11. The Reason to Wait Twenty-Four Hours before Hagala

It is customary not to perform hagala on a utensil until twenty-four hours have elapsed (and it is no longer “ben yomo”) since the last time it absorbed a forbidden food. This is because the absorbed taste remains flavorful during these twenty-four hours, and if the boiling water is not sixty times the volume of the utensil, the water will absorb the forbidden taste and transfer it back into the walls of the utensil, rendering the hagala ineffective. But if twenty-four hours have elapsed, the taste in the utensil becomes foul, and the utensil can be koshered even if the water is not sixty times its volume. This is because the utensil releases a foul taste into the water, and such a taste will not render the utensil un-kosher, even if it is reabsorbed. The utensil is only rendered un-kosher if it absorbed positive flavor, in which case it remains un-kosher even once the flavor has become foul. However, if at the time of its absorption the taste was foul to begin with, the utensil is kosher.

Another reason for this twenty-four hour delay is our concern that meat and dairy utensils will undergo hagala in the same water. In such a case, the positive flavors of meat and milk will be released into the water, and if the water is not sixty times the volume of either the meat or the dairy, they will not be batel. Rather, these flavors mingle and then render all of the water forbidden. Consequently, any utensil that undergoes hagala in this water will absorb basar be-ĥalav (the forbidden mixture of milk and meat) and become forbidden. However, once the utensil is not ben yomo, the tastes of milk and of meat in the utensils is foul, and even if the tastes mingle within the water, they do not become forbidden, since noten ta’am li-fgam is permitted (SA 452:2; MB ad loc.). Accordingly, one must ensure that a large pot in which other utensils undergo hagala did not absorb the ben yomo taste of meat, milk, or ĥametz.

The common practice at public hagala stations is to presume that at least some of the utensils brought are not ben yomo. In order to avoid problems, a strong cleanser such as bleach or liquid soap is added to the water, thereby immediately rendering any taste released by the utensils foul. Consequently, there is no concern that meat and dairy flavors will mix or that the tastes released will be reabsorbed by the utensils, because once a taste has become foul, it cannot render utensils forbidden.[14]

[14]. These principles are explained in SA 453:1-2 and in MB 1 ad loc. One who wishes to perform hagala must ensure that one of two conditions is met: 1) the utensil is not ben yomo, rendering any absorbed taste foul and thus incapable of rendering the utensil forbidden, even if reabsorbed; 2) the boiling water is sixty times the volume of the utensil’s walls, so that any taste released into the water is batel be-shishim. If many utensils are undergoing hagala, clearly the water will not have sixty times the volume of all the utensils collectively, so the custom is to kosher only utensils that are not ben yomo, lest the water have less than sixty times the volume of the utensils’ walls (Rema 452:2 and MB 20 ad loc.). These rules pertain to any forbidden food absorbed into a utensil, except for ĥametz. Regarding ĥametz, SA 452:1 states that if one boils a ĥametz utensil before the ĥametz actually becomes forbidden, hagala is effective even if the utensil is ben yomo, and even if the quantity of boiled water is less than sixty times that of the utensil walls, since the ĥametz was permitted at the time of its absorption. The only reason the utensil needs to be koshered is that it contains the taste of ĥametz in its walls, and taste that is released into boiling water and then reabsorbed into the utensil is not sufficient reason to require the utensil to undergo hagala again, as the reabsorbed taste is already twice removed from the original food (noten ta’am bar noten ta’am, or nat bar nat). One need only take care not to kosher ben yomo meat and dairy utensils together. Many questioned this ruling of SA, since in 451:4 it states that one must kosher utensils using libun if they absorbed ĥametz by fire, which means that SA follows those who maintain that ĥametz before Pesaĥ is considered “isura bala.” How, then, can it state in 452:4 that ĥametz before Pesaĥ is considered “heteira bala”? Indeed, Olat Shabbat, Pri Ĥadash, and Bi’ur Ha-Gra maintain that even when koshering a ĥametz utensil before the onset of the prohibition of ĥametz, one must ensure either that the utensil is not ben yomo or that there is enough water that anything absorbed in the walls of the utensil is batel be-shishim. This is the custom that is followed. (Perhaps, though, we can solve SA’s apparent contradiction as follows: Hagala addresses a situation of nat bar nat bar nat, in which the taste is thrice removed from its origins. Thus, SA felt it was appropriate to rely on the lenient opinion. But in the libun case, the taste is only once removed from its origins, so SA ruled stringently.)Regarding whether one may perform hagala on Pesaĥ: According to SA, it is permissible as long as the utensil is not ben yomo; merely having enough water is insufficient, since on Pesaĥ ĥametz is not batel be-shishim. According to Rema (447:10), even a drop of foul-tasting ĥametz renders forbidden whatever absorbs it on Pesaĥ. Thus, there is no permissible method of hagala on Pesaĥ. Only libun, which incinerates the taste absorbed in the utensil, is permitted on Pesaĥ.

Le-khatĥila, no other substance is mixed with the water used for hagala, as explained in Rema 452:5. Be-di’avad, hagala is effective in any liquid. MB ad loc. 26 states in the name of Pri Megadim that if Pesaĥ had not yet begun, one should re-kosher the utensil in boiling water alone. Nevertheless, in communal hagala it is difficult to ensure that everyone’s utensils are not ben yomo, and since we want to avoid any problems that could arise from mixing meat and dairy utensils, the custom is to add soap or bleach to the boiling water. See Sidur Pesaĥ Ke-hilkhato 7:20, which states that the validity of the hagala only comes into question if the water becomes thickened from the added substances. In n. 7 ad loc. it states in the name of Ĥazon Ish that it is preferable to use cleaning fluids to avoid the potential problem of mixing milk and meat and to avoid relying on the opinion that ĥametz before Pesaĥ is considered “isura bala.

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