Mishna Keilim 10:1 discusses tsamid patil (צמיד פתיל), a tight covering for clay pots that protect their contents from external sources of tumah. It includes this statement:

‮היו כפויין על פיהן, מצילין כל שתחתיהן עד התהום. רבי אליעזר מטמא.

If they were turned over with their mouths downwards they afford protection to all that is beneath them to the nethermost deep. Rabbi Eliezer declares this unclean.

Thus, if a clay pot is upturned with its mouth to the ground (and then sealed with clay to the ground; see Yachin on the mishna), the ground acts as its tsamid patil, according to the first opinion. Rabbi Eliezer disagrees, and thinks that covers must be on the pot, not the other way around.

According to the first opinion, everything downward of the pot is protected from external tumah (עד התהום). Why should this be true? Does it only protect items that are in contiguous ground beneath it? What if the overturned pot was on the second story of a house, and there was tumah in the room below it: would it protect those items directly underneath it on the lower story?

1 Answer 1


This Halacha is referring to Tumah Retzuza; under certain conditions Tumah travels in a straight line upwards and downwards, causing impurity to everything below it - until it hits the nethermost deep, and everything above it until the heavens.

(Side question: what happens to items on the opposite side of the globe, now that we know that the earth is round?)

But, certain things can stop the impurity from traveling further.

This Mishna discusses whether an upside-down clay pot sealed to the floor can stop the impurity from traveling further down.

The reasoning being that impurity doesn't affect items inside the sealed clay pots. So once the impurity doesn't travel through the pot, surely it doesn't travel past it.

Rabbi Eliezer disagrees and says that the law doesn't apply to vessels sealed upside-down to their lids, only to lids sealed above their pots.

Obviously, we now understand that this pot doesn't create a "safe area" against impurity underneath it except for the case of Tumah Retzuza originating above or below it, as discussed.

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