Mishnayos Yadayim with Running Commentary (Complete)

This running commentary is an amalgam of various commentaries, including my own. Text of the Mishna is from Sefaria. Translations and commentaries used include: Sefaria, R"AV, Ra"sh, Tosfos Yom Tov, Peirush HaRamBam L'Mishnayos, Mishna im peirush Siyata D'ishmaya, Yochin uBoaz, Mishna Mefureshes; Mishna with commentary by Chanoch Albeck, Artscroll/Yad Avrohom, Mishnat Yomi by Rabbi Dr. Joshua Kulp. All mistakes are my own. Any comments and/or questions can be sent to [email protected].

This sheet is part of a series of source sheets related to Mishnayos Yadayim. Other sheets include:

Introduction to the Mesechta

Our Mesechta discusses a unique case of Tumah (impurity), Typically, when a person becomes Tamei his entire body becomes impure. Single limbs are not susceptible to Tumah on their own. However, there is an ancient decree that a person's hands may become Tamei on a stand-alone basis under certain circumstances. Initially, the decree was limited to specific instances where a person's hand touched a weak source of Tumah (i.e., a Rishon L'Tumah) that itself could not make a person Tamei. The decree rendered only that particular hand Tamei. With certain exceptions, if his other hand did not touch the source of Tumah, it would remain pure.

Subsequently, the Chachomim enacted a broader decree called "Stam Yadayim." Pursuant to this decree a person's hands will always be deemed Tamei absent specific knowledge that they are, in fact, pure. In all these cases if a person's hands are Tamei his hands have the power to "Pasul" (disqualify) Terumah by touch. The underlying reasons for the decree(s) are discussed in the Talmud, Shabbos 13b.

Under most circumstances (See Chagigah 2:5) to purify one's hands, a person has to perform the נטילת ידים ceremony. This entails pouring a certain amount of water that was gathered in a utensil over your hands. The mechanics of this ritual --how to wash your hands, how much water, what type of utensil, qualifications for the water--are discussed in Chapters One and Two.

Chapter Three describes a number of items that impart (or are a source of) Tumas Yadayim, including Sifrei Kodesh (this discussion spills into two additional Mishayos in Chapter Four).

The final chapter strays beyond the immediate topic at hand and sets out a number of Halachik resolutions determined on the day Rabi Elazar ben Azariah is appointed Head of the Academy ("בו ביום") and a few miscellaneous disputes between the Chachomim (Pharisees) and the Tziddukim (Sadducees).

Chapter 1

Introduction to Mishna 1:1

The first Mishna of the Mesechta describes the amount of water that is needed for Netilas Yadayim when more than one than one person wants to rinse their hands at the same time. The basic Halachik unit of liquid measurement is a Revi'is, approximately 4oz and everyone agrees you must start off with a Revi'is of water in the utensil. The question being debated in the Mishna is whether each person desiring to rinse their hands at that time requires his own separate Revi'is. Or, is it sufficient that the cup only initially hold a Revi'is of water even if after the first person washes their hands less than a Revi'is remains.

The water left in the utensil after the first rinse is called שיירי טהרה (water remaining from a Revi'is). The reason שיירי טהרה works is since the water started off טהור in the utensil, it remains pure even though less than a Revi'is remains. Everyone, however, agrees that the remaining water, even if less than a Revi'is must be sufficient to appropriately cover his hands.

The last case of the Mishna discusses a more fundamental question: when purifying one's hands how many times must a person actually rinse his hands. As is commonly known, we generally rinse each of our hands twice. This rule is more fully discussed in the second chapter. Our Mishna concerns itself with what happens when rinsing your hands it turns out there is not enough water to fully cover your hand. May you simply add more water to the utensil in middle of the process and continue where you left off or must you start over? Does it make a difference whether we are discussing the first rinse or the second?

  1. מי רביעית נותנין לידים לאחד. אף לשנים.
  2. מחצית לוג. לשלשה. או לארבעה.
  3. מלוג לחמשה. ולעשרה. ולמאה.
  4. רבי יוסי אומר ובלבד שלא יפחות לאחרון שבהם מרביעית.
  5. מוסיפין על השניים ואין מוסיפין על הראשונים:
  1. A Revi'is of water (which is the minimum amount of water that one may start out with when rinsing Netillas Yadayim) can be used for either one or two people;
  2. Half a Log (2 Revi'is) is the minimum amount of water needed for three or four people [to rinse their hands];
  3. From a full Log of water, five, ten or even one hundred people can rinse their hands (so long as each of them can properly cover their hands with the water.
  4. Rabi Yose says so long that the last person has a minimum of a Revi'is left from which to rinse his hands.*
  5. [If when rinsing his hand the water was insufficient to fully cover his hand,] if it was the second rinse, he may add water [to ensure coverage of the full hand]. However, he may not add water during the first rinse (since the water on his hand is Tamei/impure, by adding water he will make the added water Tamei as well).

* R' Yosi is understood in three ways.

  1. When you have 5+ people you need to make sure the last person has a full Revi’is
  2. When you have 5+ people everyone needs a full Revi’is
  3. In all cases you need a full Revi’is for each person washing their hands

Most Meforshim understand that using a full Revi'is for the first rinse is not necessary, however, it is advantageous. By using a full Revi'is for the first rinse you do not technically require a second rinse whatsoever (i.e., both your hands and all residual water are pure in this circumstance). The Rambam, however, requires that in all instances a person must use a full Revi'is of water for the first rinse. This interpretive stance means that according to the Rambam our Mishna is only discussing the second rinse and not the first.

Question: How do you envision the multiple party Netillas Yadayim scenario described in our Mishna. Are there any textual clues that may help?

Mishna 2

[Purification rituals almost universally require water. Whether it is immersion in a Mikvah, rinsing yourself (or portions of yourself) with water, being sprinkled with water or simply drinking a watery mix, water plays a central role ] Similar to other purification rituals (e.g., קידוש ידיים, פרה אדומה) where the water is required to be held in a vessel, when it came to Netillas Yadayim, the Chachomim likewise required the use of a כלי to hold the requisite amount of water.

Relatedly, the last part of the Mishna discusses the power of an earthenware vessel (כלי חרס ) to protect against Corpse-Tumah. Because an earthenware vessel cannot become טמא from the outside, if it is sealed tightly, it will protect its contents from contracting Tumah. Second, typically anything that enters the airspace of an earthenware vessel will become Tamei (assuming there is a source of Tumah in the vessel--e.g., a dead rodent falls into an oven) even if it does not touch the vessel. However, if there is food contained in a second vessel and that כלי falls within the airspace of the first vessel, it can protect the contents (as long as the lip of the second vessel remains above the lip of the first כלי).

  1. בכל הכלים נותנין לידים. אפילו בכלי גללים. בכלי אבנים. בכלי אדמה.
  2. אין נותנין לידים. לא בדפנות הכלים. ולא בשולי המחץ. ולא במגופת החבית.
  3. ולא יתן לחבירו בחפניו.
  4. מפני שאין ממלאין ואין מקדשין ואין מזין מי חטאת ואין נותנים לידים אלא בכלי.
  5. ואין מצילין בצמיד פתיל אלא כלים. שאין מצילין מיד כלי חרש אלא כלים:
  1. A person may use all sorts of vessels for Netillas Yadayim, even those כלים that otherwise are not susceptible to Tumah, like vessels made of dung, stone or earthenware.
  2. One may not use pieces of a broken vessel (i.e., the sides), the broken off bottom of a large jug or the cover to a cask--even if they could hold water as none of the above are considered "Kaylim"for Netilas Yadayim
  3. Similarly, a person may not use his cupped hands to pour water on his friend's hands
  4. (the reason for the above rule is) Because one must only use a vessel for the three steps of the in the Parah Aduma ritual (1) when drawing water, (2) when adding the ash and (3) when ritually sprinkling the mixture on a person or something that is Corpse-Tamei; and when washing one's hands.
  5. And similarly, only a tightly sealed, whole earthenware כלי can protect its contents from טומאת מת. Likewise, only a whole earthenware כלי can protect its contents (food) from becoming Tamei in the airspace of another כלי.

Mishna 3

Our Mishna discusses some of the disqualifying characteristics of the Netilas Yadayim water. As a general rule, the water should be fresh and clear and should not have been used for some other, prior purpose. The water need not necessarily be potable, but it must remain fit for animals to drink.

There is a dispute among the Rishonim as to why water used for other purposes is invalid for Netilas Yadayim. Some suggest that it takes on the persona of "waster water" which would be incongruous with the purpose of Netilas Yadayim, which is to clean the hands. Others suggest that once used, the water loses its status as water.

  1. המים שנפסלו משתית הבהמה. (a) בכלים פסולים. (b) ובקרקעות כשרים.
  2. נפל לתוכן דיו. קומוס. וקנקנתום. ונשתנו מראיהן. פסולין.
  3. עשה בהם מלאכה. או ששרה בהן פתו. פסולין.
  4. שמעון התימני אומר אפילו נתכוין לשרות בזה. ונפל לשני. כשרים:
  1. For purposes of purifying your hands, water that is unfit for animals to drink:
    (a) cannot be used for Netilas Yadayim (i.e., for use via pouring from a vessel)
    (b) however, such waters can be used for Tevilas Yadayim (i.e., a mikvah made up of such water is valid)
  2. If either ink, gum arabic or vitriol (iron sulfate) dissolves into and discolors the water, the water cannot be used for Netilas Yadayim (or even Tevilas Yadayim)
  3. If the water was used for any prior intentional purpose (i.e chilling a soda or softening your bread), even if there was no specific intention to use this particular water, the water can no longer be used for Netilas Yadayim.
  4. Shimon HaTeimani questions the Tana Kama's statement: can it be the case that if he intended soak his bread in pot A and it unintentionally fell into pot B that the water in pot B should be invalid? That cannot be, rather, the water remains usable for Netlias Yadayim.*

*Both the Tana Kama and Shimon HaTeimani agree that if the bread accidentally fell into the water, the water would remain usable for Netilas Yadayim.

Question: In the introduction we noted two reasons why water used for other purposes is invalid. Is there a Nafka Minah between these reasons?

Mishna 4

Our Mishna provides more examples of water that is being used for "other work."

  1. הדיח בהם את הכלים. או שמיחה בהם את המדות. פסולים.
  2. הדיח בהם כלים מודחים. או חדשים. כשרים.
  3. ר' יוסי פוסל בחדשים:
  1. If the Netilas Yadayim water was used to rinse dishes or to scrub measuring cups (i.e., from the caked on residue), the waters are invalid and cannot be used for Netilas Yadayim.
  2. However, if the dishes were already clean or they were new (so that there was no need to use the water to rinse them) then the water remains valid for Netilas Yadayim.
  3. Rabi Yosi says that washing new dishes invalidates the water [since it is normal for people to wash their dishes prior to the first time using them, doing so is considered מלאכה].


  1. Why does the Mishna provide the case of scraping the measuring cups? What additional rule do we learn from that case that we already did not know from the first case?
  2. What would be the Din if you used the water to keep a fish alive?

Mishna 5

The first part of the Mishna provides one last example of water that was used for other purposes. The second part describes who can pour the water and by what means/power it can be poured.

  1. המים שהנחתום מטביל בהם את הגלוסקין פסולים.
  2. וכשהוא מדיח את ידיו בהן. כשרים.
  3. הכל כשרים ליתן לידים. אפילו חרש שוטה וקטן.
  4. מניח חבית בין ברכיו ונוטל.
  5. מטה חבית על צדה ונוטל. והקוף נוטל לידים.
  6. ר' יוסי פוסל בשני אלו:
  1. Water into which the baker has dipped his [unbaked] rolls cannot be used for Netilas Yadayim [as it is considered to been used for other work]
  2. However, if he simply moistens his hands in the water [and rubs the water on his hands on the loaves] the water remains valid for Netillas Yadayim
  3. Anyone may pour the water onto another person's hands, even a deaf-mute, imbecile or minor.
  4. One may place a barrel of water between his knees and maneuver it such that the water pours over his hands.
  5. (a) One may tilt a barrel onto its side and wash his hands from the flowing water and
    (b) even an ape may validly wash your hands.
  6. Rabi Yosi disagrees with the last two cases since he requires that for there to be a valid Netilas Yadayim, the flow of water must be continuously powered by a person.


  1. When the baker dips his hands into the water, why does he not make the water Tamei?
  2. Oftentimes, when the Mishna uses the term "הכל" it comes to include a case not mentioned in the Mishna. What does it come to include in our Mishna?

Chapter 2

Introduction to Chapter Two

Chapter Two further develops the rules of Netilas Yadayim. The first Mishna clarifies the rules of how many time a person must rinse their hands. The second Mishna identifies limitations on the ability to purify מים ראשונים. The third Mishna elaborates on the previous Mishna and also identifies the area of the hand to which the decrees of Tumas Yadayim and Nettilas Yadayim apply. The last Mishna discusses cases where a doubt (Safek) has arisen regarding the purification status of the hands or the water.

Mishna 1

We learned in the first Mishna of Chapter One that a person typically has to rinse his hands twice. The first is called מים ראשונים and its purpose is to purify the hands. The water itself, however, remains טמא. Therefore, you need a second rinse, called מים שניים, whose purpose is to be מטהר the impure water.

We also learned that the water used for Netilas Yadayim must initially originate as a full Revi'is. Only then can you use the שיירי טהרה for subsequent rinses. Importantly, everyone agrees that at the minimum the water must be sufficient to cover the whole hand.

Our Mishna describes how a person can purify his hand(s) with only a single rinse. It will depend on whether he is being מטהר one* hand or two.

The last part of the Mishna discusses the status of the used water and whether the water itself is טהור or טמא. It does so--like in all the following Mishnayos--by referencing a case where a loaf of Terumah bread falls into the water. Because the rule is liquids that become Tamei have the power to be מטמא Chulin and Terumah, if the water is טמא then the Loaf is טמא, if the water is טהור then the Loaf is טהור as well.**

*The Mishna in Chagigah (3:2) teaches that in the case of Terumah it is possible for only a single hand to become טמא, Alternatively, he can choose to only be מטהר one hand. In the case of Kodshim both hands become טמא. In the case of the Para Aduma, if a hand becomes טמא the entire body becomes טמא.

**Others suggest that the Chachomim did not give used rinse water the same power as regular liquids and therefore it does not have the power to be מטמא Chullin.

  1. נטל לידו אחת משטיפה אחת. ידו טהורה.
  2. לשני ידיו. משטיפה אחת.
  3. ר' מאיר מטמא עד שיטול מרביעית.
  4. נפל ככר של תרומה טהור.
    (a) רבי יוסי מטמא:
  1. If when purifying a single hand a person rinses his hand only once, his hand will be pure (whether the vessel contains a Revi'is but he pours less than a Revi'is or if it was from שיירי טהרה).
  2. If he is purifying both his hands with a single rinse---
  3. Rabi Meir says his hands will remain טמא until he pours a full Revi'is on his hands. If he does not have a Revi'is, he must then rinse his hands twice (from שיירי טהרה).
  4. [In a scenario where a single rinse works to purify his hands] [I]f a loaf of Terumah falls into the used water the loaf remains Tahor (because the water itself is inherently pure).
    (a) Rabi Yose says the loaf is impure (although the water purifies the hand(s), the water itself remains Tamei).


  1. How can you reconcile our Mishna's rule allowing a single rinsing with the first Mishna in Chapter One which seemingly requires two rinses in each case?
  2. Why, according to Rabi Yose, might the used water remain Tamei?

Mishna 2

Mishna Two clarifies the purity status of the used rinse water in a case where one is obligated to rinse his hands twice, i.e., when both מים ראשונים and מים שניים are needed. As noted in Mishna One, the מים ראשונים itself remains טמא and it is only the מים שניים that are מטהר the מים ראשונים. The Mishna teaches us that the מים שניים can only purify water that remains on a persons hands. Once the water falls to the ground or moves onto another surface, however, it can no longer be purified by the מים שניים, and, in fact, they will make the מים שניים themselves Tamei.

  1. נטל את הראשונים למקום אחד. ואת השניים למקום אחר.
    (a) ונפל ככר של תרומה על הראשונים טמא.
    (b) ועל השניים טהור.
  2. נטל את הראשונים ואת השניים למקום אחד ונפל ככר של תרומה טמא.
  3. נטל את הראשונים ונמצא על ידיו קיסם. או צרור. ידיו טמאות.
  4. שאין המים האחרונים מטהרים אלא המים שעל גבי היד.
  5. ר' שמעון בן גמליאל אומר כל שהוא מבריית המים טהור:
  1. If the water from the first rinse fell in one spot and the water from the second rinse fell in another spot, then:
    (a) If the Terumah Loaf fell on the first rinse's water, it is Tamei
    (b) if the Terumah Loaf fell on the second rinse's water, it remains Tahor.
  2. If the waters of both the first and second rinse fell in the same spot (the mixed water is Tamei, therefore), a Trumah Loaf that falls on to the mixed waters will be Tamei.
  3. If after rinsing his hands the first time he finds a splinter or pebble on his hands (and there is water on the foreign object) then his hands will remain impure (i.e., the second rinse will not purify the water) since:
  4. The second rinse only has the power to purify the first rinse's water that remains on the hand itself [in this case, the water on the foreign object cannot be purified by the second rinse, and since that water remains impure, if that water touches the hand, the hand will become/remain Tamei.
  5. Rabi Shimon ben Gamliel [limiting the last ruling] said that [if the foreign object] is a creature that grows in the water (i.e., worm) then it is considered like the water itself and the second rinse will work to purify the water and the hands.


  1. Why are the מים ראשונים not מטמא the hands prior to the second rinse?
  2. Why are the מים ראשונים not מטמא the מים שניים?

As part of the decree of Tumas Yadayim and Netillas Yadayim, the rule is so long as the מים ראשוניםremain on the hand, it does not have the power to make either the hand or the subsequent מים שניים טמא.

Mishna 3

Having established that מים ראשונים can only be purified while it remains on the hand itself, our Mishna clarifies two further points. First, that both Tumas Yadayim and Netillas Yadayim apply only up to the joint of the hand itself, and to no other parts of the body.* By limiting these decrees to the hand, the Mishna is providing both a leniency and a stringency. The leniency is that only a person's hand-- and not his arm or foot-- can become Tamei or make Terumah Tamei [assuming the person himself is not Tamei]. The stringency is that once any water used for Netillas Yadayim flows beyond the boundary of the hand itself, it will remain Tamei and the מים שניים will not have the power to be מטהר them. Our Mishna provides various scenarios where water flowed beyond the hand and the rule that applies in each case.

Second, the Mishna teaches us that after the first rinse a person's hand is Tahor even though the מים ראשונים remaining on the hand itself is Tamei--i.e., the מים ראשונים do not make the hand Tamei. This is only true so long as the מים ראשונים do not become Tamei from any other source, such as by touching another hand that is Tamei or other מים ראשונים. However, if the original מים ראשונים do become Tamei from another source, they then have the power to make the hand on which they rest, Tamei.

* There are three understandings as to what is deemed is the joint of the hand for these purposes. First, it may mean the middle knuckle on your finger. Second, it may mean the joint where the finger meets the hand/palm. Third, it may mean the wrist (i.e., where the hand meets the arm).

  1. הידים מיטמאות. ומיטהרות. עד הפרק.
  2. כיצד נטל את הראשונים עד הפרק. ואת השניים חוץ לפרק. וחזרו ליד. טהורה.

  3. נטל את הראשונים ואת השניים. חוץ לפרק. וחזרו ליד. טמאה.

  4. נטל את הראשונים לידו אחת. ונמלך. ונטל את השניים לשתי ידיו. טמאות.

  5. נטל את הראשונים לשתי ידיו ונמלך ונטל את השניים לידו אחת. ידו טהורה.

  6. נטל לידו אחת. ושפשפה בחברתה. טמאה.

  7. בראשו או בכותל טהורה.

  8. נוטלין ארבעה וחמשה. זה בצד זה. או זה על גבי זה. ובלבד שירפו. שיבואו בהם המים:
  1. It is only up to the joint in the hand that may become Tamei or [when washed properly] become Tahor.
  2. [The Mishna now provides a number of examples] How so? If the water of the first rinse reaches up to the joint and the water of the second rinse goes beyond the joint and then flows back onto the hand, [the hand will be] Tahor. [This is so since the body beyond the joint is not Tamei, the water that flows beyond the joint cannot become Tamei--so the water flowing back onto the hand is Tahor as well].
  3. If both the first and second rinses water go beyond the joint and then flow back onto the hand, the hand is Tamei [This is so since the water from the first rinse that went beyond the joint does not become Tahor from the second rinse, and when these waters mix beyond the joint they become Tamei and when they flow back onto the hand they make the hand Tamei as well].
  4. If [a person originally wanted to only make one hand Tahor, so] he rinsed only one hand and then he changes his mind and, for the second rinse, pours the water over both hands [so for the first hand, this is the second rinse and for the second hand it is only the first rinse], they will be Tamei. [This is because the second rinse water on the first hand will touch the first rinse water of the second hand, making the water Tamei which, in turn, will make his hand Tamei as well.]
  5. If [a person originally wanted to make both his hands Tahor, so] he rinsed both his hands and then he changes his mind and, for the second rinse, he only rinses one hand, that hand will be Tahor.
  6. If he rinsed one hand and then rubs the rinsed hand with his other hand, it will remain Tamei. [This is so since the water on his hand will become Tamei when it touches his other hand, making the original, rinsed hand Tamei.]
  7. [If, however, he rubs his rinsed hand on] his head or the wall, the hand will be Tahor. [This is so since both his head or the wall are Tahor, the water on his hand will remain Tahor. The same would be true if he used a towel to dry his hands--although the water in the towel would be Tamei.]
  8. Four or five people can wash their hands together [side by side or one on top of the other] so long as they don't clench their hands so that the water can flow freely between them. [We are not concerned that the water from one hand will make another hand Tamei since they are being washed as one unit at the same time].


  1. In case 3, what would be the Halacha if the water of the first rinse that initially went beyond the Joint flows back onto the hand before the second rinse, would the second rinse have the power to make that water Tahor?
  2. Because of the concern of water flowing back onto the hand, what is a practical way with which we can prevent that from happening?

Mishna 4

Our Mishna discuses situations where a doubt (a ספק) has arisen over the status of a person's hands. This could be because we are uncertain whether (i) he correctly purified his hand (ליטהר), (ii) his Tamei hands transmitted Tumah to another object (i.e., a Terumah Loaf) (ולטמא), (iii) his hands actually became Tamei (ליטמא).

Generally speaking, in determining cases of doubt we are guided by the principle of חזקה, a working presumption that an object will remain in its previous, known state unless proven otherwise . So in this instance, if you know your hands are Tamei, they should remain so until we are certain that they have been properly purified. This is true in general, however, when it comes to doubtful cases of Tumah we are guided by two additional principles. First, a doubt that arises in the public domain (רשות הרבים) will generally be ruled on leniently. Second, a doubt arising in a private domain (רשות היחיד) will generally be ruled on stringently.

As our Mishna will teach, the Chachomim treated uncertainties related to Tumas Yadayim and Netillas Yadayim even more leniently. So that in cases where we would typically be stringent, we are lenient. Further, in most cases of doubt we view the situation post facto, after the fact, i.e., if someone used the doubtful water to rinse his hands and went on to touch a Tahor loaf, how should we treat the loaf. In the cases outlined in our Mishna a person would be allowed to use the doubtful water even in the first instance.

The Mishna begins with the situation where a person's hands are certainly Tamei and there is some doubt and uncertainty whether he properly washed his hands. If washed properly, his hands are Tahor, if not, they remain Tamei. The uncertainties described include the factors described in the first Perek regarding the amount and/or the nature of the water itself.

The second half of the Mishna describes a number of situations in which a person in uncertain whether his hands contracted Tumah (ליטמא) or his Tamei hands transmitted Tumah to another object (ולטמא). A concise version of this Mishna is brought in Mesechtas Taharos 4:7 and 4:11.

  1. (a) ספק נעשה בהם מלאכה ספק לא נעשה בהם מלאכה.

    (b) ספק יש בהם כשיעור. ספק שאין בהם כשיעור.

    (c) ספק טמאים. ספק טהורין.

    (d) ספיקן טהור.

    (e) מפני שאמרו ספק הידים ליטמא ולטמא וליטהר טהור.

    (f) ר' יוסי אומר ליטהר. טמא.
  1. כיצד?

    (a) היו ידיו טהורות. ולפניו שני ככרים טמאים. ספק נגע ספק לא נגע.

    (b) היו ידיו טמאות. ולפניו שני ככרים טהורים. ספק נגע ספק לא נגע.

    (c) היו ידיו אחת טמאה ואחת טהורה. ולפניו שני ככרים טהורים. נגע באחד מהם. ספק בטמאה נגע. ספק בטהורה נגע.

    (d) היו ידיו טהורות ולפניו שני ככרים. אחד טמא ואחד טהור. נגע באחד מהן. ספק בטמא נגע. ספק בטהור נגע.

    (e) היו ידיו אחת טמאה ואחת טהורה. ולפניו שני ככרים. אחד טמא ואחד טהור. נגע בשתיהן. ספק טמאה בטמאה. וטהורה בטהורה. או טהורה בטמאה. וטמאה בטהורה.

    (f) הידים כמו שהיו. והככרים כמות שהיו:
  1. (a) If a person is uncertain whether [the water he used to purify his hands] may have previously been used for another purpose [thereby rendering them unfit for Netillas Yadayim];

    (b) If there is an uncertainty as to whether [the vessel he is using to purify his hands] contained the requisite amount of water [i.e., starting off with a Revi'is]; or

    (c) If there is an uncertainty whether the water itself may be Tamei or Tahor, then in each of these cases

    (d) the water is "Tahor" [i.e., it is fit to be used in the first instance to rinse his hands

    (e) since [when it came to Tumas Yadayim and Netillas Yadayim] the Chachomim said that in cases of doubt pertaining to (i) hands becoming Tamei, (ii) Tamei hands transmitting Tumah to another object and (iii) purifying one's hands we are to rule leniently.

    (f) Rabi Yosi says that in the case where we know the hands are Tamei but are uncertain whether the hands have been properly purified we are to rule stringently [relying on the presumption that absent certainty, the hands will remain in their current state of impurity.
  2. How so? [The Mishna now describes a series of cases in which there is doubt whether his hands contracted Tumah or his Tamei hands transmitted Tumah]

    (a) His hands were Tahor and infront of him there were two Tamei loaves and he is uncertain whether he touched them [potentially rendering his hands Tamei];

    (b) His hands are Tamei and in front of him are two Tahor loaves and he is uncertain whether he touched them [potentially rendering the loaves Tamei and, therefore, having to burn them];

    (c) One of his hands were Tamei and one was Tahor and in front of him are two Tahor loaves [and he knows he touched one of them but] he is unsure whether he touched it with his Tahor or Tamei hand [if the later, the loaves would be Tamei and subject to burning];

    (d) both his hands are Tahor and in front of him are two loaves, one Tamei and one Tahor [and he knows he touched at least one of them but] he is uncertain which loaf he may have touched [touching the Tamei loaf would render his hand Tamei]; or

    (e) one of his hands are Tamei and one hand is Tahor and in front of him are two loaves, one Tamei and one Tahor, and he touches both of the loaves [but he not certain in what fashion
    he touched them, it may be that] (i) the Tamei hand touched the Tamei loaf and the Tahor hand touched the Tahor loaf or (ii) the Tahor hand touched the Tamei loaf [rendering the hand, Tamei] or the Tamei hand touched the Tahor loaf [rendering the loaf, Tamei], in all these cases

    (f) the hands retain the status they had prior to touching the loaves and the loaves retain the status they had before he touched them.


  1. In thinking about how R' Yehuda HaNasi compiled the Mishna, what do the words מפני שאמרו signify?
  2. Why do you think the Chachomim were lenient in these instances?
  3. The Mishna says that if your Tahor hands touch a Tamei loaf your hands will become Tamei. With what sort of Tumah are the loaves Tamei with?
  4. In the first half of the Mishna, where we have doubts about the water itself, the Mishna says that your hands will be Tahor if you use the water. That is because we are viewing it from the perspective of the the hands, which the Chachomim were lenient. But if you look at it from the perspective of the water itself, why should a doubt allow us to be lenient with the water itself, i.e., if we are not sure there is enough water in the cup, from the water's perspective we should act stringently.

Chapter 3

Introduction to Chapter Three

As described in both the Mishna and Talmud, there are two ways that Yadayim can become Tamei. First, is by touching a "weak" source of Tumah that, itself, does not have the power to make the entire person Tamei. For example, a Rishon L'Tumah (i.e., something that touched an Av HaTumah) cannot make a person Tamei, nonetheless, the Chachomim decreed that it would make a person's Yadayim, Tamei. This can be seen as a natural extension of the core rules of Tumah and Tahara so as to prevent inadvertently making Terumah, Tamei (i.e., we don't want people handling a Rishon and Terumah at the same time).

Second, the Gemara describes a generic category called, "סתם ידים." This category is much broader than the first and it applies to all Yadayim, even if you know you have not touched a source of Tumah. The reason this "Tumah" was enacted is מפני שהידים עסקניות הן. People are not always conscientious and careful of where they place their hands. This raises the strong possibility that their hands may be dirty. It would be very disrespectful to touch Teruma with such Yadayim since it could potentially spoil the food. Therefore, unless a person has dutifully been watching over his hands since their last purification so as to ensure they remain "clean and pure," they will be deemed Tamei and he will need to purify them again.

Chapter Three focuses on Yadayim that become Tamei by touching different sources of Tumah. The first two Mishnayos describe certain Avos HaTumah that cause Yadayim to become Tamei and whether a Sheini L'Tumah can make hands Tamei. The rest of the Chapter describes the details of Seforim (both the sefer itself and hands that touch seforim become tamei) such as, which parts of a scroll transmit Tumah, what is considered a "sefer" for these purposes and which seforim of TaNach were included in the decree.

Mishna 1

Our Mishna describes two fundamental disputes regarding Tumas Yadayim. First, the running assumption of our Mesechta has been that Yadayim that become Tamei will always have the status of a Sheini L'Tuma--its power being limited to being M'Tamei Terumah. Our Mishna describes a dispute between Rabi Akiva and the Chachomim whether there are situations when Yadayim can be considered a Rishon L'Tumah--allowing them to be M'Tamei Chullin.

Their dispute arises in two unique situations where there is an Av HaTumah, but, unlike most Avos HaTumah that, when touched by a person, the person will become a Rishon, these Avos do not have the power to make a person Tamei.* Certainly, however, they should make Yadayim, Tamei. The question is, will they make the Yadayim a Rishon or a Sheini.

The second dispute in our Mishna is between Rabi Yehoshua and the Chachomim and whether a person's Yadayim can become Tamei only from a Rishon L'Tumah or even from a Sheini. The case described in our Mishna is whether Yadayim that touch food (which can always be a sheini) or a Vessel (which can only become a Sheini in the limited circumstance when it becomes Tamei from a liquid) will be Tamei. The Mishna ends with a story about Raban Gamliel in support of the Chachomim's position.

* The two Avos Hatumah are:

  1. A house that has been declared Tamei because it contains a נגע צרעת. Such a house has the status of an Av HaTumah and its airspace makes all of its contents and anyone walking into it, Tamei. Our Mishna tells us that if all a person does is stick his hands into the house, they will become Tamei.
  2. There are certain sources of Tumah that are powerful enough that so long as a person holds onto them, the person himself will transmit the Tumah as if he were an Av as well (טומאת חיבורין). Therefore, any clothing he is wearing or Keilim he is holding while connected to the original source of Tumah, will become a Rishon L'Tumah and require purification. Under normal conditions (i.e., when he separates from the source), the person would be the Rishon and he could not make Keilim, Tamei. Notably, even when connected to the source, he cannot make a person Tamei he will make a person's Yadaim Tamei.
  1. המכניס ידיו לבית המנוגע.

    (a) ידיו תחלות דברי ר' עקיבא.

    (b) וחכמים אומרים ידיו שניות.

  2. כל המטמא בגדים בשעת מגעו.

    (a) מטמא את הידים. להיות תחלות. דברי ר' עקיבא.
    (b) וחכמים אומרים להיות שניות.

  3. (a) אמרו לו לר' עקיבא. היכן מצינו שהידים תחלה בכל מקום?

    (b) אמר להם וכי היאך אפשר להן להיות תחלה. אלא אם כן נטמא גופו. חוץ מזה?

  4. האוכלין והכלים שנטמאו במשקין

    (a) מטמאין את הידים להיות שניות. דברי ר' יהושע.
    (b) וחכמים אומרים את שנטמא באב הטומאה. מטמא את הידים. בולד הטומאה אינו מטמא את הידים.

  5. אמר רבן שמעון בן גמליאל מעשה באשה אחת שבאת לפני אבא.

    (a) אמרה לו נכנסו ידי לאויר כלי חרש.

    (b) אמר לה בתי ובמה היתה טומאתה. ולא שמעתי מה אמרה לו.

    (c) אמרו חכמים מבואר הדבר. את שנטמא באב הטומאה. מטמא את הידים. בולד הטומאה. אינו מטמא את הידים:
  1. If a person sticks his hands into the airspace of a home that has been declared Tamei because of צרעת
    (a) his hands will be a Rishon (one derivative lower than the house) according to Rabi Akiva;
    (b) The Chachomim say that his hands will be a Sheini (two derivatives lower than the house, but in line with all other categories of Tumas Yadayim)
  2. [Similarly, if someone touches a person while that person is connected to a source of Tumah so powerful that it he is considered a temporary Av making his own clothing Tamei]
    (a) it will make his hands a Rishon according to Rabi Akiva;
    (b) The Chachomim say, they are a Sheini.
  3. [The Mishna describes a conversation between the parties]
    (a) The Chachomim said to Rabi Akiva: Where else do you find that a person's hands can become a Rishon (in other words, why do you deviate in these cases from the established rule that Yadayim become Sheniyos]?
    (b) Said Rabi Akiva back to the Chachomim, The reason you do not find such situations is because these are the only two situations in which an Av HaTumah does not make a person a Rishon--in all other cases an Av will make the entire person a Rishon, so not observing another case is no proof that it cannot be.
  4. [If a person touched] food and vessels [that became Tamei after being touched by Tamei liquids (i.e., a Sheini)]
    (a) It will make his hands a Sheini, according to Rabi Yehoshua;
    (b) The Chachomim said, only those things that have become Tamei from an Av Hatumah, (i.e., a Rishon) can make Yadayim Tamei (i.e., to become a Sheini);
    anything that became Tamei from a Rishon (i.e., a Sheini) cannot make Yadayim Tamei.
  5. [The Mishna brings a story in support of the Chachomim] Said Raban Shimon Ben Gamliel, there was a story of a woman who came to my father with the following question:
    (a) [she said] my hands entered the airspace of an [impure] earthenware vessel [and she wanted to know if her hands had become Tamei]
    (b) My father said, "my daughter, and how did the vessel itself become Tamei?" and I did not hear his answer.
    (c) Said the Chachomim, [from the question alone] it is clear that only those things that have become Tamei from an Av Hatumah, (i.e., a Rishon) can make Yadayim Tamei (i.e., to become a Sheini); anything that became Tamei from a Rishon (i.e., a Sheini) [otherwise, why would Raban Gamliel have bothered to ask about the source of the Vessel's Tumah?]

Mishna 2

Our Mishna continues with a variation on the dispute between Rabi Yehoshua and the Chachomim over whether a Sheini L'Tumah can make Yadayim Tamei

  1. (a) כל הפוסל את התרומה. מטמא את הידים להיות שניות.
    (b) היד מטמאה את חברתה. דברי ר' יהושע.
    (c) וחכמים אומרים אין שני עושה שני.

  2. (a) אמר להם והלא כתבי הקדש שניים. מטמאין את הידים.

    (b) אמרו לו אין דנין דברי תורה מדברי סופרים. ולא דברי סופרים מדברי תורה. ולא דברי סופרים מדברי סופרים:

  1. (a) Anything that will render Terumah Pasul (i.e., a Sheini) also renders Yadayim a Sheini.
    (b) If a person's touches a his one, pure hand with his other, Tamei hand, the pure hand will become Tamei, according to Rabi Yeshoshua
    (c) The Chachomim say that a Sheini cannot render something else a Sheini (i.e., cannot make Yadayim Tamei).
  2. [Said Rabi Yeshoshua to the Chachomim] [how can you say a Sheini cannot render something else a Sheini] is it not the case that Seforim, which themselves have the status of a Sheini, yet, they are Mitamei Yadayim?
    (b) said the Chachomim in retort: one cannot make comparisons as between Divrei Torah and Divrei Sofrim, Divrei Sofrim and Divrei Torah or even among Divrei Sofrim [it's this last category that the Chachomim were referring. Both the general concept of Tumas Yadayim and the decree that Seforim are Tamei and render hands Tamei are of Rabbinic origin. When it comes to Rabbinic Decrees, each one was created to address a certain and particular need, therefore to try and compare situations and learn from one to another is impossible].


Why did our Mishna need to repeat the Machlokes between Rabi Yehoshua and the Chachomim?

Tumas Seforim

As noted in the introduction, the Chachomim instituted two decrees related to Sifrei Kodesh (and Tefillin). First, that the Sefer, itself, is a source of Tumah, disqualifying Terumah by touch. Second, that Seforim have the power to also be M'Tamei Yadayim.*

The Gemara in Shabbos 13b explains that the first decree was trying to prevent people from storing their Seforim alongside Terumah, which often led to the deterioration of the Seforim.** The second decree, however, was either meant to enhance and bolster the first decree (Rambam) or, to bolster Rabi Parnach’s prohibition against touching Seforim directly with bare hands (which if their hands were dirty would ruin the Sefer). *** This topic spans five Mishnayos in our Mesechta. Perek 3, Mishnayos 3-5 and Perek 4, Mishnayos 5 & 6.

Mishnayos 3:3 , 3:4, part 1 of 3:5 and 4:5 focus on the technical aspects of the rule. Whether the Tefillin straps have the same status as the Tefillin themselves, the status of the margins and the language in which the Seforim need to written. The Tosefta broadens the discussion as to the status of the Seforim's accessories (i.e., its cover etc...).

Mishna 3:5 describes a debate over the status of two particular Seofrim, Koheles and Shir HaShirim and whether they are M'Tamei Yadayim.

Finally, Mishna 4:6 describes a dispute between the Peirushim (Pharisees) and the Tziddukim (Sadducees) and whether Seforim are actually M'Tamei Yadayim.

*Whether this second decree actually invested the Sefer Torah itself with Tumah sufficient to transmit Tumah to hands or whether this was a standalone decree i.e., hands touching a Sefer become Tmaei even though the Sefer is Tahor, is a dispute amongst the Rishonim. See Shiurei Rabeinu HaGr"im, Taharos, on the Topic of the Eighteen Items, Bnei Brak 5776, Chapter 2. According to the Rambam who views the second decree as simply supporting the original decree that a Sefer makes Terumah Tamei, it would seem that the Sefer itself transmits Tumah. According to Tosfos and the RA"SH (perhaps based on R' Parnach) the decree on Yadayim was a standalone decree. See there how to understand Mishnah 3:2.

**We find Mice to be a particularly troubling phenomenon see, e.g., Bava Basra 10:6 and Keilim 15:6.

*** Many scholars view the Talmudic reasons as either forced or post-hoc explanations and, therefore, suggest a variety of other explanations for this subset of Tumas Yadayim. Accordng to Finklestein, Pharisees, these decrees are a vestige of an ancient rule of prohibiting the transfer of Holiness to mundane objects, similar to washing ones hands after eating Kodshim (i.e., hands that touch a Sefer are now inherently holy and it would be sacrileges to touch a mundane object without first washing off the holiness). Shamma Friedman, The Holy Scriptures Defile the Hands--Transformation of a Biblical Concept in Rabbinic Theology, in Minhah le_Nahum, Biblical and Other Studies Presented to Nahum M. Sarna in Honour of his 70th Birthday, edited by Marc Brettler and Michael Fshbane (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series 154), pp. 117-132, where he posits that Rabbinic tradition eviscerated all remnants of the notion of communicable holiness and that this is the last fragment of the idea. M. Friedman and Zeitlin view these decrees as anti-Saddduccean, to keep the masses away from the actual text of the Torah. The concern being that the unlearned would read the Torah and conclude that the text was closer in line with the Sadduccean views. However, see Sid Z. Leiman, The Cannonization of the Hebrew Scripture, The Talmudic and Midrashic Evidence, Second Edition, New Haven, 1991, pp 115-118 (hereinafter, "Cannonization"), finding the Talmudic statements to be neither post-hoc or forced.

Mishnayos 3 & 4

Our Mishnayos detail the technical rules of Tumas Seforim. Mishna 3 discusses the status of Tefillin Straps (Tefillin are assumed by our Mishna to have the same rule as Seforim). Mishna 4 discusses the status of the margins of (i.e., blank spaces of parchment found in a Sefer Torah, such as in the beginning and end of the scroll and on the top and bottom of each column).


  1. רצועות תפילין עם התפילין מטמאות את הידים.
  2. ר' שמעון אומר רצועות תפילין. אינן מטמאות את הידים:


  1. גליון שבספר שמלמעלן ושמלמטן שבתחלה ושבסוף. מטמאין את הידים.
  2. ר' יהודה אומר שבסוף אינו מטמא. עד שיעשה לו עמוד:


  1. Tefillin straps [when attached to] the Tefillin will be M'Tamei Yadayim.
  2. Rabi Shimon says: Tefillin straps are not M'Tamei Yadayim [only the Battim (and the Parshiyos) will be M'Tamei Yadayim].


  1. [All the] margins in a Sefer, [whether] on top or bottom [of a column] or at the beginning or end [of the scroll] render Yadayim Tamei via touch.
  2. Rabi Yehuda says: the margin at the end of a scroll does not render Yadayim Tamei until it is attached to the pole (Eitz Chaim).

Question: What is the status of the cover to the Sefer Torah? is that M'Tamei Yadayim?

Mishna 5, Part 1

Part one of Mishna 5 describes the minimum size for a sefer to be considered a "sefer" for Tumah purposes. Whether it is a new sefer or an old, worn-out sefer, the size is the same, 85 letters. This is derived from the famous Parsha in Parshas BaHaloscha whose pesukim are used when we take out and return the Sefer Torah from/to the Ark

(׆) (ס)

וַיְהִ֛י בִּנְסֹ֥עַ הָאָרֹ֖ן וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֑ה קוּמָ֣ה ׀ יְי וְיָפֻ֙צוּ֙ אֹֽיְבֶ֔יךָ וְיָנֻ֥סוּ מְשַׂנְאֶ֖יךָ מִפָּנֶֽיךָ׃

וּבְנֻחֹ֖ה יֹאמַ֑ר שׁוּבָ֣ה ייְ רִֽבְב֖וֹת אַלְפֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

(׆) (ס)

Part 1

  1. ספר שנמחק ונשתייר בו שמונים וחמש אותיות. כפרשת ויהי בנסוע הארון. מטמא את הידים.
  2. מגילה שכתוב בה שמונים וחמש אותיות. כפרשת ויהי בנסוע הארון. מטמא את הידים...

Part 1

  1. A Sefer whose letters were erased [or worn out] leaving only eighty-five letters--[the same amount as is found in] the Parsha of V'yehi Binsoah Ha'Aron book [retains its status as a Sefer and, therefore is] M'Tamei Yadayim.
  2. A new sefer, of which only eighty-five letters were written, like the parsha of V'yehi Binsoah Ha'Aron, will likewise render Yadayim Tamei.

Mishna 5, Part 2

Our Mishnah begins with the assertion that all Kisvei Kodesh are deemed to be a source of Tumah (see also Keilim 15:6, with the singular exception for the Sefer Torah kept in the Beis HaMikdash). Traditionally, the Jewish Canon is made up of 24 Books broken down into three (tripartite) system of Torah, Nevi'im and Kesuvim. A discussion of the canonization of our TaNa"CH is beyond the scope of this sheet, nevertheless, it is important to know what is included in the term Kisvei Kodesh, as it has ramifications for a number of laws as set forth in the Mishnah, including Shabbos 16:1 (saving them from burning in a fire), Eruvin 10:3 (rolling back up a Sefer that unfurled onto the floor), Bava Basra 1:6 (prohibition on dividing Kisvei Kodesh among partners) and Sanhedrin 10:6 (preserving Kisvei Kodesh of an Ir HaNidachas).*

Part Two of our Mishna presents a dispute about the status of two particular Sifrei Kodesh, Koheles and Shir HaShirim. Both these books are attributed, by the Chachomim, to Shlomo HaMelech. Nonetheless, some questioned whether his words were Divinely inspired while others were troubled with the contradictory nature of some of his statements; prompting debate as to their status within the Jewish Canon.

Many view the discussion in our Mishnah as a discussion over the canonicity of the Seforim under discussion. Meaning, they view the discussion of Tumas Yadayim as a direct proxy of their canonicity. If they are not within the decree of Tumas Yadayim that must mean they are not, per se, part of the cannon. See Canonization, where Leiman forcefully and convincingly argues that this is not the case. All agree that these books were part of the Cannon.** Rather, the discussion is whether they are inspired or uninspired books. If inspired, then they are subject to the decree. If uninspired, while part of the Cannon, they, nevertheless, would not be subject to this decree. Canonization, pp 102-120.***

A similar dispute is recorded in the Gemara, Mesechtas Megillah, 7a. Notably, the Tannaim mentioned in our Mishna were from after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, suggesting that the debate over the status of these Seforim continued for a while.

* See Chazon Ish, Yadayim 9:4 where he argues that that even according to the view that Koheles and Shir HaShirim are not M'Tamei Yadayim, nevertheless, they are included within Kisvei Kodesh for all other purposes (similar to Leiman). But see R' Shlomo Yosef Zevin, L'eor HaHalacha, revised and expanded edition, Yerushalayim 5764, pp 297-299 quoting Rishonim that these rules are tied together.

**But see, Dov Herman, When was the Book of Esther Included in the Biblical Canon, Da'at Mikra: Journal for the Study of the Bible and Its World 48:4, pp 321-334 (Hebrew), where he suggests that originally, Tumas Yadayim and Canonization were unrelated and, only later, as evidenced in our Mishnah, did the direct connection between these two ideas merge. And, it was only then that the controversy over Megillas Esther's status and inspired nature arose.

***See SH"uT Divrei Shlomo Vol. 4 Siman 543 analyzing the Rambam's particularly unique position on Koheles in that he rules that is is a Wisdom book and nevertheless, is M'Tamei Yadayim.

  1. ... כל כתבי הקדש מטמאין את הידים.
  2. שיר השירים וקהלת.
    (a) מטמאין את הידים.
    (b) ר' יהודה אומר שיר השירים מטמא את הידים. וקהלת מחלוקת.

    (c) ר' יוסי אומר קהלת אינו מטמא את הידים. ושיר השירים מחלוקת.

    (d) ר' שמעון אומר קהלת מקולי בית שמאי. ומחומרי בית הלל.

    (e) אמר ר' שמעון בן עזאי. מקובל אני מפי שבעים שנים זקן ביום שהושיבו את ר' אלעזר בן עזריה בישיבה. ששיר השירים וקהלת מטמאים את הידים.

    (f) אמר ר' עקיבא חס ושלום. לא נחלק אדם מישראל על שיר השירים. שלא תטמא את הידים. שאין כל העולם כלו כדאי כיום שניתן בו שיר השירים לישראל. שכל כתובים קדש. ושיר השירים קודש קדשים. ואם נחלקו. לא נחלקו אלא על קהלת.

    (g) אמר ר' יוחנן בן יהושע בן חמיו של ר' עקיבא כדברי בן עזאי כך נחלקו וכן גמרו:

...All sacred scriptures [i.e., the twenty-four books of TaNach] render Yadayim Tamei [via touch].

  1. The Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes
    (a) Are M’tamei Yadayim.
    (b) Rabbi Yehudah says: Shir Hashirim is Matamei Yadayim; however, Koheles is a matter of dispute.
    (c) Rabbi Yose says: Koheles is certainly not M’tamei Yadayim, however, Shir HaShirim is the subject of dispute.
    (d) Rabbi Shimon says: Koheles is among the few [relative] leniencies of Beit Shammai [i.e., it is not M’Tamei Yadayim], and the [relative] stringencies of Beit Hillel [i.e., it is M’Tamei Yadayim].
    (e) Rabbi Shimon ben Azzai said, "I have a received tradition from the mouths of seventy-two elders, on the day they inducted Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria into his seat [as head] at the Academy, that The Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes render the hands impure."
    (f) Rabbi Akiva said, Hevan forbid! The status of Shir HaShirim [that it is M’tamei Yadayim] was never in dispute, for, in fact, nothing is as worthy in this world as the day on which Shir HaShirim was given to Bnei Yisroel, for although all of TaNach is holy, Shir HaShirim is the Holy of Holies; so [if there is a tradition that the Chachomim disputed the status of one of the books of TaNach, it could only be regarding Koheles.
    (g) Rabbi Yochanan ben Yehoshua, the son of Rabbi Akiva's father-in-law [i.e., R’ Akiva’s brother-in-law], said, that the status of the books are in accordance with words of Ben Azzai, thus did they dispute [the status of both books], and thus did they conclude [that both books are M’tamei Yadayim].

*This source may not be a proof to as to which seforim were included in the decree. The focus of this Mishna is to compare and contrast items that may be Tamei outside the Beis Hamikdash but Tahor inside.

** Prior to settling this on the day R’ Elazar ben Azariya was installed the status of both books was debated.


The Mishna expends much effort in defining the universe of Seforim included in the Decree. Which books are not included? See Tosefta Yadayim 2:5

Chapter 4

Introduction to Chapter Four

The last Mishna of Chapter Three resolved a dispute whether Koheles and Shir HaShirim are M'Tamei Yadayim by introducing testimony that the issue was affirmatively resolved by majority vote among those present in the Yeshiva on the day Rabi Elazar ben Azariah was appointed Head of the Academy ("בו ביום"). The Gemara in Berochos 28a tells us, that following a dispute between Raban Gamliel and Rabi Yehoshua, Raban Gamliel is removed as Rosh Yeshiva and Rabi Elazar ben Azariah is installed as the new Rosh Yeshiva (https://www.bimbam.com/scholars/). Raban Gamliel was very selective of whom he allowed to enter into the Beis Midrash--limiting the amount of students. Whereas, Rabi Elazar on the day he was installed as Rosh Yeshiva, dismissed the guard to the Beis Midrash; welcoming all students to attend. It was, therefore, on this day that two things happened. First, each Student recited the traditions he received from his Rebbeim providing a definitive account of the Mesorah--many of these were transcribed in Mesechtas Ediyot. Second, with so many Chachomim present, they were able to resolve many long-disputed matters via majority vote. Many of these resolutions are collected in Mishnayos containing the term בו ביום (notably, the terminology used in the prior Mishna and in Mishna 2 below, is different).

The first four Mishnayos of our Perek detail disputes resolved on בו ביום. Mishna 5 returns to discussing some technical rules relating to Tumas Seforim. Having completed the laws of Tumas Seforim, Mishna 6 transcribes a dispute between the Chachomim and the Tziddukim regarding the entire notion of Tumas Seforim. Mishnayos 7 and 8 conclude our Mesechta by describing other disputes between the Chachomim and Tzidukkim.

Mishna 1

Typically, Tumah is transmitted via touch and each progression reduces the level of Tumah (e.g., something touches an Av HaTumah it will become a Rishon; a Rishon will make a Sheini). However, in certain circumstances, a person who is an Av HaTumah will convey Tumah to an object by merely resting his weight on the object (i.e., the object is supporting his weight), even if he does not directly touch the object itself (i.e., he sits on 5 pillows--even the bottom pillow will be Tamei). This is called Tumas Midras. Further, the rule is that the object becomes Tamei at the same level as the person himself. So, for instance, if a person is a Zav, a serious form of Av Hatumah, and sits on 5 pillows, each of those pillows will be an Av HaTumah.

There is a caveat to this rule that the supporting object must be of the type of object that is normally used to support a person's weight AND that when doing so, the primary purpose of the object is not being usurped. Therefore, a chest that opens on top will not be susceptible to Tumas Midras if a Zav sits on it since at the moment he sits on it it loses its ability to perform its main purpose.

Our Mishna discusses the situation of a medium sized bowl/trough used to wash a person's feet. The bowl is just the right size to wash feet in and, when not being used to wash feet, it can be turned over and used to sit on. A smaller bowl would be too small to wash feet or to sit on. A larger bowl would be too big to sit on and therefore not susceptible to Tumas Midras. In our case, the bowl springs a leak and is no longer suitable to wash feet. All that's left is the possibility to use it as a stool. The question facing our Mishna is whether a person must specifically designate it as a stool in order to be susceptible to Tumas Midras. Or does the secondary purpose become the primary purpose automatically.

Notably, Rabi Akiva finds himself on the wrong side of the vote. It seems many of his traditions were challenged this day. See the 5th chapter of Mesechtas Sotah.

  1. בו ביום נמנו וגמרו.

  2. על עריבת הרגלים שהוא משני לוגין. ועד תשעה קבין שנסדקה. שהיא טמאה מדרס.

  3. שר' עקיבא אומר עריבת הרגלים כשמה.
  1. On that very day [on which Rabi Elazar ben Azariah was installed as Rosh Yeshiva] it was voted upon and determined that:
  2. a washing trough [used to wash feet] that holds between two logs and nine kavin that developed a crack [so the water leaks out and it can no longer be used for its primary purpose] is automatically susceptible to Tumas Midras [without any particular intent to use it for sitting]
  3. For Rabi Akiva used to say that [absent specific intent to change its primary purpose to sitting] the trough retains its original purpose [i.e., to wash feet] and therefore is not susceptible to Tumas Midras.

Mishna 2

There are four essential processes when bringing a Korban. There is

  1. שחיטה (slaughtering the animal),
  2. קבלה (collecting the blood in a sanctified vessel),
  3. הליכה (bringing the blood close to the Alter) and
  4. זריקה (sprinkling the blood on the Mizbeach.

At all times during these processes the person performing them must have the right intent. This means, he must intend to be doing all these things for the right (i) type of Korban (i.e., an Olah for an Olah) and (ii) the right person.

The general rule is that when he has the wrong intent the Korban in question can be completed and burned on the Mizbeach and even eaten when appropriate. The person, however, will be required to bring another Korban to make up for it; this time having the right intentions. Our Mishna discusses certain exceptions to this rule. And for them there is no cure and the wrongfully intended Korban is pasul and must be burned.

This Mishna is a combination of the first and third Mishnayos of Mesechtas Zevachim.

  1. בו ביום אמרו.

  2. (a) כל הזבחים שנזבחו שלא לשמן כשרים.

    (b) אלא שלא עלו לבעלים לשום חובה.

    (c) חוץ מן הפסח. ומן החטאת.

    (d) הפסח בזמנו. והחטאת בכל זמן.

    (e) ר' אליעזר אומר אף האשם. הפסח בזמנו. והחטאת והאשם בכל זמן.

  3. (a) אמר ר' שמעון בן עזאי. מקובלני מפי שבעים ושנים זקן ביום שהושיבו את ר' אלעזר בן עזריה בישיבה. שכל הזבחים הנאכלין. שנזבחו שלא לשמן. כשרים.

    (b) אלא שלא עלו לבעלים לשם חובה.

    (c) חוץ מן הפסח ומן החטאת.

    (d) לא הוסיף בן עזאי אלא העולה.

  4. ולא הודו לו חכמים:
  1. On that very day [on which Rabi Elazar ben Azariah was installed as Rosh Yeshiva] it was voted upon and determined that:
  2. (a) All Korbonos that are offered with the wrong intent (in any of the four main processes) are valid (i.e., they can be burned on the Mizbeach and, if appropriate, eaten)
    (b) Nonetheless, they do not count as fulfilling the owner's obligation (i.e., he will have to bring a second Korbon)
    (c) except in the case of the Korban Pesach and a Chatas (sin offering) [in each of these cases the Korbon will be deemed invalid
    and must be burned]
    (d) for the Korban Pesach [this is only the case if the wrongful intent took place] during the time you are able to actually bring the Korban Pesach (i.e., the afternoon of the 14th of Nissan--at other times it will have the same din as a Shelaimim) while for a Chatas the rule is wrongful intent at any time will invalidate the Korbon.
    (e) Rabi Eliezer says that you include the Korbon Asham as well. So that the Korban Pesach faces this issue on erev Pesach while the Chatas and Asham always have this issue.
  3. (a) Rabi Shimon ben Azai said I have a recieved tradition from the mouths of seventy-two elders, on the day they inducted Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah into his seat [as head] at the Academy, that [the ruling is actually as follows:] that all Korbonos that are typically eaten [i.e., all Korbonos other than an Olah] that are offered with the wrong intent are valid
    (b) Nonetheless, they do not count as fulfilling the owner's obligation (i.e., he will have to bring a second Korbon)
    (c) except in the case of the Korban Pesach and a Chatas (sin offering) [in each of these cases the Korbon will be deemed invalid and must be burned]
    (d) [by modifying the statment] Ben Azzai was only adding the Korbon Olah to the list of Korbonos that wrongful intent invalidates them

  4. And the Chachomim did not accept [Ben Azzai's tradition of the modification. Rather, its like the first half of the Mishna whereby a wrongfully intended Korbon Olah is not fully invalidated.

Mishna 3

The seven-year Jewish agricultural cycle consists of six "normal" years during which working the fields is permitted and a seventh year when the land must remain fallow, called Shmittah. During the six "normal" years the farmer would separate from his crops a certain amount as "gifts" for the Kohanim and Leviim. In addition to the regular Terumos and Maasros, there was an additional Ma'aser separated--either Ma'aser Ani (an additional tenth given to the poor) or Ma'aser Sheni, the second tithe. This second tithe is kept by the farmer but is considered Kodesh and must be brought to and consumed within Yerushlayim. During Shmittah, because the fields are considered Hefker the farmer does not need to give any Terumos or Ma'asros at all.

Ma'aser Ani and Sheini were not given each year of the cycle, rather you would alternate, giving two years of Ma'aser Sheini followed by one year of Ma'aser Ani. The schedule of Terumos and Ma'asros is as follows:

These rules apply in Eretz Yisroel proper. However, the Chachomim applied some of these rules to neighboring lands, including Egypt, Bavel and Transjordan. In each of these lands, the Chachomim instituted Terumos and Ma'asros on a Rabbinic level, requiring the farmers to set aside these gifts and portions from their fields. Importantly, however, Shmittah did not apply in these lands--therefore even during a Shmittah year they would need to separate Terumos and Ma'asros.

The question posed in our Mishna is which secondary Ma'aser is set aside during the Shmittah year in these lands? Ma'aser Ani or Ma'aser Sheini. The Chachomim had long standing traditions regarding both Egypt (Ma'aser Ani) and Bavel (Ma'aser Sheini). The dispute in our Mishna is over Transjordan--at least those areas not initially occupied by the two-and-a-half Tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe.

The Mishna first describes the back-and-forth conversation among the Ta'anaim in Yavneh. In support of their views they provide differing rationales why Transjordan should be more similar to Egypt or Bavel. These include, proximity to Israel, timing of initial decree and who enacted the decree. Eventually, on "Bo Bayom" this question is resolved in favor of Ma'aser Ani. The Mishna concludes with a story about Rabi Yosi visiting Rabi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, who had been excommunicated and was no longer attending the Beis Midrash, and reporting in his name an ancient tradition in line with the Mishna's conclusion

  1. בו ביום אמרו עמון ומואב מה הן בשביעית.

  2. (a) גזר ר' טרפון מעשר עני.
    (b) וגזר ר' אלעזר בן עזריה מעשר שני.

  3. (a) אמר ר' ישמעאל. אלעזר בן עזריה עליך ראיה ללמד. שאתה מחמיר שכל המחמיר עליו ראיה ללמד.
    (b) אמר לו ר' אלעזר בן עזריה. ישמעאל אחי. אני לא שניתי מסדר השנים. טרפון אחי שינה. ועליו ראיה ללמד.

  4. (a) השיב ר' טרפון מצרים חוצה לארץ. עמון ומואב חוצה לארץ. מה מצרים מעשר עני בשביעית. אף עמון ומואב מעשר עני בשביעית.
    (b) השיב ר' אלעזר בן עזריה. בבל חוצה לארץ. עמון ומואב חוצה לארץ. מה בבל מעשר שני בשביעית. אף עמון ומואב מעשר שני בשביעית.

  5. (a) אמר ר' טרפון. מצרים שהיא קרובה עשאוה מעשר עני. שיהיו עניי ישראל נסמכים עליה בשביעית. אף עמון ומואב שהם קרובים נעשים מעשר עני. שיהיו עניי ישראל נסמכים עליהם בשביעית.
    (b) אמר לו ר' אלעזר בן עזריה הרי אתה כמהנן ממון. ואין אתה אלא כמפסיד נפשות. קובע אתה את השמים. מלהוריד טל ומטר שנאמר (מלאכי ג, ח) היקבע אדם אלקים כי אתם קובעים אותי ואמרתם במה קבענוך המעשר והתרומה.
  6. אמר ר' יהושע הריני כמשיב על טרפון אחי. אבל לא לענין דבריו.
    (a) מצרים מעשה חדש ובבל מעשה ישן והנדון שלפנינו מעשה חדש. ידון מעשה חדש ממעשה חדש. ואל ידון מעשה חדש ממעשה ישן.
    (b) מצרים מעשה זקנים. ובבל מעשה נביאים. והנדון שלפנינו מעשה זקנים. ידון מעשה זקנים ממעשה זקנים. ואל ידון מעשה זקנים ממעשה נביאים.
  7. נמנו וגמרו עמון ומואב מעשרין מעשר עני בשביעית.
  8. וכשבא ר' יוסי בן דורמסקית אצל רבי אליעזר בלוד.
    (a) אמר לו מה חדוש היה לכם בבית המדרש היום.
    (b) אמר לו נמנו וגמרו. עמון ומואב מעשרים מעשר עני בשביעית.
    (c) בכה רבי אליעזר ואמר (תהלים כה, יד) סוד יי ליראיו ובריתו להודיעם.
    (d) צא ואמור להם אל תחושו למנינכם. מקובל אני מרבן יוחנן בן זכאי ששמע מרבו. ורבו מרבו. עד הלכה למשה מסיני. שעמון ומואב מעשרין מעשר עני בשביעית:
  1. On that very day [on which Rabi Elazar ben Azariah was installed as Rosh Yeshiva] [the discussion in the Beis Midrash turned to]: What is the status [of the lands] of Ammon and Moav during Shmittah [with respect to the secondary Ma'aser?

  2. (a) Rabi Tarfon decreed that one must give Ma'aser Ani
    (b) and Rabi Elazar ben Azariah decreed that one must give Ma'aser Sheini.
  3. The Mishna first describes who has the burden of proof in this matter.
    (a) Said Rabi Yishmael [in support of Rabi Tarfon]: Elazar ben Azariah! you have the burden of proof in support of your position [that Ma'aser Sheini is separated] since [complying with your ruling] is effectively a stringency [inasmuch as the Ma'aser Sheini has a heightened level of Kedusha and must be specially treated and brought to Yerushalyim] and typically, to rule/create a stringency [in a Rabbinical decree] one must prove out the stringency [and you have not done so];
    (b) Said Rabi Elazar ben Azariah in return: Yishmael, my brother! I am simply following the established cyclical pattern [i.e., after a "Ma'aser Ani year always comes a Ma'aser Sheini year]; it is Tarfon who is altering the pattern and it is he who must bring proof.

  4. (a) Said Rabi Tarfon: [I can prove I am correct by looking to] Egypt which is an "outside land" and Transjordan is an "outisde land," just like Egypt historically sets aside Ma'aser Ani during Shmittah, so to Amon and Moav [should similarly] set aside Ma'aser Ani during Shmittah.
    (b) Said Rabi Elazar ben Azariah in rebuttal: [I can prove I am correct by looking to] Bavel which is an "outside land" and Transjordan is an "outisde land," just like Bavel historically sets aside Ma'aser Sheini during Shmittah, so to Amon and Moav [should similarly] set aside Ma'aser Sheini during Shmittah.

  5. (a) [In an attempt at another proof] said Rabi Tarfon: [I can prove I am correct by looking to] Egypt which is close to Eretz Yisroel and sets aside Ma'aser Ani, [for the ostensible reason] that [by being close to Eretz Yisroel] the poor of Israel rely on the Ma'aser Ani to support and sustain themselves during the Shmittah Year, so to Amon and Moav are close to Eretz Yisroel [and in enacting the general decree of Trumos and Ma'asros] they must have had similar reasoning and established to give Ma'aser Ani [during Shmittah] so that the poor of Israel can support and sustain themselves.
    (b) [unmoved] said Rabi Elazar ben Azarah: [by decreeing that in Amon and Moav you must set aside Ma'aser Ani rather than Ma'aser Sheini] you make it seem as if you are benefiting the poor by giving them money but [in reality] you are going to cause the loss of life [in the long run]; its as if you are "robbing the heavens" by causing the heavens to hold back dew and rain [thereby devastating crops] as it says: (Malachi 3:8), 'Shall a man defraud G-d? For you have defrauded Me. Yet you say: Through what have we defrauded You? Through tithes [i.e., Ma'aser Sheini] and Terumah.'" [i.e., Hashem will punish those who hold back on setting aside Terumah and Ma'aser Sheini--so by wrongfully decreeing Ma'aser Ani during Shmittah, you are ultimately bringing death upon the people].
  6. Rabi Yehoshua said [in defense of Rabi Tarfon's position of needing to seperate Ma'aser Ani], I will respond on Tarfon, my brother's, behalf, however, with different reasoning:
    (a) [the decree requiring] Egypt [to set aside Terumos and Ma'asros] is a newer enactment while the decree regarding Bavel is ancient and the matter in question [i.e., the status of Transjordan] is a new enactment as well. Let us rather draw a conclusion and compare a new enactment to a new enactment than try comparing a new enactment with an old enactment.
    (b) The decree governing Egypt was established by the "Elders" [during the period of the Second Temple] while the decree governing Bavel was established by the Prophets themselves [even before the return to Eretz Yisroel] and the matter in question [i.e., the status of Transjordan] was established by the "Elders." Let us rather draw a conclusion and compare decrees established by the "Elders" than try comparing an enactment established by the "Elders" to one established by the Prophets.
  7. On that very day [on which Rabi Elazar ben Azariah was installed as Rosh Yeshiva] it was voted upon and determined that: the lands of Amon and Moav set aside Ma'aser Ani during Shmittah.
  8. [The mishna brings a story in support of its conclusion] And it was [after the vote was taken and the result finalized] when Rabi Yose ben Durmaskis came upon Rabi Eliezer in Lod
    (a) Rabi Eliezer asked him: what was the discussion [i.e., what was new] in the Beis Midrash in Yavneh today?
    (b) Said Rabi Yose: we took a vote and determined that in the lands of Amon and Moav you are to separate Ma'aser Ani during Shmittah.
    (c) Rabi Eliezer began to cry and quoted the Pasuk in Tehillim: The secrets of the Lord are for those who fear Him, and His covenant to be made known to them! [meaning, Hashem will guide those who seek truth in Torah to the right conclusion]
    (d) Return to the Beis Midrash and tell them to have faith in their conclusion since I have a tradition received from Rabi Yochanan ben Zakkai who received it from his Rebbe and his Rebbe from his Rebbe for as far back as one could remember that the lands of Amon and Moav separate Ma'aser Ani during the Shmittah year.

Mishna 4

The Torah forbids an Amonnite and Moavite, even after they convert, from marrying a Jew.* As it says in Devarim (23:4):

לֹֽא־יָבֹ֧א עַמּוֹנִ֛י וּמוֹאָבִ֖י בִּקְהַ֣ל יְיְ גַּ֚ם דּ֣וֹר עֲשִׂירִ֔י לֹא־יָבֹ֥א לָהֶ֛ם בִּקְהַ֥ל יְיְ עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃

עַל־דְּבַ֞ר אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹא־קִדְּמ֤וּ אֶתְכֶם֙ בַּלֶּ֣חֶם וּבַמַּ֔יִם בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶ֣ם מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם וַאֲשֶׁר֩ שָׂכַ֨ר עָלֶ֜יךָ אֶת־בִּלְעָ֣ם בֶּן־בְּע֗וֹר מִפְּת֛וֹר אֲרַ֥ם נַהֲרַ֖יִם לְקַֽלְלֶֽךָּ׃

Famously, this applies only to men, Moavite women may indeed marry a Jewish man.

Our Mishna relates how on Bo Bayom, an Ammonite man presented himself in the Beis Midrash and inquired about his status and whether the biblical injunction against marrying into the community still prevails. The Mishna record a dispute between Rabban Gamliel and Rabi Yehoshua.

Notably, Rabban Gamliel remained present and active in the Yeshiva even after he was deposed from his leadership position.

* This is the traditional and prevailing view of the law and the Mishna's interpretation. However, to me, it seems like a strange question to ask given the explicit prohibition in the Torah. Why would Yehudah have thought that the rule changed? Alternatively, if Ammonite converts were anyway being allowed to marry Jewish women, what was his question? Perhaps, therefore, there is another way to understand this Mishna.

The Qumranian Sect had a different tradition as to how to interpret this pasuk. Specifically, rather than a prohibition on marriage, they interpreted the Pasuk as prohibiting the Ammonites entry into the Beis HaMikdash--the sacred space. Perhaps what Yehudah was really asking was now that the spiritual focus of the Jews had shifted from the Beis HaMikdash (after its destruction) to the Beis Midrash (as the Mishna says, he showed up on the steps of the Beis Midrash), he wanted to know whether he would be permitted to attend the Academy. Rabban Gamliel always restricted access to the Beis Midrash so it may not be surprising that he ruled stringently. Whereas Rabi Yehoshua works to find space for him inside.

Importantly, this Mishna takes place on Bo Bayom. Not only was that the day Rabi Elazar ben Azariah is installed as Rosh Yeshiva, but it is also the day the guard to the Beis Midrash is sent away allowing all students to attend. Therefore, it makes sense why Yehudah would come on that day--as it was open enrollment day. Notwithstanding the influx of students, Raban Gamliel still wants to bar Yehudah from the sacred space that is the Beis Midrash. His view is overruled.

This explanation presupposes that even though the Chachomim did not necessarily interpret the pasuk the same as the Qumran Sect, they may have been apprehensive about mingling with Ammonites in general, or, at least, in the Beis Midrash. This may explain somewhat the odd nature of Yehudah presenting this question to the Academy at this juncture.

Perhaps the Chachomim's hesitation can also be found in the Gemara in Horayos 10b and Rava's homiletic interpretation of Proverbs (18:1) לְֽ֭תַאֲוָה יְבַקֵּ֣שׁ נִפְרָ֑ד בְּכָל־תּ֝וּשִׁיָּ֗ה יִתְגַּלָּֽע. Specifically, Rava's interpreting of the later half of the Pasuk that the mentioning of the prohibition on Amon and Moav entering the community in the Batei Keneses and Batei Midrash is an everlasting source of scorn for Lot. The simple Peshat is likely that the reading of the Pasuk prohibiting their entry into the community is sufficiently scornful. However, note the specific language that the scorn will be highlighted in the Batei Keneses and Batei Midrash and that, instead of quoting the Pasuk of לֹֽא־יָבֹ֧א, the Gemara cites the Mishna in Yevamos--a Rabbinic Torah saying. Perhaps what Rava is highlighting is the inherent hesitancy to allow an Amoni and a Moavi into the realm of Torah learning. A sentiment also reflected in the Mishna in Yadayim.

  1. בו ביום בא יהודה גר עמוני. ועמד לפניהן בבית המדרש. אמר להם מה אני לבא בקהל.
  2. אמר לו ר' גמליאל אסור אתה.
  3. אמר לו ר' יהושע מותר אתה.
  4. אמר לו ר' גמליאל הכתוב אומר (דברים כג, ד) לא יבא עמוני ומואבי בקהל יי גם דור עשירי וגו'.
  5. אמר לו רבי יהושע. וכי עמונים ומואבים במקומן הן. כבר עלה סנחריב מלך אשור. ובלבל את כל האומות. שנאמר (ישעיה י, יג) ואסיר גבולות עמים. ועתידותיהם שוסתי. ואוריד כביר יושבים.
  6. אמר לו ר' גמליאל. הכתוב אומר (ירמיה מט, ו) ואחרי כן אשיב את שבות בני עמון. וכבר חזרו.
  7. אמר לו ר' יהושע. הכתוב אומר (עמוס ט, יד) ושבתי את שבות עמי ישראל ויהודה ועדיין לא שבו.
  8. התירוהו לבא בקהל:
  1. On that very day [on which Rabi Elazar ben Azariah was installed as Rosh Yeshiva] Yehuda, an Ammonite convert, presented himself in the Yeshiva and said to those assembled: Am I, [as a male Ammonite convert] allowed into [via marriage] the general congregation?
  2. Rabban Gamliel said to him, you are prohibited [from marrying a Jewish woman];
  3. Rabi Yehoshua said to him you are permitted [to marry a Jewish woman].
  4. Said Rabban Gamliel to Rabi Yehoshua: does not the Torah say that "neither an Amoni or Moavi may enter the congregation even after ten generations [i.e., forever]?
  5. Said Rabi Yehoshua in return, is it the case that those living in Amon and Moav are true Ammonites and Moavites? Didn't Sancheriv, king of Assyria, displace populations and move nations around [so that no nation remained in her own land]? as it says: (Isaiah 10:13) 'I have removed the borders of nations, and I have stolen their treasures, and like a great warrior, laid low the inhabitants.'
  6. Said Rabban Gamliel in retort: the Pasuk says as well that [subsequent to their dispersement] I will return the remnants of Amon [to their ancestral land] and [as we see] they are now living on their land [i.e., the Amonnites are back in their land and are once again prohibited from marrying into the Jewish people].
  7. Said Rabi Yeshoshua to Rabban Gamliel [the proof text you bring is not referencing the present day circumstance [i.e., that the original Ammonites have returned today to their land], rather it is referencing a future event like] the Pasuk [in Amos] that says "and I will return the remnant of my nation , Israel and Judah [to their land]" and [as we can plainly see, that has not yet occurred [similarly the reference to the return of the original Amonnites has not yet occurred and those living in Amon and Moav are permitted to enter into the congregation].
  8. and the assembled permitted Yehudah to join the congregation.

Mishna 5

During significant portions of Jewish history, starting with the Babylonian exile, the main spoken language of the Jews was Aramaic. Thus, we find that portions of the Nevi’im Acharonim, like Ezra and Daniel, whose words were directed to those Jews living in Chutz L’aretz, were written in Aramaic. Further, during the time of the Second Beis HaMikdash a number of “translations” of the Torah were written—one of the most famous ones being Targum Onkelos. It became common to read these Targumim as part of the Kriyas haTorah so that the general population would understand what they were hearing.

Separately, one of the many decrees instituted by Ezra was to adopt a new font [or revitalize an older font] for the Hebrew Alphabet. While the letters and sounds remained the same, their depiction was changed to our familiar form—this is called Ksav Ashuris. The more ancient form is called Paleo-Hebrew or Ksav Ivris and is still used today by the Samaritans.

Our Mishna discusses whether the Aramaic portions of the Nevi’im, the Targumim and scrolls written in Ksav Ivris are considered Seforim for purposes of the decree of Tumas Seforim.

  1. תרגום שבעזרא ושבדניאל מטמא את הידים.

  2. (a) תרגום. שכתבו עברית
    (b) ועברית שכתבו תרגום.
    (c) וכתב עברי. אינו מטמא את הידים.

  3. לעולם אינו מטמא עד שיכתבנו אשורית על העור. ובדיו:
  1. The Aramaic portions of the books of Ezra and Daniel render the hands impure.

  2. (a) A Targum portion written in Hebrew [rather than Aramaic]; or
    (b) the Hebrew portion written in Aramaic translation; or
    (c) a Sefer written in [ancient] Hebrew characters, do not render the hands impure.
  3. [The general rule is that a Sefer] will not render Yadayim Tamei until it is written in Ksav Ashuris, on parchment and with proper ink.

General Introduction to Mishnayos 6-8

The final three Mishnayos of our Mesechta form a distinct group of Mishnayos detailing four disputes between the Pharisees and the Sadducees.* Each Mishna follows a similar pattern. First, the Sadducees ask a question on the presumptive Pharisaic practice by questioning the underlying logic of the practice. The Pharisees respond, in turn, by showing that the Sadducees have either a similar practice (undercutting their question) or misunderstood the underlying rationale or logic of the Pharisees' practice.

Traditional sources relate that the Sadducian sect was started by a wayward student of Antigonus Ish Socho named Tzadok. He misinterpreted one of his Rebbe's teachings and could not reconcile it with his faith. It is commonly misunderstood that that the Sadducees only believed in or followed exclusively the Torah Sh'beksav, the Written Torah (like the Karaites of the Middle Ages). However, as it appears in these Mishnayos and others, while they had their own distinctive way of explicating the Torah and its laws--often adhering to a more Peshat level understanding of the text--they did have an interpretive tradition. Many of their leaders were active in the Beis HaMikdash and the Beis Midrash and, more importantly, there likely was not a singular set of Halochos they all followed. In addition, while not identical, the Qumran sect espoused similar Halachik positions. See generally, Eyal Regev, .הצדוקים והלכתם: על דת וחברה בימי בית שני, יד יצחק בן צבי, ירושלים תשס"ה

Notably, we do not find specific cases of the Pharisees directly challenging the logic of the Sadducian Halacha, rather, you find numerous instances of the Pharisees (and the later Chachomim) taking actions to indoctrinate their own views and solidify its practice. For example, we find the Chachomim admonishing the Kohein Godol prior to Yom Kippur to properly observe the Incense Service. For the cutting of the Omer, the procession and the triple repeat of the instructions ensured that no one forgot the law. Finally, when it came to the Parah Adumah, the Chachomim would specifically make the Kohein designated to burn the Heifer a "T'vul Yom" so as to clearly indicate that the Halacha was not like the Sadducees.

The first two disputes are about purity rules: Tumas Seforim and the concept of "Nitzuk" (when pouring liquid from a pure vessel into an impure vessel the stream of water and the water remaining in the pure vessel remain pure). The third case is whether a master is held liable for the damages caused by his servant and maidservant. The final case is whether to include the words "כדת משה וישראל" in a divorce contract.

Moving beyond the particular Halachik disputes described in these Mishnayos, Yair Furstenberg utilizes this grouping of Mishnayos to develop a thesis regarding the broader, more fundamental split between the Sadducees and Pharisees and their perceptions of holiness and nature of Halacha. Grouping the first and third cases, he views the disputes raising questions of the blurring the lines of Kedusha and Chol, i.e., the paradox that the more holy the item either gives off Tumah (Seforim) or you are less required to manage the consequences of their actions (slaves). The second and fourth cases, on the other hand, speaks to the prevailing view of the Sadducees that Purity and Impurity must be kept wholly separate; there is no room for them to mix. The Pharisees, however, make room for the notion that at times these opposing forces must mix or come in close contact with one another. See, Yair Furstenberg, "קובלין אנו עליכם פרושים: לעיצובה של תמונת העולם הפרושית במשנה", א' רוזנק וד' שרייבר (עורכים), ההלכה: הקשרים רעיוניים ואידיאולוגיים גלויים וסמויים, מגנס וואן ליר, ירושלים תשע"ב, עמ' 283-211

*The Tosefta ad loc brings a number of additional cases. See also TB Shabbos 108a for a similar conversation between a Boethusean and Rabi Yehoshua HaGarsi.

Mishna Six

Our Mishna, the first of the group, is directly related to our Mesechta. The Saducees challenge the notion that Seforim can be M'tamei Yadayim.* As commonly understood and as related in the Gemara in Mesechtas Shabbos, Seforim were deemed Tamei either to prevent a person from storing them with his Terumah or to prevent one from touching them with his naked hands.

It seems, that either Sadducees didn't know or misunderstood the basis for the decree or were trying to undermine Pharasaic authority and, therefore, were incredulous that something as holy as a Sefer Torah could be a source of Tumah--no different than a Korban that is Pigul or Nosar. The idea that Kedusha itself is the source of Tumah was illogical to them.**

To emphasize their objection they compare Seforim to unholy books, identified as either heretical books or the Homeric Epics, and question why those books do not generate Tumas Yadayim. The representative of the Pharisees is Rabi Yochanan ben Zakkai. According to most commentators, although knowing the real reason behind the decree, rather than disclose it, he plays into their thinking (i.e., devil's advocate) and tries to undercut their logic by utilizing a comparable case of the impurity of human bones vis-a-vis animal bones which even the Sadducees agree are pure. The Sadducees respond that the reason for this is that the more beloved an item is the greater the concern that we may act and use the object inappropriately in a misplaced desire to remain close to it (i.e., make a spoon from the bones of our parents). In response, Rabi Yochanan ben Zakkai says similarly, Seforim are very dear to us and we must make sure not to use them inappropriately (e.g., as an added layer under the saddle--see Tosefta), whereas these secular books are of no special value and therefore need no similar protection.***

* Some commentators understand the Sadducees' position as opposing the notion of Tumas Yadayim in its entirety. In other words, they did not accept the Chachomim's rule that hands alone, without the rest of the body, can become Tamei on a stand alone basis. See Regev p. 190-191 quoting Louis Finklestein The Pharisees: The Sociological Background of their Faith. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, Third Edition, 1962.

** See Saul Lieberman, Tosefes Rishonim, Seder Taharos, Chelek R'vii, Yadayim, p. 156 accepting the Gemara's explanation of the decree's source but also noting that it is the Kedusha that gives rise to the Tumah for if the Sefer Torah was already Tamei, it would not make Yadayim Tamei. See also, The Paradox of the Red Heifer, Albert I. Baumgarten, Vetus Testamentum, Vol 43, Fasc. 4 (Oct., 1993) pp 449, where Baumgarten suggests a similar approach to our Mishnah as part of his larger thesis regarding the Red Heifer's supposed paradox, that contact with the sacred disturbs the natural equilibrium, hence causing defilement.

***See Regev, p. 191 in which he discusses an alternative reading of our Mishna in which the Tziddukim actually rule that the bones of animals are Tamei and that Rabi Yochanan ben Zakkai's conversation is rhetorical with his fellow Pharisees. We know from the MMT that the Qumran sect ruled the bones impure so it is certainly possible that the Sadducees held likewise. We translate our Mishna in accordance with the traditional commentators. But see the Chazon Nachum who intuits that perhaps Rabban Yochanan rhetorically to himself since it was uncommon for the Sadducees to try and respond to the Pharisees.

We find Rabi Yochanan ben Zakkai engaged in a similar conversation, undercutting his interlocutor's question, by referencing a situation similar to the case under scrutiny and showing how the outcome is natural in that case, yet, not revealing the real reason for the law. See Bamidbar Rabbah 19:8 where RYBZ is asked to defend the Parah Adumah ceremony from gentile ridicule.

  1. אומרים צדוקים. קובלין אנו עליכם פרושים. שאתם אומרים כתבי הקודש מטמאין את הידים וספרי הומריס אינו מטמא את הידים.
  2. (a) אמר ר' יוחנן בן זכאי וכי אין לנו על הפרושים אלא זו בלבד?
    (b) הרי הם אומרים עצמות חמור טהורים ועצמות יוחנן כהן גדול טמאים.
  3. אמרו לו. לפי חבתן היא טומאתן שלא יעשה אדם עצמות אביו ואמו תרוודות.
  4. אמר להם אף כתבי הקדש לפי חבתן היא טומאתן. וספרי הומריס שאינן חביבין אינן מטמאין את הידים:
  1. The Sadducees say: We take exception (denounce and complain to) you, Pharisees! For you say that Seforim are M'Tamei Yadayim, yet the books of Hameiras, i.e. secular books are not M'Tamei Yadayim [i.e., it is incredulous to us that something holy can be a source of Tumah].
  2. (a) Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai said [to the Sadducees, you may be correct and therefore] is this the only objection you have to Pharisees' laws?
    (b) [do they not also say that] the bones of a donkey are pure, but the bones of Yochanan the high priest are impure [i.e., you see the logic repeated in this second case as well and in this case, the Sadducees would agree with the conclusion].
  3. They [the Sadducees] said to [Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai] [there is an underlying principal at work in the case of bones, namely] its ability to transmit impurity is directly proportionate to our love for the object itself. [decreeing impurity will prevent misuse] so that a person does not fashion his parents' bones into spoons"
  4. He said to them, So too regarding Seforim. Ttheir ability to transmit Tumah is directly correlated to our love for them [and we do not want them misused as saddle bags--Tosefta], whereas the books of Hameiras are not beloved and do not share similar concerns and, therefore, are not M'Tamei Yadayim.

Question: Why did Rabi Yochanan ben Zakkai choose to compare the bones of a donkey to the bones of Yochanan Kohein Gadol?

Mishna Seven

Our Mishna describes two cases of the Sadducees complaining to the Pharisees.

The Mishna in Machshirin (5:9) rules that כל הנצוק טהור. This means that when pouring a liquid from a pure vessel into an impure vessel, both the stream of liquid and the pure vessel will remain pure.* The Sadducees take exception since the waters are connected they should, in fact, become impure. In response, the Pharisees present another example of this phenomenon, a stream flowing through a cemetery, the portion outside where it pools into a Mikveh remains pure--a rule to which even the Sadducees would concede.**

The Second case concerns a master's responsibility for the damage caused by his servants and maidservants. Under Torah law, a master is not responsible for their damages but is responsible if his animals cause damage (See Bava Kama 8:4).*** Once again the Sadducees take exception to this rule asking how can it be that while the master is obligated to manage the religious life of his servants he is not responsible for their monetary obligations? The Pharisees respond that the master cannot be held responsible, otherwise, because the servant has a mind of its own and can intentionally cause damage, anytime his mater upset him he would go out and cause damage.****

* See Albeck, P. 609 who suggests an alternative source, Taharos 8:9, and suggests that the water is flowing from the impure to the pure vessel--similar to the example in our Mishna where the water flows from the cemetery (source of Tumah) to outside the cemetery.

**Prof. Joseph Patrich, The Aqueduct from Eitam to the Temple and a Sadducean Halakha, Cathedra 17, pp. 11‑23 (Hebrew) (1980) (available here), identifies the stream as the aqueduct serving the Beis HaMikdash, built, per his estimation, during the reign of the Chashmonaim; its path passing through a Second Temple era cemetery. Analyzing the linguistic structure of our Mishnah, Patrich concludes that despite the seemingly unanimous consensus on the purity of water passing through a cemetery, there was an earlier prevailing Sadducean view that water, even when connected to the ground, could become impure. This evolution, initially presided over by the Sadducean court (who likely were at the zenith of their power during this period) was eventually adopted by the all segments of society, including the Pharisees. Hence, when the dispute over Nitzuk arose shortly thereafter, the Pharisees pointedly reference the exception made for streams running through cemeteries and that necessarily mandated a similar conclusion regarding Nitzuk. Said differently, the Pharisees reference to the aqueduct was a rhetorical flourish by the Pharisees to use the Sadducee’s innovative ruling against them despite the groups’ agreement from a Halachik perspective.

***Rav Herschel Schachter, in a Teshuva written in May 2020 (available here) utilizes this aspect of the Mishnah as part of his analysis whether a wife, when her husbands accepts Shabbos early, must likewise accept Shabbos and even if she does not, whether she can undertake Melachos that benefit the husband.

****See Albeck, P. 609 who notes that in surrounding cultures the general rule was that masters are responsible for their servant's damages. But see Regev, P 109, who cautions not to jump to conclusions as to the role these laws may have influenced Sadducian legal thinking.

  1. (a) אומרים צדוקין. קובלין אנו עליכם פרושים. שאתם מטהרים את הנצוק.
    (b) אומרים הפרושים. קובלין אנו עליכם צדוקים. שאתם מטהרים את אמת המים הבאה מבית הקברות.
  2. (a) אומרים צדוקין. קובלין אנו עליכם פרושים. שאתם אומרים שורי וחמורי שהזיקו חייבין. ועבדי ואמתי שהזיקו פטורין.
    (b) מה אם שורי וחמורי שאיני חייב בהם מצות. הרי אני חייב בנזקן.
    (c) עבדי ואמתי שאני חייב בהן מצות. אינו דין שאהא חייב בנזקן.
  3. אמרו להם לא. אם אמרתם בשורי וחמורי שאין בהם דעת. תאמרו בעבדי ובאמתי. שיש בהם דעת. שאם אקניטם. ילך וידליק גדישו של אחר. ואהא חייב לשלם:
  1. (a) The Sadducees say: We take exception (denounce and complain to) you, Pharisees, for you declare pure the stream [i.e., the water actually flowing between the pure and impure vessels even though the pure and impure waters are touching in the impure vessel]
    (b) The Pharisees retort by saying: We take exception and denounce you, Sadducees, for [even] you would agree that a channel of water which flows from inside a cemetery to outside [where it collects in a pool] is pure [even though a portion of it is, by definition, flowing through an impure place]
  2. (a) The Sadducees say: We take exception (denounce and complain to) you, Pharisees, for you say that I am obligated to pay for damages caused by my ox or donkey, but not for damages caused by my servant and maidservant
    (b) [they bring a Kal V'Chomer to support their claim] [it stands to reason that] in the case of my ox and donkey where I am not responsible to undertake or cause them to undertake any religious obligations, yet I am responsible for their monetary damages,
    (c) certainly for my servant and maidservants, where I am religiously responsible for them, I most certainly should be responsible for damages they cause.
  3. They [the Pharisees] said [in reply] to them [the Sadducees] it cannot be so [your logic is flawed]. The reason you say i am responsible for my ox and donkey is because they do not have mental capacity of their own to understand the ramifications of what they are doing, whereas, in the case of my servant and maidservant who do have the requisite mental capacity--if I upset them they will go out and simply light another person's grain pile on fire and I would be responsible [and that cannot be the case].

Mishna Eight

Our Mishna, the final Mishna of the Mesechta, describes one last case of a Galilean "Min"* complaining to the Pharisees.

There is a convention with every legal document that it include the date it was entered into. This allows people to know when the transaction took place. Wrongly dating a contract could potentially invalidate them. The Mishna in Gitin 8:5 suggests that it was customary to date Jewish divorce contracts (Get) using the year of the then reigning non-Jewish sovereign (i.e., in the third year of the reign of King "so and so"). This was done to keep good relations with the government in power.

Separately, as part of the text, the Chachomim included the following words at the end of the Get: "כדת משה וישראל" (i.e., that the text is in accordance with Jewish religious law and custom). The Galilean took exception to the fact that both the secular ruler and the name of Moshe Rabbeinu are included in the same contract.**

The Chachomim respond that we find a similar situation in the Torah itself where we have the name of both the secular king (Pharaoh) and Hashem near each other. Moreover, Pharaoh's name is listed before Hashem's name.*** If it is not disrespectful for Hashem's name to be written as such, certainly we can do so for Moshe's name.

Finally, because the pasuk quoted is referencing Pharaoh's irreverence for Hashem "i.e., who is this Hashem?!?", to end on a positive note the Mishna ends with a quote showing that, in the end, even Pharaoh acknowledged Hashem's righteousness.

* While our Mishna uses the term Sadducee, most, if not all, extant manuscripts use the term Min instead of Sadducee. Historically, this term was used to denote an early Christian. Even if this time it was not so referencing, Medieval censors likely changed the word from Min to Tziduki. See Ma"Harsha on this Mishna who suggests that the whole notion of including the words כדת משה וישראל in the Get was to show that everlasting nature of our Tradition and the Torah.

**It is unclear whether he was suggesting that the king's name should be stricken or whether to exclude the concluding words from the Get. Because most contracts included this form of sovereign dating (see Mishna Rosh HaShana 1:1 and , generally, Rambam, Tosfos Yom Tov and Rash"ash), it would appear that it was the inclusion of כדת משה וישראל that upset him. But it does not seem like he was necessarily looking to undermine the authority of the Chachomim and the concept of Gittin.

***Albeck, p. 609-10 notes that some sects would actually split this pasuk in half, with Hashem's name starting on a new line. Making the reference in the Mishna to higher and lower (rather than prior or later) literal. He also notes that there is a different version of our Mishna that reads " את המושל עם השם " so that the question is how can it be that both Hashem's name and the secular king's name are mentioned in a Get. See Tosfos s.v. לפי שאין למדין Bava Basra 162a who rejects this reading and Aishel Avraham on Megillat Taanis (3rd day of Tishrei).

Nonetheless, the alternative reading has a certain inherent logic. By switching Hashem for Moshe, it better parallels the pasuk with Pharaoh. Further, it helps explain the Mishna's secondary question namely that in the Torah, Pharaoh's name is written above Hashem's (unlike the Get where Hashem's name would come first). However, it also presupposes that Hashem's name is written in a Get, something our Gittin do not include (but, perhaps, ancient ones may have included). See Rabinowitz, J.J., "The legal papyrus from 'Auja el-Hafir," Yedi ‘ot ha-Hevrah la-hakirat Erets-Yisra'el ye-‘ atikoteha Volume 17, online in Digital Library for International Research Archive, Item #2143, http://www.dlir.org/archive/items/show/2143 (accessed February 26, 2017).

If the "Hashem" version is the correct version of our Mishna, it could mean our Mishna preserves an ancient text (i.e., Mishna Rishona) since such a practice of including Hashem's name in a contract would have been abolished as noted in Megillat Taanis. See Zeitlin, Solomon. “Megillat Taanit as a Source for Jewish Chronology and History in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods.” The Jewish Quarterly Review, vol. 10, no. 2/3, 1919, pp. 237–290. New Series, www.jstor.org/stable/1451411, especially footnote 269 and his hypothesis as to the cause of the mistaken version.

  1. אמר צדוקי גלילי. קובל אני עליכם פרושים. שאתם כותבין את המושל עם משה בגט.
  2. (a) אומרים פרושים. קובלין אנו עליך צדוקי גלילי. שאתם כותבים את המושל עם השם בדף.
    (b) ולא עוד אלא שאתם כותבין את המושל מלמעלן. ואת השם מלמטן. שנאמר (שמות ה, ב) ויאמר פרעה מי יי אשר אשמע בקולו לשלח את ישראל.
  3. וכשלקה מהו אומר (שמות ט, כז) יי הצדיק:
  1. A Galilean Sadducee said, "We take exception (denounce and complain to) you, Pharisees, for you include both the name of the reigning sovereign and of Moshe in a Get [and that shows a lack of respect for Moshe]
  2. (a) Replied the Pharisees, we take exception (denounce and complain to) you, Galilean Saducee, for don't you write the name of the sovereign and Hashem's name together on the same page
    (b) moreover, you write the name of the foreign sovereign above while Hashem's name is written below [the proof text being] as it says in the Pasuk
    (Exodus 5:2) "And Pharaoh said, 'Who is this Hashem that I should listen to his voice and send out the Israelites? [so you see having secular and holy names near each other is sanctioned practice]
  3. [To conclude the mesechta on a positive note rather than leave us with the pasuk in which Pharaoh speaks with irreverence about Hashem we quote the Pasuk where,] after being smote by Hashem, [and Pharaoh recognizes His righteousness] what did he say? (Exodus 9:11) "Hashem is the Righteous One."

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