The seventeenth Mishnah in the twenty-fourth perek discusses the law where a kli is patched or reinforced with another. The question arises where one of the keilim is tameh and the other tahor and the Mishnah address whether the resulting combined kli is tameh.
The Mishnah focuses on the case of two baskets. If only one of them was structurally sound, then its state of tumah will dictate the state of the resulting kli. If one is larger than the other, then the larger one is critical. Finally if the two keilim appear to be equal, then the Mishnah rules that the internal one dictates the outcome.
R’ Shimon continues the discussion addressing the patching of a tahor urn with a tameh plate from scales. He rules that if the plate was placed at the base on the outside then the status of the urn is still critical. If however it was placed inside the urn at the base, then the plate dictates the outcome. Finally, he explains that if however the plate was attached on the side of the urn, then we disregard the status of the plate irrespective of whether the plate was attached on the inside or outside of the urn.
A number of questions need to be addressed regarding the opinion of R’ Shimon. The first is what he is adding and whether he is arguing with the opinion that preceded him. The second is the rational behind his position, as it appears to contradict previous Mishnayot we have learnt.
The Bartenura explains that R’ Shimon is simply coming to explain the opinion of the Tana Kama with a concrete example. The Mishnah Achrona however explains that R’ Shimon is addressing a different issue. In the cases provided by the Tana Kama one of the keilim has a clear advantage over the other. In R’ Shimon’s cases, each of the keilim have an advantage. The urn is larger, yet the plate is more structurally sound. Consequently, R’ Shimon teaches that they are treated equally and, if placed at the base, the inside kli is the determining factor.
The ruling regarding combining keilim however poses a difficulty. We have recently learnt that if one attaches a tameh bed leg to a bed the entire bed becomes tameh. Our Mishnah however raises other determining factors.
The Tifferet Yisrael explains that regarding the case of the bed leg, prior to attaching the leg, the bed could not serve any function. In other words, the tameh bed leg enables it to become a kli. In our case however, the urn is still functional; attaching the plate simply strengthens it.
The Tifferet Yisrael suggests that this distinction helps to explain another Mishnah. The Mishnah taught that if one ties a mizron around a tameh bed, the bed including the mizron is tameh. Interestingly, unlike the case of the bed leg, the Mishnah did not raise the reverse case; where the mizron was tameh. According to the above reasoning this is readily understood. In this case the bed is functional and the mizron is merely coming to strengthen it. Using the principles laid out in our Mishnah, tying the tameh mizron to the bed would not cause the bed to become tameh.
The Mishnah Achrona cites a Tosefta that is consistent with this line of reasoning. It adds one more consideration – whether the urn had a hole in it. There are two implications. The first thing that changes is that if the urn did have a hole in the base, even if the plate was attached to the outside the urn would be tameh. Secondly, if it had a hold in its side, if the plate was attached to the inside, the urn would be tameh.
The Mishnah Achrona explains that this is because the plate at the base is required for the urn to function. Consequently even if attached to the outside the urn is tameh. If the hole was attached to the side however, only if the plate was on the inside is the urn tameh. Why? Unlike the bed that cannot function at all without the bed leg, the urn can still fill with contents up to the hole. Consequently the Tosefta treats the keilim as being equal and the inner kli dictates the outcome. 1
1 The Mishnah Achrona understands that the Tana Kama argues with this reasoning. See the Mishnah Achrona inside.
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