Reducing the Size of a Meor

Ohalot (13:5) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

The thirteenth perek discusses a me’or – a light-hole. In particular the Mishnah is focused on the minimum dimensions such that tumah can pass through it. The size varies on whether it was purposefully drilled or created by nature events. Furthermore, the minimum size required for a me’or when it is first created is larger than an existing one that begins to close or fill with foreign items. The first Mishnah records those dimensions.

In some situations however, a foreign object placed in the me’or has no impact in the transfer of tumah. One object discussed whose presence is significant is the neveilat ohf tameh – the non-kosher bird that died. The Mishnah (13:5) explains that it can reduce the space of the me’or provided it did not have both hechsher and machshava. In other words, it had not intentionally come into contact with one of the seven liquids and the owner did not intended to consume it. The Bartenura explains that the naveilat ohf tameh requires both hechsher and machshava to be susceptible to tumah and once this happens, it can no longer reduce the space of the ma’or.

The Mishnah Achrona notes that based on this reasoning, the Mishnah could have also listed any other foods without hechsher. Regular food with hechsher is equivalent to a nevailat ohf tameh with machsava but without hechsher. In other words, since they are not susceptible to tumah their presence should also be able to reduce the size of the ma’or. Nevertheless, he cites the Rambam that explains that food that did not have hechsher, provided it is less than a ke’beitzah in size, it reduces the space of the ma’or since they are insignificant to the owner and will not be removed. This implies that if they are larger than a kebeitza then they would not reduce the size of the ma’or despite not having had hechsher. Consequently, if the nevilat ohf tameh was larger than a kebeitza the law should be different, yet the Mishnah makes no mention of this distinction.

The Mishnah Achrona suggests that the difference between neveilat ohf tameh and food, is that since food is useful (chazi), it is fit for consumption, bitul(annulling it) is ineffective. He sites the Rambam that explicitely states: “other food that has not had hechsher do not separate; even though it is not susceptible to tumah, he intends to eventually remove it.”

Yet according to this reasoning there must be another distinction between neveilat ohf tameh and food. With the ohf, once there is machshava it should be considered like food in that now it is chazi. Given that is the case, the difference must be whether intentional bitul after machshava is effective. For food, bitul does not work. For neveilat ohf tameh however, since it required machshava from the outset, the subsequent bitul (or machshava) can undo the previous machshava.

The Mishnah Achrona however raises a number of issues with this approach. Firstly, there are instances where the Rambam rules that explicit bitul is effective for everything. More striking however is that the Rambam does not mention the law of neveilat ohf tameh or tahor in this context. Its absence can be attributed to its simplicity. Yet if however the above distinction exists, i.e. that subsequent bitul is only effective for neveilat ohf tameh but not for any other food, one would expect such a law to be mentioned. Considering the Rambam’s position, he leaves the question on our Mishnah unanswered.

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