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Ohalot 15:1 says that a pile of garments, where the uppermost garment is at least a tefach off the ground, counts as an ohel. This is presumably because the uppermost garment is considered the 'roof' and the lower ones, being themselves susceptible to tumah, don't block the tumah and so we treat them as if they're not there.

However, 15:1 goes on to say that the same applies to a pile of wooden boards. But wooden boards are not susceptible to tumah, so how come they don't block it? I think the Tiferet Yisrael explains this but I can't follow his explanation. Can someone help?

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  • Peraps because even though the boards themselves are not mekabel tumah, they are made of a material that can be mekabel tumah (as opposed to stone). Perhaps we say that the top and sides of the wooden board stack act like a Beit Kibul, so that the stack of boards is not flat wood utensil but one with a receptacle Oct 4 '20 at 10:16
  • @DanielKagan I'm not sure if that is right, though, because items which are not m'kabel tumah are described in general as tahor outright.
    – Zarka
    Oct 4 '20 at 14:39
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Tiferes Yisrael (Boaz 1) refers to Kelim 22:3 to prove that a plank a tefach thick is mekabel tumah. The Bartenura there says that it's able to be used as a chair.

That said, the Tiferes Yisrael discusses the question of whether it is necessary for them to be mekabel tumah:

The mishna says that tablets of stone do block the tumah. The Rambam/Bartenura/Tos Yom Tov quoting Maharam explain that this is because the stone is considered "like the ground". This implies that not being mekabel tumah isn't good enough. He points out that if so a pile of non-mekabel tumah garments (like polyester) would still remain an ohel.

However it's hard to understand why a solid block, even if not batel, should not prevent tumah from passing from one side of the pile to the other - I'm not sure why it should be different to the large cupboard in 4:1.

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Rashash and Eliyahu Rabbah give a somewhat more convincing answer, saying that the boards must be m'kabel tumah (ie have a hollow) for the whole thing to make sense.

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