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The Actions of a Katan

Keilim (17:15) | Yisrael Bankier | 4 days ago

The Mishnah (17:15) teaches that if a small child carved out a pomegranate, acorn or walnut for a plaything, e.g. to hold dirt or act as scales then the resulting kli is susceptible to tumah. The Mishnah explains that a minor’s machshava(intention) is insignificant – they are not considered as have daat that has legal force. Nevertheless, their maaseh(actions) are significant. Consequently their crafting the items above has legal force and the items are considered keilim.

According to the Tifferet Yisrael,the above explanation is not accurate. The machshava of a katan is not completely insignificant. In truth, it is required in combination with the child’s maaseh in order for the product to be considered a kli. He continues that if he randomly hacked away at the item then it would not be considered a kli. This is even if he later began to use it as, e.g. a measuring utensil. It would be no different to if he found a burrowed out pomegranate on the ground and decided to play with it. Consequently, while an action is required and it must be purposeful.

The Tifferet Yisrael clarifies further. We learn later (25:9, 26:7) that a kli can become susceptible to tumah by machshava alone. As already explained this would only apply to the machshava of a gadol (aged above bar mitzvah). He notes however that that Mishnah is understood as referring to items that are already intentionally fashioned as keilim. The Bartenura explains there, that we are dealing with a ring for an animal that is not susceptible to tumah. If a person who intends to reuse it as a ring for people, the thought alone would make it susceptible to tumah. He understands therefore that if a person found a hollowed out shell, machshava alone would not make it susceptible to tumah – even for a gadol.

What then is the difference between a katan and gadol and how should we read our Mishnah according to the Tifferet Yisrael?

The Tifferet Yisrael explains as follows. Recall we need machshava and maaseh for the item to be considered a kli. When the Mishnah teaches that a katan has a maaseh it is teaching the following. If a katan hacks away at a pomegranate without purpose, it is not a kli. If a gadol came later and wishes to use it for a purpose - he supplies the machshava – it is susceptible to tumah. The actions of a katan are significant enough such that it can combine with a gadol’s machshava later. It is not as if the gadol found a random hollowed shell; a further maaseh is not required.

The Mishnah also teaches that the katan does not have machshava. The Tifferet Yisrael explains this to mean as follows. If the gadol now hacked away at the pomegranate, since it was without intent, it is not a kli. If the katan comes later and wishes to use it for a purpose, his machshava in isolation is insufficient and the kli would not be susceptible to tumah. For a katan, as explained above, his machshava is only effective at the time of the action.

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