Makhshirin, Chapter Five, Mishnah Nine



This mishnah deals with the case of liquid being poured from a top vessel to a lower vessel. The lower vessel has impure liquids, or liquids that cause susceptibility. The mishnah rules that with a few exceptions the impurity of the lower vessel’s liquids does not flow upwards to the higher vessel.

We should note that while this seems to be a boring, technical subject, this very subject was the source of a bitter debate between the Pharisees and the Dead Sea Sect. The latter group wrote a letter called “Miktzat Maase Torah” or “The Halakhic Scroll” in which they complain that the leaders in Jerusalem are not observing Jewish law correctly. Among their complaints is the claim that those Jews in Jerusalem purify the “pouring flow”—they use the same Hebrew word as is found in the Mishnah. In other words, archaeologists have found and reconstructed the historical basis of this Mishnah and what looked like simply another detail in a sea of details, was actually a real topic in the Second Temple period, one that was hotly contested by two rival groups. People split apart their communities over issues like this. I don’t know if you find this fascinating, but I do! [This topic was also covered in Toharot 8:9].


Mishnah Nine

1)      A flow pouring [from one vessel to another] is clean, except [the flow] of honey of ziphim bees and honey batter.  

2)      Bet Shammai say: also [the flow of] thick pottage of split beans, because it thickens up backwards.



Section one: The upper liquids remain clean except in the case of honey. Since honey is thick, the rabbis consider it to be attached to the lower liquid.

Section two: Bet Shammai rules slightly more strictly. A thick pottage of split beans will also convey impurity from below to above.