Question: I learned that a hot water kettle is either milchig or fleishig. In other words, once one pours from it into a milchig kli (utensil) it may no longer be used to pour into a fleishig kli. Could you please remind me of this halacha’s source?
Answer: We can provide you with a source but must tell you that we do not agree with its application. The Rama (Yoreh De’ah 105:3) says: “It is forbidden to pour from a kli that contains kosher fats into a lit candle cup that contains forbidden fat.” His source is a Mordechai based on a mishna in Machshirin (5:10) that when one pours a cold pure liquid into a hot impure liquid, the liquids are connected in the process and the contents of the pouring kli become impure. While some contemporary kashrut guide may learn from here that one cannot use one urn for milchig and fleishig keilim, we will present for you the consensus of the poskim and the logic behind it.
The strongest argument against the Mordechai’s thesis is that one cannot compare the laws of impurity, which revolve around contact, to the laws of kashrut, which depend on imparting taste (T’rumat HaDeshen, P’sakim 103). Since several Rishonim disagree with the Mordechai, we can understand why the Rama concludes the quote above, ...”and if it was already done, one need not be concerned.” The question in the poskim is thus whether one should avoid pouring, not what happens to the kli.
Your case is more lenient than the Rama’s in several ways. One is that the mishna says said that the stringency applies (according to the accepted opinion) only when pouring from cold to hot, where the hot on the bottom sends up steam (see Shach, YD 105:11; Taz ad loc. 6; Pri Megadim ad loc.). In contrast, your case is talking about pouring from hot into either hot or cold (see Pleiti ad loc. 8).
There are further points of leniency. Rav S.Z. Auerbach is quoted (see Vayizra Yitzchak, Melicha, pg. 32) as saying the Rama was speaking only in a case of forbidden foods, not with milk and meat. We find several leniencies in regard to taste coming from milk or meat into a pareve food or kli (see Avoda Zara 76a and Yoreh Deah 95). Even if we would decide that when hot water is poured from an urn onto milk, all the water becomes milchig, new water subsequently heated in that urn would be only b’chezkat chalavi (milchig-leaning). Regarding such water, there is a machloket between Ashkenazim (stringent) and S’fardim to what extent and under what circumstances it can be consumed together with meat (see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, Yoreh Deah 95:3 with commentaries). Therefore, it is very logical to not apply the stringency of transfer through pouring to more lenient areas.
Applying the stringency to pouring into milk or meat is in our opinion reasonable but unnecessary. However, it would certainly be permitted to pour from a pareve urn into a milchig cup when the cup does not contain milk. After all, even Ashkenazim who do not to eat pareve food that was cooked in fleishig or milchig with food of the other type, agree that pareve food cooked in milchig or fleishig can be put hot into a kli of the other type (ibid.).
When a significant amount of hot steam reaches a kli from a food, it can change the kli’s status (Rama, YD 108:1). Therefore, in a case that an urn gets close enough to relatively thick steam of milk or meat, the type of issues we are discussing may exist (Darkei Teshuva 105:101).
Based on the above analysis we feel it is perfectly acceptable to have one hot water kettle to be used with milk and meat. It is proper, in addition to making sure that it is not soiled by milchig and fleishig substances, not to get it too close to foods that contain actual meat and milk because of the steam that can come out (see HaKashrut (Fuchs) 1:69). However, one does not have to assume that that has or will happen and in almost all cases, the kli will remain pareve. Further precautions beyond what we have mentioned are, in our opinion, unwarranted. However, you can check with your personal halachic advisor to clarify his stance.
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