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    Purim Kashruth Questions

    Is one permitted to bathe, take a haircut or listen to music on Taanis Esther?

    The Meiri (Sefer Magen Avos 23) writes that Taanis Esther is different than other communal fast days. Other communal fast days commemorate events of tragedy, while Taanis Esther is a day of celebration, for on that day, the Jews of old fasted before going to war (Mishna Berura 686:2), merited to have Hashem listen to their plea and overcame their enemies. This contrast is reflected in the following halacha: The Gemara (Megila 5a) states that when the 9th day of Av falls on Shabbos, the fast of Tisha B’av is delayed until Sunday. We do not observe the fast before Shabbos because one should postpone, rather than advance, the commemoration of tragedy. In contrast, when the 13th day of Adar falls on Shabbos (as is the case this year), Taanis Esther is observed on the previous Thursday. We may advance the fast since it commemorates a joyous event. By the same token, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l (Halichos Shlomo, Purim 18:6) contrasts Taanis Esther with other fast days with respect to bathing and cutting hair. Although bathing is technically permitted on all fast days except Tisha B’av (Shulchan Oruch 550:1), and hair cutting is acceptable on Tzom Gedalia and Asara B’teves, some are stringent and do not bathe and take haircuts on communal fast days, in keeping with the sad character of the day . This is not the case with Taanis Esther, where everyone agrees that bathing and haircuts are permissible. Rav Zilberstein, shlita (Chashukei Chemed Megila 16b) writes that one may even listen to music. However, Rav Elyashiv, zt”l is quoted in the sefer Ashrei HaIsh (Vol. 3:41:20) as saying that it is inappropriate to listen to music on Taanis Esther. Taanis Esther is also a day of forgiveness, and music will detract from the solemnity of the day.

    I am planning to send a glass plate with cookies for mishloach manos. Can I avoid the need for tevilah by placing the cookies on a doily or foil, such that the cookies won’t directly touch the plate?

    Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 120:4) writes that a stove-top grate does not need tevilah. The Aruch Hashulchan (Yoreh De’ah 120:32) explains that the mitzvah of tevilah only applies to utensils that come into direct contact with food. Since the grate does not come in contact with the food, it does not require tevilah. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (see Sefer Tevilas Keilimpg. 55) maintained that a metal pitcher used to hold plastic pouches of milk does not require tevilah, because the plastic pouch is used to transport the milk and is therefore considered a separate container. However, if one lines a metal pitcher with plastic, the plastic is not considered a separate entity since it serves only as a liner. In such an instance, the pitcher would require tevilahwith a bracha. Similarly, Rav Schachter, Shlita said, a glass plate requirestevilah even if the cookies are served on a doily or foil. The doily or foil is used for decorative purposes and is not treated as a separate entity. In contrast, formishloach manos, one may place packaged food, such as a box of cookies or a bottle of wine, on a plate that has not been toveled. In this instance, the wrapping is a package and therefore we view the food as being stored in the package and not as being served on the tray. A note should be included to the recipient that the plate has not been toveled.

    This Purim, I am planning to send cookies to my neighbor on a metal tray for mishloach manos. Should I tovel the tray, or should my neighbor perform the tevilah?

    Bais Yosef (Yoreh De’ah 120) writes that tevilah is only required for utensils used with food. Thus, if a Jewish store owner buys utensils from a non-Jew for resale, the merchant is not obligated to perform the mitzvah of tevilah. Since there is no mitzvah, even if the merchant was tovel the utensils, the tevilah would be ineffective; the purchaser would be required to perform tevilah in spite of the earlier tevilah. Similarly, a tray purchased as a stand-alone gift cannot be toveled before it reaches the recipient. However, if the gift will be a tray with food on it (such as mishloach manos on a tray), there is a dispute whether the giver is required to perform tevilah. Therefore, the proper procedure in the latter case is for the giver to tovel the tray without a bracha and then inform the recipient that he too should tovel the tray without a bracha.