The Uniqueness of a Broken Kli Cheres

Keilim (4:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

The fourth perek starts by recording two debates. We know that if a kli cheres breaks and a broken piece can still serve as a receptacle, then it is still susceptible to tumah. The Mishnah teaches that if there is handle or protrusion that prevents that piece from standing freely then it is not susceptible. If however the problematic part breaks off, thereby allowing it to stand then there is a debate regarding whether it is susceptible. Rabbi Yehuda maintains it is, while the Chachamim disagree.

The second argument in the Mishnah is regarding a barrel that is cut in half down its vertical axis. The barrel can no longer function as it was original intended, yet the parts can be placed on their sides and still be useful. In this case, Rabbi Yehuda argues that the kli is now tahor. The Bartenura explains that he requires the broken parts to rest on their original base and not on the walls. The Chachamim however maintain that the parts are still susceptible to tumah since the barrel does sometimes function as a container when rested on its side.

The Mishnah Achrona understands that the debate in the Mishnah is similar to the debate between the Rambam and Raavad (Keilim 18:10). He explains that the Rambam understands that the fact that the Torah explicitly mentions kli cheres (“ve’kol kli cheres”) sets them apart from other types of keilim treating them more stringently. For klei cheres, if a broken piece is useful it is still susceptible to tumah even if it can no longer serve in its original capacity. This in not the case for other keilim whose broken parts must be able to function in the same way.

The Raavad however disagrees; he understands that there is no difference between kli cheres and the other keilim regarding the broken parts. The Torah needed to stress klei cheres since they are inferior to other materials and one might think that once broken they would tahor no matter what.

The Mishnah Achrona understands that this is precisely the debate between the Chachamim and R’ Yehuda. The Chachamim understand like the Rambam that the Torah was teaching a novelty regarding broken pieces of a kli cheres. That novelty however is only regarding a functioning piece. If that piece breaks then it cannot be remedied. R’ Yehuda however understands like the Raavad that the pasuk teaches that there is no difference and we do not say that a broken piece cannot be repaired.

The opinions align in the second debate in the Mishnah as well. R’ Yehuda understands like the Raavad that there is no difference, so since the broken pieces of other keilim must be able to still serve the original function, the same is true for klei cheres. The Chachamim however understand that the Torah was treating klei cheres more stringently and for it to be susceptible, as long as it can serve a function, it is susceptible to tumah.

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