Kelim, Chapter Seventeen, Mishnah Four
In the first mishnah of this chapter we learned that if the vessel has a hole large enough to let pomegranates fall through, it is clean. Our mishnah expands on that mishnah.
1) The pomegranates of which they have spoken–three attached to one another.
2) Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says: in a sifter or a sieve [the size of the hole must be such that a pomegranate will drop out] when one picks it up and walks about with it.
3) In a basket it must be such [as would allow a pomegranate] to fall through while one hangs it behind him.
4) And all other vessels which cannot hold pomegranates as, for instance, the quarter kav measure and the half quarter kav measure, and small baskets, the size [of their holes must be] such as would extend over the greater part of them, the words of Rabbi Meir.
a) Rabbi Shimon says: [the size of their hole must be such that] olives [could fall through].
5) If their sides were broken [the size of their hole must be] such as olives would drop through.
a) If they are worn away the size must be such as would allow the objects which are usually kept in them [to drop through].
Section one: In mishnah one of this chapter, the first (and anonymous) opinion stated that if a wooden or leather vessel has a hole large enough to let out pomegranates, the vessel is clean. Our mishnah states that the hole must be soooo large as to let out three pomegranates attached to one another. I don’t know exactly how large this is, but it strikes me as quite large.
Section two: Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says that when it comes to a wooden sifter or a sieve if the hole is large enough so that the three pomegranates would fall out while they are being carried, it is clean, even if the pomegranates would not fall out while the vessel is stationary.
Section three: This seems to be a continuation of Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel’s opinion. When it comes to a basket, the pomegranates must be able to fall out when the person takes the basket and slings it behind his back.
Section four: When it comes to small wooden or leather vessels which are too small to hold a pomegranate, they are susceptible to impurity until the hole covers a majority of them. If a majority of the vessel remains, then the vessel is still susceptible. Rabbi Shimon is more lenient and rules that the vessel is clean if olives can fall through.
Section five: The anonymous opinion agrees with Rabbi Shimon if the sides of the vessel were broken. In such a case, if the hole will let olives fall through, it is clean. However, if the vessel was worn away at its edges, then it is susceptible as long as it can still hold the objects that are usually kept in it. [I should note that this is the traditional explanation. Albeck explains that the words I have translated as “as would allow the objects which are usually kept in them” to mean “in the smallest amount.” According to this interpretation the rule is even more lenient if the vessel is worn away.]