Introduction to Tractate Makhshirin

 

Our tractate is about liquids that come into contact with produce and thereby make it susceptible to impurity (I know, a topic you’ve been dying to learn about).

 

Leviticus 11:34 reads:

As to any food that may be eaten, it shall become unclean if it came into contact with water; as to any liquid that may be drunk, it shall become unclean if it was inside any vessel.

 

And verse 38 reads:

But if water is put on the seed and any part of a carcass falls upon it, it shall be unclean for you.

 

In both of these verses we can see that water causes food to be susceptible to impurity.

There are several additional rules that will we see in this tractate that govern and modify the above rule.

·        Produce is not susceptible to impurity while still attached to the ground.

·        There are six other liquids beside water that cause produce to be susceptible to impurity.

·        Liquid only enables produce to be susceptible if someone wanted to use the liquid for either drinking or to in some way aid something detached from the ground.  As we shall see, this law is a classic example of how important a role intent, or kavanah, has in rabbinic law. Liquid only makes produce susceptible if the kavanah was of a certain nature.

Usually when the tractate wants to say that a liquid causes food to be susceptible to impurity, it says that the liquid is in the category of “if water is put upon” (וכי יותן). These are the first two words in Hebrew of verse 38 above. This language is also found in other usages throughout the tractate.

Good luck in learning!

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