Retroactive Tumah of a Ketem

Nidah (7:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 7 years ago

The Mishnah (7:2) teaches that if a dead sheretz is found in a mavoi (alleyway), then any taharot found in the mavoi are tameh. This applies to all taharot that were found there going back until one can say that the mavoi was checked or it was last cleaned. The Bartenura explains that even though there is a doubt whether the taharot came into contact with the sheretz, since the mavoi is defined as a reshut ha’yachid (private domain), we rule stringently. The Mishnah continues that the same law applies to a ketem (blood-stain) found on a garment. Any tahorat that she came into contact with whilst wearing the garment are tameh going back until she either inspected or laundered the garment. To put it differently, it is tameh le’mafreah (retroactively) back to when we are certain the ketem was not there.

Recall that when we first started this Masechet there was a debate regarding a woman that saw dam and how far back in time must she be concerned that she was tameh. One of the opinions was that of Beit Shammai who maintained that she need not be concerned at all; she is only tameh from that point in time onward. The Gemara (3a) raises the case of the sheretz presented in our Mishnah as a difficulty on Beit Shammai’s position. Despite in both cases our starting point is where there was a chezkat tahara – existing presumed status of tahara – in the case of the mavoi we are concerned for the time prior to the discovery of the tumah, whereas Beit Shammai in the early case is not.

The Gemara differentiates between the two cases. In the case of the mavoi the sheretz could have originated for outside the mavoi as well as from within, it is considered “tartei le’rei’uta” (twice in the negative). In other words, there are more reason to be concerned.

The Tosfot (3a u’sheratzim) however ask that the answer of the Gemara may satisfy the case of the sheretz, yet the case of the ketem appears to still present a difficulty for the position of Beit Shammai. The Tosfot answer that the case of ketamim is also different. Firstly, if the ketem was dry, it is certainly tameh le’mafreah – it had to have been there for some time. Furthermore, the Tosfot list cases where even if it is moist, it is still certainly tameh le’mafreah. That being the case, the Chachamim made a blanket rule that all ketamim are me’tameh lemafreah.

One might still ask, why is it that in the case of a ketem the chazak is completely lost? We should simple calculate how far back in time would it be possible that the ketem was moist and only me’tameh till that point rather then all the way back to when it was laundered. The Chatam Sofer (3a, u’sheratzim) cites the the Ran (Chullin 11a) who explains that since at a recent point in time we know the ketem was there (since the ketem was dry) she loses her chazaka completely and is tameh back until it can be established again with certainty.


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