God vs The Multiverse

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lepers and the Dead (Part 3: Svara)

We'll begin with the first part of Tosafos. What is the difference if the צרעת is under a tree with no walls or in a house with walls?

We answer that טומאת צרעת is transmitted to everything that is in the same מקום as the צרעת. The Torah says "בדד ישב", he shall dwell alone.  His entire place of dwelling, his מושב, is טמא and all that enter this מושב become טמא as well.  If he enters a house, then the house is defined as his מושב and the טומאה is transmitted to everything in the house.

However, when going under a tree, it's not so simple. Since there is a roof, but no walls, a person can relate to being under a tree in two ways: (a) he can be "dwelling" there, under the protection of the branches. If so, it is his מושב and the טומאה is transmitted; or (b) he can be travelling, or passing through.  If so, it is not his מושב and the טומאה is not transmitted.

The determinant between these two possibilities is whether or not he stops. If he stops, there is a קביעות of the מקום, and he thereby renders under the tree his מושב.  He is not merely passing through, but comes to rest in this place in order to do something there.  It could be something as simple as taking a breather, pausing for a few moments before he continues on his way, but he relates to this place as a stopping point in his life where he engages in one of life's activities.

In contrast, when he passes through the place and does not stop, then he is not setting up a מקום and there is no מושב and no transmission of טומאה.  He relates to the place under the tree as space in between the significant places he will stop at.  He is merely commuting between two places, and the place under the tree is the space between.  He never defines the place; never gives it a character.  He merely passed through.

By a house, since there are walls, there is no such thing as passing through.  A commuter can not travel through walls.  If he enters a house, it is considered a detour from the commute, a stopping point in his life.  If he was going from point A to point B and along the way walked into a house, even without actually stopping, the house becomes point C thereby rendering it his מושב.

With this in mind, how can we explain the second part of Tosafos about the difference between מת and צרעת regarding transmission via an אהל?       


  1. The two chumros Tosafos explains with respect to the transmission of tuumas mes via an ohel are that tuumas mes is transferred in an ohel without walls even when the guy who is tamei does not stop and objects under the same roof and in a room that is connected by a window to the room where the guy who is tamei is will become tamei.

    Maybe what he is getting at is that there is a certain relationship between two objects that reside under the same roof. It is a weak relationship, as compared to touching for example, but I think it is a relationship nonetheless. However, the strength of tuumas mes is such that it can even transmit tuumah even via that weak of a relationship. It would seem that most (weaker) forms of tuumah need a closer relationship such as touching to transmit the tuumah and only tuumas mes has the strength to transfer tuumah in such a scenario.

    What about the fact that tzaras can practically be transferred via an ohel? Based upon our sevara it would be incorrect to say that the ohel engenders a relationship between the tzaras and the objects under the ohel and tuumas tzaras is also strong enough to transfer tuumah in such a case. Rather, the person with tzaras can render certain places (such as an ohel) his moshav and this moshav becomes tamei.

    Thus, when the mishna says that tuumas mes is the only tuumah that can be transferred by an ohel it means that it is the only tuumah where such a weak relationship (that of being under the same roof) is sufficient for the transfer of tuumah. Intrinsically, tuumas tzaras does not work this way. It so happens that a person who has tzaras can render the objects under an ohel tamei but it is not because they are weakly related to him but rather because he has made that ohel his moshav and the moshav is m'tamei the objects it contains.

    One question that I do not have a great answer to is why tuumas mes is only transferred to objects under the same roof but in a different room if there is an open window. It may be that the relationship that exists between two objects under the same roof can be broken by an objective chatzitzah such as a wall. I do not know that much about ohelim though so this might be somewhat speculative. On the other hand, it makes good sense why tuumas tzaras does not get transferred in this scenario. Given our sevara of the moshav being the m'tamei if you have a large roof covering two rooms that are connected by a window, if the guy with tzaras walks through one he has only made that room his dwelling. The other room, while under the same roof, is not the dwelling place of the guy with tzaras and therefore the objects therein will not be tamei.

    1. its a nice, clear idea.

      you asked "why tuumas mes is only transferred to objects under the same roof but in a different room, if there is an open window?"

      you answered "It may be that the relationship that exists between two objects under the same roof can be broken by an objective chatzitzah such as a wall."

      perhaps the sense of a two things under the same roof relating to each other, is that they share one, contiguous airspace. a roof creates an indoor area, and two things that can interact with each other without going outdoors, are related by sharing the same space.

      if there is a wall, it divides the indoors area into 2 separate domains, thereby preventing them from interacting. if there is a window open, then the airspace is again contiguous and the objects can interact while staying under the same roof.

  2. Hm, that's interesting. May also explain why the window needs to be open at least a tefach. If the idea is that the roof creates a space of indoor objects that can interact with each other, having a window that is open a centimeter does not do that.


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