The Back of a Kli Cheres

Keilim (2:3) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

The first section of Keilim discusses the susceptibility to tumah of earthenware – klei cheres. We learn (2:1), that unlike other keilim, klei cheres can become tameh if the source of tumah is placed inside its containing space, even if the tumah is not in direct contact with the kli. If however the tumah touches the outside of the kli then it does not became tameh.

As we continue, we learn that klei cheres are only susceptible to tumah if they can acts as a container – they have a toch (inside). More specifically, even if they do, they can only become tameh if it was designed to contain (2:3). That Mishnah ends however with the following statement: “This is the general rule, all klei cheres that do not have a toch, have no outside.” What does this mean?

The Bartunera explains that the rule relates a rabbinic decree. Liquid that came into contact with a source of tumah is defined as a rishon le’tumah. Ordinarily, a rishon le’tumah cannot transmit tumah to people or utensils; they can only make food tameh. The Chachamim however were considered about other liquids (from a zav) that were themselves sources of tumah and the potential error that might occur as a result of confusing the two. Consequently they decreed that any tameh liquid could make keilim tameh. Part of the decree however was that if the tameh liquids touch the outside of the kli, then only the outside would be tameh and not the entire kli. Our Mishnah teaches that for klei cheres, this rule that the outside can become tameh from liquids would only apply to those that have a containing inside. This is also the explanation of the Rambam.

The Raavad however cannot accept this explanation. The very reason for the decree was out of concern for liquids that were an av ha’tumah. However, as we stated above, even if an av ha’tumah touched the outside of a kli cheres it does not become tameh. Why then should the decree apply to klei cheres at all?

The Tosfot R’ Akiva Eiger suggests that the Bartenura is referring to a kli cheres that has a hollow at its base. In other words, if the kli was turned over, its base could act as a container. The Bartenura explained earlier (2:1) that if tumah was in that space of a kli cheres, it would be tameh. The Mishnah is then teaching that the only if there is a toch would the outside hollow be susceptible to tumah. He cites the Rash (27) who presents this ruling. The difficulty he raises however, is that it would be unnecessary for the Bartenura to have incorporate tumat mashkin into the discussion as the rule applies to all types of tumah. The Mishnah Achrona finds the ruling itself difficult since even though in a case where the main surface does not have a toch, since the base does, the kli should be considered as if it has a toch and be susceptible to tumah.

The Rash explains our Mishnah based on the Gemara in Bechorot that explains that a utensil that does not have a toch for klei cheres does not have an back (achorayim) for klei shetef –meaning that there is no distinction between an inside and outside for keilim made from other materials. The Mishnah Achrona finds this explanation difficult since the topic of the Mishnah is klei cheres and not klei shetef.

The Mishnah Achrona finally suggests a simple explanation. What the Mishnah means is that if the kli cheres does not have an inside, then it has nothing. It does not have an inside or outside – it is not a klei. The Mishnah teaches that it completely tahor even from any rabbinic forms of tumah.

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