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The mishna Keilim 7:4-5 (just :5 in other versions) brings a series of cases in which an item is connected by Rabbinic law (and not by Torah law; see Rambam's commentary) to another item, and in each case, R. Meir declares the item susceptible to tumah and R. Shim'on declares it insusceptible.

ניטל אחד מהן: מיטמאין במגע, ואינן מיטמאין באוויר, דברי רבי מאיר; ורבי שמעון מטהר. עשה שניים זה כנגד זה: מיטמאין במגע ובאוויר, דברי רבי מאיר; ורבי שמעון מטהר. היו גבוהין משלוש אצבעות: משלוש ולמטן: מיטמאין במגע, ובאוויר; משלוש ולמעלן: מיטמאין במגע, ואינן מיטמאין באוויר, דברי רבי מאיר; ורבי שמעון מטהר. היו משוכין מן השפה: בתוך שלוש אצבעות: מיטמאין במגע, ובאוויר; חוץ משלוש אצבעות: מיטמאין במגע, ואין מיטמאין באוויר, דברי רבי מאיר; ורבי שמעון מטהר.

If one of them [i.e. the props] was removed, the remaining ones contract impurity by contact but not through air-space, the words of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Shimon says that they are clean. If originally he made two props, one opposite the other, they contract impurity by contact and through air-space; the words of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Shimon says that they are clean. If they were more than three fingerbreadths high, the parts that are three fingerbreadths high and below contract impurity by contact and through air-space but the parts that are more than three fingerbreadths high contract impurity by contact and not through air-space; the words of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Shimon says that they are clean. If they were withdrawn from the rim [of the stove], the parts which are within three fingerbreadths contract impurity by contact and through air-space, and those parts that are removed more than three fingerbreadths contract impurity by contact but not through air-space, the words of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Shimon says that they are clean. [translation from Sefaria]

The Rambam in his commentary on the mishna says that the halacha is according to R. Meir.

However, I had heard that the halacha is never like R. Meir when he is named in disagreement with a colleague. After looking this up, I discovered that this rule is not quite true (see also this question). But I read here that when R. Meir argues with R. Shim'on, there is a disagreement about how to decide: either with R. Shim'on (according to the Yerushalmi) or, following the Bavli's ambivalence, according to the more stringent in Torah-law cases and according to the more lenient in Rabbinic-law cases. In our case, the mishna discusses a Rabbinic-law case, and R. Shim'on is the more lenient, so one would expect the halacha to be according to R. Shim'on.

What was Rambam's reasoning in deciding like R. Meir? I would accept an answer to this particular case, but would also be excited to learn more generally what Rambam's decision process is for the mishnayyot that are not discussed in the gemara or midrashim (like this one, as far as I can tell, and like most of this tractate) where he decides the halacha.

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Eiruvin (46) says we do not know who to follow in disputes between Rebbi Shimon and Rebbi Meir.

איבעיא להו רבי מאיר ורבי שמעון מאי תיקו

Kesef Mishnah (Tzaarat 2:1) says that based on the Gemara’s uncertainty on who to follow, Rambam chose the stringent opinion. That’s seems to be the case by your case.

ומ״ש אף על פי שהלבן כל שהוא טמא. שם כמה לבנונית יהא ר' מאיר אומר כל שהוא ר' שמעון אומר כדי לקרוץ בזוג ופסק כר״מ דמחמיר משום דכיון דלא איפסיקא הלכתא בפרק מי שהוציאוהו (עירובין דף מ״ו ע״ב) בפלוגתא דר' מאיר ור' שמעון הלכה כדברי מי נקטינן כדברי המחמיר וכ״כ בעל הליכות עולם ואע״ג דתניא x בתוספתא ר״מ אומר כל שהוא וחכ״א כשיעור לא חש לה רבינו לפסוק כחכמים ע״ד מאי דאמרינן בפרק החולץ (יבמות דף מ״ג) אם רבי לא שנאה רבי חייא מנא ליה:

  • My question mentioned the uncertainty. I haven't learned tzara'at, but your cited case seems to be a דאורייתא case, and mine is a דרבנן case. The הליכות עולם, cited by the כסף משנה, was cited in my source (מיקרופדיה תלמודית) as saying in a ספק דרבנן case, we follow the lenient opinion. Are you saying that Rambam always follows the stringent opinion? – magicker72 May 24 at 0:51
  • Without further investigating and given these facts I’d say yes, but doesn’t the very first shmayta in shev shmayta address something like this – Dr. Shmuel May 24 at 1:16
  • I haven't learned it before, but it seems like the end of פרק ג in שמעתתא א says that Rambam also agrees to ספיקות דרבנן להקל (which I was under the impression that everyone agreed to). I don't see any mention in that שמעתתא of our case. – magicker72 May 24 at 1:51
  • [Regardless,] based on the Gemara in cited, wouldn't it seem that it could go either way? Also, because of that Gemara, perhaps Rambam made his own stringent judgment, albeit it being Rabbinic-law. – Dr. Shmuel May 24 at 2:32
  • I saw the הליכות עולם inside. R. Qaro does understand the הליכות עולם to be saying that the halacha is like the מחמיר opinion, so it's a sensible citation. However, see יבין שמועה there who understands it otherwise. – magicker72 May 24 at 2:32

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