Can we infer from this that Shammai's reason5 is that he is strict, but according to the Rabbis [there is no defilement by overshadowing'] unless there is a half-kab of bones? — Perhaps the Rabbis only disagree with Shammai where there is a single bone, but where there is a quarter [kab] of bones even the Rabbis agree [that this is sufficient].
R. Eliezer said: The Elders of an earlier generation [were divided]. Some used to say that a half-kab of bones and a half-log of blood [is required] for everything,6 whilst a quarter [-kab] of bones and a quarter [-log] of blood is not sufficient for anything. Others used to say that even a quarter [-kab] of bones and a quarter [-log] of blood [is enough] for everything. The Court that came after them said that a half-kab of bones and a half-log of blood [is the quantity] for [making unclean] everything, a quarter [-kab] of bones and a quarter [-log] of blood [is sufficient] in the case of terumah7 and sacred meats,8 but not in the case of a nazirite or one preparing the paschal lamb.9 But surely the compromise of the third [opinion] IS no [true] compromise?10 — R. Jacob b. Idi replied: They had it as a tradition deriving from Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
ON ACCOUNT OF THESE A NAZIRITE MUST POLL: The word THESE,11 in the first clause serves to exclude a barley-corn's bulk of bone, for touching or carrying which he must [poll] though not for overshadowing it — The word THESE in the next clause serves to exclude a rock overhanging a grave.12
OR A HALF-KAB OF BONES:
Nazir 53b[We see that] only if there is a half-kab of bones [must the nazirite poll], but not if there is a quarter [-kab] of bones. What are the circumstances? For if we assert that there are amongst them bones of a barley-corn in size, then we can give as the reason [that the nazirite must poll, the presence of] a barley-corn's bulk of bone? — The reference is to where [the bone] was crushed into powder.
OR ANY LIMB [SEVERED] FROM A CORPSE OR ANY LIMB [SEVERED] FROM A LIVING BODY THAT IS STILL PROPERLY COVERED WITH FLESH: What are the consequences if sufficient flesh is not attached [and a nazirite is defiled by touching or carrying such a bone]?1 — R. Johanan said that the nazirite is not required to poll because of them. Resh Lakish said that the nazirite must poll because of them. R. Johanan said that the nazirite is not required to poll because of them, for it says in the first [Mishnah]2 only ANY LIMB [SEVERED] FROM A CORPSE OR ANY LIMB [SEVERED] FROM A LIVING BODY THAT IS STILL PROPERLY COVERED WITH FLESH, [implying] 'but not otherwise'; whilst Resh Lakish said that he must poll, since this case is not mentioned in the subsequent [Mishnah].3 [To the argument of Resh Lakish] R. Johanan will reply that whatever can be inferred from the rule [of our Mishnah] is not mentioned in the subsequent [Mishnah]. But what of the half-kab of bones [mentioned in our Mishnah] which implies that only half a kab of bones [can defile] but not a quarter [kab] of bones, and yet the subsequent [Mishnah] mentions [explicitly] that a quarter [-kab] of bones [do not defile]? — In that instance were a quarter [-kab] of bones not [mentioned]. I should have thought that he need not [poll] even [if defiled] through contact with it or carrying it, and so the Mishnah had to mention the [case of a] quarter [-kab] of bones [in order to teach] that it is only for overshadowing them that the nazirite is not required to poll.4
But what of the half-log of blood [mentioned in our Mishnah], from which it may be inferred that only [if the nazirite is defiled by 'overshadowing'] a half-log of blood, [is he required to poll] but not by a quarter [-log] of blood, and yet the subsequent [Mishnah] mentions [explicitly that] a quarter [-log] of blood [does not defile]? — In that case, the purpose [of mentioning it in the next Mishnah] is to dissent from the view of R. Akiba, for R. Akiba has stated that a quarter [-log] of blood coming from two corpses conveys defilement by overshadowing.5
How are we to picture this limb [severed] from a corpse? For if it has a bone of a barley-corn's bulk, what is R. Johanan's reason [for saying that a nazirite need not poll if he touches it], whilst if it has not a bone of a barley-corn's bulk, what is Resh Lakish's reason [for saying that the nazirite must poll if he touches it]? — Resh Lakish will reply that in point of fact it has not a bone of a barley-corn's bulk, and in spite of this, the All-Merciful has included it [amongst the things which cause defilement]. For it has been taught; [The verse,] And whosoever in the open field toucheth one that is slain with a sword, or one that dieth of himself [… shall be unclean seven days,6 has the following significance]. In the open field' refers to one who overshadows a corpse. 'One that is slain'7 refers to a limb [severed] from a living body which is in such condition that [if attached to the body] it could have been restored. 'A sword' signifies that this is of the same [degree of defilement]8 as the slain body. 'Or one that dieth of himself' refers to a limb severed from a corpse. 'Or a bone of a man' refers to a quarter [-kab] of bones. 'Or a grave' refers to a close grave;9
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