Zavim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two
Today’s mishnah deals with a series of cases in which a zav and a clean person are jointly performing some action. In each case, there is one opinion that holds that the clean person has been defiled, or might have been defiled, and there is one opinion that holds that only if the act was done under specific conditions is he considered defiled.
1) If they were both closing or opening [a door], [the clean person and his clothes are unclean].
a) But the sages say: [he is not unclean] unless one was shutting and the other opening [it].
2) If one was lifting the other out of a pit [the clean person and his clothes are unclean].
a) Rabbi Judah says: only if the clean person was pulling out the unclean one.
3) If they were twisting ropes together [the clean person and his clothes are unclean].
a) But the sages say: unless the one pulled one way and the other pulled the other way.
4) If they were both weaving together, whether they were standing or sitting, or grinding wheat, [the clean person and his clothes are unclean].
a) Rabbi Shimon says [the clean person] in every case is pure, except where they [both] were grinding with a hand-mill.
5) If they [both] were unloading or loading a donkey, they are unclean if the load was heavy, but clean if the load was light.
6) In all cases, however, they are clean for members of the synagogue, but are unclean for terumah.
Section one: According to the first opinion, if they were both either opening or closing a door then the zav has shifted the clean person by applying pressure to the door. The clean person and his clothes are defiled.
The sages hold that this is true only if they are pushing against each other. In such a case, it is likely that one has moved the other. But if both are opening or closing, then it is more likely that neither has moved the other, so the clean person remains pure.
Section two: According to the first opinion, if the zav and pure person are helping each other climb out of a pit, then it is likely that the zav has lifted or shifted in some way the pure person. Therefore, he is defiled.
Rabbi Judah says that the pure person is defiled only if the pure person is helping the zav get out of the pit. In such a case, the zav may have leaned on the pure person and defiled him. But if the zav is helping the pure person out of the pit, he is not defiled. Evidently, Rabbi Judah is lenient and holds that the zav must lean on the pure person to defile him. Simply moving him does not cause defilement. Note that Rabbi Judah was also lenient in yesterday’s mishnah.
Section three: Again, the first opinion holds that by twisting ropes together the zav may have leaned upon or shifted the clean person and thereby defiled him. The sages rule that they have to be pulling in opposite directions, as was the case with the door in section one.
Section four: The first opinion holds that weaving or grinding together causes the zav to defile the clean person, either because he leans on him or he shifts him. Rabbi Shimon rules more leniently. The only case of defilement is when they grind together with a hand-mill.
Section five: If they are both unloading a donkey and the load is heavy, then the zav would likely have leaned on the pure person and defiled him. But if the load is light, they could both unload independently and one has not leaned on the other.
Section six: In all of these cases, we can’t be certain that the pure person is defiled. Therefore, he can sit with other members of the synagogue who are eating their non-sacred food in a state of purity. Since this behavior is only a stringency, and is not required by law, we can be lenient and let him eat with them. However, the Torah prohibits eating defiled terumah. Therefore, he cannot eat terumah.
This last clause basically serves to clarify that in all of these cases the status of his impurity is doubtful, not certain.