Mishna Berachos 8:3 says:

בֵּית שַׁמַּאי אוֹמְרִים, מְקַנֵּחַ יָדָיו בַּמַּפָּה וּמַנִּיחָהּ עַל הַשֻּׁלְחָן. וּבֵית הִלֵּל אוֹמְרִים, עַל הַכֶּסֶת:‏

Bet Shammai says: he wipes his hand with a towel and then places it on the table. Bet Hillel says: on the cushion.

Bartenura's explanation for this (my emphasis added):

מקנח ידיו במפה. מנטילת מים ראשונים, ומניחה על השלחן ומקנח בה ידיו תמיד מזוהמת התבשיל, ולא יניחנה על הכסת שהוא יושב בה גזירה שמא יהיה הכסת ראשון לטומאה ויהיה משקה טופח במפה מחמת נגוב הידים ואותו משקה כשנוגע בכסת נעשה ראשון דלעולם המשקים נעשות תחלה וחוזר ומטמא את הידים כשמקנח בה תמיד בתוך הסעודה. אבל בשלחן ליכא למגזר הכי שאסור להשתמש בשלחן שהוא שני לטומאה. ובית הלל סברי מותר להשתמש בשלחן שהוא שני לטומאה, הלכך לא יניח המפה על השלחן שמא יטמאו המשקים שבמפה מחמת השלחן ויחזרו ויטמאו את האוכלים, ואם יניחנה על הכסת אין לחוש כי אם שמא יטמאו ידיו, מוטב שיטמאו ידים שאין להם עיקר מן התורה, דאין נטילת ידים לחולין מן התורה, ולא יטמאו אוכלים שיש להם עיקר מן התורה דראשון עושה שני בחולין מן התורה:‏

מקנח ידיו במפה – From his first hand-washing and place it on the table and wipe his hands with it throughout from the filth of the cooked food; and he should not place it [the napkin] on the cushion on which he sits, as a preventive measure, lest the cushion becomes defiled in the first-degree, and the liquid comes in close contact with the napkin on account of the drying of the hands, and that liquid when it comes in contact with the cushion becomes [defiled] in the first-[degree], and the liquids become [defiled] in the first-[degree], and defile the hands when one wipes [one’s hands] with it continuously during the meal, but concerning the table [itself], there is no preventive measure made, for it is forbidden to use a table which is defiled in the second-degree. But the School of Hillel holds that it is permitted to use a table which is impure in the second-degree. Therefore, he should not leave the napkin on the table, lest the liquids become defiled that are on the napkin on account of the table and in turn would defile the food there, and if he leaves [the napkin] on the cushion, everyone should not suspect lest his hands became defiled; better that his hands become defiled – since they are not an essential principle from Torah law, since the washing of the hands for unconsecrated objects is not from the Torah and they don’t defile foods which have an essential principle from the Torah, for [something that is] unclean from the first-degree makes something unclean in the second-degree for unconsecrated objects from the Torah [perspective].

Basically, it comes down to a machlokes between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai about whether one is allowed to eat on a table that is a sheni l'tum'ah.

But this begs the question: How can a table be a sheni l'tum'ah?

As far as I've ever learned, a table is a kli. And keilim can only receive tum'ah up to the level of a rishon. So...how do we understand Bartenura's explanation?

2 Answers 2


Rambam Hilchot She'ar Avot HaTumah 7:2-3 (my emphases):

אֵין לְךָ וְלַד טֻמְאָה שֶׁמְּטַמֵּא כֵּלִים אֶלָּא מַשְׁקִין טְמֵאִים בִּלְבַד. וְטֻמְאָה זוֹ מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם ... כֵּיצַד. אִם נָפְלוּ לַאֲוִיר כְּלִי חֶרֶס נִטְמָא כֻּלּוֹ וַהֲרֵי הוּא שֵׁנִי וְאִם נָגְעוּ בִּשְׁאָר כֵּלִים מִתּוֹכָן מְטַמֵּא כֻּלָּן וְנַעֲשׂוּ שְׁנִיִּים.‏

There are no derivatives of impurity that impart impurity to keilim other than impure liquids. This impurity is a Rabbinic decree...

What is implied? If impure liquids fell into the inner space of an earthenware container, it becomes impure in its entirety. It is considered as a secondary derivative. If they touch other containers on their inner surface, they become impure in their entirety and are considered as secondary derivatives of impurity.

(Touger translation)

  • Thank you! That explanation from Rambam was exactly what I needed to see.
    – Shaul Behr
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 9:35
  • @JoelK That definitely answers the question, and yet should we not wonder where Rambam came up with the idea that a kli can be a sheini? Is this an original idea of his own?
    – Zarka
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 20:44

Chazal were גוזר that a כלי that comes in contact with משקין that are a ראשון become a שני לטומאה.

והכלים שנטמאו במשקין כלים דאיטמאו במשקין דמאי אילימא במשקין דזב דאוריי' נינהו דכתיב (ויקרא טו, ח) וכי ירוק הזב בטהור מה שביד טהור טמאתי לך אלא גבמשקין הבאין מחמת שרץ וגזירה משום משקין דזב

שבת י"ד ע"ב

  • It was my understanding that keilim that became tamei from liquids themselves become a rishon? We also have that interesting case where just the outside of the kli can become tamei from a liquid without affecting the inside or the rim. But still, the kli acts as a rishon, doesn't it, such that it imparts tum'ah to chullin?
    – Shaul Behr
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 8:26
  • 1
    Welcome to MY! Since this is an English speaking site, please consider translating those Hebrew terms which have a good English equivalent (גוזר, כלי, משקין, ראשון, שני לטומאה). Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 9:32

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