Kelim, Chapter Twenty-Seven, Mishnah Eleven
Today’s mishnah discusses how strong a small piece of cloth needs to be to be susceptible to impurity.
1) If a piece of cloth three [handbreadths] square [was found] in a rubbish heap it must be both sound and capable of wrapping up salt;
a) But [if it was found] in the house it need only be either sound or capable of wrapping up salt.
2) How much salt must it be capable of wrapping up? A quarter of a kav.
a) Rabbi Judah says: this refers to fine salt,
b) But the sages stated: it refers to coarse salt.
c) Both intended to be lenient.
3) Rabbi Shimon says: the law concerning a piece of cloth three [handbreadths] square found in a rubbish heap is the same as that for a piece of cloth that was three [fingerbreadths] square in a house.
Section one: For the piece of cloth found in a garbage heap to be susceptible to impurity it must fulfill two conditions, besides the usual stipulation that it be three handbreadths square. First of all, it must be sound, meaning of strong quality so that it doesn’t easily tear. Second, it must not have holes in it, so that it could be used to bundle up salt without the salt passing through.
In contrast, a piece of cloth found in a house is more easily susceptible to impurity, because no one has discarded it. Thus it only needs to fulfill one of the criteriaeither strong quality or no holes (can carry salt).
Section two: The rabbis disagree as to what type of salt the cloth must be able to carry. According to Rabbi Judah it must be able to hold fine salt, whereas the sages say it needs to hold coarse salt.
It would seem that Rabbi Judah is lenient, because he holds that the cloth is pure unless it can hold even fine salt, and that the sages are more stringent. However, the mishnah says that both the sages and Rabbi Judah intended to be lenient. Rabbi Judah was lenient as we explained above. But even the sages are lenient because they hold that the cloth is not susceptible unless it is strong enough to hold a quarter of a kav of coarse salt without the salt melting. Since coarse salt will last longer, the cloth will have to last longer to protect the salt.
Section three: Rabbi Shimon holds that just as a three fingerbreadths square piece of cloth that is found in a house is not susceptible to midras, but is susceptible to other types of impurity, so too a three handbreadths square piece of cloth found in a garbage heap is not susceptible to midras, but is susceptible to other forms of impurity.