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, 2018 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, 2018 at 12:47
  • The question is excellent, but the answers below make it clear that the translation given here is wrong. Neither solet nor kemach is translated as "bran" (generally סובין). One is high-quality flour and the others is low-quality powder.
    – MichoelR
    Dec 9, 2021 at 3:45

2 Answers 2


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.

  • While these are clearly correct answers, could some baker explain: How does this correspond with our flour today? It says there that if anything sticks to your hand, it's too fine. Do we have anything like that, and/or how does it work?
    – MichoelR
    Dec 9, 2021 at 3:42
  • @MichoelR judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/ask … or maybe cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/ask
    – msh210
    Dec 9, 2021 at 9:38
  • I thought it should be a question, but it's just so close to this question...
    – MichoelR
    Dec 10, 2021 at 2:06

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