as an entire nation and not merely as individuals.
The reason for this difference is that before the conversion of the Jewish
people, there did not exist a Kedushah of Yisrael, and their Gerus created
such a Kedushah. Just as it created a Kedushah for themselves, it created
that Kedushah for their utensils. However, after that time, whenever a Ger
converts, the Kedushah of Yisrael already exists. The Ger merely is
attaching himself to that existing Kedushah. Perhaps his Gerus serves to
attach only himself to the Kedushah of Yisrael, but not his utensils, and
therefore his utensils require a separate Tevilah.