Mikvaot (9:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

The ninth perek opens by listing things that constitute a chatzita. In other words, the Mishnah discusses objects on one’s body that are problematic separations between the body and the mikveh water.

The Mishnah Achrona notes that at the end of the perek, the Mishnah provides a legal definition of a chatzitza. Since it appears that the critical factor is kepeida – whether it bothers the individual – the Mishnah’s listing here appears unnecessary.

The Mishnah Achrona answer that there are two different considerations at play. Later in the perek the Mishnah is dealing with things that prevent the water from coming into contact with the body. Consequently there, if the obstruction does not fit the legal definition, it is considered like the flesh of the individual. Here however, we are dealing with items that are considered foreign. Yet the Mishnah is teaching that if they don’t prevent the water from coming into contact with the body, then they are not problematic.

We shall now try and understand the relationship between kepeida and chatzitza.

The Mishnah Achrona explains that when determining kepeida, if people in general are particular, even if the individual is not, it constitutes a chatzitza. If people however are not particular, yet the individual is, he cites the Beit Yosef who explains that there is a debate amongst the Rishonim whether it is a chatzitzah.

The Gemara (Eirvuin 4b) explains that law of chatitza of derived from a pasuk, while its details are halacha le’moshe mi’sinai. The pasuk (Devarim 8:8), “and he shall wash his entire flesh in water” teaches that there cannot be something separating between his body and the mikveh water. The halacha le’moshe mi’sinai teaches that only if the object covers most of his body and he is particular about it, does it constitute a chatzitza. The Chachamim expanded the scope of chatzitza to if it either covers most of his body or it bothers him (even if it is a small amount). The gezeira is in case one confuses those scenarios with that which is halacha le’moshe mi’sinai.

To explain, according to Torah law, if the item covers a majority of the body and the person is not particular about it, it does not constitute a chatzitza. Rashi explains that the reason is because it is then considered like his body. This explains why that even though one must be fully immersed in the water, and in this case the water is not physically in contact with his entire body, the immersion is nonetheless still valid.

How then do we understand the case where it is a small amount and the person is particular about it? Recall, on a biblical level it does not pose a problem. Why? The Chazon Ish (YD 95:3) explains that the reason is not because of the broader principle that the minority is considered annulled against the majority. Rather he explains that the reason is that the small amount is not considered significant to (legally) separate between the body and water. Since the person is completely immersed and most of his body is in contact with the water it is considered a valid tevillah on a biblical level. We find therefore that on a biblical level, one’s entire body must be immersed in the water. Yet even if water does not come into contact with the entire body, provided that there are no obstructions that are defined as a chatzitza, the immersion is valid. Nevertheless, as we have seen above, by way of rabbinic gezeira, the scope of what constitutes a chatzitza is increased.


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