Kelim, Chapter Seventeen, Mishnah One
In previous chapters 3:1 and 14:1 we learned that a vessel gets a hole in it large enough so that the vessel will not be use the vessel becomes pure. Our mishnah deals with this rule concerning wood and leather vessels.
1) All [wooden] vessels that belong to householder [become clean if the holes in them are] the size of pomegranates.
2) Rabbi Eliezer says: [the size of the hole depends] on what it is used for.
a) Gardeners vegetable baskets [become clean if the holes in them are] the size of bundles of vegetables.
b) Baskets of householders [become clean if the holes in them are] the size of [bundles] of straws.
c) Those of bath-keepers, if bundles of chaff [will drop through].
3) Rabbi Joshua says: in all these the size is that of pomegranates.
Section one: According to the first opinion in the mishnah, all wooden vessels which are owned by non-professionals are clean if the hole that appears in the them is the size of a pomegranate. This is the same opinion as Rabbi Joshua in section six.
Section two: Rabbi Eliezer disagrees with Rabbi Joshua and holds that there is no standard for how big the hole must be. It all depends on what the vessel is used for.
Rabbi Eliezer now illustrates this rule with regard to several types of wooden baskets.
The chaff collected by the bath-keepers is used to heat the fires to keep the bath warm.
I have interpreted the mishnah according to the interpretation offered by most major commentators. In contrast, Albeck interprets the words that I have translated in Rabbi Eliezer’s statement to mean “at the smallest size.” According to this interpretation, Rabbi Eliezer says that the smallest hole renders a wooden vessel owned by a householder clean. This impacts our interpretation of the following sections. According to Albeck’s interpretation, these sections are not the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer but rather the anonymous opinion. It would seem that the vessels listed here are not “vessels belonging to householders” and therefore their measure is not that of a pomegranate. Rabbi Joshua disagrees and holds that even in these cases, the measure is that of a pomegranate.