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Thought for the Day: Immersing Vessels for Others -- If They Own It Already, Yes; If You Are Giving Them a Present; No

This might be an urban legend.  When I was in elementary school, almost half a century back (YIKES!!  Really?  Oh my, that's a long time ago...) there was a story going around that teachers were handing out a test to see how well we followed instructions.  There was a page of a dozen or 20 instructions; things such as, "Stand up, turn around", "Draw a heart with red ink on top right hand corner of this list", "announce that you just completed #4", etc.  The kicker was the first and last instructions.  First instruction: Read all instructions completely before beginning.  The last instruction was: Don't do any of the above instructions.  Of course we all knew that the teacher was getting a good laugh at the expense of all the students who were popping up and down, drawing on their papers, making announcements, etc.

As I said, I never saw that test and I don't know if it really exists... but I tried to learn the lesson even without the actual experience.  Even so, I was close to getting off my bike to call R' Fuerst the other day while listening to a shiur on t'vilas keilim/immersing vessels.  At the risk of saying something more obvious than usual, the Torah prescribes that when a Jew acquires certain vessels used for food preparation from a goy, then they require immersion in a kosher mikvah before they may be used even once.  (Yes; even once... really.)  There are lots of details, see here for more information.)

They point upon which I want to focus now is that t'vila is only required once a Jew owns that pot or pan for personal use.  As opposed to what, you are wondering.  Well... as opposed to a Jewish pots and pans dealer.  When Yaakov of Jake's Pots & Pans stocks his shelves with pots and pans made in China, he does not need to immerse everything before putting it on the shelves to sell.  More to the point, even if he does immerse them in a glatt kosher mikvah, it will be to no avail -- there is as yet no existing requirement for immersion.  Once Yitzy acquires one of those pots or pans, then he needs to immerse it before his first use.

Suppose Yitzy is the kind of Jew who procrastinates (eg, he is a husband) and Beryl sees the unopened box.  Being a nice guy, Beryl takes the pot or pan to the mikvah and immerses for Yitzy.  Beryl can even make a bracha.  That is all based on the principle of "zoche adam sh'lo b'fanav"/you may do something that benefits another Jew even though he doesn't know about it and didn't authorize it ahead of time.  Beryl gets back to Yitzy's place, put a note on the box that says, "Enjoy!  It's been toveled for you!"; Yitzy can cook up dinner with his new pot or pan.

That's when I was about to get off my bike and call.  I have heard -- directly from R' Fuerst, shlita, himself -- that you may not immerse something you bought as a gift.  Why?  Because I, as the gift buyer, did not buy it to use; you (the receiver) don't own it yet, so there is no obligation (yet) for immersion.  Bummer.  I really liked getting presents that said, "Already toveled!"  But now here R' Fuerst is saying it does work!  What's up?  I kept hearing R' Fuerst telling those who were there, live and in person, "Let me finish!  I am developing an idea... I'll get to it."

Alright... finally got to my question.  "I said if they already owned it," said R' Fuerst, "not that you bought them a gift."  Ohh... but wait, why can't I have someone else accept it for them?  That works to transfer ownership in other cases, then I could tovel for them, right?  Wrong; tt doesn't work here because he might decide to be a nice guy and say thank you, but then throw it out once you leave because he's got a dozen of those silly little dishes already.  That would mean it was never owned by a Jew for use; so it was never obligated in immersion and you are staring a bracha l'vatala squarely in the face.

Again, the devil is in the details; darn it.

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