The Mishnah (6:2) taught that if one immerses a bucket that is full of keilim in a mikveh, those keilim become tahor. If however he does not immerse the bucket, then the keilim are not tahor until the water inside the bucket connects with the water in the mikveh via a hole that is ke’shfoferet ha’nod (two fingers width circumference). This Mishnah requires further explanation.
The Gemara in Chagiga (22a) explains that when the Mishnah states that “if it was not immersed” it means if the bucket did not require immersion, i.e. it is tahor. The beginning of the Mishnah therefore refers to a kli that required immersion, i.e. a tameh kli. The Gemara explains that when the containing kli is tameh, the opening does not need to be ke’shfoferet ha’nod because since the tevillah is effective for the outer kli (making it tahor) it is effective for all the keilim contained inside it.
The Tosfot HaRid explains that ordinarily for the water inside the bucket to be considered part of the the mikveh water and not drawn water, it must be connected to the mikveh water by an opening ke’shfoferet ha’nod. Regarding a kli that is tameh however, immersing the kli even with a small opening, is effective to afford it tahara. Consequently, the water inside must not considered drawn water when immersing the tameh kli. That being the case, it must also be effective for the keilim inside the kli.
Till now the determining factor of whether the hole in the kli must be larger than shefoferet ha’nod is whether the kli is tameh. The Mishnah Achrona however cites a Tosefta that differentiates based on the location of the hole. If it is on the side then it must be ke’shfoferet ha’nod, but if it is at the top it can be smaller than that.
While it may appear that the tahara of the outer kli does not appear to be a factor in the Tosefta, he however cites the Rambam that rules according to both our Mishnah and the Tosefta, suggesting that the Tosefta was dealing with a tameh kli. Indeed, this is also the position presented in the Shulchan Aruch (YD 201:15) In other words, the scope of when the hole can be less than ke’shfoferet ha’nod is only if the kli is tameh and the opening is at the top. What difference does the location of the opening make?
The Mishnah Achrona suggest that the location is important to the extent that it indicates that the tameh kli has been fully immersed. If it is on the side, then it is possible for the water of inside the kli (in which the inner keilim are full immersed) to be in contact with the mikveh water without the outer kli being fully immersed. There is therefore reason to make a gezeira out of concern that it will not be fully immersed. The immersion will not be effective to purify the outer kli and no longer afford us the leniency of having a smaller opening (as described above).1
The Shach (YD 201:28) however explains the importance of the location of the hole differently. Citing R’ Shimshon, he explains that when the hole at the top of the kli and the mikveh water is above the hole then the water inside connects with the mikveh water and the water inside is considered mikveh water. If however the hole is in the side and it is smaller than ke’shfoferet ha’nod, then only the water in line with the hole is considered mikveh water.
1 It appears that the Tosfot HaRid provides the same explanation.
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