Ohalot, Chapter One, Mishnah Five



Our mishnah is similar to yesterday’s mishnah in that it compares the stringency relating to an impure person with the stringency relating to vessels, in this case clothing. The topic of our mishnah is not the impurity caused by a dead body, but rather the impurity caused by a zav, a person who has had an abnormal genital emission.


Mishnah Five

1)      Persons and garments can be defiled by a zav.  

2)      A greater stringency applies to persons than to garments and a greater stringency applies to garments than to persons.

3)      For a person who touches a zav can defile garments, whereas garments that touch a zav cannot defile [other] garments.

4)      A greater stringency applies to garments, for garments which form the support of a zav can defile persons, whereas a person who forms the support of a zav cannot defile [other] persons. 



Section one: Both human beings and clothing are defiled by contact with a zav, although as we shall see, there are cases in which the law is stricter with regard to the human and other cases in which the law is stricter with regard to the clothing.

Section two: This is the customary introduction to the next section.

Section three: A person who has been in contact with a zav defiles clothing. This is explicit in Leviticus 15:7. However, clothing that come into contact with a zav has first degree impurity. This impure clothing will not subsequently convey impurity to other clothing, for clothing is susceptible to impurity only through contact with a father of impurity.

Section four: Something upon which a zav lays or reclines or sits is impure, even if the zav doesn’t touch it (see Leviticus 15:5). This includes clothing. This clothing will subsequently defile other people. However, if a zav lays or reclines on a person (without touching that person) that person does not defile other people. We will learn more about this topic in general when we learn Tractate Zavim (yes, there is a whole tractate devoted to this subject!).