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Food in Contact

Taharot (1:7) | Yisrael Bankier | 5 days ago

The Mishnah (1:7) discusses the case of bread rolls that "bite" into each other, and a source of tumah touches one. This means that the rolls were connected, such that if they would be pulled apart, some of one roll would be pulled away with the other. The Mishnah rules that they are treated as one, such that all the roles are tameh at the same level of tumah even if they are subsequently pulled apart. The next Mishnah (1:8) however discusses dough that was already tameh and then was connected to another one. When connected they share the same level of tumah. If however they are separated, the second dough is treated as if had only touched the first. For example, if the first was a rishon le'tumah, then the second would be a sheini le'tumah once it is separated.

When learning these two Mishnayot we see how important it is to be keenly aware of the language the Mishnah uses. The Mishnah Achrona notes that in the first Mishnah the two rolls became connected. The term noshchot implies that it happened on its own, for example, as the dough expanded in the oven. In the second Mishnah the term hishich is used, which suggests that they were actively and intentionally connected. What is the significance of the change in language?

The Mishnah Achrona explains that if they were deliberately connected, then they are considered one mass on a biblical level. If it happened on its own, then it is only one mass on a rabbinic level. Consequently, in the first Mishnah the rolls joined on their own. It was necessary to bring that case, since the Mishnah wanted to teach that even though the join was only rabbinic, if they joined prior to touching the source of tumah, they are still considered one mass. Consequently, even if they were separated, they are still all on the same level of tumah as if they each came into contact with the source of tumah directly.

In the second Mishnah it was necessary to teach that the dough was deliberately joined together. Despite being considered one mass on a biblical level, since they were joined only after they tumah touched one of the doughs, if they are subsequently separated, using our example above, the second dough would be a sheni le'tumah. The Tifferet Yisrael (Boaz 1:14) adds that this is because they are only considered one mass at the time they are connected. He explains that this is much like the case of the tameh mizron (bed belt) that only when connected to the bed, does that bed share the same level of tumah as the mizron (Keilim 19:5).

The difficulty with this explanation is the last case in this Mishnah. The Mishanh teaches that if the first dough was terumah and was a shlishi le'tumah and then connected with other dough, the other dough would be tahor. The Bartenura explains that since a shlishi le'tumah cannot affect other tumah that it is contact with, even while connected the other dough remains tahor. If it is one mass, then the rest of the dough should be considered a shlishi le'tumah whilst connected.

The Mishnah Achrona adds that this last ruling contradicts another Mishnah in Keilim (18:7). The Mishnah rules that a rishon le'tumah bed leg that was attached to a bed, while attached, the entire bed is a rishon le'tumah. Note that a rishon le'tumah cannot make the rest of the bed tumah (a sheini). According to the reasoning above, the rest of the bed should remain tahor.

To understand the answer to the question we need to ask, why if the dough is only biting into each other, but not completed kneaded together, is it considered one mass? The Mishnah Achrona explains that if this was intentional, the owner must be happy with the result, and it is therefore considered connected (chibbur). In the case where the first dough was a rishon or sheni, the other dough is already tameh just from being in contact with the first one. Consequently, separating the dough after will not stop the other dough from being tameh. If however the original dough was a shlishi, then the other dough can still be salvaged by separating them. Consequently, the owner will want to separate them in order to recover the remaining tahor dough. That being the case, even whilst they are connected, in this specific case, it is considered as if they are already separated.

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