A Bayit Menuga under a House

Negaim (13:6) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

Over the course of the week we continued to learn about tzaraat that affects houses. We have learnt that a house that has tzaraat (bayit menuga) is tameh. If one enters such a house, whether it is musgar or muchlat, they become tameh. Similarly, we have learnt that a stone that has been taken from a beit menuga that is muchlat is also a source of tumah. It transfers tumah in three ways – through contact (maga), by causing it to move (masa) and finally, if it is stationary under a covering (inside a house or under a tree) then everything else under that cover also becomes tameh.

The Mishnah (13:6) records a debate where an entire bayit menuga is covered either by another structure or tree. R’ Elazar ben Azarya maintains that everything under that external cover remains tahor whereas R’ Elazar argues that everything should be tameh. R’ Elazar reasons that if a single stone from a house has the capacity to make everything tameh that is under the same cover, it stands to reason that the entire bayit menuga should as well. How do we understand this debate? The Mishnah appears to provide the logic for the position of R’ Elazar but is silent with respect to the R’ Elazar ben Azarya’s.

The Tosfot Yom Tov explains that the the reason the Mishnah did not provide R’ Elazar ben Azarya’s reasoning is that since R’ Elazar’s logic was sound, rationalising the opposing position was unnecessary.

The Bartenura explains that R’ Elazar ben Azarya treats the space inside the bayit menuga and area under the external covering as two separate spaces. Such a classification has a precedent in the case where tzaraat is found in the house, yet the contents of the Aliya (attic) remains tahor. The Rosh cites this answer in the name of R’ Shimshon. He finds this difficult because in the case of the bayit and aliyah the floor separates between the two regions. The same cannot be said for our case.

The Tifferet Yisrael explains that R’ Elazar ben Azarya understands that there is a difference between a bayit menuga and one of its detached stones – the bayit menuga is still attached to the ground. Even though if one touched the house he would become tameh, it cannot cause other items under a shared overhung to become tameh unless it is detached.

The Rosh question how R’ Elazar ben Azarya could argue with R’ Elazar logic. Given the difficulty he explains that they argue about a specific case – a bayit musgar. We know that any of the stones that separates from a bayit musgar is tahor except for the stone that has the nega itself. In addition, we are dealing with a bayit that is musgar and while the outer covering is over part of the house, it is not over the stone that has the nega. The debate therefore is regarding the tumah of a house that is musgar. According to R’ Elazar ben Azarya since the stone is not under the outer covering, the tumah does not spread. It is not equivalent to tumat ha’met, so it cannot spread from house to house. According to R’ Elazar however, while the house is intact, any stone of the house can spread tumah if it is covered.

The Mishnah Achrona however understands that the Mishnah can be dealing with either a bayit musgar or muchlat. He understands that the debate in this Mishnah relates to another debate we have learnt. The Mishnah (13:11) taught that if a metzora enters a house, all the contents become tameh immediately. R’ Yehuda however argues that the contents only become tameh after the metzorah is in the house for the time it would take to light a candle. The Rash explains that R’ Yehuda only argues in the case where the metzora entered someone else’s house without permission. This is because the Torah says that the metzorah causes a house to be tameh when it is moshavo (his place of occupancy). Consequently, there is a time given to the home owner to notice and object. Beyond that, it would be considered moshavo and the house tameh.

The Mishnah Achrona understands that R’ Elazar ben Azarya shares the position of R’ Yehuda. Consequently, a stone from bayit menuga that simple fell, unintentionally, into another house would not cause it to be tameh – the area would not be defined as moshavo. Similarly, the bayit menuga in our case was not built to be under the covering. Furthermore, there is no way of removing that house. Consequently, it cannot be considered moshavo. R’ Elazar however maintains the position of the Chachamim and does consider intentions or circumstance in the definition of moshavo.

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