Regarding the following mishna in Pirkei Avos:

משנה אבות ה׳:ט״ו ארבע מדות ביושבים לפני חכמים: ספוג , ומשפך, משמרת, ונפה.

ספוג, שהוא סופג את הכל. משפך, שמכניס בזו ומוציא בזו. משמרת, שמוציאה את היין וקולטת את השמרים. ונפה, שמוציאה את הקמח וקולטת את הסלת.

Pirkei Avot 5:15
There are four types who sit before the sages: the sponge, the funnel, the strainer, and the sieve. The sponge - because it absorbs everything; the funnel - because it let's in at one end and out the other; the strainer - because it lets the wine out and retains the sediment; the sieve - because it lets out the bran and retains the fine flour.

How does a sieve retain the fine flour and let out the bran? Isn't it the other way around, that sieves have small holes and they let smaller things out, not bigger ones?

  • 3
    Welcome to MiYodeya dmr and thanks for this first question. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Nov 1 '18 at 19:37
  • 1
    Wait, is the bran is bigger, what's the difference between the strainer and the sieve - they do the same job?
    – Al Berko
    Nov 2 '18 at 12:47

Bartenura explains that the desired fine flour is actually coarser than the unwanted dust-like particles which are removed via the sifting process. (The bran is removed prior to this stage.)


סלת is coarser flour; קמח is finer. Source (for example): בבלי מנחות דף עו עמוד ב.

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