Moed Katan, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two

 

Introduction

For the same reason that it is prohibited to shave/cut hair during the festival, it is also prohibited to wash one’s clothes—the prohibition during the festival encourages people to wash their clothes before the festival.  As was the case with yesterday’s mishnah, today’s mishnah lists the exceptions, those people who may wash their clothes because they could not have done so before the festival began.

 

Mishnah Two

1)      These may launder [their clothes] during the festival:  one coming back from a trip abroad, or one coming out from a place of captivity, or coming out of prison, or one excommunicated whom the sages have released.

2)      And similarly one who asked a sage [to be released from a vow] and was released.

3)      Hand-towels, barber’s towels and bath-towels [may be laundered].

4)      Zavim and zavot, menstruants, and women who have given birth, and anyone going from a state of purity to impurity, are permitted [to launder their clothes].

5)      But everyone else is prohibited.

 

Explanation

Section one:  This is the same list that appeared in section one of yesterday’s mishnah.

Section two:  This is the same as the beginning of the second section of yesterday’s mishnah.

Section three:  Towels which are used on a daily basis and will quickly become dirty may be laundered.  “Barber’s towels” is somewhat of a strange category, considering the fact that most people should not be getting a haircut on the festival.  Either this refers to towels used in cutting the hair of those few people who can get a haircut or alternatively the word for “barber” really means “books”—the words are spelled the same but pronounced differently in Hebrew (sapar=barber; sefer=book).  The mishnah would then refer to coverings of books, i.e Torah scrolls, which become dirty due to frequent usage. However, it seems strange to me that book coverings need to be washed with such urgency.

Section four:  This section refers to various people who have some sort of genital emission and therefore need to wash their clothes frequently. Zavim and zavot have some sort of unusual genital emission which would dirty their clothes.  They are allowed to wash their clothes because it would not be seemly to force them to go around in public with stained clothing.

People who become pure on the festival need to wash their clothes (Leviticus 11:25, 28; 14: 5, 47; Numbers 19:19). They are allowed to do so during the festival since they could not control the timing of their becoming pure.

Section five:  The mishnah ends by emphasizing that other people may not launder their clothes on the festival.  During the time of the mishnah laundering was heavy labor and was not done with great frequency.  Hence, the festival should not be used as an opportunity to launder clothes.   

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