What exactly is a "Hilketi" and what measurements were made regarding the
Tum'ah in this case?
(a) RASHI explains that a Hilketi is an alley between two houses. A cracked
barrel rested above the alley, supported by the walls of the two houses on
either side of the alley, and it formed the ceiling of the alley. A Mes (or
rather, a part from a Mes the size of a k'Zayis) was lying in the alley
directly under the cracked barrel.
The crack was measured in order to determine whether its width was one
Tefach, which would let the Tum'ah of the Mes go straight up and out without
conveying Tum'ah to the houses on each side of the alley through their
windows. If the hole in the barrel was less than a Tefach, the Tum'ah would
be prevented from exiting and it would spread throughout the entire area in
the alley underneath the barrel, going through the windows into the houses.
However, Rashi asks that this does not seem to be consistent with the
Mishnah in Ohalos that states that even if the crack above Tum'as Mes is
less than a Tefach wide, the Tum'ah nevertheless exits through the crack and
does not spread beneath the Ohel.
(b) TOSFOS says that the Mes in the alley was lying under the solid part of
the barrel and not under the crack in the barrel. The question was whether
the crack, which extended across the entire length of the barrel, prevented
the Tum'ah from passing to the other side of the barrel, from where it would
continue through the windows into the houses.
This is consistent with the Mishnah in Ohalos that says that if there is a
one- Tefach-wide break in the ceiling, Tum'ah does not spread from one side
to the other across the break, but if the crack is less than a Tefach then
the Tum'ah does spread to the other side of the crack.
(c) RABEINU CHANANEL and the ARUCH explain that a Hilketi is a natural mound
which forms the wall between two houses. It is not an alley at all. A Mes
was in one house and there was a cracked barrel in a window in the
mound/wall (the Hilketi) between the two houses. The barrel was measured in
order to determine whether the barrel's opening was as large as a Tefach, in
which case the Tum'ah would spread to the other house, or whether it was
less than a Tefach and the Tum'ah was confined.