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Nidah 4

The Beraisa tells us that if a loaf of Terumah bread was left on a shelf above an object that was Tamei, and it was later found lying on the floor next to the object, we do not assume that the bread fell on the object and rolled to the side. Rather, we take for granted that a person who is Tahor removed the bread from the shelf and placed it on the floor, without letting it become Tamei.

In other places, we find that if an object is moved we consider it Tamei, assuming that a person who was Tamei must have moved it -- for instance in Chulin 9b, "A jar with Mei Chatas which was left uncovered and was later found covered is Tamei, since a person who was Tamei probably covered it."

Why do we attribute the action that was done to a Tahor person in the case of the bread left on a shelf, and to a Tamei person in the case of the jar that was left uncovered? ANSWERS:

(a) TOSFOS (DH Sha'ani, Chulin 9b DH Sha'ani) explains that in our case we attribute the action to a person that was Tahor since the bread was in a precarious position which put it in danger of becoming Tamei (since it was lying directly above an object that is Tamei). We may assume that the motive for moving it was to prevent it from becoming Tamei, and if so obviously a person who was Tahor must have moved it. When we are dealing with something that is not in a particularly precarious position (such as an open jar of Mei Chatas) and we therefore have no such motive for moving it, we assume that it was moved by a person who was Tamei.

(b) RABBEINU TAM (ibid.) explains that it all depends upon whether the object that was moved was a *food* or an *article* (Kli). A food is always deemed Tahor when its status is in question (if it is in Reshus ha'Rabim). However, articles (Kelim) which are found in Reshus ha'Rabim and their status is in doubt are deemed Tamei, because of the Gezeirah d'Rabbanan of "Kelim ha'Nimtza'im Teme'im" (Taharos 4:5).

Why, indeed, did the Rabbanan differentiate between food and articles that were found in a dubious state of Taharah?

(1) TOSFOS explains that the Rabbanan were more lenient when dealing with food, since if they were to make it Tamei there would be no way to correct the situation. Articles, on the other hand, can just be immersed in a Mikvah to make them Tahor. (And Klei Cheres, which do not become Tahor when immersed in a Mikvah, were included in the Gezeirah because of "Lo Plug -- MAHARAM.)

(2) The RAMBAN explains that the Gezeirah applied to objects that were found fallen. It is unusual for people to ask questions regarding the status of foods that were found fallen, for when they are dropped they usually are soiled and made inedible in the process. When Kelim fall, on the other hand, they are not ruined. Therefore it is common for people to find the fallen object and ask about its status. Following the rule that the Rabbanan did not address unusual situations, no decree was made regarding foods that were found in a dubious state of Taharah.

(3) The RAMBAM (Hil. Mishkav u'Moshav 12:16) explains that it is logical to assume that foods were moved by a trusted person (a Chaver), since if a person who was not to be trusted moved them he would eat them instead of replacing them! Since the person is to be trusted, it can be assumed that he is Tahor as well. Kelim, on the other hand, may very well have been moved by an unscrupulous person, who "borrowed" the object without permission, used it, and returned it. Such a person who borrows objects without their owners' permission is considered by Chazal to be a thief (Bava Metzia 41a), and it may safely be assumed that this thief did not heed the laws of Tum'ah and Taharah just as he did not heed the laws of property rights.

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