Mikveh Doubts

Mikvaot (2:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

The second perek of Mikvaot begins by discussing doubts related to whether one immersed in a valid mikveh. The second Mishnah also includes a case where the Mishnah was measured and found to be too small. The Mishnah rules that any tameh objects that were immersed in that mikveh are retroactively considered tameh.

Despite the fact that in all the cases where there is only a doubt whether the immersion was invalid, the Mishnah rules that it is irrelevant whether the doubt arose in a private of public domain. Recall, that previously we learnt that doubts regarding tumah that originate in the public domain are treated leniently. The Bartunera explains that we ruled leniently in those cases since there was doubt whether the item became tameh. Here however the item was already tameh and there is a doubt whether it became tahor. Consequently, since the person or item has a chazakah (established and presumed status) of tumah, it endures in the case of a doubt. The Tifferent Yisrael adds that because of this difference, it is different to the case of Sotah from which the leniency of reshut harabim is derived.

The Mishnah continues with a debate regarding the scope of this rule. The Chachamim maintain that this rule only applies for tumah chamurah. According to the Bartenura this refers to an av ha’tumah whose source is from the Torah. For tumah kala, lighter forms of tumah,the ruling would be tahor. R’Yossi however disagrees arguing that in both cases the ruling is tameh. How do we understand the debate?

The Bartunera explains that while the Chachamim were lenient in the case of doubt regarding rabbinic forms of tumah, R’ Yossi argues that the chazaka endures even in these cases.

Returning now to the original ruling. Rashi (Gittin 31b) explains that not only are the keilim that were immersed in the mikveh tameh, but also those taharot and terumah that came into contact with those keilim are tameh as well. Indeed, the language of the Mishnah appears to imply this conclusion since it explains “all the taharot” are tameh (and not simply “all the keilim”).

The following question is posed on the opinion of Rashi. We undersant that the kli is considered tameh since it has a chazak that it was tameh. The taharot however had a chezkat tahara. It should follow that all the taharot should be tahor.

The Ritva (Eiruvin 36a) provides two answers. The Ritva explains that since the taharot definitely came into contact with the kli in question it loses its chazaka. One might explain that this is since it definitely touched the kli, it loses it chazaka since its status it tied to the status of the kli.

The Ritva brings another answer in the name of HaRam bar Shniur. He explains that we only consider the chazaka at the point of the doubt. In our case the doubt is regarding the kli and whether it was immersed properly. The chazaka there is that it was tameh and that is the only chazaka being considered.

Perhaps we can explain this answer using the concepts presented in a recent issue (Volume 12, Issue 47). Recall there were to ways to understand a ruling in a case of doubt. Either it was a simply a hanchaya – a direction in how the individual is to respond to the doubt. No decision is being made about the nature of the doubt – the matter is no clearer. Considering our example, we are still unsure as to the real status of the kil. Alternatively, the ruling is a hachra’ah – a definite decision - the kli is tameh.

We might suggest that these two understandings are behind the two opinions above. According to the second understanding, the chazaka is only relevant at the point where that doubt is. This is because we make a hachra’ah. Using our case, from that point onwards the kli is tameh and the chazakah of the taharot is irrelevant. According to the first explanation, perhaps the ruling is a hanchaya and one would therefore think that we should consider the chazaka of the taharot. The Ritva however answered that since it definitely came into contact with the kli, it lost its chazaka and its status is dependent on the kli.

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