Flat Metal Keilim

Keilim (11:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 7 days ago

With the beginning of the eleventh perek we started learning about metal keilim. The first Mishnah teaches us that metal keilim can be susceptible to tumah even if they are flat and do not have a beit kibul -- formed as a receptacle.

The second Mishnah teaches that if a metal kli has a shem bifnei atzmo --named independently -- then it is susceptible to tumah. In other words, if the kli is known by its own name, e.g. knife, sword, etc, then it is susceptible to tumah. This is in contrast to a hook, that is named relative to something else, e.g. picture hook, coat hook, etc.

The Bartenura explains that this law that a metal kli that has a shem bifnei atzmo is susceptible to tumah, applies whether or not the kli has a beit kibul. How do we understand this comment?

The Mishnah Achrona explains that the Bartenura understands that this Mishnah is qualifying the previous one. In other words, for metal keilim that do not have a beit kibul, they are only susceptible to tumah if they have a shem bifnei atzmo. It is only then that they are considered significant like a kli that has a beit kibul. A kli that has a beit kibul, has significance enough that it is susceptible to tumah even if it does not have a shem bifnei atzmo.

The Mishnah Achrona adds that an additional reason why this requirement does not apply to a kli that has a beit kibul is because such keilim generally have a shem bifnei atzmo. How do we understand this comment?

We first need to understand the requirement of having a shem bifnei atzmo. The Rambam (Hilchot Keilim 9:1) explains that a kli that does not have one, is only considered a partial kli. In other words, it functions only when it is connected to, or serving another kli. Consequently, it is not a kli in its own right.

Based on this, we can understand the second comment of the Mishnah Achrona, that even if technically the requirement of shem bifnei atzmo applies to all forms of metal keilim, a kli that has a beit kibul can function independently and would therefore be considered as having a shem bifnei atzmo.

The Aruch HaShulchan (Keilim 196) however explains the Bartenura differently. All keilim that have a beit kibul are susceptible to tumah. Consequently, metal keilim are no different, and if they have a beit kibul they are susceptible to tumah without further qualifications. The novelty the Torah introduces for metal keilim is that they are susceptible to tumah even if flat. Consequently, the requirement of a shem bifnei atzmo applies on regarding metal keilim that do not have a beit kibul. In other words, extending the susceptibility to tumah to a flat metal kli is only if it is not secondary or serving another metal kli (e.g. a lid).

The Aruch HaShulchan provides a proof for this understanding from the Rambam's (ibid) explanation on the eighth Mishnah. The Mishnah explains that a soldier's helmet is susceptible to tumah. The metal plates that rest on his checks however are not. The Rambam explains that this is because the jaw-pieces do not have a shem bifnei atzmo. The Mishnah however continues that if these pieces can contain water for drink, then they are susceptible to tumah. We find therefore, that once it has a beit kibul, the requirement of a having a beit kibul falls away.

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