Zavim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two
Today’s mishnah provides some general rules as to how a zav defiles things that are either above him or below him that he does not touch.
1) They said yet another general principle: All that is carried above a zav becomes defiled, but all those things above which he is carried are clean except objects on which he can sit or lie upon, and a person.
2) How so? If a zav had his finger beneath a layer of stones and one that was clean was above, he conveys uncleanness at two [degrees of remove] and disqualifies [terumah] at one [further remove].
a) If he separated [from the source of uncleanness] he still defiles at one remove and disqualifies [terumah] at yet one [further remove].
3) If the unclean one was above, and the clean person below, he defiles at two [removes], and disqualifies [terumah] at yet one [further remove].
a) If he separated [from the source of uncleanness], he defiles at one [remove] and disqualifies [terumah] at yet one [more remove].
4) If foods or liquids, or objects on which he could sit or lie upon or other articles were above, they defile at one remove, and disqualify [terumah] at one [further remove].
a) If they had become separated [from the source of uncleanness], they defile at one [remove] and disqualify [terumah] at one [more remove].
5) All objects fit to sit or lie upon that were below defile at two [removes], and disqualify [terumah] at one [more remove].
a) If they had become separate [from the source of uncleanness], they defile at two [removes] and disqualify [terumah] at one [more remove]
b) Foods and liquids and other articles that are below, remain clean.
Section one: This section describes the general rule. Anything above a zav is defiled but things that are below him are defiled only if they were meant for sitting or lying upon, except for a person who carries a zav who is also defiled. The rest of the mishnah will illustrate this principle.
Section two: The mishnah now begins to demonstrate how this defilement is conveyed. A zav has his finger underneath a row of stones (ouch!) and on top of the row of stones is a pure person. The pure person is considered to be carried by the zav. The pure person now becomes a “father of impurity.” Anything he touches will have first degree impurity and anything touched by it will have second degree impurity. If the object with second degree impurity touches terumah the terumah is disqualified (see Kelim 19:4). This is in general a description of the defiling power of one who is considered to be a father of impurity.
If the pure person moves away from the row of stones or the zav removes his hand then the pure person will only have first degree impurity. Anything he touches will have second degree impurity and any terumah that it touches will be disqualified.
Section three: The same rules apply if the zav was on top of the row of stones and the finger of the pure person was below.
Section four: If the zav is below and something that is meant to be sat upon or food or any article (called in Hebrew a madaf) was above, he defiles them with only first degree impurity. This doesn’t change if the source of impurity is removed. [I should note that I have explained this according to most commentators, but they printed editions of the Mishnah have a different reading].
Section five: However, if the zav is above and something meant to be sat or lied upon is below him, he defiles them such that they become fathers of impurity. Even if the source of impurity is removed, they remain fathers of impurity.
However, he only conveys impurity to things that are meant to be sat or lied upon. If below him are foods, liquids or other articles not meant to be sat upon, they remain pure.