Introduction to Hilchos Kelim

The purpose of this collection of laws is to know which keilim are susceptible to any of these types of impurity, those keilim which are not susceptible to impurity, and how keilim contract and impart impurity.

This concept is explained in the ensuing chapters.

הלכות כלים

ענין אלו ההלכות לידע כלים שמקבלין טומאה מכל אלו הטומאות וכלים שאינן מתטמאין וכיצד מתטמאין ומטמאין וביאור ענין זה בפרקים אלו:


There are seven types of keilim that are susceptible to impurity according to Scriptural Law. They are: clothes, keilim from sackcloth, leather keilim, keilim made from bone, metal keilim, wooden keilim, and earthenware keilim. For Leviticus 11:32 states: "From all wooden implements, garments, leather articles, or sackcloth." And with regard to metal utensils, Numbers 31:22 states: "But the gold and the silver...." And with regard to earthenware utensils, Leviticus 11:33 states: "And every earthenware container into whose inner space one of them will fall, everything inside of it will contract impurity and the container should be broken."


שִׁבְעָה מִינֵי כֵּלִים הֵן שֶׁמְּקַבְּלִין טֻמְאָה מִן הַתּוֹרָה וְאֵלּוּ הֵן. הַבְּגָדִים. וְהַשַּׂקִּין. וּכְלֵי עוֹר. וּכְלֵי עֶצֶם. וּכְלֵי מַתָּכוֹת. וּכְלֵי עֵץ. וּכְלֵי חֶרֶשׂ. הֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר (ויקרא יא לב) "מִכָּל כְּלִי עֵץ אוֹ בֶגֶד אוֹ עוֹר אוֹ שָׂק". וּבִכְלֵי מַתָּכוֹת נֶאֱמַר (במדבר לא כב) "אַךְ אֶת הַזָּהָב וְאֶת הַכָּסֶף". וּבִכְלֵי חֶרֶשׂ נֶאֱמַר "וּכְלִי חֶרֶשׂ אֲשֶׁר יִפּל מֵהֶם אֶל תּוֹכוֹ כּל אֲשֶׁר בְּתוֹכוֹ יִטְמָא וְאֹתוֹ תִשְׁבֹּרוּ":


According to the Oral Tradition, it was taught that the Torah's statement Numbers 31:20: "And anything made from goats" includes keilim made from the horns, hooves, and bones of goats. The same applies to keilim made from the body parts of other domesticated and undomesticated animals. keilim made from the bones of fowl, by contrast, are not susceptible to impurity with the sole exception of keilim made from the wings of an osprey and an ostrich egg that was coated. Since they resemble bones, they are susceptible to ritual impurity as a bone implement is. It appears to me that their impurity is of Rabbinic origin.


מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה לָמְדוּ שֶׁזֶּה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בַּתּוֹרָה (במדבר לא כ) "וְכָל מַעֲשֵׂה עִזִּים" לְרַבּוֹת כֵּלִים הָעֲשׂוּיִין מִן הַקַּרְנַיִם וּמִן הַטְּלָפַיִם וּמִן הָעֲצָמוֹת שֶׁל עִזִּים וְהוּא הַדִּין לִשְׁאָר מִינֵי בְּהֵמָה וְחַיָּה. אֲבָל כֵּלִים הָעֲשׂוּיִין מֵעַצְמוֹת הָעוֹף אֵינָן מְקַבְּלִין טֻמְאָה חוּץ מִכֵּלִים הָעֲשׂוּיִין מִכְּנַף הָעָזְנִיָּה בִּלְבַד וּבֵיצַת הַנַּעֲמִית הַמְצֻפָּה הוֹאִיל וְהֵן דּוֹמִין לְעֶצֶם מְקַבְּלִין טֻמְאָה כִּכְלֵי עֶצֶם. וְקָרוֹב בְּעֵינַי שֶׁטֻּמְאָתָן מִדִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים:


Keilim that are fashioned from the bones or the hide of sea-animals are pure. Everything from the sea is pure and is not susceptible to any form of impurity, including the impurity stemming from articles that contracted impurity from a zav. Even if one weaves a garment with "wool" growing in the sea, it is not susceptible to impurity.

This is implied by the phrase: "garments or leather articles." According to the Oral Tradition, it was taught "Just as it is only a garment that comes from plants that grow on the earth that is susceptible to ritual impurity, so too, only leather keilim that come from plants that grow on the earth are susceptible to ritual impurity.

The following law applies if one connected fabric from plants that grow in the sea with fabric from plants that grow on the earth, even if only by a thread or a fringe. If they were connected in a way that they are considered a single entity with regard to ritual impurity, i.e., if one became impure, the other became impure, the entire entity becomes susceptible to impurity.


כֵּלִים הָעֲשׂוּיִין מֵעַצְמוֹת חַיָּה שֶׁבַּיָּם וּמֵעוֹרָהּ טְהוֹרִים. כָּל שֶׁבַּיָּם טָהוֹר וְאֵינוֹ מְקַבֵּל טֻמְאָה מִן הַטֻּמְאוֹת וְלֹא טֻמְאַת מִדְרָס. אַף הָאוֹרֵג בֶּגֶד מִצֶּמֶר הַגָּדֵל בַּיָּם אֵינוֹ מְקַבֵּל טֻמְאָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יא לב) "אוֹ בֶגֶד אוֹ עוֹר" מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה לָמְדוּ מַה בֶּגֶד מִן הַגָּדֵל בָּאָרֶץ אַף עוֹר מִן הַגָּדֵל בָּאָרֶץ. חִבֵּר מִן הַגָּדֵל בַּיָּם עִם הַגָּדֵל בָּאָרֶץ אֲפִלּוּ חוּט אוֹ מְשִׁיחָה אִם חִבְּרוֹ חִבּוּר עַד שֶׁמֵּשִׂים אֶת שְׁנֵיהֶן כְּאִלּוּ הֵן אֶחָד לְטֻמְאָה שֶׁאִם נִטְמָא זֶה יִטְמָא זֶה הַכּל מְקַבֵּל טֻמְאָה:


It appears to me that utensils made from the skin of a fowl are not susceptible to impurity like its bones. One might object, saying: Such skin is acceptable to have tefillin written upon it like the hide of a domesticated or undomesticated animal. [That objection can be refuted as follows:] The skin of a fish is not susceptible to ritual impurity. [Nevertheless,] were it not for its filth which never ceases, it would be acceptable to be used for tefillin. Thus it is derived that even an entity that is not susceptible to ritual impurity is acceptable to be used for tefillin if it is not characterized by filth.


יֵרָאֶה לִי שֶׁהַכֵּלִים הָעֲשׂוּיִים מֵעוֹר הָעוֹף אֵין מְקַבְּלִין טֻמְאָה כְּמוֹ עַצְמוֹתָיו. וְאִם תֹּאמַר וַהֲרֵי הוּא כָּשֵׁר לִכְתֹּב עָלָיו תְּפִלִּין כְּעוֹר בְּהֵמָה וְחַיָּה. הִנֵּה עוֹר הַדָּג אֵינוֹ מְקַבֵּל טֻמְאָה וְלוּלֵא זֻהֲמָתוֹ שֶׁאֵינָהּ פּוֹסֶקֶת הָיָה כָּשֵׁר לַתְּפִלִּין הִנֵּה לָמַדְתָּ שֶׁאַף דָּבָר שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְקַבֵּל טֻמְאָה כָּשֵׁר לִתְפִלִּין אִם אֵין לוֹ זֻהֲמָא:

Mishneh Torah (Moznaim)

Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.


Glass keilim are not susceptible to ritual impurity according to Scriptural Law. Our Sages decreed that they would be susceptible to impurity. The rationale is that since, at the outset, they are made from sand like earthenware utensils, they are considered as earthenware utensils. Since their inside can be seen like their outside, the Sages did not decree that they would contract impurity from their inner space. Instead, the impurity must touch them, whether on the inside or the outside, as is true with regard to metal utensils. They did not establish this decree with regard to flat glass keilim, only those that serve as containers. Once such containers contract impurity, they cannot be purified in a mikveh. Terumah and sacrificial food is not burnt after contact with them, for it was decreed only that their state would be held in abeyance.


כְּלֵי זְכוּכִית אֵינָן מְקַבְּלִין טֻמְאָה מִדִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָה וַחֲכָמִים גָּזְרוּ עֲלֵיהֶן שֶׁיְּקַבְּלוּ טֻמְאָה הוֹאִיל וּתְחִלַּת בְּרִיָּתָן מִן הַחוֹל כִּכְלֵי חֶרֶס הֲרֵי הֵן כִּכְלֵי חֶרֶס. וּמִפְּנֵי שֶׁתּוֹכָן נִרְאֶה כְּבָרָן לֹא גָּזְרוּ עֲלֵיהֶן שֶׁיִּטַּמְּאוּ מֵאֲוִירָן אֶלָּא עַד שֶׁתִּגַּע הַטֻּמְאָה בָּהֶן בֵּין מִתּוֹכָן בֵּין מִגַּבָּן כִּכְלֵי מַתָּכוֹת. וְלֹא גָּזְרוּ טֻמְאָה עַל פְּשׁוּטֵיהֶן אֶלָּא עַל מְקַבְּלֵיהֶן. וְאֵין לָהֶם טָהֳרָה בְּמִקְוֶה. וְאֵין שׂוֹרְפִין עֲלֵיהֶן תְּרוּמָה וְקָדָשִׁים שֶׁלֹּא גָּזְרוּ עֲלֵיהֶן אֶלָּא לִתְלוֹת:


Utensils made from animal turds, stone, or earth are always pure. They are not susceptible to any form of impurity, nor to the impurity that stems from articles that contracted impurity from a zav, neither according to Scriptural Law, nor according to Rabbinic Law, neither flat keilim, nor containers.


כְּלֵי גְּלָלִים וּכְלֵי אֲבָנִים וּכְלֵי אֲדָמָה לְעוֹלָם טְהוֹרִין. וְאֵין מְקַבְּלִין טֻמְאָה מִן הַטֻּמְאוֹת וְלֹא טֻמְאַת מִדְרָס לֹא מִן הַתּוֹרָה וְלֹא מִדִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים בֵּין פְּשׁוּטֵיהֶן בֵּין מְקַבְּלֵיהֶן:


When an elephant swallows thin branches and then excretes them as feces, if one fashions utensils from them, their status is unresolved. It was not determined whether they are considered as utensils made from feces or utensils made from wood as they would have been had they not been swallowed. When, however, a basket that had contracted impurity was swallowed by an elephant and was excreted as feces, it remains impure.


פִּיל שֶׁבָּלַע הוּצִין וֶהֱקִיאָן דֶּרֶךְ הָרְעִי הָעוֹשֶׂה מֵהֶן כֵּלִים הֲרֵי הֵן סָפֵק אִם הֵם כִּכְלֵי גְּלָלִים אוֹ כְּלֵי עֵץ כְּשֶׁהָיוּ. אֲבָל כְּפִיפָה שֶׁנִּטְמֵאת וּבְלָעָהּ פִּיל וֶהֱקִיאָהּ דֶּרֶךְ בֵּית הָרְעִי הֲרֵי הִיא בְּטֻמְאָתָהּ:


Flat earthenware utensils, e.g., a lamp, a chair, a table, or the like made of earthenware are not susceptible to any of the types of impurity, nor to the impurity that stems from articles that contracted impurity from a zav, neither according to Scriptural Law, nor according to Rabbinic Law, as implied by the phrase, Leviticus 11:33: "Into whose inner space one of them will fall." One can infer that any earthenware utensil that has a receptacle is susceptible to impurity. If it does not have a receptacle, it is pure.


פְּשׁוּטֵי כְּלֵי חֶרֶס כְּגוֹן מְנוֹרָה וְכִסֵּא וְשֻׁלְחָן שֶׁל חֶרֶס וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אֵין מְקַבְּלִין טֻמְאָה מִן הַטֻּמְאוֹת וְלֹא טֻמְאַת מִדְרָס לֹא מִן הַתּוֹרָה וְלֹא מִדִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יא לג) "אֲשֶׁר יִפּל מֵהֶם אֶל תּוֹכוֹ" (ויקרא יא לג) "יִטְמָא" כָּל שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ תּוֹךְ בִּכְלִי חֶרֶס מְקַבֵּל טֻמְאָה וְשֶׁאֵין לוֹ תּוֹךְ טָהוֹר:


Metal keilim, whether flat, like knives or scissors, or containers like pots or kettles, are all susceptible to ritual impurity, as implied by Numbers 31:23: "Any entity that will pass through fire," i.e., whether a container or a flat implement. Even a chest or a drawer, or the like that are made from metal and which contain 40 se'ah of liquid measure or more are susceptible to ritual impurity, as implied by the phrase: "Any entity that will pass through fire."


כְּלֵי מַתָּכוֹת אֶחָד פְּשׁוּטֵיהֶן כְּגוֹן הַסַּכִּינִים וְהַמִּסְפָּרַיִם אוֹ מְקַבְּלֵיהֶן כְּגוֹן הַיּוֹרוֹת וְהַקּוּמְקוּמוֹסִין הַכּל מְקַבְּלִין טֻמְאָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לא כג) "כָּל דָּבָר אֲשֶׁר יָבֹא בָאֵשׁ" בֵּין מְקַבֵּל בֵּין פָּשׁוּט. אֲפִלּוּ תֵּבָה אוֹ מִגְדָּל וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן שֶׁל מַתֶּכֶת שֶׁהֵן מְקַבְּלִין אַרְבָּעִים סְאָה בְּלַח אוֹ יֶתֶר מְקַבְּלִין טֻמְאָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר כָּל דָּבָר אֲשֶׁר יָבֹא בָאֵשׁ:


Containers made from wood, leather, or bone, e.g., a kneading trough, a drinking pouch, or the like, are susceptible to ritual impurity according to Scriptural Law. Keilim made from wood, leather, or bone that are flat, e.g., tablets, a chair, a leather mat on which one eats, and the like, by contrast, are susceptible to ritual impurity only according to Rabbinic Law, as implied by the phrase: "From all wooden keilim... or sackcloth." According to the Oral Tradition, it was taught: "Just as the sackcloth which is susceptible to ritual impurity has a receptacle, so too, keilim made from all the other substances mentioned must have a receptacle. keilim made from bone are governed by the same laws as those made from wood in all matters.

When does the statement that flat utensils made from these substances are susceptible to impurity only according to Rabbinic Law apply? With regard to all impurities other than the impurity contracted from a support that contracted impurity from a zav. With regard to the impurity resulting from a support that contracted impurity from a zav or others like him, they contract impurity according to Scriptural Law, as implied by Leviticus 15:4: "Any surface on which one lies upon which a zav will lie." This includes everything made to lie upon or ride upon, as we explained. Similarly, glass keilim made to lie upon contract impurity according to Rabbinic Law.


כְּלֵי עֵץ וּכְלֵי עוֹר וּכְלֵי עֶצֶם מְקַבְּלֵיהֶן כְּגוֹן הָעֲרֵבָה וְהַחֵמֶת וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן מְקַבְּלִין טֻמְאָה מִדִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָה. אֲבָל פְּשׁוּטֵיהֶן כְּגוֹן הַלּוּחוֹת וְהַכִּסֵּא וְהָעוֹר שֶׁאוֹכְלִין עָלָיו וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אֵינָן מְקַבְּלִין טֻמְאָה אֶלָּא מִדִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יא לב) "מִכָּל כְּלִי עֵץ" מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה לָמְדוּ מָה שַׂק שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ בֵּית קִבּוּל אַף כָּל שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ בֵּית קִבּוּל. וּכְלֵי עֶצֶם כִּכְלֵי עֵץ לְכָל דָּבָר. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים שֶׁטֻּמְאַת פְּשׁוּטֵיהֶן מִדִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים בִּשְׁאָר טֻמְאוֹת חוּץ מִטֻּמְאַת מִדְרָס. אֲבָל בְּמִדְרַס הַזָּב וַחֲבֵרָיו מִתְטַמְּאִין מִן הַתּוֹרָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא טו ד) "כָּל הַמִּשְׁכָּב אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב" כָּל הֶעָשׂוּי לְמִשְׁכָּב אוֹ לְמֶרְכָּב כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. וְכֵן כְּלִי זְכוּכִית הֶעָשׂוּי לְמִשְׁכָּב מִתְטַמֵּא בְּמִדְרָס מִדִּבְרֵיהֶן:


Any article that is woven, whether from wool, from linen, hemp, silk, or other fabrics that grow on land, is called a garment with regard to impurity. Felt is like a garment with regard to all matters.


כָּל שֶׁהוּא אָרוּג בֵּין מִצֶּמֶר וּפִשְׁתִּים בֵּין מִקַּנְבּוֹס אוֹ מִמֶּשִׁי אוֹ מִשְּׁאָר דְּבָרִים הַגְּדֵלִים בַּיַּבָּשָׁה הוּא הַנִּקְרָא בֶּגֶד לְעִנְיַן טֻמְאָה. וְהַלְּבָדִים כִּבְגָדִים לְכָל דָּבָר:


Sackcloth refers to threads of hair that are braided like a chain or woven like garments, whether they are made from goats' hair, camels' wool, the hairs of a tail of a horse or cow or the like. This applies whether they are woven like sacks or braided like a band for donkeys or the like. Ropes or strands, whether they are spun from goats' hair or from wool or linen are not susceptible to ritual impurity on their own accord.


הַשַּׂק הוּא חוּטֵי שֵׂעָר הַגְּדֵלִין כְּשַׁלְשֶׁלֶת אוֹ הָאֲרוּגִין כִּבְגָדִים אֶחָד הֶעָשׂוּי מִן הָעִזִּים אוֹ מִצֶּמֶר גְּמַלִּים אוֹ מִזְּנַב הַסּוּס וְהַפָּרָה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן וְאֶחָד הָאָרִיג מֵהֶן כְּמוֹ הַמַּרְצוּפִין אוֹ הַגְּדַל כְּמוֹ חֶבֶק שֶׁל חֲמוֹר וְכַיּוֹצֵא בּוֹ. אֲבָל הַחֲבָלִים וְהַמְּשִׁיחוֹת הַשְּׁזוּרִין בֵּין מִן הַשֵּׂעָר בֵּין מִצֶּמֶר וּפִשְׁתִּים אֵינָן מְקַבְּלִין טֻמְאָה בִּפְנֵי עַצְמָן:


All utensils that are fashioned from reeds, from willow-branches, from bulrushes, from date branches, from leaves and branches, the bark of the tree, and grasses, e.g., small baskets, large baskets, rugs, or mats are all considered as wooden utensils, for anything that grows from the earth is considered as wood.

The same laws that govern earthenware utensils govern sandstone utensils. Any utensil that is made from earth or sand and is then burnt in a kiln is considered as an earthenware utensil. An oven, a range, a stove or the like, i.e., structures in which food is baked or cooked, all are susceptible to ritual impurity according to Scriptural Law. The laws governing their impurity are the same as those governing that of an earthenware utensil.


כָּל הַכֵּלִים הָעֲשׂוּיִין מִן הַגֹּמֶא וּמִן הָעֲרָבָה וּמִן הַקָּנִים וּמִכַּפּוֹת תְּמָרִים וּמִן הֶעָלִים וְהַשָּׂרִיגִין וּקְלִפֵּי אִילָנוֹת וּמִן הַחֶלֶף כְּגוֹן הַכְּפִיפוֹת וְהַטְּרַסְקְלִין וְהַמַּחֲלָצוֹת וְהַמַּפָּצוֹת הַכּל בִּכְלַל כְּלֵי הָעֵץ שֶׁהַכּל גָּדֵל מִן הָאָרֶץ כְּעֵץ. אֶחָד כְּלִי חֶרֶס וְאֶחָד כְּלִי נֶתֶר לְכָל דָּבָר. כָּל כְּלִי הֶעָשׂוּי מֵהֶעָפָר מִן הָעֲפָרוֹת וְאַחַר כָּךְ שׂוֹרְפִין אוֹתָן בְּכִבְשָׁן הֲרֵי זֶה כְּלִי חֶרֶס. וְהַתַּנּוּר וְהַכִּירַיִם וְהַכֻּפָּח וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן מִשְּׁאָר הַבִּנְיָנוֹת שֶׁאוֹפִין בָּהֶן אוֹ מְבַשְּׁלִין בָּהֶן הַכּל מְקַבְּלִין טֻמְאָה דִּין תּוֹרָה וְטֻמְאָתָן וְטֻמְאַת כְּלִי חֶרֶס שָׁוָה: