Ask the Rav: I am staying overnight in a hotel, and would like to eat a tradition soup. Can I heat up water in the urn supplied by the hotel?
By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikva
Can I use the hot water urn in a hotel or vacation house?
Water is always kosher and does not require a hechsher unless it is flavored. Cooked water doesn’t pose an issue of bishul akum since it is drunk uncooked as well. Still, there is potential for an urn to become not kosher when used with non-kosher food.
If hot water is dispensed onto a non-kosher food and steam rises back to the spout, it can make the spout not kosher, if either the steam or spout is hot (yad soledes) on contact. Likewise, dispensing hot water into meat or milk can affect the pareve status of the urn in this manner.
If there is enough water in the urn to have a ratio of one to sixty against the steam, the prohibited (or milchig / fleishig) taste is nullified. Otherwise, it needs to be kashered. Yet, the poskim offer various arguments for leniency when the history of the urn is unknown:
First of all, it can be assumed that the urn wasn’t used with treif in the past 24 hours. Any absorbed taste is therefore pagum (stale) and incapable of prohibiting other food b’dieved. Secondly, one can rely that the steam was probably batel in sixty, since that is usually the case. Additional mitigating factors are that the steam doesn’t usually rise directly to the urn and a plastic spout usually doesn’t reach the problematic level of heat. (One needn’t be concerned that non-kosher food was actually cooked in the urn, since that isn’t normally done.)
In practice, a more ideal manner to use the urn in a hotel or vacation home is to kasher it first. After 24 hours of non-use, ensure it is clean and then boil it up when full, and if possible, also have some of the hot water overflow from the top.
If the vacation home belongs to a Jew and there is suspect that he didn’t toivel the urn, one should not use the urn unless there is a tremendous need, or if the host will be offended.
Can I use a kosher fleishig pot to boil water for coffee?
If one only has a fleishig pot, he may use it to heat up water for coffee if it is clean and wasn’t used for 24 hours. This is based on it being a secondary trace of the meat to the water (nat bar nat) and a stale flavor after 24 hours passed (nosen taam lifgam). Although normally we would still not use it, in a case of need one may be lenient.