As part of the purification of a person or kli that was tameh met, the eizov (hyssop branch) was dipped in the mei chatat and used to sprinkle the water on the subject. The Mishnah discusses a case where the eizov was too short to dip in the mei chatat. Rashi (Sukkah 37a) explains that they would store the mei chatat in long narrow red containers making this situation possible.
A debate is recorded regarding how such a case can be resolved. The first opinion is that the eizov can be tied to a thread and then lowered down into the mei chatat. The Bartenura explains that even though the Torah states that the eizov must be taken (ve’lakach) and dipped into the mei chatat, taking something via an intermediary (as in this case) is halachically considered taking – lekicha al davar acher shema lekicha. When however it comes to sprinkling the mei chatat (hazaya) the eizov must be taken by hand. The requirement here changes for practical reasons. The Tosfot Yom Tov explains that this is to ensure that the hazaya is performed accurately.
R’ Yehuda and R’ Shimon however argue. They explain that just as the hazaya must be performed by hand, so too must the dipping (tevilah). This opinion requires analysis. If the requirement that hazaya be performed by directly holding the eizov was purely for practical reasons, why should the requirement also apply for tevilah?
The Tifferet Yisrael explains that the connection is based on the fact that tevilah and hazaya are written in the Torah close to one another (Bamidbar19:18-19). The pesukim connect the two together teaching that just as hazaya must be performed by hand, tevilah must as well.
The Mishnah Achrona also deals with this question. He first rejects the possibility that R’ Yehuda and R’ Shimon disagree with the concept of lekicha al davar acher shema lekicha and thereby require tevilah to also be performed by hand. The reason is that in Gemara Sukkah, the subject of lekicha al davar acher shema lekicha is debated. Our Mishnah is brought as potential evidence. The Gemara rejects our Mishnah as having no bearing on the issue since the eizov is tied to the string and tying is considered as being a strong attachment – keshira havei chibur. Consequently holding the string is holding the eizov. The Mishnah Achrona therefore argues that lekicha al davar acher shema lekicha does appear to be relevant.
Instead the Mishnah Achrona suggests that the debate is regarding keshira havei chibur and cites an earlier Mishnah (Negaim 11:8) as proof. We learnt that a coil of thread is susceptible to tzara’at provided it is a minimum length. A coil of short threads would not satisfy. There, R’ Yehuda and the Chachamim argue whether if the short threads were tied together they would be susceptible to negaim. R’ Yehuda, in line with the above reasoning, argues that it would not. This is indeed how the Magen Avraham also understands that debate (Orach Chaim 14:1 - also cited by the Mishnah Achronah).
As the halacha follows the opinion of the Chachamim, the principle of keshira havei chibur applies (with Tefillin being an exception – see the Magen Avraham). The Magen Avraham therefore rules that if a tzitzit thread snaps, one would be allowed to tie it together again. Once tied it would be considered a single thread.
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