Deflecting Rain

Machshirin (4:3) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

The Mishnah (4:3) teaches as follows. If one places a bowl against a wall in order for it to be washed by rainwater, then the water that comes off the bowl can effect hechsher. If however the bowl was placed there in order to protect the wall from the rain then the water does not affect hechsher. To revise some important points, in order for a detached food product to be susceptible to tumah it must come into contact with one of the seven liquids – this is referred to as hechsher. Further the detachment of the water from its source and/or 1 the contact made with the food must be le’ratzon – it must be consistent with the will of the owner. We find that in the case of the Mishnah the intention when placing the bowl against the wall during the rain is critical to hechsher. Why?

The Gemara (Chullin 16a) notes that the Mishnah appears to have an internal contradiction. The first statement of the Mishnah is that if the intention was to wash the kli then it can affect hechsher. This implies that if the intention was for the rain to wash on to the wall that it would not. Focusing on the end of the Mishnah, it states that if the intention was to protect the wall, then it would not affect hechsher. This implies that if the intention was to wash the wall then it would.

R’ Elazar admits to the contradiction and explains that the two statements reflect two different opinions. Rav Papa however resolves the matter explaining that the first case involves the wall of a cave that was formed naturally, while the second case involves a man-made wall. When considering the wall of a cave, the person intends for the water to be used for something that is mechubar (attached to the ground). Such intention is not enough to enable the water to be able to affect hechsher. When considering a wall however, even though it is now mechubar, since it was originally detached, for machshirin it is considered detached and the water intended for its use can affect hechsher.

The Tifferet Yaakov explains that Rav Papa2 came to that position because the Mishnah transitioned from discussing the bowl to the wall rather than choosing one of the cases and tweaking on a parameter to result in a different ruling. He explains that Rebbi selected absolute cases. In other words, in the first case, if one’s intention is to deflect the water from the wall, then it does not matter which wall we are dealing with. That would not be true if the water was being directed towards the wall as we have explained above. Consequently, that case was not listed. Likewise, in the second statement, if one wishes to wash the bowl with the rain water, it will always be machshir.

The Tosfot (Keritut 15b) note that we have learnt of cases where a person does not want the water, e.g. squeezing out one’s hair, yet the expelled water can affect hechsher. One might ask that when deflecting the water from the wall, the ruling should be the same. In both cases, one does not want the water. He explains that in the other cases, since one did an action to remove the water he has demonstrated its importance (achshevinu). It follows that simply placing the kli down to deflect the water is not consider enough of an action in this respect.


1 Recall from previous articles that according to the Rambam it is “and” while according to Rashi it is “or”. 2 As well as the extended explanation in the Gemara of his position.

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