Kelim, Chapter Eighteen, Mishnah One
Above in 15:1 we learned that if a chest or box can contain 40 seahs of liquids it is too big to be susceptible to impurity. The sages say that the dimensions of such a box are: 1 x 1 x 3 cubits. In our mishnah the rabbis debate how such measures are taken.
1) A wooden chest:
a) Beth Shammai says: it is measured on the inside;
b) And Bet Hillel says: on the outside.
2) Both agree that the thickness of the legs and the thickness of the rim are not included in the measurement.
a) Rabbi Yose says: both agree that the thickness of the legs and the thickness of the rim are included in the measurement, but the space between them is not included.
b) Rabbi Shimon Shezuri ruled: if the legs are one handbreadth high the space between them is not included in the measurement, otherwise it is included.
Section one: According to Bet Shammai when measuring the chest, one measures it from the inside. Meaning it must actually be able to hold 40 seahs to be pure.
Bet Hillel holds that the thickness of the walls is included in the measurement because the box is measured from the outside.
Section two: The mishnah now discusses whether the thickness of the legs or the rim are included in the measurement. There are three different opinions in this section. According to the first opinion, both Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel agree that the area of the legs and the rim are not included in the measurement to get to forty seahs. This makes sense since this area does not add to the weight of the box.
According to Rabbi Yose, Bet Hillel only agrees that the area between the legs is not counted in the measurement. The thickness of the legs is counted in measurement to get to forty seahs.
Rabbi Shimon Shezuri says that if the legs are only one handbreadth away from the chest, then the space in between them is counted in the measurement. In such a case we look at it as if the legs were simply an extension of the walls of the chest.
But if they are more than one handbreadth high, then the space in between them is not counted.
We can see in this mishnah the progressive leniencies. Bet Hillel is more lenient than Bet Shammai and “fictionalizes” the traditional forty seah amount. The box doesn’t even have to hold forty, it just has to have the dimensions of forty seah. The later sages extend the leniency of Bet Hillel even further. The box doesn’t even have to be that bigfor one can occasionally even count the spaces in between the legs despite the fact that this space is empty! Note how far this halakhah has developed from its original rationala large box is too heavy to be moved therefore it isn’t considered a vessel.Empty spaces don’t weigh anything so it’s not going to be any harder to move the box.