Kelim, Chapter Nine, Mishnah Eight
Today’s mishnah continues to deal with the topic of how large a hole in an oven can be before it ceases to be considered “tightly closed.” The size of this hole will vary depending upon where in the oven it is located.
1) If there was a hole in the “eye” of an oven, the minimum size [for it to leave the category of being tightly closed] is the circumference of a burning spindle staff that can enter and come out [without being extinguished].
a) Rabbi Judah says: one that is not burning.
2) If the hole appeared at its side, the minimum size must be that of the circumference of a spindle staff that can enter and come out while it is not burning.
a) Rabbi Judah says: while burning.
3) Rabbi Shimon says: if the hole is in the middle its size must be such that a spindle staff can enter it, but if it was at the side it need only be such as the spindle staff cannot actually enter.
a) And similarly he used to rule concerning the stopper of a jar in which a hole appeared: the minimum size is the circumference of the second knot in an oat stalk. If the hole was in the middle the stalk should be able to enter, and if at the side it need not be able to enter.
b) And similarly he used to rule concerning large stone jars in the stoppers of which appeared a hole. The minimum size is the circumference of the second knot in a reed. If the hole was in the middle the reed must be able to enter it, and if it was at the side the reed need not be able to enter it.
4) When is this so? When the jars were made for wine, but if they were made for other liquids, if they have even the smallest hole, they are unclean.
5) When is this so? When the holes were not made by a person, but if they were made by a person, if they have even the smallest hole, they are unclean.
6) If a hole appeared [in other vessels its prescribed size ] is as follows: if the vessel was used for food, [the hole must be one] through which olives can fall out; if for liquids, one that lets out liquids;
a) If for either, the greater restriction is imposed [even with regard to the issue of] a tightly fitting cover [the size of the hole need only be] one that admits a liquid.
Section one: The “eye” of the oven is the hole made in the oven’s bottom to let in wind and let out smoke (see 8:7). If there is a hole that would allow a burning spindle staff to come in and go out while burning and not be extinguished, the oven is not considered to be “tightly covered” and if found in a tent with a dead body, it is impure.
Again, Rabbi Judah argues about one of these details. He holds that it need not be able to enter and come out while burning (and not be extinguished). As long as it can come in and out, the oven is unclean.
Section two: If the hole is in the side of the oven, then the opinions in section one are reversed, although the basic measure is the same. Note that this debate is formatted similarly to the debate in yesterday’s mishnah. There is no rational reason why one place should have to allow in a burning and one place need not. Rather all sages (the anonymous opinion and Rabbi Judah) hold that in one case the spindle staff must be burning and in one case it need not, and they dispute as to which case is which.
Section three: Rabbi Shimon holds that there is a difference if the hole is in the middle of the oven, or in its side. If the hole is in the middle, the spindle must be able to go in and out, but if it is on the side, the measure is smaller, and the oven is considered open even if the hole is the exact same size as the spindle-staff. According to other sources, the other rabbis disagree with Rabbi Shimon and hold the reverseif the hole is on the side, the measure is larger than if it’s in the middle.
The mishnah now proceeds to list several cases, in which Rabbi Shimon holds that if the hole is in the side, the measure is larger than if the hole is in the middle.
The first is a hole found in a stopper. The minimum measure is the size of the second knot in an oat-stalk. Oat stalks (so I gather from this mishnah) had many knots, and the sages used the second knot as a basis this measure.
The second instance is a hole found in a large jar. Here the measure was the second knot found in a reed (which I guess also have knots).
Section four: The above two halakhot are true when it comes to wine jars, which regularly had holes in them. Since holes were normal in these vessels, they had to establish minimum sizes for a hole to nullify the vessel from being considered “tightly covered.” If the vessel was used for other liquids, then it shouldn’t have any holes. Therefore, even the smallest hole will nullify it from being considered “tightly lidded.”
Section five: If the hole was done intentionally by a person, then even the smallest hole nullifies it from being “tightly covered.” The minimum measurements refer only to cases where the hole appeared on its own.
Section six: If other types of vessels (not wine jars) have holes in them, then the minimum measure depends on what the jar is used for. If it is used for food, it must be a big enough hole to let out food. If it holds liquids, then the vessel is not considered tightly covered if it would allow in other liquids. Finally, if the vessel is used for both liquids and solids, the more stringent measure, that of liquids is applied.