Kelim, Chapter Twenty-One, Mishnah One



Our mishnah deals with a situation where a completed unclean woven garment is on a loom and a person touches various parts of the loom. Parts that are considered to be connected to the woven garment defile the person who touches them, whereas parts that are not considered to be as connected do not.

I am not all that familiar with looms. I did find a decent illustration on the web of a “treadle loom” that seems to be the type referred to in the Mishnah. I will try my best to describe some of the parts. The main issue is the principle, which should be clear after the mishnah is learned. 


Mishnah One

1)      One who touches the upper beam, the lower beam, the harnesses, the sley, the thread that is drawn over purple material, or a spool which is not to be shot back, remains clean.  

2)      If he touches the woof, the standing warp, the double thread that is drawn over purple material or a spool which is to be shot back, he becomes unclean.  

3)      If one touches the wool that is on the distaff, or on the spool, he remains clean.

4)      If he touches the spinner:

a)      Before it was uncovered  he is unclean,

b)      After it was uncovered   he remains clean.



Section one: A loom has two beams, an upper and a lower one. These are used to move the warp up and down. The heddles are the strings attached to the reeds laid across the loom. The sley is a reed used to straighten the warp. When making purple cloth, weavers would pass a string over the cloth and then remove it. A spool that is not shot back refers to strings that will not be brought back and woven into the garment. All of these things are not considered to be attached to the garment. Therefore, one who touches them is pure, even if the garment is unclean.

Section two: The “woof” refers to the strings of the woof that have already been put into the warp strings but have not yet been straightened out properly. The “standing warp” refers to the strings of the warp stretched out between the upper and lower beams. The double string passed over the purple cloth will not be removed. And the spool that will be shot back is attached to a string that will be part of the garment. One who touches any of these things is defiled, because these are connected enough to the garment to be considered already as being part of the garment.

Section three: The wool that is on the distaff or on the spool is not considered to be connected, and therefore one who touches it is pure.

Section four: If the spindle was impure, one who touches the spinner on the head of the spindle is impure if he touches it before he removes the string and uncovers the spinner. But if he touches it after the string was removed and the spinner is uncovered, remains clean.