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Friday, November 22, 2013

Ceramic Knives and Tevillas Keilim

Do ceramic knives require tevilla?

Earthenware does not need tevilla.  Ceramics, such as china, do not need Tevilla. Metals and glass do.  But ceramic knives might not fit neatly into any of these categories.  As a result, it is not at all clear whether they need tevila at all, and if they do, whether the tevila is midoraysa or miderabanan.

To address this question you have to know basic hilchos tevillas keilim and materials science.  The chemistry issue is that ceramic knives are made of Zirconium Dioxide.  This material appears in many forms with very different characteristics.  It can be made into imitation diamonds, cubic zirconium.  It is also photocatalytic.  And it can be sintered into knives that are harder than steel.  Pure Zirconium is, in the language of science, a metal.  As Eli points out, the fact that pure Zirconium is a metal means very little.  Pure Silicon is also metallic, but, like Zirconium, does not exist in nature in its pure form.  It occurs as Silicon Dioxide- sand- which is definitely not a metal.  In halacha, are articles formed from zirconium dioxide metals, and if they are metals, are they included in the metals mentioned in the parsha of tevillas keilim?  Or perhaps halacha would categorize them as ceramics, or even glass?

As I said, even if in Halacha it would be viewed as a metal, it is not clear what its status would be for tevilla.  The reason is as follows.  According to Din Torah, metallic utensils requires Tevilla.  But to say that all metal requires tevilla also is not an explicit fact.  It is an extrapolation.  The Torah only identifies gold, silver, copper, steel, tin or lead as requiring tevilla.   What about metals that are not mentioned, such has aluminum or uranium?  There are three opinions.  Some say they are obligated mi'doraysa and should be toveled with a beracha, some say with a beracha but only Miderabanan (Igros Moshe- Miderabanan.  O.C. 3:58, Y.D. 2:164, 3:22, Divrei Chachachim page 189:3:footnote 37, Chai Ha’Levi 4:56:3.)  Others say there is no requirement to tovel them at all, like plastic (Divrei Chachachim page 189:3, Emes L’Yaakov Y.D. 120 footnote 51.)  For most people, as a matter of practical rabbinics, it has been suggested that one just avoid the issue and be tovel such metals after one has already recited the beracha on metal or glass.

So even if Zirconium were to be defined as a metal, the question would remain.  But I don't think that can be assumed.  To the uneducated eye, it is no more glass than metal and no more a metal than ceramic.  And we cannot look to what chemists or metallurgists or advertising departments say.  We need to prove how it would be categorized according to halacha.  Since we don't know the rationale for Tevilla, it is difficult to extrapolate.

The bottom line is that it is so different from each of them, that it really ought to be in a class of its own, like plastic, and one could make an argument that it does not require tevilla at all.

It happens that the status of corelle and pyrex, among other pyrocerams, is also not simple.  The crystalline structure of these materials resembles ceramic more than glass.  In fact, ceramic is subject to differences of opinion regarding kashrus, some considering it to be glass, but many hold that it is Kli Cheres (מ"ב תנא, קסג), which has very different halachos both for tevilla and kashrus.  But at least in those cases, the raw material is the same and the appearance and smoothness is the same as regular glass.  That is not the case here.

Additionally, I think it is clear that Cheres/earthenware for Tevillas Keilim is not identical with Cheres/earthenware for Kashrus.  For Kashrus, the only issue is its absorbtiveness.  The Gemara discusses various utensils that are coated with tar, or made from various earths, and uses simple observation of fact to determine whether they have a law of kli cheres for kashrus.  For Tevilla, absorbtiveness is not necessarily a determinant.  For all we know, Cheres for Tevilla has nothing to do with be'li'ah, but instead with tumah.

More mar'ei makom on porcelain vis a vis kashrus-

 בשכנה"ג או"ח תנא, הב"י ל', כתב שמנהג העולם להשתמש בפורצלאן בפסח, אף שהשתמשו בו בכל השנה בחמץ, שהם כזכוכית. והוא לעצמו החמיר כדברי הרדב"ז, אבל לאחרים לא החמיר. גם בשאלת יעבץ א, סז, התיר. והפר"ח כתב, שגם המקילים היו מקילים בפורצלאן אמיתי, אבל עתה יש מזויפים שבולעים, ולכן לכו"ע צריך להחמיר. וכ"כ מחב"ר תנא, י. והובא בכה"ח תנא, שה. וכן פסק בקול מבשר א, פ. וכן המנהג. אבל בצירוף של ספקות נוספים אפשר להקל, כמובא בדברי האחרונים שנזכרו בס' הגעלת כלים יג, שסח; וביבי"א א, יו"ד ו; וח"ז יו"ד י.

So, I'm sorry to say that I'm left with the default position- one should get a regular metal utensil and take it to the mikva when you're taking a ceramic knife, and make a bracha on the regular metal utensil to cover the ceramic knife.  (I don't think glass would be a good idea.  Glass is derabanan.  A bracha on a derabanan before doing a deoraysa might be a problem in over d'over.)

Dr. Nachum Stone was kind enough to discuss these matters with his Rav, Harav Rabinovich of Maaleh Adumim.  Dr. Stone's presentation of the question is particularly important in that he is a musmach, a talmid chacham, and a dentist who is very familiar with ceramics and metals, and their chemical and physical makeup.  This is what he reports.

בעניין חומרים חדשים טבילתם והכשרתם

מה דינו של סכין מחומר קרמי –האם זכוכית? 

צריכים לבדוק מה זה בדיוק

אבל לגבי טבילה כנראה כמו זכוכית- לחומרא


האם דינו ככלי הכנה בלבד ולא כלי סעודה , ואולי מן הדין אינו חייב אפילו מדרבנן

ייתכן שלא חייב אבל בכל מקרה יהיה טבילה בלי ברכה

  לגבי חרסינות חדישות כגון

 חול, כמו כל זכוכית, אלא עיבוד שלהם בחום  SiO2 שחומר גלם שלהם הינו בעיקר
גבוהה מאד.

המראה חיצונית היא כמו זכוכית אטומה  , אבל במבט של
 היא של אירגון פנימי
מאד ,מאד מסודר  כמו של מתכת.
כשנשברים, זה דומה לזכוכית לכל דבר.

לגבי טבילה  והכשרת כלים  איך להתייחס לאילו?

להתייחס אליהם כזכוכית .אפשר  הגעלה להכשירם. לא יודע למה אומרים 3 פעמים .

Checking on the web, I found the following on a website written by Rav Ovadiah's grandson, Harav Yaakov Sasson, "member of the prestigious Bet Midrash Yechave Da’at in Jerusalem," and based on Harav Ovadiah's psakim.   I mention it only because of its refreshing candor.

שאלה:   האם סכין קרמי חייב בטבילה
תשובה: החומר ממנו עשויה סכין קרמית, אינו מתכת. אך אין לנו ידיעה ברורה ממה היא עשויה, אם היא עשויה מחומר הדומה לחרס, או חומר הדומה לזכוכית, שאז יש להטבילה, או שמדובר בחומר הדומה לפורצליין, שאין חיוב להטבילה. ובכל אופן, נכון להטבילה בלא ברכה.


Eli said...

pure zirconium is a metal, but I think this is irrelevant for discussing the properties of its oxides, the same way we won't consider table-salt a metal even though it contains Sodium.

For example, alumina (Aluminum oxide) based glass would be classified as glass by all, I think, for the purpose of Tevilla, even though it's mostly (90%) an oxide of aluminum (which many consider a metal).

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

I was just looking around at the definitions of metals and ceramics and sintering and glass and it seems to me that the chemistry and physics aspect is far too complex for the opinion of anyone but a real expert.