Repurposed Metal Lid

Keilim (14:6) | Yisrael Bankier | 4 years ago

The Mishnah (14:6) discusses the case of a metal lid of a household teni (metal basket) that was cleaned and polished to use as a mirror. We have discussed the lid of this metal basket previously. Recall that its susceptibility to tumah was the subject of debate (12:3) with the Chachamim maintaining that it was not susceptible to tumah. The debate in this Mishnah is whether repurposing this lid as a mirror now makes it susceptible to tumah.

The Bartenura explains that R' Yehuda disagrees since the (use as a) mirror does not turn it into a kli. The Tosfot Yom Tov cites the Maharam that explains that R' Yehuda disagrees, since the lid does not become batel (null) with respect to new use as a mirror. We shall try to understand the position of R' Yehuda further.

The Mishnah Achrona asks why the Mishnah discusses the lid of a teni specifically. According to the explanation thus far, this debate would apply to all tahor lids. Why does the Mishnah select this specific lid -- a lid whose own susceptibility was a subject of debate? Indeed, when the Rambam (Hilchot Keilim 9:7) records the opinion of the Chachamim as halacha, he speaks about metal lids in general and not this specific case. This point serves to sharpen our question.

The Mishnah Achrona therefore explains as follows. Recall that we learnt that any object that is not defined as a kli, but one then finds a use for that object to act as a kli, mental designation alone will not make it a kli -- a material change to the object is required. The Mishnah Achrona understands that the debate in this Mishnah isjj whether the act of scrubbing or polishing the lid is considered significant for this purpose, with R' Yehuda maintaining it is not. In other words, R' Yehuda maintains that the required maaseh (action) must change it from its original form. In this case however, the lid can still serve its original purpose. Put simply, the debate is how much of a maaseh is considered significant to make this lid now susceptible to tumah.

How does this understanding of the debate answer the question above? Why then does the Mishnah specifically discuss the lid of a teni? The Mishnah Achrona explains that the teni was used to collect small pieces of scrap metal. R' Yehuda understands that one would not hesitate to continue to use the lid as a lid, since the contents would not impact the use of the lid as a mirror. Consequently, the maaseh of polishing the lid is even less significant and the lid remains a lid, and therefore tahor.

It therefore follows, that for other lids that cover pots for cooking, where the lids would spoil its use as a mirror, R' Yehuda would agree with the Chachamim. Since one would no longer use it as a lid, in the case of other lids, R' Yehuda would in fact agree with the Chachamim, that cleaning and polishing the lid would be sufficient to render it as a kli.

Consequently, it is specifically in this case of the teni lid, that there is a debate. We can use this explanation to understand the above cited Maharam: according to R' Yehuda the lid is not batel to the mirror. The reason it is not batel is because the lid can continue to act in its original state which makes that act of cleaning and polishing it insignificant.

The Mishnah Achrona using this understanding to explain the Tosefta. The Tosfeta records that R' Yehuda would agree that if the lid broke and was then polished to be used as a mirror, it would become susceptible to tumah. The Mishnah Achrona comments that that point appears obvious and unnecessary to be included in the Tosefta. He answers that for a teni, the broken, or partial lid, can still serve as originally intended considering that it contains dry items. One might therefore think that R' Yehuda would maintain his position even in this case. Consequently, the Tosefta taught that once partially broken, R' Yehuda would agree that after polishing, the lids is considered batel to the mirror .


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