Kelim, Chapter Twenty-Five, Mishnah Seven
Today’s mishnah deals with the “bet tzviah” the rabbinic word for the place where the vessel is held. This is not a handle but rather an indentation in the wall of the vessel from where the vessel can be held. It is considered part of both the inner and outer sides of the vessel. If unclean liquids touch the bet tzviah the inner and outer sides remain pure. And if the outer part of the vessel becomes impure, the bet tzviah is still pure. But if the inner side of the vessel becomes impure, the entire vessel is impure.
In the mishnah various sages debate the applicability of this law.
1) All vessels have outer and inner sides and have a part by which they are held.
2) Rabbi Tarfon says: this applies only to a large wooden [kneading] trough.
3) Rabbi Akiva says: it applies to cups.
4) Rabbi Meir says: it applies to unclean and clean hands.
5) Rabbi Yose says: they said this only concerning clean hands.
Section one: According to the first opinion in the mishnah, all vessels have a part by which they are held. This means that the rule reported in the introduction can apply to any vessel that has an indentation by which the vessel may be held.
Section two: Rabbi Tarfon limits this rule to a large wooden trough. The result is that if impure liquids came into contact with the outside of the trough, he can hold the trough by this part without his hands being defiled. This might be important if the kneader wants to ensure the purity of the bread, such that pure hallah could be separated from it and given to the kohen. But when it comes to other vessels, they are not considered as having a bet tzviah.
Section three: Rabbi Akiva says that the rule [also] applies to cups. This will allow one to drink from a cup whose outer side has become impure without defiling one’s hands and perhaps defiling the contents of the cup.
Section four: According to Rabbi Meir, if one’s hands are unclean and the outer side of the vessel is clean and there is some liquid on the outside of the vessel, one can hold the bet tzviah and need not be concerned lest these liquids become unclean and defile the vessel. This is what Rabbi Meir means when he says that these laws apply to unclean hands. Tomorrow’s mishnah will explain how they apply to clean hands, so stay tuned!
Section five: Rabbi Yose limits the applicability of these laws to clean hands. This shall be explained in tomorrow’s mishnah. But if he has clean hands and he holds the vessel by its bet tzviah, he must be concerned lest the liquids were defiled and they would thereby defile the cup.