The Mishnah(18:7) discusses a case of a tameh bed leg that was attached to a bed. If the leg was originally tameh midras(an av ha’tumah) then the bed also becomes tameh to the same degree. If the leg is subsequently removed, then the bed becomes a maga midras(a rishon le’tumah) having been in contact with tumat midras. A basic question that must be asked is how did the bed leg become tameh midras?
Tumat Midras applies when a zav or zava lie, lean or rest on a kli that is designed for that purpose. The novelty of Tumat Midras is that the item also becomes an av ha’tumah much like the zav or zava that rested on it.The Bartenura explains that in this case the bed leg was detached from the bed and the zav trod on it.
The Tifferet Yisrael finds this explanation difficult. He explains that even if the leg was attached to the bed and the zav lay on it, once removed, the leg would be considered like a broken kli and the tumah disappear. He continues that even if one would suggest that the leg was large enough to be suitable for midras, the Gemara(Sukkah 16a) questions the utility of the individual parts of a bed frame and why they should be susceptible to tumah. Furthermore, the Rambam (Keilim 25:10) rules that if a zav steps on a block of wood, it is tahor. In sum, the individual leg is a broken kli and should not be susceptible to tumah.
The Tifferet Yisrael explains therefore that the leg became tameh while it was attached to the bed. It is true that once it becomes detached it is then tahor.*Nevertheless once it is attached to another bed, the original tumah* returns.
The Mishnah Achrona addresses the same question and raises the answer of the Tifferet Yisrael citing it from the Tosfot(Sukkah 15b, s.v. “ba’arucha”) adding that the Rash and the Rosh agree. He however finds this explanation difficult since we only see the concept of returning tumah applying to metal utensils. He directs us to the Tosfot(Shabbat 112b) that argues this point.
The Mishnah Achrona suggests two answers. The first is in defense of the Bartenura that explains that the zav stood on it when it was detached. He explains that we can be dealing with a case where the leg suitable to be used as a walking stick. Since walking stick are leaned upon, they are can become tameh midras.
Alternatively, he cites a principle that he developed earlier, that if one breaks off a part of a kli with the intention of returning it, everyone agrees that the tumah remains. Consequently, one can explain that this is indeed the case in our Mishnah. The leg became tameh while it was attach and prior to being intentionally removed for short time. The novelty then is that this tumah bed leg that can transfer tumah to a tahor bed if attached, albeit temporarily.
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