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In general (DeOraisa), when Tumah spreads it lowers itself by a level. Moreover, a Keli can't make a Keli Tamei, nor can a food item make another food item Tamei (at least by Chullin). So a "classical" spreading is:

  1. Av Hatuma - a Zav/Sheretz ->
  2. Rishon - Person/Keli ->
  3. Sheni - food


  1. Av Hatuma - a Zav/Sheretz ->
  2. Rishon - food/drink ->
  3. Sheni - drink/food (respectively)

What happens if a corpse touches a food item, can it spread between food/drinks like

  1. Avi Avos Hatuma - corpse ->
  2. Av Hatuma - food ->
  3. Rishon - drink ->
  4. Sheini - food

or do we say that the first "food" becomes a "rishon" and can only spread once to a "sheini"?

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Did you ask this in chat once? We've definitely discussed this before. – Double AA Oct 25 '13 at 21:27
@DoubleAA Yes I did. Then I realized that it was somewhat of a real question and that it probably should be on the main page, but forgot about it until now. – Shmuel Brin Oct 25 '13 at 21:46
Can you grab the link then? I recall there were some sources proffered already. – Double AA Oct 26 '13 at 23:13
Tosafos (P'sachim 17a) says that, vis-a-vis transmitting tum'ah to other foods, food that touched a corpse is like an av, but vis-a-vis transmitting tum'ah to people or vessels, it is not considered an av. (Chat comment; another chat comment). – Fred Oct 27 '13 at 2:57

The kehati on pesachim chapter 1 mishna 6 says that min hatorah food does not contaminate other food but the Rabbis decreed that it does.

However, that mishna does say that food that is impure may make other food impure, even if only rabinically.

The Kehati on Chagiga 3:3 brings the idea (From Parah 8:7) that there is a rabinical decree that when water touches something impure, that water becomes a Rishon LeTumah, regardless of the degree of impurity the item that made the water impure was.

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Does R Kehati mention which earlier commentaries he is basing himself on? – Double AA Oct 27 '13 at 0:51
@DoubleAA: Not that I remember, but the Bartenura says the same thing – Menachem Oct 27 '13 at 0:58
that's Ochel Metame Ochel (see Gemara). My question is ochel->mashke->ochel. – Shmuel Brin Oct 27 '13 at 2:27
@ShmuelBrin: perhaps the question can use some clarification. for example, "can it spread between food/drinks" seems to indicate food or drink. – Menachem Oct 29 '13 at 4:27

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