Kelim, Chapter Thirty, Mishnah Four
The final mishnah of Kelim (yes, it really is) deals with the purity of various glass flasks.
1) A small flask whose neck was removed remains susceptible to uncleanness,
2) But a large one whose neck was removed becomes pure.
3) [A small flask] of spikenard oil whose neck was removed becomes pure, since it scratches the hand.
4) Large flagons whose necks were removed remain susceptible to uncleanness, since they are adapted for the use of holding pickled foods.
5) A glass funnel is clean.
6) Rabbi Yose said: Happy are you Kelim; for you began with uncleanness, but you ended with cleanness.
Section one: A small flask whose neck was removed is still usable. Therefore, it is still susceptible to impurity.
Section two: However, a large flask used to store oil or wine, one that requires two hands to hold, can no longer be used if its neck is broken because its contents will be spilled.
Section three: Spikenard oil is a fragrant oil used for perfume. One would use this oil by putting a finger into the flask and then dabbing the oil onto one’s body. If the flask’s neck is broken one will cut one’s hand when taking out the oil. Since the flask cannot be used properly, it is not susceptible to impurity.
Section four: Large flagons (a type of jar) whose neck is broken off can still be used to pickle vegetables. Therefore, they are still susceptible.
Section five: Glass vessels must have a receptacle to be susceptible to impurity. Therefore, a glass funnel is pure.
Section six: Even Rabbi Yose wanted to celebrate when finishing Tractate Kelim. The first mishnah in the chapter, which we learned on October 31 (!), over eight months ago, dealt with the “fathers of impurity.” In other words, the tractate began by dealing with matters of impurity and the final section of the last mishnah deals with a vessel that is pure. Thus we have moved from a state of impurity to purity.
Congratulations! We have completed Tractate Kelim!
I bet you never thought this day would really come.
Seriously, as I always write, it is a tradition at this point to thank God for helping us finish learning the tractate and to commit ourselves to going back and relearning it, so that we may not forget it and so that its lessons will stay with us for all of our lives.
Kelim is the longest tractate in the Mishnah, and as I noted above, we began to learn it many months ago. While it is at times hard for us to comprehend, the laws of purity were a major part of the religious life of Jews from the time of the Torah through the Second Temple period, and as we see, continued to be a major focus of rabbinic law. I do admit that the tractate did tend to get a bit detailed (understatement) and without a clear picture of what all of these vessels looked like, it is hard to understand some of the laws. Nevertheless, we did learn some important principles that will help us throughout the rest of our learning. I am sure that we will review most of these as we can continue to learn together.
Our learning of Seder Toharot continues tomorrow with Tractate Ohalot, where we learn the laws associated the impurity of a dead body.