Kelim, Chapter Twenty-Six, Mishnah One
Chapters 26-28 deal with vessels made of leather and cloth. The general rule with regard to these vessels was stated in 2:1if they are simple, they are clean but if they form a receptacle they are susceptible to impurity.
Today’s mishnah lists four vessels that are either laced or tied up.
1) An Imki sandal and a laced-up bag,
i) Rabbi Judah says: also an Egyptian basket;
ii) Rabbi Shimon ben Gamaliel says: also to a Lattakian sandal
b) can be made susceptible to uncleanness and again be made insusceptible without the aid of a craftsman.
2) Rabbi Yose said: But can’t all vessels be made susceptible to uncleanness and again insusceptible without the aid of a craftsman?
a) Rather, these, even when they are unlaced are susceptible to uncleanness since a layman is able to restore them.
b) They spoke only of an Egyptian basket which even a craftsman cannot [easily] restore.
Section one: The “Imki sandal” seems to have been made in a village called Imki. We don’t really know much more about how this sandal was formed. Assumedly, it was a distinct enough brand that it would have been known to all by name. An “Egyptian basket” is woven from branches of palm trees. Lattakian sandals come from the town with that name in Syria, and assumedly they were distinctive as well.
The commonality of all of these vessels is that even a lay person, one who is not a craftsman, can make these vessels and cause them to be susceptible to impurity. Such a person can also undo the vessels so that they are no longer susceptible to impurity. For instance, a non-expert can put the laces into a laced bag and thereby make it susceptible to impurity. He can also remove the laces and flatten the bag out such that the bag is no longer susceptible (we will learn more about the lace-bag in particular in tomorrow’s mishnah).
Section two: Rabbi Yose disagrees and holds that all vessels can be made by a non-expert, if he knows how to do so. In other words, if a non-expert succeeds in making any vessel, the vessel is susceptible to impurity. And if he succeeds in taking it apart, it is no longer susceptible. In this respect, these four vessels are not unique.
While Rabbi Yose disagrees with the previous halakhah, he does acknowledge that these vessels are in some ways distinct from others. They were indeed “mentioned” in an older list and moreover, this list is connected to the distinction between acts performed by a craftsman and acts performed by a layman. The distinctiveness of these vessels is that even when they are untied, they are still susceptible to impurity because even a non-expert can retie and refashion them into a vessel. Of the vessels mentioned in section one, only the Egyptian basket is clean when it is untied because even an expert has trouble retying this vessel. Since this vessel is so hard to tie once it has been untied, it differs from the other vessels, and it is pure when untied.