What does your operation entail?

We go to people’s houses, pick up what they need toiveled, take it to the mikveh, toivel it, and bring it back. Sometimes I’ll show up and the stuff is all packed and ready to go, other times we need to do it ourselves — wrap it in bubble wrap if it’s fragile, pack it into boxes. We’ll make sure there are no stickers, no glue, take it off if there is, and then we toivel it. After that it’s just drying it off, packing, and bringing it back.

How did you get started?

Last year, when I was 21, a bunch of my friends were doing car cleaning before Pesach. I always did that, the quick-service businesses like selling lulavim and esrogim before Succos, hustling for three to four months and then going back to yeshivah. Car cleaning is very profitable, but the market is cluttered — all my friends were doing it, employing like 10 or 11 guys each. So I sat down in my house with a pen and paper to brainstorm for a few hours. I was thinking of things connected to holidays and Judaism — shaatnez pick-up and drop-off service; a service that sends a mashgiach to your house to check your fruits and vegetables; tevilas keilim. These were some of the ideas I came up with. I ran them by my family, and tevilas keilim got the best reaction. What started off as a nice sideline hobby has become my main source of parnassah. It’s taken over my life — my chavrusa and I study the halachos from the Shulchan Aruch and its various commentaries daily, I’m constantly learning and re-learning. I never thought my parnassah would be tevilas keilim, but I love that it is!

Who’s your clientele?

A lot of people get our tevilas keilim service as a wedding present — we have these newlywed gift cards. Think about it, every chassan and kallah gets tons of kitchen items from their registries, showers, friends, family, and then they have to toivel it all. Sometimes I’ll meet a new couple at the mikveh while I’m on a job. I’ll say, “Hey, guys, you don’t have to be here, I can do this for you,” and I give them my card. They laugh and say, “I wish we would’ve known about you yesterday!” I also do a lot of kitchens for baalei teshuvah, they’re redoing their entire kitchen, they have tons of stuff from over the years. Sometimes they even come with us to see what we do, how tevilah works. I remember one big job for a baalas teshuvah, it was two guys working with me, and it took the three of us almost 11 hours! She called halfway through the job to see what was taking so long, and then she saw how much stuff it was… Other times I coach them through it so they can do it on their own once they’re settled and comfortable with the idea.

What’s the farthest you’ve gone for a job?

For now, most of my jobs are around New York — Far Rockaway, Five Towns, Queens, Brooklyn, the city. I’ve gotten calls from Lakewood and Monsey, I haven’t done any there yet but I’m expanding soon, so I will. To be honest, we’re open to coming to any community that could use us. I definitely plan to do LA, I have to fly out there to arrange it. I think this kind of service will be really appreciated there!

What equipment do you always have on you?

Goo Gone to get off all the stickers and the sticky stuff, it really works! And nail polish remover, funnily enough. Plastic and metal razors to remove stickers, sponges to get the greasy stuff off. Newspapers, I have tons, we use them to fill in the spaces when we pack up a box. A trolley for heavy boxes.

What’s the largest item you ever toiveled? The smallest?

Largest are massive cooking pots, or some people have these enormous challah boards, they’re huge — half the size of my body. Smallest are those tiny serving spoons, like for salt.

Any toiveling tips?

Bring a towel to dry the stuff. Usually new dishes are in a cardboard box, and the water is wet obviously, and once you toivel, if you put it into the box, it gets wet and it can collapse. In the beginning, when I was still learning the process, I had jobs where when I was done, I’d lift the box — and the box would come up, but the soggy bottom and the pots would stay on the floor.

Have you sustained injuries on the job?

Mostly cuts from knives, nothing serious. Sometimes people give me a box of random stuff, it’s all jumbled together, and if I reach in, I can grab a knife the wrong way… I’ve never fallen into the mikveh but I have gone in with more than half my body to get something that fell in.

What sort of sh’eilos do you have?

People always ask if materials like Pyrex and Teflon need tevilah, with or without a brachah. Sometimes I see someone making the brachah on the wrong thing so I try to point it out, “Oh, it’s probably better to make it on the metal spoon and have everything in mind.” Last week I was at the mikveh with a bunch of boxes, somebody was there with a bunch of her stuff. I said, “By the way, next time I can do this for you.” She said, “Actually I really have to run, can you do it now?” Sure! But first I called my rav to ask if I needed to make a new brachah on her stuff. For every job, I have in mind that I’m a shaliach for whoever it is. But her job was a new one, and I made the brachah on the original job, so do I make a new brachah? The rav — Rav Daniel Ovadia in the Five Towns, that’s who I ask most of my sh’eilos to — said in that case, I should continue toiveling, but there are similar scenarios where I would have to make a new brachah. There are also questions with electronic items, some you don’t want to take a chance dipping them in the mikveh, but there can still be ways to do it — if you unscrew the electric panel, take out the wires, and reconnect it, it’s as if you — a Jew — built the item, and it doesn’t need tevilah.

What reactions do you get when people hear what you do?

Laughter. They’re usually shocked at first, then confused— “What do you do?” “Oh, I dip things in the mikveh.” The funnest part is explaining what I do to a non-Jew: “I dip kitchen items in rainwater, it’s sort of holy water. Yes, kitchen items.” Umm, what?? Old-timers also have funny reactions, “Which people will pay you to toivel their stuff instead of doing it themselves?” And I think, thank G-d you’re not the only ones out there! 

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 677)