Ohalot, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Five

Introduction

Today’s mishnah deals with a case where there are two projections overhanging the entrance to the house. The mishnah will walk us through various scenarios concerning the size of these two projections and where the source of impurity is found.

Mishnah Five

1)      [With regard to] two projections, one [directly] above the other, each having a width of one handbreadth and a space of one handbreadth between them:

a)      If there is uncleanness beneath them, what is beneath them becomes unclean;

b)      If it is between them, what is between them becomes unclean;

c)      Above them, everything directly [above] to the sky becomes unclean.

2)      If the upper [projection] overlapped the lower to the extent of one handbreadth:

a)      If there is uncleanness beneath or between them, what is beneath and between them becomes unclean;

b)      If it is above them, what is directly [above] to the sky becomes unclean.

3)      If the upper [projection] overlapped the lower to an extent of less than a handbreadth:

a)      If there is uncleanness beneath them, what is beneath and between them becomes unclean;

b)      If it is between them or beneath the overlapping [part]:

i)        Rabbi Eliezer says: what is beneath them and between them becomes unclean.

ii)       Rabbi Joshua says: what is between them and beneath the overlapping [part] becomes unclean, but what is beneath [the lower one] remains clean.

Explanation

Section one: In the first scenario, the projections are each at least one handbreadth in width and there is a handbreadth in between the two. Obviously, the lower projection is at least one handbreadth above the ground. This means that there is a full ohel below each projection.

If the impurity is below the bottom projection, then the impurity is confined to this area. The lower projection blocks the impurity from going higher.

If the impurity is between them, then the impurity is also confined to this area. The lower projection blocks the impurity from going below, and the upper projection blocks it from going above.

If the impurity is above the upper projection, it doesn’t go below. It defiles only anything that is directly above it.

Section two: In this case, the upper projection juts out one handbreadth more than the bottom projection.

If the impurity is either below the bottom one or below the top one, it will spread to the entire area below the top projection. This is because the broader upper projection will bring the impurity to the entire area below it.

If the impurity is above the top projection, it defiles only things above it.

Section three: In this case, the upper projection is broader than the bottom one, but by less than a handbreadth.

If the impurity is below the lower projection, it spreads to the area in between, again because the upper projection brings it above.

If the impurity is between the two, or is below the upper projection but not below the lower projection, in other words, it’s below the extension of the upper projection, Rabbi Eliezer says that the entire area beneath the upper projection is impure.

In contrast, Rabbi Joshua says that the area beneath the lower projection remains pure. The upper projection which is less than a handbreadth wider than the bottom projection does not bring the impurity to the area below the lower projection. This is similar to his opinion in mishnah four.