Kelim, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Two
Our mishnah deals with various metal objects that are attached to a wooden staff. The wooden staff itself has no receptacle and is therefore not susceptible to impurity. The question is: does the metal instrument attached to it cause it to be susceptible.
1) A staff to the end of which he attached a nail like an axe is susceptible to impurity.
2) If the staff was studded with nails it is susceptible to impurity.
a) Rabbi Shimon ruled: only if he put in three rows.
3) In all cases where he put them in as ornamentation the staff is clean.
4) If he attached a tube to its end, and so also in the case of a door, it is clean.
a) If it was once an independent vessel and then it was fixed to the staff, it remains susceptible to impurity.
5) When does it become pure?
a) Bet Shammai says: when it is damaged;
b) And Bet Hillel says: when it is joined on.
Section one: I have translated the word for the instrument describe as being affixed at the end of the staff as “axe” but there are other explanations. The Rambam, for instance, says that it was a round piece of iron that looked like a pomegranate. In any case, as long as this vessel has some function, it is susceptible.
Section two: The staff studded with nails is clearly a weapon. According to Rabbi Shimon it must have a minimum of three rows of nails for it to be susceptible.
Section three: In all of the above cases, if the metal vessels were attached to the wooden staff only for decorative purposes, the staff is still clean. There must be some functional reason they were adjoined for it to be susceptible.
Section four: The metal tube was attached to the end of the staff for decorative purposes, and therefore the staff is still pure. Similarly, if one attaches a tube to a door so that the door doesn’t get worn down by the ground, the metal tube is pure. This is a case where a metal vessel serves a wooden vessel and as we learned in 13:6, such metal vessels are pure.
If the tube was once an independent vessel, used for instance to pour liquids (see 9:6) and then he attached it to the staff, it retains its ability to become impure.
Section five: This section is a continuation of section four. When does a tube that was once an independent vessel and was now attached to a staff lose its susceptibility to impurity? Bet Shammai says that it must be damaged sufficiently so that it can no longer be used. Bet Hillel says that as soon as it is attached to the staff or door, it is susceptible. Interestingly, it seems that the opinion in section four is closer, if not identical to Bet Shammai, for Bet Hillel holds that as soon as the tube is attached to the door or staff, it is pure.