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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Niddah

Folio 16a

'a kind of premature child'.1  But was it not stated, 'To ascertain whether it was male or female'?2  — It is this that was meant: And a priest came and gazed into it to ascertain whether she had aborted an inflated object or a premature child and, if some ground could be found for assuming that she aborted a premature child, to ascertain whether it was male or female. And if you prefer I might reply: Since weasels and martens are commonly found there they had certainly dragged it away.3

An enquiry was addressed to4  R. Nahman: [Is the examination at] regular menstrual periods Pentateuchal5  or only Rabbinical?6  The latter replied: Since our colleague Huna citing Rab ruled, If a woman who has a settled period did not make an examination when that period arrived but later on7  observed a discharge, she must take into consideration the possibility [of a discharge] on the date of the settled period,8  and also the possibility of [twenty-four hours retrospective uncleanness] on account of her observation.9  Thus10  it clearly follows that [the examination at] regular menstrual periods is Pentateuchal. There are others who say that he11  replied thus: The reason then12  is that she had 'observed a discharge,'13  but if she had not observed one the possibility14  need not be taken into consideration. Thus15  it follows clearly that [the examination at] regular menstrual periods is only Rabbinical.

It was stated: If a woman had a settled period, and when the time of that period arrived she did not make the examination and later she did make one, Rab ruled: If on examination she found that she was unclean she is unclean but if she found that she was clean she remains clean. Samuel, however, ruled, Even if on examination she found herself clean she is deemed unclean, since the guest16  comes at the usual time. Must it be assumed that they17  differ on [the question of the necessity for an examination at] regular menstrual periods, one Master18  holding that it is Pentateuchal19  and the other Master20  maintaining that it is only Rabbinical?21  R. Zera replied: Both17  may agree that22  [the examination at] regular menstrual periods is Pentateuchal, but23  one ruling24  refers to a woman who examined herself within the period of the duration of her menstruation25  while the other26  refers to a woman who did not examine herself within the period of the duration of her menstruation.27  R. Nahman b. Isaac maintained: They17  differ on the very question of [the necessity for an examination at] the regular menstrual periods, one Master28  holding that it is Pentateuchal29  while the other Master30  maintains that it is only Rabbinical.

R. Shesheth observed: [The discussion here] is analogous to that of the following Tannas: [For it was taught:] R. Eliezer31  ruled, She32  is to be regarded as menstrually unclean,33  while R. Joshua34  ruled: Let her be examined.35  And these Tannas36  differ on the same principle as the following Tannas. For it was taught: R. Meir ruled, She37  is to be regarded as menstrually unclean,38  while the Sages34  ruled, Let her be examined.35  Abaye observed, We also learnt to the same effect. For we learnt: R. Meir ruled, If a woman was in a hiding place39  when the time of her regular period arrived and she did not examine herself, she is nevertheless clean, because fear suspends the menstrual flow.40  The reason then41  is that there was fear, but if there had been no fear she would have been deemed unclean. Thus it clearly follows [that the necessity for an examination at] regular periods is Pentateuchal. May it be assumed that the following Tannas also differ on the same principle? For it was taught: If a woman observed some blood [that might be] due to a wound,42  even if this occurred during her usual period of menstruation, she is deemed to be clean;43  so R. Simeon b. Gamaliel. Rabbi ruled: If she has a regular period44  she45  must take her period into consideration.46  Now do they not differ on this principle, one Master47  holding that [the examinations at] the regular periods are Pentateuchal, while the other Master48  holds that they are only Rabbinical? — Rabina replied: No; both may agree that [the examinations at] the regular periods are only Rabbinical, but it is on the question whether the interior of the uterus is unclean49  that they differ. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel holds that the woman is clean50  but the blood51  is unclean because it comes through the uterus,52  and Rabbi53  in effect said to him: If54  you take into consideration the possibility of her usual menstrual flow, the woman also should be unclean,55  and if56  you do not take into consideration the possibility of her usual menstrual flow, [the blood also should be clean since] the interior of the uterus57  is clean.


To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Sc. it was not certain whether it was a child at all. Hence it is here also a case of doubt against doubt.
  2. Implying that it was definitely a child and that the only doubt was as to its sex.
  3. Hence it is a case of a certainty against a certainty.
  4. Var. lec., 'Raba enquired of' (MS.M. and Asheri).
  5. So that if a woman failed to make the examination at the proper time she is deemed to be unclean (on the ground that the discharge had appeared at its usual time) even though she observed no blood when she examined herself some time later (since it might have dropped on the ground and been lost).
  6. Hence if she failed to make the examination at the proper time she is regarded as clean.
  7. Sc. at the first examination after the settled period.
  8. If it was due prior to the period of twenty-four hours immediately preceding the observation. Her uncleanness in such a case extends backward to the time of the settled period.
  9. If less than twenty-four hours intervened between the time of the settled period and the observation.
  10. Since the possibility of a discharge at the time of the settled period is taken into consideration presumably even where no subsequent discharge had been observed. It is now assumed that 'discharge' was mentioned only on account of the second clause, 'the possibility … on account of her observation'.
  11. R. Nahman.
  12. Why 'she must take into consideration … the date of the settled period'.
  13. It being assumed that as she discovered a discharge on examination she might also have discovered one if she had made an examination at the time of her settled period.
  14. Cf. prev. n. but one.
  15. Since in the absence of an examination she is regarded as clean.
  16. Euphemism, sc. the regular menstrual discharge.
  17. Rab and Samuel.
  18. Samuel.
  19. Hence the woman's uncleanness in the absence of one.
  20. Rab.
  21. Cf. prev. n. but one mut. mut. But how could this be reconciled with the first version of R. Nahman supra according to which Rab is of the opinion that the examination is Pentateuchal?
  22. Lit., 'that all the world'.
  23. As to the difficulty raised (v. supra n. 11).
  24. The last cited.
  25. As she nevertheless discovered no discharge, it may safely be assumed that there was none even earlier when the regular menstruation period had begun.
  26. The first version of R. Nahman.
  27. But did so later on. As it is quite likely that earlier, during the period of menstruation, there was a discharge, the woman must well be deemed unclean. An old ed. inserts here: 'And there are others who say that one Master spoke of one particular case and the other spoke of another particular case and there is in fact no difference of opinion between them' (v. Maharsha and marginal gloss).
  28. Samuel.
  29. Hence the woman's uncleanness in the absence of one.
  30. Rab.
  31. Maintaining that the examination is Pentateuchal.
  32. A woman who failed to make the examination at the time of her regular period.
  33. From the time her regular period was due to commence.
  34. Holding that the examination is only Rabbinical.
  35. Even though her period of menstruation had passed. If on examination she finds herself to be clean she is regarded as clean (despite the possibility of an earlier discharge) and if she finds herself unclean, the uncleanness is retrospective from the time her settled period was due.
  36. R. Eliezer and R. Joshua.
  37. A woman who failed to make the examination at the time of her regular period.
  38. From the time her regular period was due to commence.
  39. Sheltering from robbers or raiders.
  40. Infra 39a.
  41. Why she is regarded as clean.
  42. In her womb.
  43. The blood being attributed to the wound.
  44. If she has no regular period Rabbi, for the reason given in prev. n., agrees with R. Simeon b. Gamaliel.
  45. If the blood was observed on the day the period was due to commence.
  46. Sc. she is regarded as unclean, since it is possible that some particle of menstrual blood was mixed up with that of the wound.
  47. Rabbi.
  48. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel.
  49. Lit. 'as to the source, the place thereof is unclean'. And, therefore, capable of imparting uncleanness to any clean blood that passes through it.
  50. Sc. she is not subject to the major uncleanness of menstruation which extends over seven days.
  51. Though coming from a wound.
  52. Where it contracts an uncleanness (a 'father of uncleanness') which causes it to impart a one day's uncleanness to a human being, so that any object touched by the woman on that day becomes unclean.
  53. Relaxing the law.
  54. By regarding the blood as unclean.
  55. For seven days, as any other menstruant.
  56. Since you exempt the woman from menstrual uncleanness.
  57. Lit., 'the source of its place'.
  58. Previously unused.
  59. One is used before, and the other after and both are preserved until the morning when they are to be examined in daylight.
  60. So that the testing-rag may be immediately examined.
  61. One of which is used prior to the first intercourse and the other after the last.
  62. This being sufficient to determine whether she is menstrually unclean and whether she is to convey uncleanness to any clean object she may have handled. (So Rashi; cf., however, Tosaf. and Tosaf. Asheri for a different interpretation.)
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Niddah 16b

GEMARA. Our Rabbis taught: Although [the Sages] have said, 'He who has intercourse in the light of a lamp is contemptible',1  Beth Shammai ruled: A woman needs two2  testing-rags for every intercourse3  or she must perform it in the light of a lamp, but Beth Hillel ruled: Two testing-rags suffice for her for the whole night.

It was taught: Beth Shammai said to Beth Hillel, 'According to your view4  is there no need to provide against the possibility that she might emit5  a drop of blood of the size of a mustard seed in the course of the first act and this would be covered up with semen during the second act?'6  'But', replied Beth Hillel, even according to your view7  is there no need to provide against the possibility that the spittle,8  while still in the mouth,9  was crushed out of existence?'10  '[We maintain our view,] the former retorted, 'because what is crushed once is not the same as that which is crushed twice'.

It was taught: R. Joshua stated, 'I approve5  of the view of Beth Shammai'.7  'Master', said his disciples to him, 'what an extension [of the restrictions] you have imposed upon us!' 'It is a good thing', he replied, 'that I should impose extensive restrictions upon you in this world in order that your days may be prolonged in the world to come.

R. Zera remarked: From the words of all these authorities11  we may infer12  that a conscientious man should not indulge in intercourse twice in succession.13  Raba said: One may indulge in intercourse twice in succession, for that ruling14  was taught only in respect of clean objects.15  So it was also taught: This16  applies only to clean objects15  but to her husband she is permitted.17  This,18  however, applies only where he had left her in a state of presumptive cleanness, but if he left her in a state of presumptive uncleanness she is presumed to be in that state forever until she tells him, 'I am clean'.

R. Abba citing R. Hiyya b. Ashi who had it from Rab ruled: If a woman19  examined herself with a testing-rag which was subsequently lost she is forbidden intercourse until she had reexamined herself. R. Ela demurred: If it had not been lost20  would she not21  have been allowed intercourse even though she is unaware [whether there was or there was not a discharge], why then should she not now also22  be allowed intercourse? — Raba replied: In the former case her proof is in existence,23  but in the latter case22  her proof is not in existence.24

R. Johanan stated: It is forbidden to perform one's marital duty in the day-time.25  What is the Scriptural proof? That it is said, Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night wherein it was said: 'A man-child is brought forth'.26  The night is thus set aside27  for conception but the day is not set aside for conception. Resh Lakish stated: [The proof is] from here: But he that despiseth His ways28  shall die.29  As to Resh Lakish, how does he expound R. Johanan's text?26  — He requires it for the same exposition as that made by R. Hanina b. Papa. For R. Hanina b. Papa made the following exposition: The name of the angel who is in charge of conception is 'Night', and he takes up a drop and places it in the presence of the Holy One, blessed be He, saying, 'Sovereign of the universe, what shall be the fate of this drop? Shall it produce a strong man or a weak man, a wise man or a fool, a rich man or a poor man?' Whereas 'wicked man' or 'righteous one' he does not mention, in agreement with the view of R. Hanina. For R. Hanina stated: Everything is in the hands of heaven except the fear of God, as it is said, And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear etc.30  And R. Johanan?31  — If that were the only meaning,32  Scripture should have written,33  'A man-child is brought forth'34  why then was it stated, 'was brought forth a man-child'?35  To indicate that the night36  is set aside for conception36  but the day is not set aside for conception. As to R. Johanan how does he expound the text of Resh Lakish?29  — He requires it for [an application to the same types] as those described in the Book of Ben Sira:37  'There are three [types] that I hate, yea, four that I do not love: A Scholar38  who frequents wine-shops39  [or, as others say, a scholar that is a gossip],40  a person who sets up a college in the high parts of a town,41  one who holds the membrum when making water and one who enters his friend's house suddenly'.42  R. Johanan observed:43  Even his own house.

R. Simeon b. Yohai observed: There are four [types]44  which the Holy One, blessed be He, hates, and as for me, I do not love them: The man who enters his house suddenly and much more so [if he so enters] his friend's house, the man who holds the membrum when he makes water,

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. The reason is given infra.
  2. Previously unused.
  3. V. supra p. 108, n. 16.
  4. That there is no need for a testing-rag after every act.
  5. Lit., 'see'.
  6. So that the test after that act would not reveal it.
  7. That testing-rags must be used after each act.
  8. Sc. a drop of blood.
  9. Euphemism; the uterus; i.e., during the first intercourse.
  10. So that the test after that act would not reveal it.
  11. Lit., 'all of them', even Beth Hillel who requires only one test after the last act.
  12. Since intercourse is presumed lo be the possible cause of a discharge.
  13. If there was no examination after the first act.
  14. That each or, at least, the last intercourse must be followed by an examination.
  15. Sc. to make sure that the woman did not convey to them uncleanness when handling them. As regards intercourse, however, when a woman is in a presumptive state of cleanness no examination is necessary.
  16. That each or, at least, the last intercourse must be followed by an examination.
  17. Even in the absence of an examination.
  18. That as regards her husband no examination is required.
  19. At night, before intercourse.
  20. Lit., 'it is'.
  21. Since the examination of the rags, according to Beth Hillel, is never to take place before the following morning and, even according to Beth Shammai, no lamp is required at night and the examination is equally postponed until the morning whenever two rags are used for each act.
  22. Where the rag is lost.
  23. And it may well be examined in the morning to ascertain, regarding clean objects the woman had handled, whether she is clean or unclean. As regards intercourse too, should it be found that her uncleanness began prior to the act, she could bring a sin-offering.
  24. Were intercourse to be allowed in such a case there would be no possible means of ascertaining the condition of the woman any more than if there had been no examination at all. Hence Rab's prohibition.
  25. Cur. edd. insert in parenthesis, 'said R. Hamnuna. MS.M. reads for 'Hamnuna' 'Huna'.
  26. Job III, 3.
  27. Lit., 'given'.
  28. Sc. has intercourse at an improper time.
  29. Prov. XIX, 16.
  30. Deut. X, 12.
  31. Since Job III, 3 is required for the exposition of R. Hanina, whence does he derive his rulings?
  32. Lit., 'if so'.
  33. As E.V. in fact renders the Heb.
  34. Sc. the word gaber (male-child) should have preceded horoh (brought forth).
  35. Horoh (cf. prev. n.) preceding gaber and thus standing close to the word 'night'.
  36. Cf. prev. n.
  37. Cf. Ecclesiasticus XXI, 23.
  38. Lit., 'chief'.
  39. Lit., 'a house of drinkings'.
  40. Cur. edd. in parenthesis insert 'and others say, an excitable scholar'.
  41. A manifestation of arrogance.
  42. It was to types like these that Prov. XIX, 16 alluded.
  43. Not only 'his friend's house'.
  44. Lit., 'things'.
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