The Torah obligation to tovel kitchen ware that came from a non-Jewish source is well known (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah, 120). The subject I would like to examine is may one use kosher utensils when the owner has not (yet!) toveled them? (Of course if they're your things, you should go and tovel them – but here I will discuss the case when you want to eat with someone else's things, such as your parents, when you know they did not tovel them).
First of all, we need to be clear that even if a person used a dish without toveling it, the food is still kosher. There is an obligation to tovel the dish – but the food remains unaffected. Our question is what is the status of the obligation to tovel the dishes? Does it mean that it is forbidden to use them at all, by anyone, until they are toveled?
The question hinges on the understanding of the obligation to tovel – is it on the owner of the dish to tovel it (the "gavrah") or, on the other hand, is the dish forbidden to be used until toveled (the "cheftzah"). This in turn, perhaps, depends on whether there is a Torah prohibition to use dishes before being toveled, or, on the other hand, whether it is just a Rabbinic stricture to ensure that people will in fact tovel their dishes.
If we say that the Torah prohibits using the vessel before being toveled, then it is likely that the dish itself is forbidden (the "cheftzah"), and nobody may use it before toveling it, not only the owner. On the other hand, if the Torah only obligates toveling the dishes, but forbidding the use of the dishes before being toveled is a Rabbinic decree, it is probable that only the owner of the dishes, who has the obligation (and permission) to tovel them is forbidden to eat off them – but other people, who have no obligation (or permission) to tovel the dishes, may indeed eat off them before toveling.
[There is a third possibility which is that in fact the Torah does obligate the owner to tovel their dishes, but this does not mean that the dishes themselves are forbidden (which is what we said above), but it merely creates a personal Torah prohibition only on the owner against his using the dishes – but it does not obligate other people who are not the owners.
And a fourth possibility is that even though the Torah permits the use of non-toveled dishes, there is in fact a Rabbinic stricture forbidding the use of the non-toveled dishes by everyone, not just the owners.]
The majority opinion is that it is forbidden for anyone to use Jewishly-owned dishes before they are toveled. However, there are those who permit a guest to use un-toveled dishes in times of need, embarrassment, shalom bayit etc. This is based on the logic we explained, that the obligation to tovel the dish is on the owner, and does not forbid the dish itself. Additionally, it could be that even if one wants to say that the dish itself is forbidden for everyone to use, there are those that say that this is only Rabbinic – and as such, in times of great need we can be lenient with a Rabbinic decree (Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l). (For more depth see Be'Ohela Shel Torah, Rav Y. Ariel shlitah, volume 1, 19).
שיעורים נוספים ניתן למצוא בקטגוריות הבאות: הלכה
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