Invalid Mei Chata

Parah (9:8) | Yisrael Bankier | 3 years ago

The Mishnah (9:8) teaches that mei chatat that became pasul (invalid), would make one who is tahor for terumah, tameh, but not a person that is tahor for mei chatat. If however the mei chatat become tameh then it would make someone that was tahor for mei chatat tameh only if it came into contact with their hands. We shall try to understand this Mishnah.

The first question that needs to be addressed is, what happened to the mei chatat that it became pasul in this Mishnah? The Bartenura explains that its colour was changed by an external cause. That change makes the mei chatat invalid on a biblical level. He continues that the ruling that the mei chatat makes one tahor for terumah tameh must be rabbinic. To explain, the mei chatat in general makes anyone who is not tahor for mei chatat, tameh. For a person that is tahor for mei chatat, it would not have that effect (according to the Rash). According to the Rambam that is only if that person was handling the mei chatat "le'tzorech" for the needs of the mei chatat. If the mei chatat's colour had changed, it is invalid. It is no longer considered mei chatat or a potential source of tumah for a person tahor for terumah. Consequently, the tumah mentioned in our Mishnah must be rabbinic.

The Mishnah Achrona however has a difficulty with this understanding. He reasons that in general, rabbinic tumah cannot make a person tameh. The Mishnah (Taharot 4:11) does mention that there are rabbinic sources of tumah. Nevertheless, this case does not appear in the list enumerated by the Rambam.

The Mishnah Achrona also cites the opinion of the Rambam (Para Aduma 15:2) that the issue in this Mishnah is that an animal drank from the water or the other water was mixed in. On biblical level, that small amount of water would be considered annulled. Consequently, the pesul in the Mishnah is rabbinic, and on a biblical level the water would still be valid.

The Chazon Ish (Parah 5:13) ultimately aligns the Rambam with the Bartenura. He explains that even though it only became invalid rabbinically, since the owner will turn his attention from it (hesech daat) and will no longer look after it, the mei chatat will be invalid on a biblical level.

The Mishnah Achrona however maintains that the Rambam understands that the issue with the water in our Mishnah was only rabbinic. The difficulty with this understanding is that, if on a biblical level it is still valid, then the Mishnah is not teaching us anything new. We already know that mei chatat makes someone that is tahor for terumah tameh. The Mishnah Achrona suggests that the perhaps the Mishnah was needed for the second case, where the mei chatat became tameh and it then makes a difference how it came into contact with the individual that was tahor for mei chatat.

The Mishnah Achrona however has a different issue with the Rambam. We explained above that the Rambam maintains that tahor mei chatat would make one that is tahor for mei chatat tameh if it was not handled le'tzorech. If, in our case, the mei chatat is valid (biblically) and now will not be used, why would it not make a person tahor for mei chatat tameh?

The Mishnah Achrona suggest a broader understanding of le'tzorech. He includes moving that mei chatat to make way for other mei chatat. Or if the person used the water but was unaware that it was pasul. Since he thought it was needed for mei chatat it is still considered le'tzorech. As proof, he cites the fact that they would sprinkle the mei chatat on the kohen gadol during the seven days prior to Yom Kippur is proof of this broader definition of le'tzorech. The hazaya (sprinkling) everyday was a stringency, yet we see they were not concerned for the potential tumah in unnecessary use.

The Mishnah Achrona concludes, that based on this understanding, we can answer our earlier question. We asked that if the water is still valid biblically, then the Mishnah appears unnecessary since we know that it would make a person tahor for terumah tameh. Now we can answer that the novelty is that it does not make one that is tahor for mei chatat tameh. We learn from this Mishnah that there are situations where handling mei chatat that is rabbinically pasul can still be considered letzorech.


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