Maayan Spilling over a Shoket

Mikvaot (5:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 12 years ago

One cannot use drawn water to fill a mikveh. Exactly what constitutes drawn water and other cases that may relate to this law is discussed in the Mishnah. For example a shoket (stone trough) that was fashioned prior to being attached to the ground would be defined as a kli (utensil). Consequently rain water that collects in such a shoket would be considered invalid for use for a mikveh – either to immerse in (even if it was large enough) or if that water spilled over into a large enough pit (4:5). The water’s presence in something defined as a utensil is enough for it to be considered drawn thereby invalidating it. The Mishnah (5:1) extends this example explaining that if the water from a maayan (spring) flowed into a pit after passing in and out such a shoket it would still be invalid.

The Rash, as quoted by the Tosfot Yom Tov, finds the ruling of the Mishnah difficult for two reasons. The first is that invalid water that is attached to a maayan becomes valid. Since in this case the water in the shoket remains attached to the maayan it should be considered no worse than a mixture of drawn water and spring water. Consequently even though the mixture is not considered fully spring water, it should still be valid to use as a mikveh (see previous article). In short, this water, even though inside something defined as a kli, is still attached to the maayan and should be considered valid.

The second difficulty presented is that we will learn (6:2) that one can immerse utensils inside other immersed utensils. It appears that the question is that there is nothing wrong with immersing utensils in water that is inside a utensil. In general the problem is that water that collects inside a utensil is itself invalid; it is considered drawn as explained above. In this case since the water should be valid there should be nothing wrong with immersing utensils inside the shoket itself.

The Rash answers that there is a difference between utensils that are attached to the ground and movable utensils. The reason being that one might place a shoket close to a maayan relying on a hole to connect them. However this hole might be too small to be considered legally joined and water in the shoket would be unknowingly pasul. The Beit Yosef bring another reason for greater concern here in the name of the Rashba who explains that if this case were permitted people might easily misunderstand the halachic mechanism in place and begin to use regular baths.

The Rosh also differentiates in a similar way explaining that the wall of the shoket perceptively acts as a division between it and the maayan. Consequently one might think that it is permitted to immerse in such a shoket when the water is not flowing at that moment from the maayan – which is incorrect. Such a mistake would not occur in the case where one is immersing utensils in other utensils that are themselves immersed in a mikveh.

The common thread between these answer is that the water is invalid out of concerns about what people might understand and act upon had these water been permitted.


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