Chanelling Water for Mei Chatat

Parah (6:4) | Yisrael Bankier | 9 years ago

A person who becomes tameh met requires the mei chatat in order to become tahor. The mei chatat consists of natural spring water (mayim chayim) with some of the ashes of the para aduma sprinkled on it. The Mishnah(6:4) teaches that if someone channels the water from a spring into a barrel using something that is susceptible to tumah then the water may not be used to prepare the mei chatat. How do we understand this law?

The Bartenura explains that the reason is explained in Gemara Zevachim (25b). The Torah (Vayikra 11:36) state that, “only a spring (mayan) and a cistern (bor), a gathering of water (mikveh) shall remain tahor” – in other words their creation shall be tahor. He continues explaining that even though the pasuk is referring to a mikveh (natural collection of water) and not spring water, nevertheless it is understood that this rule applies to all water collected for purification purposes.

The Mishnah Achrona asks considering the derivation above, why should a kli that is susceptible to tumah, but now tahor, invalidate the use of the water. Perhaps the pasuk is to be taken literally and we should therefore only discount tameh keilim. He suggests that since the term mikveh mayim is used, and since a mikveh cannot be come tameh, it serves as the requirement for anything used to channel the water to a kli used to collect the water for mei chatat.

The Griz probes this requirement and asks whether this is a law that applies to spring water in general or only to spring water that is to be used for purification purposes. The practical difference between these two understandings is found in the cases of spring water collected for a metzora. If the water passing over the keilim removes its status as being mayim chayim then it may not be used. If however, the law only applies to water that will be used for tahara then it may presumably be used for a metzora.

One would suspect the given the pasuk from which this law is derived, it appears that it applies to the definition of spring water. Yet Rashi’s understanding that “the purifying water must be brought about through Tahara”, implies that the law applies to the status of the collected waters to be used for tahara and not the status of the spring water itself.  

The Mishnah Achrona however asks how a person can collect the water? A person is susceptible to tumah and the water should therefore be invalid due to this law. The question is further strengthened when considering the position of the Rosh (Mikvaot 5:5). He understands that when our Mishnah rules that the water is valid if channelling with something not susceptible to tumah, this is only if the item was there prior to the water flowing in that location, otherwise they would be invalid since the person holding or placing the item there in order to channel the water is susceptible to tumah. Yet the Torah explicitly states that “he places the water in a utensil” which clearly permits a person to collect the water!

The Mishnah Achrona explains that there is a difference between adjusting the flow and collecting the water in the kli. The Mishnah in mikvaot, where a man’s involvement invalidates the water, is where the person adjusts the flow and it is therefore invalid. In other words, the new direction is being created through something that is susceptible to tumah. In our case however, the water is flowing directly into the kli. Consequently, even if the person holds the kli, it is not a problem and it is not considered as having being brought about not through tahara.



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