The Elusive Meineket

Keilim (9:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 3 months ago

The Mishnah records the debate between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel regarding a sealed earthenware container that contains food, drink and a meineket (pipe used for siphoning) and is located in the same room a corpse. We have already learnt that a kli cheres tzamid patil (sealed earthenware vessel) protects its contents from becoming tameh when situated in an ohel ha'met (under the same cover as a corpse). Beit Hillel rule that that is indeed that case in the Mishnah and all the contents remain tahor. Beit Shammai however disagree and maintain that the meineket becomes tameh. Beit Hillel ultimate agrees with Beit Shammai.

The Bartenura, Rash and Raavad explain that this meineket in our Mishnah is made of metal. The reason why the meineket is tameh is due to a gezeira (rabbinic decree) out of concern regarding interactions between an am ha'aretz (one not versed with the laws of tumah) and a chaver (one that is). A chaver assumes anything he borrows from an am ha'aretz is tameh. The chaver will still be willing to borrow keilim from an am ha'aretz that can be purified through immersion in a mikveh. Consequently, prior to the gezeira, the chaver might borrow a metal kli from an am ha'aretz and assumed immersion in a mikveh would be sufficient for its use by nightfall. In truth, that kli may have been in a sealed kli cheres in an ohel ha'met. Since a kli cheres tzamid patil protects its contents from becoming tameh, that detail would not be worth sharing when the kli is being shared. However, since a kli cheres tzamid patil only protects the contents if it is tahor and keilim of an am ha'aretz are assumed to be tameh, the kli would be tameh met and require the seven day purification process (rather than just immersion in a mikveh). In other words, the chaver would end up using a tameh kli under the assumption that it was tahor after taking his precautions. Consequently, the gezeirah was put in place, that the tahor kli cheres tzamid patil would not protect such keilim - keilim that would have been borrowed - from becoming tameh in an ohel ha'met so that such an error would not occur.

According to this understanding, the principle in this Mishnah is the same as the Mishnah in Ohalot (5:3) and discussed in detail in Eduyot (1:14).

The Rambam however explains our Mishnah very differently and is unrelated to that above gezeira. The Rambam understands that the meineket is made of earthenware and is sticking out of the barrel. The Aruch HaShulchan (Tumat Met 48:1-6) explains that this is for several reasons. Firstly, since the principle is discussed elsewhere, a different case based on the same principle appears unnecessary. Secondly, the meineket ordinarily sticks out of a barrel.

The Aruch HaShulchan explains that the debate between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel then is whether the bend in the meineket that is outside the barrel makes the meineket considered sealed. The final position of Beit Shammai is the that the bend is not enough to save the meineket from becoming tameh, but is sufficient to prevent the tumah from entering the barrel.

The Gra however asks that if our Mishnah is indeed a new case where Beit Hillel ultimately agreed with Beit Shammai then why is it not listed in the first perek of Eduyot. After listing several questions against that Rambam, the Mishnah Achrona, maintains that this is the strongest argument against the Rambam, that does not have an answer.

The Nimukei HaGriv however suggests an answer. Recall that masechet Eduyot was taught on the day that R' Elazar ben Azarya was appointed the Nasi. The Nimukei HaGriv also notes that R' Yehoshua was one of the students of Beit Hillel (Chagigah 24). Consequently, according to the Rambam, it is possible that at the time Eduyot was taught, "Beit Hillel" had not yet retracted as recorded in our Mishnah. The novelty of this explanation then is that the Mishnayot in the first perek of Eduyot are not a comprehensive list of the cases where Beit Hillel took the position of Beit Shammai.

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