Kelim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah One
Finally, a mishnah whose focus is not ovens!
The tenth chapter of Kelim deals with the types of vessels who remain clean if they have a tightly fitting lid. This halakhah is rooted in Leviticus 19:14-15 which reads: “14This is the ritual: When a person dies in a tent, whoever enters the tent and whoever is in the tent shall be unclean seven days; 15 and every open vessel, with no lid fastened down, shall be unclean.”
1) The following vessels protect their contents when they have a tightly fitting cover: those made of cattle dung, of stone, of clay, of earthenware, of sodium carbonate, of the bones of a fish or of its skin, or of the bones of any animal of the sea or of its skin, and wooden vessels that are always clean.
2) They protect whether the covers close their mouths or their sides, whether they stand on their bottoms or lean on their sides.
3) If they were turned over with their mouths downwards they afford protection to all that is beneath them to the nethermost deep.
a) Rabbi Eliezer declares this unclean.
4) These protect everything, except that an earthen vessel protects only foods, liquids and earthen vessels.
Section one: Vessels made of the materials listed in this section protect their contents from becoming unclean if the vessel is found in a tent (any building) with a dead body in it. We should note that vessels made of cattle dung, stone and clay (that has not been fired in a kiln) are never susceptible to impurity. Similarly most vessels made of the skins of fish or animals of the sea are not susceptible to impurity. There are wooden vessels that are susceptible to impurity and there are some that are not. Basically, there are two kinds of vessels listed here that can become impureearthenware and sodium carbonate. These two types of vessels have rules that differ from metal, glass and wooden vessels. As we have learned, the former can become impure from their air-space, but are not made impure by contact with their outside. Thus any vessel that cannot be defiled by contact with its outside, protects against impurity if it has a tightly fitting lid.
Section two: It doesn’t matter where the lid is or how the vessel is standing. In all cases it protects its contents.
Section three: If the vessel is turned over and it was connected to the ground by some plaster, then it protects anything below it from becoming unclean. In other words, the ground is the lid.
Rabbi Eliezer disagrees and holds that the ground cannot be considered a lid.
Section four: Most of these vessels protect anything that is found in them, including metal vessels. However, earthenware vessels only protect other things that cannot be made pure in a mikveh (bath)food, liquid and other earthenware vessels. If there are metal vessels inside the earthenware vessels, they become unclean in the tent with a corpse.