The mishna in Keilim 3 discusses when an earthenware pot loses/regains its ability to contract tumah. Part of the discussion hinges on whether the pot has lost its status as a utensil (שם כלי).

According to mishna 3:1, if a pot used for food has a hole large enough to let out olives, it loses its susceptibility to tumah (translation from Sefaria).

שיעור כלי חרס ליטהר: העשוי לאוכלין, שיעורו בזיתים

The measure of [a hole in] a clay vessel to make it pure, if it is used for foods, its measure is with olives.

According to Bartenura, this is because it's no longer usable. It made sense to me that this is the same point at which the pot loses its status as a utensil. However, in mishna 3:3, such a pot as described as still having the status of a utensil (translation from Sefaria).

חבית שניקבה, ועשאה בזפת, ונשברה--אם יש במקום הזפת מחזיק רביעית--טמאה, מפני שלא בטל שם כלי מעליה

A jug which had a hole which was repaired with pitch, and it was then broken: if there is in the place of the pitch [an area large] enough to hold a revi'it, it is still impure because it did not lose the status of a vessel.

It would seem that the point at which a pot loses the status of a utensil is more breakage than what makes it lose its susceptibility to tumah. So, when does something have the status of a utensil (שם כלי)?

  • Is this not the famous debate over the future of the Jewish people in Yavneh? May 3, 2019 at 4:05
  • @JoshK ????????
    – magicker72
    May 3, 2019 at 4:19

2 Answers 2


To echo's kouty's answer in simple English:

A utensil - regarding Tuma - needs certain conditions to be a Kli. Amongst them:

  • the ability to be useful. In this case, the ability to hold something - be it water or fruit - depending on its designated purpose in life.
  • a minimum size (which, if it's a shard, depends on how large the original was).

So your fruit bowl is only a Kli as long as it's useful, i.e. if it can hold fruit.

But your water jug is a Kli as long as it can still hold a minimal useful amount of water.

  • If a water jug is perforated so that it no longer holds water, you're saying בטל שם כלי מעליה? But then doesn't that contradict 3:3, that a perforated jug that has been patched is a utensil again, because לא בטל שם כלי מעליה?
    – magicker72
    May 5, 2019 at 17:26
  • @magicker72 - not sure I understand your question; once you patch the hole it's once again a Kli. May 6, 2019 at 9:23
  • In 3:3-4, we see that sometimes a patch is halachically successful, and sometimes it isn't. It depends on whether the item had שם כלי before the patch, although in both cases (the perforated jug and the perforated shard), the item no longer performs its function (so according to what you wrote, neither is a כלי). So, what is שם כלי?
    – magicker72
    May 6, 2019 at 18:02
  • Correct: there's a concept of "we don't patch shards" May 7, 2019 at 7:35
  • What makes something halachically a shard? Why is a utensil with a hole that cannot hold any water not a shard?
    – magicker72
    May 8, 2019 at 0:08

Shem keli is a special halachical status of utensil, following the first pshat of the Rash, this status is lost when the Din of utensil is irreversibly cancelled. The statements regards the piece of the former utensil, not the former utensil itself.

Now we need to resolve the contradiction.

Rash Keim 3.3, (to understand it we need to read the Rash in 2.2. before)

כשניקבה. במוציא זית וטהרה כשחזר ועשאה בזפת מקבלת טומאה מכאן ולהבא: חזרה ונשברה לשברים הרבה ואותו שבר שבו הזפת מחזיק רביעית טמא

An amphora was perforated and cannot more hold olives (the opinion of Rabbi Meir), it became clean, it is no more an utensil. He clogged it with tar. The amphora is back an utensil, because it has a possibility to become back a keli, we say that the Shem Keli (name of utensil) is not cancelled. Further, the Amphora was broken a second time, one of the pieces is able to hold Reviit. This piece is able to be unclean, this is a new utensil. The original amphora was a big a large utensil in terracotta. In Chapter 2 mishna 2, they taught that a large utensil (between Log, i.e. 4 X reviit, and Sea, 96 X reviit), when it's broken and we have pieces, a piece that can stand up and hold 1/96 of the original amphora volume becomes itself a new utensil. When such a piece was perforated it's no more an utensil, even if we repaired it with tar. So, when a piece-utensil is perforated it loses definitely the name of utensil. The source is the Tosefta (0)

There are two issues,

  1. The original amphora, when is it no more a an utensil may reach its status again, (It is not an utensil but has still a name of utensil). For an utensil, losing the status of utensil is reversible, we say that the name of utensil is not cancelled. E.g. if we clog the hole by tar, the status of utensil comes back; (1)

  2. and the pieces, when they did lose a status of utensil may not reach their status a second time. (we say that the name of utensil is lost). (2)

Let's imagine we have two identical pieces of terracotta they can hold water because they are clogged by tar. The first is an utensil and the second is not an utensil. The Chiddush in Mishna 3.3 is that we have a piece, that is an utensil thanks to the tar. The reason is that it's first step as utensil was thanks to the tar. The tar was there before the large amphora was broken, before the new piece-utensil was created. But if a piece has a status of utensil and loses it, it cannot come back. For a piece, losing status of keli is definitive, we say that it is losing the name of utensil.

The expression ביטול שם כלי in the Mishna refers to an irreversible change.

About what the Mishna says that the name of utensil was not cancelled?

The statement "the name of utensil was not cancelled from it" refers to the piece ("shever" is a masculine name in Hebrew), and therefore, the Rash says that the spelling would be better if it was: >

טמא מפני שלא בטל שם כלי מעליו.‏


טמאה מפני שלא בטל שם כלי מעליה.

In summary.

The Mishna speaks about the piece which is an utensil thanks to the tar. This is possible because the tar was here before the piece becomes for the first time an utensil. I hope that now it clear. The name of utensil was not cancelled from the piece before it was never brocken.

The rational:

The comment Mishna Rishona gives several explanations.

  1. When we see an amphora, even if it is perforated, despite the hole people call it "amphora".

  2. When we have a perforated amphora we don't not give up using it, we say it must be repaired.

  3. In name of the second pshat of the Rash: When an amphora was perforated by a large hole and cannot hold olives, we can decide to use it for larger fruits as pomegranates (we can without changing nothing, define a new use, and instantaneously it is back an utensile). But The Mishna Rishona has objections and says that the Rambam disagrees with this explanation.


When the Rash says:

ועוד דעדיין כלי היא לקבל בה רמונים וראויה לגרוגרות ולאגוזים

this is a second pshat, hard to get (see comment Mishna Acharona). Before this ועוד, the בטל שם כלי meant "it doesn't lose it's ability to become back a keli. In my answer I didn't adress this Pshat.

(0): Tosefta 2.3

חרש שפירש מן חבית ומן הקדרה אם מקבל כשיעור טמא אם לאו טהור נקב ועשאו בזפת טהור שכלי חרש שטהור שעה אחת אין לו טומאה לעולם

A piece or terracotta that comes from an amphora or from a pot. If it can hold a certain volume (1/96 of the first utensil as explained above) it is unclean (able to be unclean). If it cannot hotd this volume, it is clean (not able to be unclean). (if it can hold the volume) and afterward was perforated, and further clogged with tar, it is clean (not able to become unclean) because utensil of terracotta that became clean at one time will never become unclean.

(1): Rash mishna 3.3.

שאני הך סתימה דנעשית קודם שבטל שם כלי ממנה: וחבית שניקבה שם חבית עליה אע"פ שטהרה

(2) Rash mishna 2.2:

ויש לחלק בין כלי שלם אלא שניקבה לשבר כלי אלא שעשאו בזפת מפני שבטל [שם] כלי מעליו

Rash 3.3:

אבל חרס הפורש מן החבית בטל שם כלי מעליו אע"פ שלא ניקב לפיכך אין מועלת סתימה לנקב שלו ובדין הוא דהוה ליה למיתני טמא לשון זכר דאחרס קאי ולא אחבית

  • Thanks for pointing me to the ר״ש מי שאנץ. Although, I'm not sure this answers my question. I understand what שם כלי means literally, and I don't see any contradiction. However, I don't know exactly when something has שם כלי. I think the ר״ש מי שאנץ's comment on 3:3 that you didn't quote might answer my question: וחבית שניקבה שם חבית עליה אע"פ שטהרה ועוד דעדיין כלי היא לקבל בה רמונים וראויה לגרוגרות ולאגוזים כמות שהיא. Also in Yachin: דקודם סתימה נמי הוה חזי עכ"פ לרמונים אף שאמק"ט עד שייחדנו לכך. If you don't put these into your answer, I'll probably write it up separately.
    – magicker72
    May 3, 2019 at 19:37
  • I think that afterwards he brings an other explanation. In the first commentלא בטל שם כלי מעליה tells about the שבר
    – kouty
    May 4, 2019 at 17:12
  • I think the "second p'shat" is what I'm looking for. What you're saying is that a perforated כלי can return to its status as a כלי by being patched. But what is the difference between patching a perforated utensil and patching a perforated shard? Why does one return to שם כלי and the other doesn't? Isn't there something about the שם כלי never disappearing in the first case, but it's בטל in the second? What makes the first not בטל and the second בטל?
    – magicker72
    May 5, 2019 at 17:29
  • You're saying an explanation according to ר״ש משאנץ, but since you don't cite it, I can't tell what's your translation and what's your explanation.
    – magicker72
    May 5, 2019 at 17:30
  • Perhaps we can say that is the fact that one generally want to repair it. This would be part of an answer to my question (although conjectural). I'm looking to put my finger on exactly that distinction.
    – magicker72
    May 5, 2019 at 20:41

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