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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Bathra

Folio 66a

it is not liable to uncleanness where it is;1  and if one takes honey from it on Sabbath, he becomes liable for a sin-offering.2  The Sages, however, say that it is not on the same footing as the soil, that it cannot serve as a surety for a prosbul, that it can become unclean where it is, and that one who takes honey from it on Sabbath has not to bring a sin-offering'?3  — [It is not this statement either], for there [R. Eliezer's reason is] as reported by R. Eleazar, that we find written in the Scripture, And he dipped it in the honeycomb;4  [from which he reasoned that,] just as one who plucks anything from a wood on Sabbath becomes liable for a sin-offering, so one who takes honey from a comb on Sabbath becomes liable for a sin offering.5  It must be then the statement of R. Eliezer about the shelf, as we have learnt: 'If a baker's shelf6  is fixed in the wall, R. Eliezer says that it is not capable of becoming unclean7  and the Sages say that it is.'8  [We now ask again], which authority [does the statement adduced above follow]? If it is R. Eliezer, then even if the pipe was first hollowed and then fixed [the water from it should not render the mikweh unfit]:9  if it is the Rabbis,10  then even if it was first fixed and then hollowed, [it should still spoil the mikweh]?11  — It is in truth R. Eliezer, and he makes a difference in the case of flat wooden articles, because their uncleanness was decreed only by the Rabbis.12  It would follow from this [would it not], that [the rule about] 'drawn' water derives from the Scripture?13

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Not being a 'vessel'.
  2. For having 'detached' something from the soil.
  3. 'Uk. III, 10, v. infra 80b.
  4. I Sam. XIV, 27. The Hebrew word is [H], lit., 'wood of honey'.
  5. Even though the comb is not fixed in the soil. Hence we cannot say that this statement of R. Eliezer is incompatible with the one about the pipe.
  6. A flat board either for kneading on or for resting loaves on.
  7. As not being a 'vessel'.
  8. Because the final provisions made after it is fixed in the wall to make it suitable for kneading or resting loaves, make it a vessel. Kel. XV, 2.
  9. Because it becomes part and parcel of the ground, as the shelf of the wall.
  10. I.e., the Sages.
  11. Because here too the hollowing out after it is fixed should make it a 'vessel'.
  12. It is deemed a 'vessel' for purposes of uncleanness only by the Rabbis. Hence when the board is affixed to the wall it loses the character of a 'vessel', but not so the pipe which is a real vessel, retaining the character of a vessel even after being attached to the ground.
  13. Otherwise why is R. Eliezer more particular about it than about the board? [That is, provided 'drawn water' constitutes the larger quantity in the mikweh (Rashb.), v. however Tosaf. s.v. [H].]

Baba Bathra 66b

But are not all agreed that it was decreed by the Rabbis [on their own authority]? And further, R. Jose son of R. Hanina has said that the dispute [between R. Eliezer and the Rabbis] concerned a board of metal!1  We must therefore say that in truth the above statement follows the Rabbis, and that they make a difference in the case of 'drawn' water2  because its uncleanness was decreed [only] by the Rabbis. If that is the case,3  then even if he first hollowed it and then fixed it [it should not spoil the mikweh]?4  — There where it was hollowed and then fixed the case is different, because it was in the category of a vessel while still unfixed.5

R. Joseph raised the following question: If a man, seeing the rain descend on the casing of his handmill, decided to regard this as a washing, what is its effect upon seeds?6  If we accept the opinion of R. Eliezer, that anything attached to the ground is in the same category as the ground, no question will arise.7  Where the question arises is if we accept the view of the Rabbis who said that it is not in the same category as the ground?8  — This question must stand over.

R. Nehemiah the son of R. Joseph sent to Rabbah the son of R. Huna Zuti at Nehardea the following instruction: When this woman presents herself to you,

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Flat metal articles are susceptible to uncleanness biblically. V. Kel. XI, 1.
  2. I.e., they are less stringent in regard to it than in regard to the shelf of metal.
  3. That the Rabbis draw no distinction between whether it was first hollowed and then fixed or otherwise, and that their reason in the case of the mikweh is because, as it is only Rabbinical, there is no need to be so particular in regard to 'drawn' water.
  4. Being reckoned as part and parcel of the ground.
  5. And therefore the Rabbis were not willing to relax the rule to such an extent.
  6. According to Lev. XI, 38, seed on which water is 'put' becomes susceptible to uncleanness. According to the Rabbis, water is considered 'put' on seed only if there is a conscious desire on the part of someone to that effect. Falling rain would therefore not ordinarily be regarded as being 'put' on seed and would not make it susceptible to uncleanness. In this case, however, the owner consciously desires it to fall on the handmill, and the question therefore arises whether this desire on his part affects the seeds also.
  7. The rule is that water is not regarded as being 'put' on anything unless that thing is detached from the soil. If therefore the handmill is regarded as being in the same category as the soil, the rain is not technically 'put' on it, however much the owner may desire its falling, and therefore it can have no effect on the seeds.
  8. In the Baraithas quoted above, the Rabbis laid down that a mortar fixed to the ground is not sold with a house and a board fixed in a wall is capable of receiving uncleanness, the reason in both cases being that, though now fixed, since they were originally separate they are not counted as part of the ground. The question therefore arises whether we apply the same rule to a handmill which, though originally detached, is more of a fixture than the mortar, since according to the Rabbis of the Baraitha referred to, it is sold along with the house (Tosaf.).