A sheet is susceptible to tumah midras. As we explained in last week's issue, since a sheet is designed for lying on, if a zav or zava sits or lies on the sheet, it will become an av ha'tumah. The Mishnah (20:6) teaches that if one takes that sheet and modifies it to be used as a cloth screen door, then it is no longer susceptible to tumat midras, but is susceptible to other forms of tumah. The Mishnah continues by discussing the extent of the modifications required. Our focus however is why the screen is susceptible to tumah.
The Bartenura explains that this is because since the screen would heat up in the sun, people would sometimes wrap themselves in the lower part of the screen. That being the case, it is susceptible to tumah much like a garment.
The Bartnura's comment is based on the Gemara in Beitzah (14b) where the screen is raised in a discussion regarding kilayim. There Ulah asks why the screen is susceptible to tumah and provides the above cited answer. Rashi there explains that since they would wrap themselves in the screen, it is defined as a garment. Consequently, the prohibition of kilayim applies to the screen.
The Tosfot (s.v. mipnei) however notes, that parochet (curtain) in the Beit HaMikdash is the susceptible to tumah (as we learnt in Shekalim 8:6). The rational provided here for the susceptibility to tumah of the screen does not apply to the parochet -- one is forbidden from wrapping themselves in the parochet. So why then is it susceptible to tumah.
The Tosfot provide a few answers. The first is that since the parochet curved at the top to cover the aron, it has the status of an ohel (cover) and is therefore susceptible to tumat met (tumah originating from a corpse). The Tosfot continues that that would give it the status of a kli such that it susceptible to other forms of tumah also. The Tosfot also cite R' Shmuel from Aibra, that when they would travel (in the dessert) the curtains were used to wrap the various keilim. Consequently, they were considered keilim and susceptible to tumah.
The Tosfot Yom Tov (Shekalim 8:6) prefers the second answer, since the first answer would only apply to the parochet (that was in front of the aron) whereas the second would apply to all of the curtains. The Mishnah in Shekalim that discuss this susceptibility to tumah, does not appear to differentiate between the parochet and the other curtains. Furthermore, the Rambam rules in the seventh perek of Hilchot Klei Mikdash that all the curtains in the Beit HaMikdash were susceptible to tumah.
The Tosfot Chadasim (Shekalim 8:6) however asks that the above answer only appear relevant to the curtains of the mishkan that was dismantled when they travelled. The Rambam however understands that the Mishnah is discussing the curtains of the Beit HaMikdash.
The Ritva, citing the Ra'ah, suggests that since screens in general were susceptible to tumah due to practice of people wrapping themselves in them, the Chacahmim kept the gezeira consistent and applied it to all curtains, even those in the Beit HaMikdash.1
The Tosfot also cites the opinion the Behag that has a different reading of the Gemara in Beitzah. Ulah did not ask why the screen was tameh, but rather why it was assur -- forbidden due to kilayim. The Tosfot question this reading because there is no Mishnah or Beraita that teach that a screen would be forbidden due to kilayim.
The Maharam explains that according to the Behag, the screen does not require the rationale that people wrap themselves in them. They are susceptible to tumah since the screen on its own is defined as kli, much like any other garment.
1 The wording of the Ritva seems to imply that susceptibility to tumah of screens and curtains is due to a gezeirah. The reason why it may really be tahor could be related to the fact that it is fixed to the building, which ordinarily would render a kli tahor. The Chachamim nevertheless made a gezeira that it is tahor since people still relate to it as a begged,
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