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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 16a

let them not become unclean through their [flat or convex] backs.1  Why did we learn, Earthen vessels and nether vessels2  are alike in regard to their uncleanness: they become defiled and defile [other objects] through their air space;3  they become unclean through their outside,4  but they cannot be defiled through their backs;5  and their breaking renders them clean.6  Thus, only earthen and nether vessels are alike in regard to their uncleanness, but not other things?7 — I will tell you: since they can be repaired when broken,8  they were assimilated to metal utensils.9

If so, let them revert to their former uncleanness, like metal utensils? For we learnt: Metal vessels, both flat and hollow,10  are subject to defilement. If broken, they become clean; if remade into utensils, they revert to their former uncleanness. Whereas in respect to glass vessels we learnt: Wooden, skin, bone and glass utensils, if flat, they are clean;11  if hollow, they are unclean;12  if broken, they become clean; if remade into vessels, they are liable to defilement from then onwards. [Thus] only from then onwards, but not retrospectively? — The uncleanness of glass utensils is Rabbinical, and [the resuscitation of] former uncleanness is [also] Rabbinical: now, in the case of that which is unclean by Scriptural law, the Rabbis have imposed [retrospective] uncleanness upon it, but upon that which is unclean by Rabbinical law the Rabbis have imposed no [retrospective] uncleanness.

Yet at least let their flat utensils be unclean, since flat metal utensils are [susceptible to uncleanness] by Scriptural law!-The Rabbis made a distinction in their case, so that terumah and sacred food should not be burnt on their account.13

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. If an unclean object touches them on the back, which is flat or convex, they should not become unclean, in accordance with the Mishnah quoted.
  2. Rashi: a kind of white earth; Jast.: a vessel made of alum crystals.
  3. If an unclean object is suspended in the hollow of one of these vessels, even if it does not touch its side, it becomes unclean. Again, if a clean object is suspended in the hollow of an unclean vessel, though it does not actually touch it, it too becomes unclean.
  4. E.g., if the base is concave, and an unclean object is suspended from the outside in the hollow.
  5. Which are flat or convex.
  6. If these vessels, being already unclean, are broken, they become clean; cf. p. 65, n. 7.
  7. yet glass vessels too should be the same according to Resh Lakish's reason.
  8. By being melted down and refashioned, which is impossible with earthen utensils.
  9. Which can be repaired in the same way.
  10. Lit., 'those of them which receive'.
  11. I.e., they cannot be defiled.
  12. As in n. 7.
  13. For these must not be burnt when defiled by Rabbinical law, except in the six cases of doubtful uncleanness enumerated on 15b.
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Shabbath 16b

R. Ashi said: After all, it is similar to earthen utensils, and as for your difficulty, 'let them not become unclean through their [flat or convex] backs', [the reply] is because its inside is as visible as its outside.1

'Simeon b. Shetah instituted a woman's marriage settlement and imposed uncleanness upon metal utensils.' But [the uncleanness of] metal utensils is Biblical, for it is written, howbeit the gold, and the silver [… etc.]?2 — This [the Rabbinical law] was necessary only in respect of former uncleanness.3  For Rab Judah said in Rab's name: It once happened that Queen Shalzion4  made a banquet for her son and all her utensils were defiled. Thereupon she broke them and gave them to the goldsmith, who melted them down and manufactured new utensils of them. But the Sages declared, They revert to their previous uncleanness. What is the reason? — They were concerned there to provide5  a fence against the water of separation.6

Now, that is well on the view that they [the Sages] did not rule thus in respect of all forms of defilement but only in respect of the defilement of the dead:7  then it is correct. But on the view that they ruled thus for all forms of uncleanness, what can be said? — Abaye answered: As a preventive measure lest he might not perforate it to the standard of purification.8  Raba said: As a preventive measure lest it be said that tebillah9  of that very day is effective for it.10  Wherein do they differ? — They differ where a smith refashioned it.11

And what is another?12  For we learnt: If one places vessels under a spout to catch rain water therein, whether they are large vessels or small, or even vessels [made] of stone, earth13  or dung, they render the mikweh unfit. It is all one whether he places or forgets them [there]: that is Beth Shammai's view; but Beth Hillel declare it clean14  if he forgets them.15  Said R. Meir: They took a count, and Beth Shammai outnumbered Beth Hillel. Yet Beth Shammai admit it that if he forgets [the utensils] in a courtyard,16  it is clean.17  R. Jose said: The controversy still stands in its place.18

R. Mesharsheya said: The scholars of Rab19  said: All agree that, if he places them [under the spout] when clouds are massing, they20  are unclean;21  [if he places them there] when the clouds are dispersed, all agree that they are clean.22  They differ only if he places them there when the clouds were massing, but they then dispersed, and subsequently massed together again:23  one Master [Beth Hillel] holds that his intention was nullified,24  while the other Master holds that his intention was not nullified.

Now, according to R. Jose, who maintained, The controversy still stands in its place, they are less [than eighteen]?25 — Said R. Nahman b. Isaac: On that same day they also enacted that the daughters of Cutheans26  are niddoth27  from their cradles.28

And what is another? For we learnt: All movable objects induce uncleanness by the thickness of an ox-goad.29  Said R. Tarfon,

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. From without; hence it is all regarded as the inside.
  2. Num. XXXI, 22. The text continues: everything that may abide the fire, ye shall make go through the fire, and it shall be clean; nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation.
  3. V, supra a.
  4. i.e., Salome Alexandra, wife and successor of Alexander Jannai and according to the Talmud, sister of Simeon b. Shetah.
  5. Lit., 'on account of'.
  6. V. n. 2.; i.e., they were anxious to safeguard this law, which would fall into disuse if the expedient of melting and refashioning were widely adopted.
  7. Only then is the former uncleanness revived.-The verse quoted in n. 2. refers to such.
  8. The hole which removes its status of a utensil must be of a certain size, — large enough to permit a pomegranate to fall through.
  9. V. Glos.
  10. When it is purified by means of tebillah it may not be used until the evening; but making a hole and repairing it permits its immediate use. One seeing this vessel thus used on the same day may think that it underwent tebillah, and that the latter too releases it for immediate use.
  11. Abaye's reason still holds good, for one may think that a small note too would have sufficed. But Raba's reason does not operate, for it is plainly evident that this was newly remade.
  12. Of the eighteen enactments.
  13. Roughly manufactured, without being kneaded and baked.
  14. I.e., the mikweh retains its powers of purification.
  15. V. p. 61, n. 3. The spout was fixed in the earth before it was actually a spout, and after fixing it was made hollow to act as a water duct to the mikweh. In that case the water that passes through it is regarded as 'living water'. When, however, the water falls from the spout into vessels, it becomes 'drawn water', which renders the mikweh unfit. This holds good whether they are very large vessels, too big to be susceptible to uncleanness, e.g., a tub more than forty se'ahs in capacity, or very small, so that I might think of disregarding them altogether; also, even if of dung, when they are not regarded as vessels at all in respect to uncleanness. If they are merely forgotten there, Beth Hillel maintain that the water is not 'drawn', since it was unintentional.
  16. But not under the spout, and they are filled with the rain water which flows thence into the mikweh.
  17. V. n. 3. Because he had no intention at all of filling it, since he did not place it under the spout.
  18. I.e., they differ here too.
  19. The term debe Rab means either the disciples of the Academy founded by Rab or scholars in general; Weiss, Dor, III, 158 (Ed. 1924).
  20. Utensils purified in the mikweh.
  21. Because the mikweh was rendered unfit, as above. For he showed that he desired the water to flow into the utensils, and though he had forgotten them by the time the rain descended, his original intention was fulfilled, and the water is regarded as drawn.
  22. Since there were no clouds, his placing the utensils there was not with the intention of filling them.
  23. And by then he has forgotten them.
  24. By the dispersal of the clouds; hence the subsequent filling does not render the water drawn.
  25. Since there is a controversy, the halachah agrees with Beth Hillel, that the mikweh is fit.
  26. The Cutheans were the descendants of the heathens who settled in Samaria after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom. They accepted a form of Judaism, and the Rabbis' attitude towards them varied. At times they were regarded as Jews, but they were subsequently declared non-Jews. The present enactment treats them as Jews, who, however, are looked upon with disfavour.
  27. Pl. of niddah, a menstruant woman.
  28. I.e., from birth they are treated as unclean, like a niddah. The purpose of this enactment was to discourage intermarriage with them (Tosaf.).
  29. This refers to the defilement caused by a dead person, not by contact but through the fact that both the dead person and the object defiled are under the same covering, e.g., the roof of a house or an overhead awning (cf. Num. XIX, 14f), which induces uncleanness to the object defiled. The width of the covering object must not be less than the thickness of an ox-goad, for which v. infra 17a.
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