Straw Keilm

Keilim (15:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 21 days ago

The fifteenth perek begins by discussing the susceptibility to tumah of wooden, leather, bone and glass keilim. The Mishnah then discusses the law that very large wooden keilim, that cannot be moved both empty and full are not susceptible to tumah. One of the keilim mentioned in the list is the straw basket.

The Baretura explains that a straw basket is considered a wooden kli -- despite the material not originating from a tree per se. The Tifferet Yisrael explains that keilm made from all material that grows from the ground, e.g straw, reed, grass, etc are considered kli etz (wooden vessels). The Pnei Yehoshua understand that this is the position of the Rambam and the susceptibility to tumah is biblical.

The Tosfot R' Akiva Eiger however directs our attention to the Tosfot (Shabbat 66a). The Gemara there cites the debate between R' Akiva and R' Yochanan ben Nuri regarding the susceptibility to tumah of a straw basket and straw tubing (about which we will learn (17:17) in the coming weeks). The Tosfot question how there could be a position that maintains that straw keilim are susceptible to tumah. When the Torah discusses the laws of tumah as they relate to keilim, it lists a number of the materials -- wood, leather, material, sackcloth -- with straw not mentioned in the list.

The Tosfot provide two answers. The first is that straw itself is also considered etz. They cite the Gemara (Berachot 40a) that explains that the "tree" from which Adam ate was wheat. The second answer is that the susceptibility to tumah for straw keilim is rabbinic. Both these answers are far from the explanation of the Tifferet Yisrael the considers everything that grows from the ground as being klei etz. According to the first answer it is only straw that is brought into that group, whereas according to the second answer, klei etz on a biblical level is to be understood in a limited sense.

The Pnei Yehoshua finds the Tosfot's assumption behind their question difficult. From their answers, and in particular the second answer, it appears that they assume that keilim made from material not mentioned in the Torah should not be susceptible to tumah even on a rabbinic level. The difficulty is that we regularly find the chazal only speak of keilim made soil and dung as being not susceptible to tumah. Similarly, the Gemara (e.g. Sukkah 20b) discusses the susceptibility to tumah of keilim made from material that grow from the ground. The Pnei Yehoshua leaves this difficultly unresolved.

The Even Shlomo however defends the Tosfot. He suggests that they may not disagree with the general assumption presented by the Pnei Yehoshua. In other words, even if the material was not mentioned explicitly, one can assume that keilim made from them would be susceptible to tumah (at least rabbinically). Straw however is different -- it is generally used to feed animals. It is not a material whose prime use is for fashioning keilim. Consequently, since the material is not mentioned in the Torah and it is generally used for feeding animal-- one would assume that keilim made from them are not susceptible to tumah at all.

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