Volume 6 Issue 38

Parah (5:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 12 years ago

The fifth perek begins discussing different keilim that can be used to fill water for mei chatat; earthenware utensils, metal utensils and even the pumpkin-shell. The latter of the three is discussed separately since food readily expels absorbed liquids more than regular utensils (Mishnah Achronah). The first opinion cited in the third Mishnah is that if the pumpkin-shell was immersed in water that is not valid to be used for mei chatat, once it has been dried, it can still be used to contain the water for mei chatat. If however the pumpkin-shell became tameh and was then immersed it cannot be used. R’ Yosi however disagrees, arguing that both the above cases should share the same ruling as there is no need for distinction. We shall try to understand the first opinion.

The Eliyahu Raba explains that in the first case, even though the invalid water might be expelled from the shell and mix with the acceptable water, it will occur at a slow rate – drop by drop. Those drops will be batel (annulled) in the majority acceptable water. Therefore there is no problem using the pumpkin-shell in that case to fill water for mei chatat. In the second case however, where the pumpkin-shell first became tameh and was then immersed, we are concerned that a single drop of tameh water might be expelled and even that small amount will cause the remaining water to become tameh.

The Mishnah Achrona explains R’ Yosi’s argument against the above distinction. It is true that in the first case, if a drop of invalid water is expelled and mixes with the other water, on a biblical level it is annulled in the majority. Even though ordinarily, for mei chatat we rule more stringently, since it is a doubtful whether any of the water will be expelled, it is permissible to use the pumpkin-shell. The same rationale is applicable to the second case as well. The ability of tameh water to cause other water to be tameh is a rabbinic law! Consequently R’ Yosi sees no reason to differentiate. The pumpkin-shell should not be used in either case.

The first opinion, explains the Mishnah Achronah, argues that in the first case, the rabbinic stringency on not allowing the invalid water to be annulled in the valid water, is part of a broad sweeping stringency applied to anything involved in mei chatat. Consequently in our cases, the stringency is alleviated. The “stringency” that tameh water can affect other water is a stringency in the laws of tumah and tahara; it is rabbinic law. Consequently the first Tana does not rule leniently in that case.

Another point worth noting is that the Rambam appears to have a different text of our Mishnah (see Tosfot Yom Tov). In his it reads that if one immersed the pumpkin-shell in water appropriate for use for mei chatat, then the shell be use to fill water for mei chatat. According to what was learnt above, such a ruling would appear obvious. Why would one think otherwise?

To this the Mishnah Achrona explains that we learn that the water must be collected inside a kli. One might have thought that since the water became absorbed in the shell itself, it is as if the water has not been collected inside a kli and therefore invalid. The Mishnah is therefore teaching that even though the water is inside the walls of the kli it is still considered as if it is in the kli itself.69


69 See the Mishnah Achrona for further analysis.

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