Someone told me that when the Temple was standing, Kohamim could only use stone kelim because they could not become tomeh. OTOH (are these abbreviations well known here?), on the other hand, it seems to me pottery could be used until it became tomeh and if it did, then it could be discarded. This would save them money, or was money no issue?

What did Leviiim and Yisraelim do with pottery that was tomeh. If it didn't bother them, kelim the Kohanim could not use could go to them. What have I missed?

3 Answers 3


Many implements that we've excavated in the homes of Kohanim were stone. But you're correct -- they absolutely could and did use brand-new clay pots, and then discard them if they became tamei.

This was especially prevalent for cooking sacrificial meat; see for instance Leviticus 6:21.


Non-kohanim couldn't use pottery that had terumah cooked in it, whether it was tamei or not. Kohanim ate terumah, which had to be kept tahor, so they used either stone which couldn't become tamei, or pottery which was harder to become tamei (only from the inside). But once the pottery became tamei, it had to be thrown out because then it couldn't be used for chullin because it had the taste of terumah, and it couldn't be used for terumah because it was tamei. Maaser sheini, even non-kohanim ate and it needed to be kept tamei. Sacrifices made any vessels used with them non-kosher after the 1 or 2 day eating period elapsed, so if they were pottery or stone they were discarded, and if they were metal they were kashered.


When taharah was a priority stone kelim were used. So for example in the preparation of the ashes of the red heifer, Mishna Poroh 3(2)

ומביאין שוורים, ועל גביהן דלתות, ותינוקות יושבין על גביהן, וכוסות של אבן בידם

And oxen were brought, and on their backs [were laid] doors on top of which sat children with cups of stone in their hands.

But for other uses, earthenware (=pottery) could be used as you suggest. For example the meat of the sin offering could be cooked in earthenware pots Vayikro 6(21)

“An earthenware vessel in which it is cooked shall be broken”

In another example Bamidbor 5(17) the Torah requires an earthenware vessel for administering the waters for the suspected adulteress.

“The kohen shall take holy water in an earthen vessel”

An earthenware vessel that becomes tomeh has to be broken as it says in Vayikro 11(33)

But any earthenware vessel, into whose interior any of them falls, whatever is inside it shall become unclean, and you shall break [the vessel] itself.

The Leviim would not want to become tomeh because they could not enter the Temple in that state. Some people (even Yisroelim) were careful to eat all their food in a state of taharoh (see this Wikipedia article and so they might want to limit their tomeh vessels to those essential for their (inevitable) days of tumah.

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