Kelim, Chapter Fifteen, Mishnah One
Chapters fifteen through nineteen deal with vessels of wood, leather, bone or glass.
1) Vessels of wood, leather, bone or glass: those that are flat are clean and those that form a receptacle are susceptible to impurity.
2) If they are broken they become clean again.
a) If one remade them into vessels they are susceptible to impurity henceforth.
3) A chest, a box, a cupboard, a straw basket, a reed basket, or the tank of an Alexandrian ship, that have flat bottoms and can hold a minimum of forty se’ah in liquid measure which represent two kor in dry measure, are clean.
4) All other vessels whether they can contain the minimum or cannot contain it, are susceptible to impurity, the words of Rabbi Meir.
5) Rabbi Judah says: the tub of a wagon, the food chests of kings, the tanners trough, the tank of a small ship, and an ark, even though they are able to contain the minimum, are susceptible to impurity, since they are intended to be moved about with their contents.
a) As to all other vessels, those that can contain the minimum are clean and those that cannot contain it are susceptible to impurity.
6) There is no difference between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Judah except a baking trough which belongs to a householder.
Section one: The general rule here was already taught in 2:1. Unlike metal vessels that can always become impure, wood, leather, bone or glass vessels must have a receptacle.
Section two: If they are broken they become clean again, and when one remakes them they do not return to their original impurity (unlike metal vessels which do). Rather, they are merely susceptible again.
Section three: The mishnah lists various large containers. The general rule is that in order to be susceptible the vessel has to be something that is carried around. If a container can hold forty seah of liquid (about 480 liters), it is simply too heavy to be carried around and it is clean. These vessels are meant to be stationary.
Section four: Rabbi Meir holds that the list in section three is exhaustive. All other vessels, even if they hold this amount , are susceptible to impurity.
Section five: Rabbi Judah provides a list of vessels that are always susceptible to impurity, even though they can hold more than 40 seahs. These vessels are always susceptible because they are meant to be moved around, and anything that is meant to be moved around is susceptible. But when it comes to all other vessels, they are susceptible if they can’t hold forty seahs, and they are clean if they can.
Section six: The only practical debate between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Judah is over a baking trough that belongs to a householder. According to Rabbi Meir since it is not part of the list in section three, it is susceptible. Rabbi Judah holds that if the vessel is not on the list and it doesn’t hold forty seahs, it is clean. This includes the baker’s trough.
The debate between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Judah is interesting. It seems that there was some sort of accepted list of vessels that cannot become impure. Rabbi Meir acts like a traditionalist and limits the halakhah to those on the list. Rabbi Judah is more of an innovator (at least in this case). He derives a general rule from the list and then applies it to most other vessels.