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The Seven Liquids

Machshirin (6:4) | Yisrael Bankier | 2 hours ago

After learning about hechsher for the last number of weeks, the Mishnah (6:4) teaches that there are seven liquids that can affect hechsher -- dew, water, wine, oil, blood, milk and honey. The Mishnayot that follow clarify the definitions of each of these liquids.

The Barternua explains that this limited list is based on pesukim. The Torah teaches (Vayikra 11:34) "of any food that is edible, upon which water comes, shall become contaminated". So far, the pasuk only discusses water. Yet the pasuk continues, "and any beverage (mashke) that can be drunk in any vessel shall become contaminated". The Torah therefore includes other liquids also. So why then is the list limited to seven? Since the Torah first lists water on its own, when learn that it is only those liquids that have an independent name that are considered mashkin. Other juices are described by adding the word "juice", e.g. pomegranate juice; where as the juice the comes from grapes and olives is know as wine and oil. The Bartenura continues by citing the Tosefta that brings pesukim that refer to each of the seven liquids as mashkim.

The Rambam (Tumat Ochlin 1:4) teaches that these liquids are also unique since they are the only ones that can become tameh. The Rambam explains that just as fruit juice cannot affect hechsher, they also cannot become tameh.

The Raavad however argues disagrees. He explains that when the Tosefta teaches that date honey and other fruit juices are neither a mashke or food, this is if they dripped out on their own. If however the juice was squeezed out, that juice is no different to the food from which it came. The Mikdash David explains that the Raavad reasons that even though the juice is not considered a mashke (to cause hechsher) it should still be considered food and be able to become tameh just like the food from whence it came. What is behind this debate?

The Mikdash David explains that according to the Rambam fruit juice is indeed materially a liquid and certainly not food. Nevertheless, as we explained above, the Torah excluded fruit juices from the laws that apply to mashkin. Consequently, fruit juices are not food, and excluded from being defined as mashkin halachically, so there is no way that they can become tameh.

Perhaps this explanation of the Rambam helps us with a different question. The Mishnah later (6:6) teaches that the zov (abnormal emission) of a zav (a man that is now tameh due to two or three of those emissions) would at once affect hechsher and make the food it touched tameh. The Mishnah Achrona asks why the zov should be able to affect hechsher at all. It is not listed as one of the liquids that falls under the category of "water" listed in the previous Mishnah.

The Mishnah Achrona therefore suggests that our Mishnah that contains the limited list, only discusses liquids that are tahor. Liquids however, that are themselves sources of tumah they can effect hechsher. Why so? The Mishnah Achrona cites the Ri who explains that since such liquids are significant enough to be sources of tumah, they can affect hechsher.

Perhaps we can phrase it slightly different. Based on what we saw in the Mikdash David, the Rambam understands that many liquids can materially appears like a mashke. Yet the Torah lists a selective criterion regarding what can be considered a mashke -- it must be important enough to have an independent name. However, we see that that importance can be obtained in a different way. If the Torah regards other liquids as sources of tumah, then that would give it importance that they can also be considered a mashke and can affect hechsher.

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