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She'ar Avot haTum'ah - Chapter 4

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She'ar Avot haTum'ah - Chapter 4


The eight crawling animals that are mentioned in the Torah are: the weasel, the mouse, the ferret, the hedgehog, the chameleon, the lizard, the snail, and the mole. The impurity of them all is the same. They are each referred to as a sheretz with regard to impurity.


שְׁמוֹנָּה שְׁרָצִים הָאֲמוּרִין בַּתּוֹרָה. וְהֵן הַחלֶד וְהָעַכְבָּר וְהַצָּב וְהָאֲנָקָה וְהַלְּטָאָה וְהַכֹּחַ וְהַתִּנְשֶׁמֶת וְהַחֹמֶט. טֻמְאַת כֻּלָּן שָׁוָה וְהֵן הַנִּקְרָאִין שֶׁרֶץ לְעִנְיַן טֻמְאָה:


A sheretz is considered as a primary source of impurity and imparts impurity to persons and keilim when touched and to an earthenware container, when it enters its inner space. It does not impart impurity when carried and one who touches it does not impart impurity to his clothes when touching it. The minimum measure that imparts impurity is a lentil-sized portion. All the sh'ratzim can be combined to reach this measure.


הַשֶּׁרֶץ אָב מֵאֲבוֹת הַטֻּמְאוֹת מְטַמֵּא אָדָם וְכֵלִים בְּמַגָּע וּכְלֵי חֶרֶס בָּאֲוִיר וְאֵינוֹ מְטַמֵּא בְּמַשָּׂא. וְהַנּוֹגֵעַ בּוֹ אֵינוֹ מְטַמֵּא בְּגָדִים בִּשְׁעַת מַגָּעוֹ. וְשִׁעוּר טֻמְאָתוֹ בְּכַעֲדָשָׁה וְכָל הַשְּׁרָצִים מִצְטָרְפִין לְכַעֲדָשָׁה:


There is no minimum measure for the limbs of a sheretz to impart impurity. To impart impurity a limb of a sheretz must be intact as when it came into being.


הָאֵיבָרִים אֵין לָהֶן שִׁעוּר אֵיבָר מִן הַשֶּׁרֶץ כִּבְרִיָּתוֹ:


A limb from a sheretz that is intact with flesh, sinews, and bones that is less than a lentil-sized portion - whether it was separated from the sheretz while it is alive or after it died - imparts impurity. It must have enough flesh or marrow within the bone to regenerate and return to a state of wholeness.


בָּשָׂר וְגִידִים וַעֲצָמוֹת שֶׁהוּא פָּחוֹת מִכַּעֲדָשָׁה בֵּין שֶׁפֵּרַשׁ מִן הַחַי בֵּין שֶׁפֵּרַשׁ מִן הַמֵּת מְטַמֵּא טֻמְאָתוֹ. וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה בַּבָּשָׂר שֶׁעָלָיו אוֹ בַּמֹּחַ שֶׁבָּעֶצֶם כְּדֵי לְהַעֲלוֹת אֲרוּכָה:


When flesh is separated from a living sheretz, it is pure. Only a limb which is comparable to an entire sheretz imparts impurity. What is meant by comparable? Just as a sheretz possesses flesh, sinews, and bones, so too, a limb separated from it must possess flesh, sinews, and bones.


בָּשָׂר מִן הַחַי הַפּוֹרֵשׁ מִן הַשֶּׁרֶץ טָהוֹר שֶׁאֵין מְטַמֵּא אֶלָּא אֵיבָר הַדּוֹמֶה לַשֶּׁרֶץ כֻּלּוֹ. מַה שֶּׁרֶץ בָּשָׂר וְגִידִים וַעֲצָמוֹת אַף אֵיבָר הַפּוֹרֵשׁ בָּשָׂר וְגִידִים וַעֲצָמוֹת:


A kidney, a liver, the tongue, and the like, even though they are considered as organs and will not regenerate, are considered as flesh in this context. If they were separated from a living sheretz, they are pure.


הַכֻּלְיָא וְהַכָּבֵד וְהַלָּשׁוֹן וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהֵן אֵיבָר וְאֵין עוֹשִׂין חֲלִיפִין הֲרֵי הֵן כְּבָשָׂר. וְאִם פֵּרְשׁוּ מִן הַחַי טְהוֹרִין:


The blood of a sheretz is considered as its flesh. It can be combined to reach the minimum measure of a lentil-sized portion, as long as it is connected to its flesh.


דַּם הַשֶּׁרֶץ כִּבְשָׂרוֹ וּמִצְטָרֵף לְכַעֲדָשָׁה כָּל זְמַן שֶׁהוּא מְחֻבָּר בַּבָּשָׂר:


The bones of a sheretz, its sinews, and its nails are pure. The hides of the weasel, the mouse, the ferret, and the mole are pure. This applies even though it is still fresh and was not processed or trodden upon. The hides of the hedgehog, the chameleon, the lizard, and the snail, by contrast, are considered as their flesh and a lentil-sized portion of it imparts impurity. If it was processed or trodden upon to the extent that it is processed, it is pure. For how long must one tread on a hide in order to process it? For as long as it takes to walk four millin.


עַצְמוֹת הַשֶּׁרֶץ וְגִידָיו וְצִפָּרְנָיו טְהוֹרִין. וְעוֹר הַחלֶד וְהָעַכְבָּר וְהַצָּב וְהַתִּנְשֶׁמֶת טָהוֹר אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא לַח וַעֲדַיִן לֹא עִבְּדוֹ וְלֹא הָלַךְ בּוֹ. אֲבָל עוֹר הָאֲנָקָה וְהַכֹּחַ וְהַלְּטָאָה וְהַחֹמֶט כִּבְשָׂרָן וּמְטַמֵּא בְּכַעֲדָשָׁה. וְאִם עִבְּדָן אוֹ שֶׁהִלֵּךְ בָּהֶן כְּדֵי עֲבוֹדָה טְהוֹרִין. וְכַמָּה הִיא כְּדֵי עֲבוֹדָה כְּדֵי הִלּוּךְ אַרְבָּעָה מִילִין:


When a person touches the thigh bone of a sheretz, he is pure, even though it is filled with marrow, provided the marrow in it rattles, for then it could not regenerate flesh were the sheretz to have been alive. If, however, it is in its natural place and it has sufficient marrow that it could regenerate flesh on the outside of the bone, one who touches it is impure, as is true with regard to all the limbs that could regenerate flesh as we explained. If the thigh bone was perforated to even the slightest degree, one who touches any part of it is impure.


קוּלְיַית הַשֶּׁרֶץ הַנּוֹגֵעַ בָּהּ טָהוֹר אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהִיא מְלֵאָה מֹחַ וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה הַמֹּחַ מִתְקַשְׁקֵשׁ שֶׁאֵינוֹ מַעֲלֶה אֲרוּכָה. אֲבָל אִם הָיָה עוֹמֵד בִּמְקוֹמוֹ וְיֵשׁ בּוֹ כְּדֵי לְהַעֲלוֹת אֲרוּכָה בָּהּ מִבַּחוּץ הֲרֵי הַנּוֹגֵעַ בָּהּ טָמֵא כְּכָל הָאֵיבָרִים שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהֶן כְּדֵי לְהַעֲלוֹת אֲרוּכָה כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. נִקְּבָה הַקּוּלִית בְּכָל שֶׁהוּא הַנּוֹגֵעַ בָּהּ מִכָּל מָקוֹם טָמֵא:


An egg of a sheretz in which the embryo has begun to take form is pure, even though the embryonic sheretz can be seen within it. If it is perforated to the slightest degree, one who touches it is impure.


בֵּיצַת הַשֶּׁרֶץ הַמְרֻקֶּמֶת אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהַשֶּׁרֶץ נִרְאֵית מִתּוֹכָהּ טְהוֹרָה. נִקְּבָה כָּל שֶׁהוּא הַנּוֹגֵעַ בָּהּ טָמֵא:


The following laws apply with regard to the carcass of a sheretz that is half flesh and half earth. If one touched the flesh, he is impure. If he touched the earth, he is pure. If the form of the sheretz was already apparent over its entire length, even one who touches the earth that has not yet been formed into a sheretz is impure.


שֶׁרֶץ שֶׁחֶצְיוֹ בָּשָׂר וְחֶצְיוֹ אֲדָמָה הַנּוֹגֵעַ בַּבָּשָׂר טָמֵא וּבָאֲדָמָה טָהוֹר. וְאִם הִשְׁרִיץ עַל פְּנֵי כֻּלּוֹ אַף הַנּוֹגֵעַ בָּאֲדָמָה שֶׁעֲדַיִן לֹא נִגְמְרָה צוּרָתוֹ טָמֵא:


When the flesh of a sheretz has decomposed and become spoiled and is unfit to be eaten by a dog, it is pure.

The following laws apply if the carcass of a sheretz dries out like a shard. If it would return to a moist state and be fit for a dog to eat when left to soak in lukewarm water for an entire day, it imparts impurity. If not, it is pure. It does not even impart impurity like impure foods do.

When does the above apply? With regard to a portion of a sheretz. If, however, an entire sheretz has become dry and its skeleton remains intact or it was burned and its skeleton remains intact, since its entire form remains, it imparts impurity. In my eyes, this impurity is a Rabbinic decree.


בְּשַׂר הַשֶּׁרֶץ שֶׁנִּפְסַד וְהִבְאִישׁ וְנִפְסַל מִלֶּאֱכל הַכֶּלֶב טָהוֹר. יָבַשׁ עַד שֶׁנַּעֲשָׂה כַּחֶרֶשׂ אִם יָכוֹל לְהַשְׁרוֹת בְּפוֹשְׁרִין מֵעֵת לְעֵת וְלַחֲזֹר לַח כְּשֶׁהָיָה מְטַמֵּא וְאִם לָאו טָהוֹר וַאֲפִלּוּ כָּאֳכָלִין טְמֵאִים אֵינוֹ מְטַמֵּא. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּמִקְצָת הַשֶּׁרֶץ. אֲבָל שֶׁרֶץ שֶׁיָּבַשׁ וְשִׁלְדּוֹ קַיָּם אוֹ שֶׁנִּשְׂרַף וְשִׁלְדּוֹ קַיָּם הוֹאִיל וְתַבְנִית כֻּלּוֹ עוֹמֶדֶת הֲרֵי זֶה מְטַמֵּא. וְקָרוֹב בְּעֵינַי שֶׁטֻּמְאָה זוֹ מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם:


An olive-sized portion of meat from an animal carcass or a lentil-sized portion from the carcass of a sheretz that shrank and was reduced in size is pure. If a piece of flesh from a sheretz that is less than a lentil or one from an animal carcass that was less than an olive swelled and increased to the size of the minimum measure, they impart impurity according to Rabbinic decree. If, originally, they were the size of the minimum measure and then shrank, but afterwards swelled until they regained the size of the minimum measure, according to Scriptural law, they impart impurity like they did previously. Similar laws apply with regard to an olive-sized portion from a human corpse.


כְּזַיִת מִן הַנְּבֵלָה אוֹ כַּעֲדָשָׁה מִן הַשֶּׁרֶץ שֶׁצָּמְקוּ וְחָסְרוּ טְהוֹרִין. פָּחוֹת מִכַּעֲדָשָׁה מִן הַשֶּׁרֶץ וּפָחוֹת מִכְּזַיִת מִן הַנְּבֵלָה שֶׁתָּפְחוּ וְעָמְדוּ עַל כַּשִּׁעוּר מְטַמְּאִין מִדִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים. הָיוּ בַּתְּחִלָּה כַּשִּׁעוּר וְצָמְקוּ וְחָזְרוּ וְתָפְחוּ עַד שֶׁהִגִּיעוּ לְשִׁעוּרָן הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ מְטַמְּאִין כְּשֶׁהָיוּ דִּין תּוֹרָה. וְכֵן אַתָּה אוֹמֵר בִּכְזַיִת מִן הַמֵּת:


A sheretz does not impart impurity until it dies. If it has been decapitated, even if the head is still connected to the skin of the body, and it is still in its death throes as happens with regard to the tail of a lizard, it imparts impurity.

All the other teeming and creeping animals, e.g., a frog, a snake, a scorpion, or the like, even though it is forbidden to partake of them, do not impart impurity at all. They are not even considered as impure foods. There are no teeming animals that impart impurity except the eight species mentioned in the Torah.


הַשֶּׁרֶץ אֵינוֹ מְטַמֵּא עַד שֶׁיָּמוּת. הֻתְּזוּ רָאשֵׁיהֶן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁעֲדַיִן הָרֹאשׁ מְעֹרֶה בְּעוֹר הַגּוּף אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהֵן מְפַרְכְּסִין כִּזְנַב הַלְּטָאָה מְטַמְּאִין. שְׁאָר שְׁקָצִים וּרְמָשִׂים כֻּלָּן כְּגוֹן הַצְּפַרְדֵּעַ וְהַנָּחָשׁ וְהָעַקְרָב וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהֵן אֲסוּרִין בַּאֲכִילָה הֲרֵי הֵן טְהוֹרִין מִכְּלוּם וַאֲפִלּוּ כָּאֳכָלִין טְמֵאִין אֵינָן. וְאֵין לְךָ בְּכָל הַשְּׁרָצִים מַה שֶּׁמְּטַמֵּא בְּמוֹתוֹ חוּץ מִשְּׁמוֹנַת הַמִּינִין הַמְפֹרָשִׁין בַּתּוֹרָה:

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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