For the week ending 31 March 2012 / 7 Nisan 5772

Kashering Teeth?!

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
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Seventy-five years ago, a relatively unknown young avreich (Kollel Youngerman) living in Eretz Yisrael wrote a very detailed and extensive halachic query to the Gadol HaDor of the time, the renowned Chazon Ish, Rav Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz zt”l, regarding a personal pressing issue. Apparently, this young Talmudic scholar had gold crowns on his teeth, and wanted to clarify their halachic status in relation to Pesach. It is well-known that metal utensils used for Chametz (leavened dough products such as bread) year round need to be kashered (the act of kosherizing) to be fit for Pesach use, generally by dipping them into a vat of boiling water[1]. The problem here is that crowns fitted over bad teeth, although made of metal, are actually imbedded in the mouth, so that would seem to rule out the boiling water. Would he have to forgo hot food the entire Pesach?

This question is not only relevant to crowns, but even to fillings, implants, braces, and bridges. What is one to do? Now, by your G-d-given set of choppers,all agree that these natural teeth do not need to be kashered in order to render them suitable for use on Pesach, as they are considered part and parcel of the body. Furthermore, the material of which they are fashioned (enamel) is not considered halachically absorbent. That is why nothing more than a thorough cleaning (brushing and flossing) on Erev Pesach after eating our last bite of Chametz is necessary to have a kosher l’Pesach mouth. However, to resolve the issue of crowns and implants, we must first digress to a more common concern: dentures and false teeth, which were already addressed by halachic authorities a generation or two earlier.

Many halachic decisors of the previous generations felt that there was no need to kasher dentures between eating hot meat and hot milk due to a variety of reasons[2] including:

  1. Dentures’ makeup is similar to natural teeth and are also considered halachically nonabsorbent.
  2. Most people do not generally eat food while its piping hot, which inhibits any actual absorption into the false teeth.
  3. By the time the food is eaten it is already considered a kli shlishi (or at the very least a kli sheini – meaning at least twice removed from being cooked on the fire, and not considered halachic cooking), which according to most authorities hinders the food’s ability to be absorbed in the false teeth.

In other words, relating to the issue of Bassar B’Chalav, dentures are deemed not to be considered an actual utensil that requires kashering, but rather similar to genuine teeth themselves, sharing the same relevant halachos.

Several authorities maintain that the very same ruling would apply for Pesach, and rule that a thorough cleaning of the false teeth prior to Pesach would be sufficient[3].

Yet, other authorities, including the famed Maharsham[4], feel that one must be more stringent regarding Pesach, and rule that one must at least do an Iruy Roschin, or pouring boiling hot water over them, to be suitable for Pesach use. It must be noted, though, that Iruy is a lesser form of kashering and is usually not considered an acceptable process for utensils.

This is all relevant to our discussion, as the issue is how do we define these crowns, fillings, implants, and braces, et al? If we were to follow the Maharsham’s ruling and necessitate Iruy before Pesach, how can we accomplish this, if they have since become a part of us?

In his writing, our young scholar offered and rejected various rationales, until finally hitting upon what he felt was the proper halachic solution, echoing the words of the great Chasam Sofer and his son the Ksav Sofer[5]. They maintained that when meat would be left inside the mouth, the combination of the salivary juices, natural heat, and chemical reactions taking place in the oral cavity, greatly accelerate the digestive process, and render that “meat” Pagum, repulsive and utterly inedible, and resulting in its losing its status of meat. This avreich extrapolated that the same underlying principle would apply to implants (and even dentures) as well, and thereby negating the need for kashering, as any possible absorbed taste or flavor of Chametz would long ago have been considered Pagum and thus negligible.

Although he did qualify his resolution, stating that it is proper not to eat any Chametz within 24 hours before Pesach, and to drink a hot cup of water (hotter than usual) prior to the onset of Pesach, still, he felt that even so, a proper oral cleaning would still be halachically sufficient.

So, what was the name of our erudite scholar? None other than Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, later to become the Gadol HaDor in his own right! His letter actually turned out to be one of his most famous published halachic rulings in his three volume collection of responsa, Shu”t Minchas Shlomo[6]. Several other contemporary authorities echo Rav Shlomo Zalman’s sound reasoning in their own applicable rulings[7]. And although the Chazon Ish never actually replied in writing to his letter, it is known that he accepted Rav Shlomo Zalman’s ruling as halacha, and did not mandate any sort of kashering for dentures nor crowns and implants[8]! In fact, when later asked why he never sent an official response, the Chazon Ish replied that “the author asked my opinion, but after such a complete and articulate take on the situation, what can I possibly add?[9]

[1]O.C. 451 & 452 at length. See previous article titled “Kashering New Pots For Pesach?!

[2]Including the She’elas Shalom (Shu”t Tinyana 195, cited in the Darchei Teshuva 89, 11), the Maharsham (Shu”t vol. 1, 197), the Melamed L’ho’eel (Shu”t vol. 1, 93), the Kaf Hachaim (Y”D 89, 22), the Zekan Aharon (Shu”t vol. 2, Y”D 51), the Mei Be’er (Shu”t 24), the Chemdas Efraim (Shu”t Y”D 13), the Tzur Yaakov (Shu”t 188), Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe O.C. vol. 1., end 5), Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky (Emes L’Yaakov on Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 451, footnote 441), the Minchas Yitzchak (Shu”t vol. 8, 37), the Mishneh Halachos (Shu”t vol. 3, 56; vol. 4, 68 & 93; vol. 12, 13), Rav Y.Y. Fisher (Shu”t Even Yisrael (vol. 9, 68, footnote 1), the Bais Avi (Shu”t vol. 2, 96), Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Shu”t Yabea Omer vol. 3, O.C. 24, 7; Shu”t Yechaveh Da’as vol. 1, 8), his son Rav Yitzchak Yosef (Yalkut Yosef IV”H vol. 3, 89, 12), and the Sha’arim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (vol. 1, 46, 5). However, the Darchei Teshuva himself concludes that if at all possible, it is worthwhile to get a separate set of dentures, one for eating milk and one for eating meat. It is rumored that one of the earlier Lubavitcher Rebbes (Rasha"b) followed this, with 3 separate pairs of dentures: one each for milk, meat and for Pesach; however this account is disputed. (Otzer Minhagei Chabad vol. 2, pg. 65, 22). Either way, as written above, halachically speaking, separate dentures are most definitely not required.

[3]The Sdei Chemed (Ma’areches Chametz U’Matzah 4, 23) cites both sides of this dispute without coming to a clear consensus. Those who are lenient include the Rava”z (Shu”t 10), the Mayim Chaim (Shu”t O.C. 177), the Beis Yitzchak (Shu”t Y”D vol. 1, 43, 2), the Beis HaOtzar (brought by the Sdei Chemed ibid.), the Melamed L’Ho’eel (ibid.), and the Beis Yisrael (Shu”t O.C. 85). The Yad Yitzchak (Shu”t vol. 3, 78) feels that Irui U’Milui with cold water for three days while switching the water after every twenty-four hours is sufficient.

[4]Shu”t Maharsham (ibid.). Others who rule stringently include the She’elas Shalom and Tzur Yaakov cited above. As mentioned above the Sdei Chemed did not rule conclusively. Several contemporary authorities as well, rule stringently, and maintain that at least l’chatchila one should try to do Iruy on his dentures before Pesach, including Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 2, 211, 7), and the Minchas Chein (Shu”t 28, Ch. 3, 3). Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky (Emes L'Yaakov ibid.) was also known to be more stringent in this issue regarding Pesach.

[5]Chasam Sofer (commentary on Gemara Chullin 105a s.v bassar shebain), Ksav Sofer )glosses to Shulchan Aruch Y"D 89).

[6]Shu"t Minchas Shlomo (vol. 2, 46; Tinyana 50). It is also cited decisively in his name by several later sefarim including Nishmas Avraham (vol. 2, 89,2), Halichos Shlomo (on Moadim vol. 2, Ch. 12, 12, footnote 14) and Shalmei Moed (pg. 137, Ch. 72, end footnote 75).

[7]Including the Zekan Aharon, the Bais Avi, and the Even Yisrael, (cited above in footnote 2).

[8]Orchos Rabbeinu (vol. 2, Hilchos Pesach pg. 27, 25). Many other contemporary halachic authorities also rule that dentures do not need any sort of kashering for Pesach including the Steipler Gaon (Orchos Rabbeinu ibid.), the Har Tzvi (cited in Chok L'Yisrael vol. 4, 36), Rav Y.S. Elyashiv (cited in Ashrei HaIsh vol.3, pg.349, 24), Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Shu"t Ohr L'Tzion vol. 3. Ch.10, 15), the Kelach Shel Eizov (Pupa Rebbe - 23), and the Yesodei Yeshurun (vol. 6, pg. 164). Several other decisors agree that me'ikar hadin one is not required to perform Iruy on their false teeth, but feel that nevertheless, it is preferable if at all possible, including the Shevet HaLevi (Shu”t vol. 1, 148; vol. 4, 74; Kovetz Moriah #99 - Iyar 5751 pg. 89 -90), the Tzitz Eliezer (Shu"t vol. 9, 25), the Mishneh Halachos (Shu"t vol. 4, 68), the Bais Avi (ibid.), Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Shu"t Yabea Omer ibid. 10), and the Badat"z Eidah Chareidis (in their most recent Madrich Kashrus, # 61 -5771, pg. 44, Ch.10, 2& 3).

[9]This conclusion is brought in the sefer Shalmei Moed (pg. 134, Ch. 72, footnote 74), quoting Rav S. Greineman.

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author: [email protected]

Disclaimer: These are just a few basic guidelines and overview of the Halacha discussed in this article. This is by no means a complete comprehensive authoritative guide, but rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issue. One should not compare similar cases in order to rules in any real case, but should refer his questions to a competent Halachic authority.

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