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: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…