The twenty-third perek begins by discussing a number of sealed keilim whose contents will rarely be removed. The Mishnah begins by listing a number of them that were already tameh, but were subsequently torn open. The Mishnah explains that if something came into contact with the contents, it would be tahor.The first of these items listed is a ball filled with stuffing.
The Bartenura explains that the ball came into contact with a corpse. The Mishnah is teaching that the stuffing is not considered a chibbur through which tumah can be transferred. Furthermore, that which is contained is not tameh like the casing.
The Mishnah Achrona asks that granted that the stuffing is not a chibbur, why is it not tameh? The met would have caused the casing to become an av ha’tumah,*which in turn should be able to make the stuffing become a rishon le’tumah. *
This however would not necessarily pose a problem. One could understand that when the Bartenura states that the stuffing “does not become tameh like it” to mean that that it is not tameh on the same level as the casing, but is indeed a rishon le’tumah. The reason why one that touches the stuffing is tahor is because a person that touches a rishon le’tumah does not become tameh.
*The Mishnah Achrona however understands that the Bartenura differently and explains that the stuffing is simply not susceptible to tumah. The reason why one who touches the stuffing in the later case is tameh is because in that case they are a chibbur.*
The next question that needs to be addressed is how the ball can become tameh at all. As the Tifferet Yisrael points out, before it is torn it would be considered pshutei kli ohr – a simple leather kli that cannot hold anything – and should not be susceptible to tumah. The fact that it contains stuffing is not relevant since the ball is completely sealed and, as we learnt with respect to the swimmer’s barrel (2:3), is not considered as if it has a beit kibbul (receptacle).
The Tifferet Yisrael however explains that there is a difference between a sealed kli that will never be opened and a kli that will rarely be opened. In this case, as opposed to the swimmer’s barrel, it will sometimes be opened and is therefore considered as having a beit kibbul.
The Mishnah Achrona however provides a different explanation. Recall that the Mishnah Achrona understands that the stuffing is not susceptible to tumah. His issue is how the casing can be tameh, since it is effectively a yad for the tahor stuffing and a yad for something tahor is tahor.
He therefore explains that the leather become tameh before it was set aside for this purpose, e.g. to be used as ball. It was originally used to contain something else. Since there was there was no shinui maaseh, it remains tameh even though its purpose changed.
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