Collecting Produce that Fell in a Stream

Machshirin (4:7) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

The Mishnah (4:7) teaches that if one's produce falls in a stream and someone with tameh hands retrieves them, both the hands and the produce are tahor. If however he intended to wash his hands, his hands are still tameh while the produce is now susceptible to tumah. We will attempt to understand this Mishnah.

We have learnt that one's hands alone can become tameh ÔÇô they would sheni le'tumah. Immersing them in a stream is enough to make them tahor. In the first case, even though the person had no intention to metaher (purify) his hands (he was simply retrieving the produce) they are nonetheless tahor. The Bartenura explains that this is because for the purposes of chulin, intention to purify one's hands is not required. He continues, if however the produce was maaser or terumah, then his hands would remain tameh unless he intended to metaher them.

Why does the produce become susceptible to tumah in the case whene one intended to wash his hands? Rashi (Chullin 31b) and Bartenura explain that when he intends to wash his hands he thereby values the original fall of the produce into the water so that he could wash his hands when retrieving them. The water that is in contact is in the end le'ratzon (sofo le'ratzon), which is enough even though it was not initially le'ratzon.

The Achronim ask however that it was not necessary for produce to fall into the water in order for a person to wash his hands. The hands could have been immersed in the water irrespective of retrieving the produce. Consequently, it is difficult to understand how one can retroactively define the initial fall as being le'ratzon. Furthermore, how is it sofo le'ratzon when the water only affects hechsher after it is detached, which in this case is when as soon as he retrieves the produce from the water.^1^

The Achronim therefore explain differently. Recall that for the produce to become susceptible to tumah either the water must be detached from the source or come into contact with the produce inline with the will of the owner. In the first case, he did not want the produce or his hands to get wet so the produce has not undergone hechsher. In the second case, since the person wanted to wash his hands, the person is happy that his hands are wet and thereby the water on his hands is removed le'ratzon. Consequently that water can affect hechsher as it comes into contact with the produce thereby making it susceptible to tumah. (See Rashash, Sefat Emet, Mishnah Achrona).

In defence of Rashi the Tifferet Yaakov suggests that perhaps the case is where he wanted to wash his hand and when handling the produce his hands are better cleaned. Consequently, the produce being in the water is le'ratzon.

Perhaps one could suggest another explanation of Rashi. Indeed, it is true that he could have washed his hands without the produce having fallen in the water. Yet in this case, he may not have done so for any number of possibilities, e.g. his hands were full, he was unaware they were dirty, he did not have the opportunity, etc. In this case, when the produce falls in the water and he decides the wash his hands, since the fall presented the opportunity to do so, the original fall is now le'ratzon, even though initially it did not appear so. The novelty is that even though the benefit that results is for something else and is only learnt later, Rashi still considers that to be le'ratzon. This explanation fits more closely with the word of Rashi in Chagigah (19a) who explains, "since he intended to wash his hands, it reveals that he was happy with the original fall, since through it he was able to wash his hands."

One could suggest, that where this understanding of Rashi would differ from the explanation of the other Achronim is if the owner dried his hands in between washing them and retrieving the produce. According to the Achronim the thing that affects hechsher is the water on his hands after he washes them. Consequently, in this new case it would not effect hechsher. According to our new reading of Rashi, since the washing reveals that the original fall was le'ratzon, even if he dried his hand in between, since the fall in now defined as being le'ratzon, they would nonetheless be susceptible to tumah.

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