Tumat Ha'Met Be'Chiburin

Ohalot (1:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

Masechet Ohalot deals with tumat ha’mettumah originating from a corpse. The masechet is named as such since tumat ha’met is unique in that it can be transferred in an ohel. Exactly what this means we will learn over the coming weeks. The first Mishnah however discusses the transfer of tumat ha’met and how many items that came into contact with the met(corpse) require the seven-day purification process.

Unlike other forms of tumah, a corpse is defined as avi avot ha’tumah. We learn in the first Mishnah that generally, things that come into contact with the met become an av ha’tumah and require the seven-day process. This av ha’tumah can make both people and keilim tameh and those things would ordinarily become a rishon le’tumah. A rishon le’tumah can simply be immersed in a mikveh and will subsequently be tahor at nightfall.

The first Mishnah however highlights that with respect to tameh met, sometimes more the one item in the chain of transfer of tumah can require the extended purification process. We will learn about those exceptions over the next few days. The Mishnah however explains the simplest case as follows. If a person touches a corpse he becomes tameh met – an av ha’tumah – and requires the seven-day process (tameh sheva). If another person touches him, that person becomes a rishon le’tumah.

The Bartenura adds however that if the second person touches the first while the first was still in contact with the met, he would also be tameh sheva. Such a case is referred to tumah be’chiburim. He adds however that this law of tumah be’chiburim is a rabbinic enactment.

This being the case, the Tifferet Yisrael highlight some implications. Firstly, it is only tameh sheva for trumah and kodshim. Furthermore being rabbinic, a nazir that became tameh be’chiburim would not cause a break in his nazir vow – he would not be required to restart his nazir period. Also, if someone became tameh in this manner, he would be able to be part of a korban pesach despite being tameh met on a rabbinic level. Even though he would not be able to eat from the korban pesach, the consumption is not essential and he will have discharged his obligation of offering a korban pesach. This is as explained in Gemara Nazir 42b.

The Tosfot however understand the tumah be’chibburin is a biblical concept. The source for this position is the following pasuk (Bamidbar 19:22): “Anything that the contaminated one may touch shall become contaminated, (and the person who touches him shall become contaminated until evening).” How do those that maintain that tumah be’chiburrim is rabbinic understand the above pasuk?

The Tosfot Yom Tov explains that the intention of the pasuk is not that the second person becomes tameh like the first, but rather the second becomes tumat erev. Indeed this is explicitly stated in the continuation of the pasuk (bracketed above).

The Kesef Mishnah however asks that Rava (Bava Kama 25b) learns that “anything that became tameh via a met becomes tumat sheva”. The pasuk in question there also uses the term yitmah (shall be come tameh). The implication is that even in our case we are not referring to tumat erev but tumat sheva. The Kesef Mishnah however answers that our pasuk is different since there is an explicit mention of tumat erev, which is not the case in the pasuk Rava cited.

The Mishnah Achrona explains further that Rava’s pasuk was required to teach anything that directly came into contact with the met is tameh sheva – even a mefetz (mat) that is not even a kli. Our case however discusses tumah be’chiburin and explicitly states that it is tamah erev

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