Shabbat 84 – The Limits of Possibility
As we explore the Talmud’s labyrinth of laws and rituals, we can concede that in many cases, if it were important enough to us we could manage like this – although our choice to pursue a different course for our lives is frequently reaffirmed. It is also nice to see that one of the legal assumptions behind Talmudic reasoning is that fulfilling one’s obligation should not be absolutely impossible, even if it is ridiculously difficult.
In debating what kind of objects are susceptible to becoming defiled by a zab, or one ritually impure because of a sexual discharge, we find the following discussion: certain objects cannot be cleaned in a mikvah [ritual bath], so if they can’t be cleansed are they susceptible to defilement? The answer: it depends on the material. If other objects made of similar material (e.g. clay, wood) are able to be cleansed by a mikvah, then it can become defiled; but if nothing made of that material can be so cleansed, it is not at risk. Thus at the same time some objects may be made useless, but some limits to contamination are possible.
My approach to the question, particularly in the kitchen, is: if I can’t clean them, I don’t want to use them! Further, cleanliness is a much more clear-cut issue to worry about than ritual impurities which are invisible and a human construction with no physical reality behind them.
Rabbi Adam Chalom