Regarding Libbun Kal that is Treated Like Hag'ala
TOPICS IN HALAKHA
Regarding Libbun Kal that is treated like Hag'ala
HaRav Yehuda Amital, zt"l*
In certain situations, performing hag'ala (kashering a utensil by immersing it in boiling water) poses difficulties: for example, when a pot or its lid is too large to fit into any available utensil.
The Gemara in Avoda Zara 33b states:
Rabbi Yochanan said: Flasks of pagans which had been placed back in the furnace, as soon as the pitch thereof has dropped off, are permitted. Rav Ashi said: You need not say "until it has dropped off;" if it has only been loosened, ev1.27en though it has not dropped off [it is enough]. [Where the pitch is removed by means of] lighted chips this is a matter of dispute between Rav Acha and Ravina, the one forbidding [the use of the flask], while the other permits [it]. The law is in accordance with the one who forbids.
Rashi in his commentary (ad loc.) writes:
"Lighted chips" if he put lighted chips inside the flask until the pitch was removed. "The law is in accordance with the one who forbade" and it is not similar to a case where he placed them back in the furnace, because there where he heated them from the outside to the point that the pitch fell off, the clay already underwent libbun (whitening, kashering a utensil by bringing it into direct contact with fire and heating it until it is white hot). But here as soon as he puts in the fire, the pitch is immediately removed. From here we learn that barrels or flasks which are used for storing [non-kosher wine] it is not enough to kasher them from the inside, whether by burning them or by filling them with boiling water, since he forbids with a lighted chip, i.e., with fire itself, and all the more so with something heated with it. But if he can burn them from the outside, it is permitted.
Tosafot (ad loc., s.v. kinsa) infer the following from Rashi:
It follows from his explanation that if he would heat it from the inside to the point that if there were pitch on the outside it would be removed, this suffices.
And in the continuation, Tosafot add:
And Rav Moshe of Coucy wrote that even though we rule that the law is in accordance with the one who forbade, nevertheless, inverting a barrel over a fire - if the fire is so hot and strong on the inside that his hand is spontaneously withdrawn on the outside, it is permitted, and it is treated like hag'ala.
The source of this is the Semag, negative command 145. The Sefer ha-Teruma writes similarly in the name of Ri ha-Zaken, as does the Ran in his name, as well as the Mordekhai that if a person lights a fire inside the utensil that heats it to the point that he cannot touch the utensil from the outside, it is like hag'ala. The Ran writes that the words of Rashi incline in this direction as well. A similar ruling is found in Hagahot Maimuniyot (Hilkhot Ma'akhalot Asurot 11) in the name of the Ri; in the Or Zaru'a (Piskei Avoda Zara, 167; and cited in his name in Hagahot Oshri. And this ruling is codified as Halakha by the Tur and the Shulchan Arukh (Yoreh De'a 135:14).
It may be asked: When these Rishonim say that if a utensil is heated to the point that a person spontaneously removes his hand from the outside of the utensil, it is regarded as hag'ala what type of hag'ala do they have in mind? Is it regarded as hag'ala in a keli rishon, a pot that is sitting on the fire, or is it like hag'ala with water poured from a keli rishon? (In certain cases, we require hag'ala of the first type, whereas in other cases, hag'ala of the second type suffices, depending upon the manner in which the prohibited matter was absorbed into the utensil.)
It would seem that this depends on the law governing the hag'ala that must be performed on barrels that were used for storing non-kosher wine which type of hag'ala do such utensils require? According to the Ri, pouring boiling water from a keli rishon suffices (see Tosafot, s.v. kinsa). According to this, you cannot prove that heating a utensil to the point that a person spontaneously removes his hand from it is any better than hag'ala with water poured from a keli rishon. But from the words of Rashi, cited above "it is not enough to kasher them from the inside, whether by burning them or by filling them with boiling water" the implication is that he agrees with the Ramban and Rabbeinu Chananel, who require hag'ala in a keli rishon; see the Ran, ad loc. And according to the Ran cited earlier that the words of Rashi incline to the view of the Sefer Ha-teruma, it follows that Rashi maintains that such libbun is not like hag'ala in a keli rishon.
We must still consider the matter according to the view cited as "those who say" in the Tur (no. 121, which is the view of the Ramban at the end of Avoda Zara, which seems to have been accepted as law; see Mishna Berura 451:36). According to this view, a distinction is made with respect to hag'ala between a keli rishon that is still sitting on the fire and a keli rishon that has been removed from the fire, even if it is still boiling hot. According to this, if a person used a utensil for non-kosher food while the utensil was sitting on a fire, the hag'ala must also be in a utensil that is sitting on a fire. If so, there is room to ask about libbun kal, regarding a utensil heated up to the point that a person spontaneously removes his hand from the outside of the utensil whether or not this is treated like hag'ala in a keli rishon sitting on a fire. For with respect to this matter, it is not clear whether for the kashering of barrels Rashi requires the hag'ala of a keli rishon sitting on a fire, or whether he maintains that any keli rishon suffices, provided that the water does not reach the barrel by way of pouring.
Rabbeinu Chananel (Avoda Zara 74b) writes: "This tank (na'ava) has no allowance save through boiling water on a fire." This implies that he requires a keli rishon that is still sitting on a fire. From the words of Rashi, however, there is no conclusive proof (see Chiddushei Anshei Shem on the Rif).
Now if we accept this distinction that libbun kal, where a utensil is heated up to the point that a person spontaneously removes his hand from the outside of the utensil, suffices for kashering a keli rishon which had been used for non-kosher food after it had been removed from the fire, but not for kashering a keli rishon which had been used for non-kosher food while it was still on the fire this fits in with the viewpoint of the Peri Megadim (451), who distinguishes between libbun kal where a piece of straw ignites when it touches the utensil from the outside and libbun kal where a person spontaneously removes his hand from the outside of the utensil. He writes there in his "Abridged Laws of Hag'ala," that there are three types of libbun:
1) Until the outermost layer is removed, or sparks fly. This is the ultimate form of libbun.
2) Libbun where a piece of straw ignites when it touches the outside of the utensil which is treated like hag'ala, and is better than hag'ala, as is proven from the words of Hagahot Maimuniyot in the name of Rabbeinu Avigdor, as cited by the Beit Yosef.
3) Libbun which heats the utensil to the point that a person spontaneously removes his hand if it touches the inside or the outside of the utensil, but a piece of straw does not ignite when it touches it. This libbun is treated like hag'ala and is slightly worse than it, for if a piece of straw ignites upon contact, the libbun works even for a keli rishon that became non-kosher when it was sitting on the fire, but if it is only hot enough that a person spontaneously removes his hand, the libbun only works for a keli rishon that became non-kosher after it had been removed from the fire.
The words of the Peri Megadim, however, require further examination, for according to the Mordekhai at the end of Avoda Zara [cited by the Beit Yosef (451) and the Taz (ad loc. no. 8), and so too it seems from the words of Rav Eliyahu Mizrachi in his responsa, cited by the Magen Avraham (ad loc. no. 97)] it turns out that there is no room for the Peri Megadim's distinction. The Mordekhai writes that a utensil that absorbed a forbidden ingredient requires removal of the outermost layer, whereas a utensil that absorbed an ingredient that in itself is permitted, e.g., milk or meat, does not require removal of the outermost layer, but only that the utensil should be so hot that a person spontaneously removes his hand from both sides. The common test for this involves placing a piece of straw on the outside and seeing whether it will ignite.
The Mordekhai adds at the end: "That libbun is no worse than hag'ala, and that libbun removes [the non-kosher] food more so than hag'ala." It is clear from what he writes that "spontaneous removal of the hand from both sides" and "igniting a piece of straw" are the same. And it is also clear that such libbun kal works even for a keli rishon resting on a fire, for no distinction is made between different utensils.
Now, while the Mordekhai does not mention here the position of the Ri, and there would have been room to say that when he equates the two types of libbun kal, he is presenting his own position the words of Rav Eliyahu Mizrachi in his responsa (I, no. 43) cited in the aforementioned Magen Avraham imply that this is how he understood the Ri, that libbun kal which causes the spontaneous removal of a person's hand is treated like hag'ala and works for any keli rishon. This also seems to be the position of the Peri Chadash on the words of the Rema in 451:4.
On this matter, I find perplexing what Rabbi Akiva Eiger writes in his hagahot regarding the words of Rav Eliyahu Mizrachi cited in the Magen Avraham: "I have a difficulty, the fact that he cannot touch it, i.e., that he spontaneously removes his hand, is not called libbun kal, since a piece of straw does not ignite when it touches it." I do not understand how he knows this, as he himself says about what the Rema writes in par. 4 that according to the Taz and the Magen Avraham, even spontaneous removal of the hand suffices. And it cannot be suggested that he maintains that the Rema disagrees with the Mordekhai, and that according to him only libbun that causes a piece of straw to ignite is considered hag'ala, for the Rema notes as his source the Mordekhai cited above and the Hagahot Maimuniyot (Hilkhot Ma'akhalot Assurot, chap. 17).
As for the Mordekhai, we already saw that "spontaneous removal of the hand from both sides" and "igniting a piece of straw" are the same. And as for the Hagahot Mordekhai, though he insists on "igniting a piece of straw," that is because he wants to be lenient and use this type of libbun for things that require actual libbun. The Peri Megadim has already proven from his ruling that "igniting a piece of straw" is better than hag'ala and that it sometimes works even for utensils that are used with fire and require libbun. But as for utensils that that require hag'ala and not libbun, there is no discussion here as to whether they require "igniting a piece of straw" or less than that.
As for the normative law, Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav writes (451:10):
But metal utensils which do not crack from the heat of fire, one can fill with coals from the inside and leave them there until [the utensil reaches the heat] that if a person touches the utensil from the outside, he will spontaneously remove his hand because the utensil has become hot from the coals. By then certainly all the chametz that had been absorbed within is burnt, even though it has not become that hot that sparks fly from it, for surely metal utensils are kashered through hag'ala, and libbun kal like this is no worse than hag'ala.
It should be noted that in the course of his explanation (beyond the segment cited here) he addresses the positions of the Mordekhai, Beit Yosef, Magen Avraham, Peri Chadash, Sefer Ha-teruma, Ri, Tosafot, Semak, Rosh, and Tur and Shulchan Arukh (Yoreh De'a 135) cited above.
As for what he writes that "by then certainly all the chametz that had been absorbed within is burnt" refutes the argument put forward by the Peri Megadim from what is stated in Shulchan Arukh 452 that hag'ala doesn't work with water that has not reached the stage of boiling, even if it is hot enough that one spontaneously removes one's hand, which indicates that "spontaneous removal of the hand" is not regarded like hag'ala because water which causes the forbidden food to be discharged cannot be compared to fire that burns the forbidden food.
See also Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav (ibid. par. 19) regarding chametz found in the cracks of a pot, that "spontaneous removal of the hand" on the other side works, only that the common practice is to be stringent and insist on "igniting a piece of straw." See Arukh Ha-shulchan (451:5) who brings these words of the Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav as normative law.
In light of all that has been said above, it is clear that we can rely on the Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav and on the Arukh Ha-shulchan, both with respect to chametz and with respect to other forbidden foods, as is explicit in the words of the Rishonim, the Ri and the Mordekhai, for they speak about other forbidden foods.
Therefore, when there is a difficulty performing hag'ala with boiling water, or there is concern that as soon as the utensil will enter the water, the water will no longer boil, and it will be impossible to detect this visually, and when there is a difficulty performing libbun that would cause a piece of straw to ignite, or there is concern that the utensil would be ruined through that there is room to permit libbun by way of a blowtorch in such a way that the outer side becomes so hot that a person would spontaneously remove his hands from it, and such libbun is treated like hag'ala.
All this applies, of course, to utensils that absorbed the non-kosher food through water, and not directly with fire, for in the latter case we require libbun which causes sparks to fly.
(Translated by David Strauss)
* This article originally appeared in Alon Shevut 3, no. 1.
 The notion of kashering" a utensil is based on the verse in Bemidbar (31:23) that utensils that had been used by gentiles need to be cleansed Every thing that passes through fire, you shall make it go through fire and it shall be clean and all that does not pass through the fire shall you make to go through water. This is understood by Chazal to teach the following principle: As it absorbs [the forbidden substance] so it discharges it (Pesachim 30b et al). This principle means that in order to expunge prohibited matter from a utensil, the same intensity of heat must be applied as was applied when the prohibited matter was introduced to the utensil in the first place. Thus, if the prohibited matter was absorbed by direct exposure to fire (such as roasting), then it must be discharged through direct exposure to fire, which is known as libbun. If the prohibited matter was exposed through water (such as in a pot that contains liquid that is cooking on a stove) then it can be expunged through immersion in a pot of boiling water (hagala). ed.