Ohalot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Six
Today’s mishnah (and tomorrow’s) deal with cases where a pot is placed below the hatchway. The mishnah will discuss various scenarios as to where the pot is, and where the source of impurity is and how that effects what becomes impure.
1) In the case of a hatchway in a house with a pot placed below it that, if it was raised, its rims would not touch the [edges of the] hatchway:
2) If there is uncleanness below, within or above [the pot], the uncleanness cleaves upwards and downwards.
3) In the case where [the pot] was one handbreadth high off the ground, if there is uncleanness below it or in the house, what is below it and in the house becomes unclean, but what is within [the pot] or above it, remains clean.
4) [If the uncleanness is] within or above [the pot], everything becomes unclean.
Section one: The pot is placed directly below the hatchway, such that if the pot was raised it would not close up the entire hatchway. The pot is not as broad as the hatchway.
Section two: If there is impurity below the pot, it is in a space that is not one handbreadth cubed. As we have learned, such impurity travels up and down but not to the sides. Below and above the pot is impure, but the remainder of the house is pure.
Section three: If the pot is one handbreadth high off the ground, then it is in a (mini-) ohel. If there is a source of impurity either in the house or below the pot, the house and below the pot are defiled. The impurity spreads from under the pot and defiles the house. However, when it comes to the contents of the pot and what is above, we look at the pot as if it was placed above at the hatchway. Since an earthenware pot is not susceptible to impurity from the outside, it forms a barrier with the walls of the house, so that impurity does not enter inside. What is above the hatchway is also protected. However, if the pot was the same size as the hatchway and it couldn’t fit in there, it does not offer a barrier and it is looked at as simply a vessel and vessels cannot become an ohel to protect against impurity (see 6:1).
Section four: If the uncleanness is inside the pot or above it, then everything, the inside of the pot, above the pot and the entire house are impure. This is because the pot is defiled by the impurity that is within it or above it and an impure vessel does not offer a barrier to impurity. This means that the impurity will go below the pot, and from there spread to the entire house.