Crystal Clear As The Waters
‘Speak In The Manner Of One’s Teacher’
A mikveh must have, minimally, forty se’ah of water that has gathered in it by natural means. This precludes the use of mayim she’uvin – water that was drawn in a vessel to fill the mikveh. If a significant amount of mayim she’uvin fell into a mikveh before it contained the minimum forty se’ah of naturally-gathered water, all the water in the mikveh is disqualified. The question is: What constitutes a significant amount?
A Dispute Even In Expression
The Gemara cites a mishnah in Eduyos (1:3). Hillel says a hin of drawn water (three kabim) renders the mikveh unfit. Shammai maintains the measure is nine kabim. The Gemara notes Hillel’s unusual usage of the hin measure as opposed to the kab measure (which, the Ravad explains, is the term usually used in mishnayos) and explains that a person is required to speak in the manner of his teachers. Since Hillel was a student of Shemayah and Avtalyon who used the hin measure as opposed to the kab measure, he too used that measure.
The Rambam (Pirush Hamishnayos, Eduyos, at the beginning, cited by Rabbenu Ovadiyah Mi’Bartenura) offers a unique explanation of the Gemara. He says that Shemayah and Avtalyon were converts who came from a nation where people were unable to properly pronounce the letter “heh.” They would pronounce it as an aleph. Thus, they would pronounce “hin” as “in.” In deference to his teachers, Hillel too would pronounce “hin” as “in.”
No Reason To Copy Mispronunciations
The Vilna Gaon (novella to Shabbos ad loc.) explains the mishnah in a similar fashion but rejects the notion that one is obligated to mimic one’s teacher’s mispronunciation of words. He explains that when the Gemara states that Hillel copied his teachers’ pronunciation, what it means is the following: Shemayah and Avtalyon used to preface the word “hin” with “maleh.” In other words, they used to say “maleh hin” even though saying “maleh” is redundant since, by definition, a hin is always maleh (just like a kab is always maleh which is why Shammai in the Gemara just says “kabim” and not “maleh kabim”).
Concern For A Halachic Misunderstanding
Why, indeed, did Shemayah and Avtalyon say “maleh hin”? Because they were concerned that people might misunderstand them. Since they couldn’t pronounce a “heh” properly, people might think they were saying “ein” – which means “no” – instead of “hin.” People would thus conclude that drawn water does not disqualify a mikveh. By adding the word “maleh,” Shemayah and Avtalyon made clear that they meant to say the word “hin,” not “ein.”
Even though, Hillel, whose pronunciation was fine, had no reason to add the word “maleh,” he did so nevertheless so as not to deviate from his teachers’ manner of speech.
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