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Koshering An Earthenware Utensil

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In this week’s parshah the Torah teaches many of the halachos of the korbanos. Each of the korbanos has a limited amount of time when they may be eaten, after which they become nosar and forbidden. When a utensil is used to cook the flavor, the food is absorbed into the walls of the utensil. Therefore if a forbidden food was cooked, it is prohibited to use the utensil again until it is koshered, since the flavor of the forbidden food will mix into the next food. Amid the halachos of the korban chatas, the Torah writes that since the flavor of the korban will become nosar after its allotted time, any earthenware utensil that was used to cook part of the korban must thereafter be broken. If it was cooked in a metallic utensil, the utensil must be purged and then rinsed in water in order to remove the flavor that was absorbed.

This halacha applies to all of the korbanos. However, the Rambam and Ra’avad disagree regarding the halacha of an earthenware utensil. The Rambam (Hilchos Ma’aseh Korbanos 8:14) says that any utensil that was used to cook any korban must be purged and rinsed, whether it is a metallic or earthenware utensil. (The exception is a korban chatas, whereby an earthenware utensil must be broken and may not be purged.) The Ra’avad argues that earthenware utensils may never be purged and must always be broken, regardless of which korban was cooked in it.

The Rambam holds that purging earthenware utensils effectively koshers the utensil; but, specifically by a korban chatas, the Torah commands that an earthenware utensil must be broken and not purged. The Ra’avad disagrees and posits that purging is ineffective and is unable to remove the flavor from earthenware utensils.

The question that arises about the Rambam is that the Gemara in Pesachim 30b says that the Torah testifies that it is impossible to completely remove the forbidden flavor from the walls of an earthenware utensil; hence it must be broken. However, according to the Rambam, purging an earthenware utensil indeed removes the flavor, and only when a korban chatas was cooked in the utensil does the Torah command that the utensil must be broken.

The sefer, Harirai Kedem, suggests that according to the Rambam, when an earthenware utensil is purged not all of the flavor is removed; rather a ta’am kalush (weak flavor) in fact remains. If there would be no flavor remaining, there would be no mitzvah to break the utensil that a korban chatas was cooked in – since there is no remnant of the chatas’s flavor. The reason that the Rambam says that one may purge an earthenware utensil that other korbanos were cooked in is because purging removes all of the flavor except for a weak flavor. Since the purging is done before the allotted time that the korban may be eaten, the flavor has not yet become forbidden. Whenever only a weak flavor remains, the utensil is permitted to be used again, provided that at the time of absorption it was not a forbidden flavor (this is known as heteira bala). Only a utensil with a strong flavor is forbidden to be used with another food. The Gemara that says that the flavor never leaves the walls of an earthenware utensil means that a weak flavor will always remain, which if at the time of absorption was a forbidden flavor will prohibit the use of the utensil. But since a weak flavor remains, there is still room for the Torah to command that regarding a korban chatas, the utensil be broken.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger mentions this idea – that whenever the flavor that was absorbed was not forbidden one should be permitted to purge an earthenware utensil. However, he asks the following question: according to many opinions chametz before Pesach is considered heteira bala because when it was absorbed it was not forbidden. Why then do we paskin that earthenware utensils before Pesach must be broken and may not be purged?

Other Achronim ask another question. The Rambam (Hilchos Chametz U’matzah 5:23) says that metallic or stoneware utensils that cooked chametz (in order to use them on Pesach) must be purged and afterward rinsed in cold water. The Maggid Mishnah and the Hagaos Maimonios explain that the source for this halacha (that the utensil must thereafter be rinsed in cold water) is derived from the halacha of korbanos. However, in Hilchos Machalos Asuros 17:4 – regarding the halachos on koshering utensils that cooked forbidden foods – the Rambam does not mention that the utensil must be rinsed after it is purged. Why the discrepancy?

The sefer, Harirai Kedem, suggests that in order to use a utensil on Pesach one needs to do more than is normally required, in order to use a utensil that was used to cook a forbidden food. Namely, the utensil must lose its identity as a utensil of chametz. Regarding other forbidden foods that were cooked in a metallic utensil, they are permitted to be used again once they are purged. But a utensil that was used to cook chametz is compared to that of korbanos that requires more than just removing the flavor. It also needs to not be identified as a utensil that cooked that item. This second requirement is met when one rinses after purging the utensil; this is derived from the pasuk that requires the purging and rinsing of a utensil that was used in the cooking of a korban.

Earthenware utensils as mentioned above always retain a weak flavor, even after they are purged. Therefore, even the opinions that consider chametz to be heteira bala (which as mentioned earlier when a permitted flavor is absorbed purging will permit the use of the utensil since only a weak flavor will remain) agree that they may not be used on Pesach. Since they retain a weak flavor, they also retain their identity as chametz utensils – and therefore are forbidden to use on Pesach.

Note: One should consult an Orthodox rabbi concerning actual practices.

For questions or comments, e-mail RabbiRFuchs@gmail.com.

Rabbi Raphael Fuchs

About the Author: For questions or comments, e-mail RabbiRFuchs@gmail.com.

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