Kosher Kitchen

Dear Rabbi Fried,

We are becoming more observant and considering becoming kosher. If we decide to do so, what process, if any, is available to make our dishes kosher, or must we get all new dishes?

Sharon and Douglas

Dear Sharon and Douglas,

Congratulations on your becoming Kosher observant! Although the process of changing over may seem daunting, you’ll find it quite enjoyable, especially with the help of your local rabbis. When it’s done, it will be quite rewarding!

It would be good to understand the source of what you will be doing to kasher your kitchen and all within. Understanding the source always brings more meaning to that which we do as Jews. 

Utensils, especially pots and pans, absorb the taste or flavor of food which is cooked in them. Since the biblical laws of kashrus regard the taste or flavor of food as the food itself, utensils that have been used for non-kosher foods must be “reconditioned” before they may be used in a Jewish household. The popular term for this reconditioning process is kashering. Its Hebrew equivalent is hag’alath kelim, or hekhsher kelim (The word hag’alah derives from a root which means “to expel”, referring to the forbidden food substance which has been absorbed into the walls of the vessel.) 

The source for the laws of kashering is found in the Torah, “Elazar the Priest said to the soldiers returning from the war campaign, ‘This is the rule that God commanded Moses: As far as the gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead are concerned, whatever was used over fire must be made to go through fire and purged, and then purified with mey niddah. That, however, which was not used over fire need only be made to go through the water.'” 

Among the spoils of war the soldiers brought back from the campaign against Midian were utensils which had been used for prohibited foods; these utensils now required kashering. The principle underlying the methodology of kashering is found in the phrase, ‘whatever was used over fire must be made to go through fire…’- that is to say, the manner in which a utensil was being used when the forbidden food entered it determines how it will be kashered. Utensils which came into direct contact with fire are kashered by direct contact with fire; utensils which were placed on the fire with liquids in them are kashered by boiling liquid. 

When the Rabbi or staff of your local kashruth agency comes to help you “turn over” your kitchen, they will be performing a process based upon these verses.  Many of your pots, pans, silverware and dishes will be “kasherable,” and you will be able to use them once they have been immersed in a pot of boiling water. This will apply to your counter tops and sinks as well. There may be certain items that are “unkasharable” and will need to replace. 

Once everything is either kashered or replaced, then comes the second stage of rendering your vessels ready for use. This is called “toiveling,” or immersing certain vessels, mainly those made of metal or glass, into a special mikvah set aside for the immersing of vessels. 

The source for this part of the process is in the verses quoted above. The words, “and purified with mey niddah” describe a second phase in the reconditioning process – immersion of a utensil in a mikvah. 

This part of the process goes beyond the removal of any non-kosher contamination of the vessels, the kashering. The immersion in a mikvah elevates the vessels to a level of holiness. When we eat kosher food, we are not simply refraining from eating non-kosher. We are performing a holy act, every bite is a mitzvah and every dish is a holy item as it constitutes the fulfillment of G-d’s will. As Jews we elevate the mundane to the holy. The vessels we use to perform this will need to be elevated as well, which is why they are immersed in a pool of water which brings holiness, a mikvah.

Much success in this special process. May it elevate your home to the holiness of servants of G-d, and connect you to the many generations of Kosher-observant Jews all the way back to Mount Sinai, with much joy and fulfillment!


Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried

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