The Mishnah (12:3) teaches that if one intended to sprinkle the mei chatat on something that is susceptible to tumah (e.g. a human) but instead directed it at something that is not susceptible to tumah (e.g. an animal), then if there is still enough mei chatat on the ezov (hyssop branch), he need not repeat. Exactly when he does not need to repeat is the subject of debate.
The Bartenura explains that he does not need to dip the ezov in the mei chatat again and can use the remaining water in the ezov for purification. If however it was dipped in the mei chatat for the purpose of sprinkling on something that is not susceptible to tumah, then the water drawn cannot be use for purification. This is the position of the Rambam.
The Rash and Rosh however present a different understanding. The Mishnah is teaching that he cannot repeat the hazaya (sprinkling). In other words, since the water was directed at something that is not susceptible to tumah, the water remaining in the ezov is invalid and cannot be used. If however the drawn water was used on something that is susceptible to tumah, then any extra water left in the ezov can be used to purify something else.
The Mishnah Achrona summarise the debate. According to the Rambam intention at the time of immersion is critical, whereas according to the Rash and Rosh it is the intention at the time of the hazaya. He continues, that the latter position makes sense, since the pasuk states, "the tahor sprinkled on the tameh". The Mishnah Achrona however is unsure of the source of the Rambam's position, that intention at the time of immersion is important.
Even according to the Rash and Rosh there are questions. Granted that the pasuk suggests that if the water was directed at something that was not susceptible to tumah, that that water is invalid. Nevertheless, why should the remaining water in the ezov become invalid?
Rashi (Yoma 14a) explains that the water is invalid because since it was used another purpose, it is invalid due to melacha. The Tosfot Yeshanim however asks that even though melacha, an intervening activity, is indeed an issue when drawing the water for the mei chatat, we have learnt that avodah (other activities) do not invalidate the already made mei chatat, after the ashes have been placed on the mei chatat.
The Aruch HaShulchan (Para 71:18) suggest that Rashi meant that this case is similar to where one performs melacha with spring water prior to kidush (placement of the ashes). In that case, because the owner engaged in another activity, the water becomes considered regular water. In this case, where the water was used in a way that it was not meant to be, it should considered as if the mei chatat had been actively annulled and consider like regular water.
The Rash however explains that the reason the remaining water cannot be used is because the water would become tameh since it was carried (and used) not for the purpose of the mei chatat.
The Tosfot Yeshanim however disagrees. Since it was immersed and initially taken for use on something that is susceptible to tumah, for the purpose of mei chatat, it was not considered carried for a foreign purpose and would not be tameh. The Tosfot Yeshanim therefore suggest that law in our Mishnah, that the remaining water is invalid, is rabbinic. The Mishnah Achrona suggests that it was the strength of this question that perhaps led the Rambam to maintain that the key issue was the intention at immersion and not sprinkling.
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