|Tractate Berachot, Chapter 5
Bet Shammai say, “[After washing the hands before the meal, a person] wipes his hands with a cloth napkin and puts it down on the table [so that he can use it during the meal to wipe himself], [because if he will put it on the cushion instead] may be the liquid inside the cloth napkin will become Tameh (ritually impure) because of the cushion2, and it will revert and make his hands Tameh [when he touches the cloth napkin again].”3 [And] Bet Hillel say, “[In case of] a doubt [if the] liquid [touches his] hands [or not, the hands remain] Tahor (ritually pure).”4 [Besides this there is] another explanation. Hands do not [need to be] washed [by Torah law, when eating] Chulin (ordinary food that does not have any special holiness to it). But rather [instead of putting the cloth napkin on the table, he should wash his hands and then] wipe his hands with a cloth napkin and put it on the cushion [so that he can use it during the meal to wipe himself], [because if he will put it on the table instead] may be the liquid inside the cloth napkin will become Tameh because of the table and it will revert and make the food Tameh [when the cloth napkin touches the food].5
מסכת ברכות פרק ה
בית שמאי אומרים מקנח ידו במפה ומניחה על השולחן שמא נטמאו משקין שבמפה מחמת הכסת ויחזרו ויטמאו את הידים. בית הלל אומרים ספק משקים לידים טהור. דבר אחר. אין נטילת ידים לחולין. אלא מקנח ידו במפה ומניחה על הכסת שמא יטמאו משקין שבמפה מחמת השולחן ויחזרו ויטמאו את האוכלין.
- Mishna 3 of chapter 8 mentions the argument between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel about where should the person put the cloth napkin with which he wipes his hands after washing them, on the table, or on the chair. Our Tosefta adds reasons for that argument.
- The regular Hebrew word for a chair is כסא. The word כסת really means a soft cushion. Since in Talmudic times they ate while reclining on beds, the beds were covered with soft cushions. However, for all practical purposes the cushion would be identical in this case to a chair since it is something the person is sitting on top of, therefore in all notes below I referred to it as a chair.
- For the rules of Tumah (ritual impurity), why unwashed hands are Tameh and why liquids make objects Tameh see above chapter 5, Tosefta 14, note 2. As was explained previously in Tosefta 26, note 4, Bet Shammai hold that a person is not allowed to eat with his hands being Tameh, because of a Rabbinical decree. So if he would put the cloth napkin which became wet from him wiping his wet hands on it, on to the chair, the chair which possibly may be Tameh on the second level of impurity (Sheni Letumah) will make the liquid inside it Tameh. People generally would use such Tameh chairs, because they cannot make anything else of importance Tameh, such as people or other utensils. The only thing that can become Tameh from such a chair is a liquid, since when liquids touch Sheni Letumah they become Rishon Letumah. However, the table cannot be Tameh, because Bet Shammai hold that people are not allowed to eat on a Tameh table, even if it is only Sheni Letumah, because may be they will eat Terumah on it and Terumah can become Tameh on a Third level of impurity (Shlishi Letumah), as I explained earlier in Tosefta 14, note 2.
- Bet Hillel hold that he should put the napkin on the chair and not on the table as they say in the end of this Tosefta. They hold that a person is allowed to use a Tameh table which is Sheni Letumah, since only Kohanim eat Terumah, but not most people who only eat Chulin. See Talmud Bavli (Berachot 52b). Also, it is only a doubt if the cloth napkin can actually make something else wet again, because it does not really have that much water in it. Bet Hillel hold that in the case of a doubt the Rabbis did not decree that liquids which become Rishon Letumah can make hands Tameh (see Mishna Taharot 4:7) and therefore the wet cloth napkin will not make his hands Tameh even if it touches the Tameh chair. However, Bet Hillel hold that even in the case of a doubt liquids which become Rishon Letumah can still make food Tameh, therefore it is better to keep the cloth napkin on the chair instead of the table, far away from the food.
- Talmud Bavli (Berachot 52b) as interpreted by Rashi (Berachot 52b, Afilu) explains that the reason that Bet Hillel add a second reason to their opinion is in order to refute Bet Shammai, even if they would theoretically agree to them that people cannot use a Tameh table. Bet Hillel are saying to Bet Shammai that even if the table is Tahor it is still better to put the cloth napkin on the chair and not on the table. The reason is that it is possible that someone will use a Tameh table which is Sheni Letumah, even though they are not allowed, and then the water in the napkin will make the food on the table Tameh. Since by Torah law there is no such thing as Tameh hands, because by Torah law only the person’s whole body can be Tameh, but not separate body parts, but there is such a thing as food becoming Tameh, we should be more concerned with the remote possibility of the food becoming Tameh and not the hands. It should be noted that this reasoning is just a logical derivation of why we should be concerned with the food possibly becoming Tameh as opposed to the hands. Both cases here are based on Rabbinical prohibitions since the whole concept of liquids becoming Tameh from something that is Sheni Letumah is a Rabbinical decree, so it really has nothing to do with Tumah by Torah law.
|Tractate Berachot, Chapter 5
Bet Shammai say, “[After the meal is over] we sweep the house [in order to clean up the bread crumbs that fell on the floor], in order to [prevent] the destruction of food, and [only] after that we wash hands [after the meal].”2 And Bet Hillel say, “If there is a waiter there, who is a Talmid Chacham (a Torah scholar),3 who picks up [all of] the crumbs that are the size of a Kezait (olive size), [then first] we wash hands [after the meal] and [only] then we sweep the house [from the crumbs].”4
מסכת ברכות פרק ה
בית שמאי אומרים מכבדין את הבית מפני אבוד אוכלין ואחר כך נוטלין לידים. ובית הלל אומרים אם היה שמש תלמיד חכם מלקט פירורין שיש בהן כזית נוטלין לידים ואחר כך מכבדין את הבית.
- Mishna 4 of chapter 8 mentions the argument between Bet Shammai abd Bet Hillel regarding what should be done first at the end of the meal, sweeping the house from bread crumbs or washing the hands after the meal (Mayim Acharonim). Our Tosefta adds reasons for that argument. The law of Mayim Acharonim was already explained earlier in chapter 5, Tosefta 14.
- It is disrespectful to food when it is left on the floor where people can step on it. Therefore prior to leaving the dining room, it needs to be swept to remove all of the food that fell on the floor. Bet Shammai hold that the house should be swept from dropped food before washing the hands after the meal, because if people would start washing hands while the food is laying on the floor they may spill some water on the floor and that will make the food that is there disgusting, thus disrespecting it.
- The reason that the waiter has to be a Talmid Chacham is because he has to be aware of this law that crumbs larger than a Kezait must be picked up. If he is uneducated then he would not know to do this and will leave them lying around.
- Bet Hillel hold that since the waiter will pick up by hand all of the bread crumbs that are larger than a Kezait before people are ready to wash Mayim Acharonim, we do not need to worry about water spilling on the floor and making the food disgusting. Bet Hillel hold that spilled water can only make disgusting pieces of bread that are larger than a Kezait. Crumbs that are smaller than that or other types of food do not become disgusting from spilled water. However Bet Shammai hold that any type of food of any size will become disgusting by having water spilled on it and therefore should be cleaned up first. Obviously Bet Hillel would agree to Bet Shammai that if there is no waiter there or the waiter is an Am Haaretz (an person uneducated in Torah law) then the house should be swept first and only then people should wash Mayim Acharonim, since some water may spill on pieces of bread larger than a Kezait and make them disgusting. Talmud Bavli (Berachot 52b) points out that Bet Hillel in fact hold that people are not allowed to use a waiter who is an Am Haaretz in general, but they must use a Talmid Chacham (i.e. a Chaver). For an explanation of what Chaverim were see above Tosefta 14, note 2.
It is important to note that it is apparent from the Tosefta that for some reason Bet Hillel would prefer in an ideal situation that everyone should wash Mayim Acharonim before the house is swept. Some commentators (see Pnei Moshe and also Perush Mibaal Sefer Chareidim on Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachot 8:4, Daf 60a, Im Hashamesh) ) say that really Bet Hillel does not have a preference for Mayim Acharonim to be washed before the house is swept. All they are saying is that a person is allowed to wash Mayim Acharonim before the house is swept if he wants to, but he may do the other way around as well. I do not agree with this explanation, because from the language of the Tosefta and even from the Mishna (Berachot 8:4) it is apparent that Bet Hillel insist that this must be the order and not the other way around. I would guess that the reason Bet Hillel insist on washing before sweeping the house is because it was more proper as far as the meal etiquette is concerned. Washing Mayim Acharonim and saying Birkat Hamazon is a part of the meal itself, but sweeping the house is not a part of the meal, therefore in an ideal situation it would more appropriate to complete the meal and only then sweep the house.