‘A Deaf Woman, An Imbecile…’
Several types of impure people must count seven days of purity before they can immerse in a mikveh and become pure. A tamei meis must simply wait seven days (and be sprinkled with red heifer water on the third and seventh days) while a zav and zavah must ensure during these seven clean days that the source of impurity has ceased.
A Count Or Not A Count
A far-reaching chidush by the Me’il Tzedakah is cited by many poskim. He rules that if the seven-day count was interrupted in the middle because the person thought the impurity returned, the person must count additional days to the seven even if it eventually becomes clear that the impurity had never returned.
The Me’il Tzedakah rules that during these seven days there must be a continuous sure knowledge that the tumah is no longer present. If there isn’t – if heisech hadaas (mental interruption) caused diminished vigilance and a slackening of attention – the counting is no good.
Poskim discuss whether the person must count seven additional days or just the number of days left when the interruption arose. In other words, do the days before the interruption count or not? Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi Wosner proves (see Responsa Shevet Halevi 3:123) that the Me’il Tzedakah maintains that the person must count seven entirely new days.
The Help Of Others
Our mishnah (13b) states that “a deaf woman…and an insane woman can eat terumah if a sane woman rectifies them.” An insane person cannot take care of his purification, but he can become pure with the help of others and then eat terumah.
Insane people can’t count seven days of purity and they certainly can’t count them without mental interruption. How, then, can they be purified? (Lechem Vesimlah 196:13; Birkas Yosef, E.H. 64; Responsa Beis Shlomo, Orach Chayim 36).
Various answers and explanations have been offered. Some say that our mishnah does not mean an actually insane person; it means, rather, a person who is somewhat lacking in intelligence (see Birkas Yosef, ibid, and Shi’urei Shevet HaLevi, 196:8, s.k. 3).