Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: How Tuma Leaks Out and How to Contain It

Tuma is kind of like the spiritual equivalent of radioactivity.  You can't see it, taste it, nor smell it; but it's there and it can do damage.  It only affects Jews, though it affects some Jews -- notably kohanim -- more than others.  So let's suppose you have a kohein coming for dinner and you have a ladle full of corpse lying around.  (I don't know how you ended up with that problem -- kasha af ah maisa/figure out a scenario.)

First of all, like everything else in halacha, there are shiurim/sizes.  It takes at least a k'zayis of corpse to cause any problems at all.  If the ladle of corpse (LOC, going forward) is under the sky, then the kohein would have to actually step over or under it to be affected (unless its in a cemetery, but he probably shouldn't be anyway).  If, however, the LOC is covered by at least a tefach (about 4") square of ceiling that is at least a tefach away, then the tuma is contained; the kohein could even pick up that box and walk around with it.  That's because one cubic tefach is the minimum size of a halachic oheil (tent/room -- would still likely run you pr 100$/month in Manhattan).  If the box is smaller than that in any dimension, then you have "tuma r'tzutza"/crushed tuma and it again leaks; straight up and straight down, just as if it weren't there.

The down side of being inside an oheil is that the tuma essentially fills all available space.  Suppose you have a house with a hole in the ceiling/attic/roof (all the way through).  If your LOC is directly under that opening, then the tuma goes straight up (and straight down), but the house itself is not filled with tuma.  On the other hand, if the LOC is not under the chimney, then your kohein friend can walk on the roof and even step over the chimney without fear of tumafication.  More than that, your other kohein friend can stay in the house as long as he restricts himself to the area directly under the chimney (think Mr. Freeze vs Batman).

All of this, of course, is true as along as your friend on the roof doesn't actually step on the chimney, thus completing the roof and causing the tuma to fill the void previously left pristine.  In that case your friend in the house has just been dosed with tumas meis and will need to wait for the next (and final) red heifer before he can begin  the purification process.  What about your friend on the roof with the big foot?  If the chimney is less than a tefach square, then he is fine.  You see, tuma can't travel through holes that are smaller than a tefach square.  If the chimney is bigger than a sqare tefach, of course, then the tuma will not only fill the house, but it will also travel through the chimney and also tumify the roof walker.

What if half the LOC is under the roof and half under the chimney?  Go see the 10th perek of the masechta ohalim... I don't want to ruin it for you.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…

Thought for the Day: Hydroponically Grown Humans... I Feel Sick

I am quite openly not at all objective about abortion in particular and the treatment of human embryos and fetuses in general.  I am, after all, the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.  Not "thought about it, but couldn't go through with it"; not "made appointment, but then chickened out at the lost moment"; but, "tried a procedure, but was unsuccessful in attempt to abort".  Nonetheless, I try very hard to listen to the liberal arguments (which I also used to chant as part of the general liberal catechism), and am genuinely empathetic to the plight of women who find themselves in that difficult position.

What I heard on NPR this morning, however, has left me feeling physically ill.  You can read about it, if you like, but here's the bottom line:  Scientists in Cambridge have achieved a new record, they fertilized a human ova and then kept it alive in vitro (that is, in a test tube/petri dish in a laboratory) for 14 days.  The scientist involve…