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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Niddah

Folio 25a

Pushtabna1  of Pumbeditha reached to2  half the height of the waiter Adda, while everybody else reached only to the loins of Pushtabna of Pumbeditha.

A question was raised in the presence of Rabbi: What is the ruling where a woman aborted a sac full of flesh? 'I did not hear of such a law', he answered them. 'Thus', announced R. Ishmael son of R. Jose before him, 'said my father: If it was full of blood the woman is unclean as a menstruant, but if it was full of flesh she is unclean as a woman after childbirth'. The other said to him: Had you told us something new in the name of your father we would have listened to you; but now, since his first ruling3  was given in accordance with the view of an individual, viz., in agreement with Symmachus who cited R. Meir,4  his second ruling also5  might be one given in accordance with the view of R. Joshua;6  but the halachah is not in agreement with R. Joshua. For it was taught: If an abortion was a sac with no fashioned limbs, R. Joshua ruled: It7  is regarded as a valid birth8  but the Sages ruled, it is no valid birth.9

R. Simeon b. Lakish citing R. Oshaia stated: The dispute10  refers only to a sac that was turbid11  but if it was clear12  all agree that it is no valid birth. R. Joshua b. Levi, however, stated: The dispute10  refers to the case of a clear sac. The question was raised:13  Do they differ only in the case of a clear sac but in that of a turbid one all agree that it is a valid birth or is it possible that they differ about the one as well as about the other? — This stands undecided.14  An objection was raised: This exposition was made by R. Joshua b. Hananiah: And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them15  teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, makes no skin for man before16  he is formed. Thus it is clearly proved that a valid birth17  depends on the skin irrespective of whether the sac was turbid or clear. Now if you grant18  that the dispute19  refers to the case of a clear sac there is full justification for his20  need for a Scriptural text;21  but if you maintain22  that the dispute refers only to a turbid sac,23  what need was there for a Scriptural text seeing that the reason24  is a matter of logic? Consequently it may be inferred that the dispute refers also to a clear sac.25  This is conclusive.

R. Nahman citing Rabbah b. Abbuha also26  stated: They27  differ only in regard to a turbid sac but as regards a clear one all agree that it is no valid birth. Raba raised an objection against R. Nahman: But they ruled: The token of a valid birth28  in small cattle is a discharge from the womb,29  in large cattle the placenta,30  and in a woman the sac or placenta',31  but, it follows, the abortion of a sac in cattle provides no exemption.32  Now, if you grant that they27  differ in the case of a clear sac, one can well see the reason why only a woman whose case Scripture specifically included,33  was granted exemption in respect of a sac31  while cattle whose case Scripture did not include no exemption was granted in respect of a sac, but if you maintain that the dispute concerns only a turbid sac consider! [The question of the validity of the birth being dependent] on a logical reason34  what difference in this respect could there be between a woman and cattle?35  — You think that R. Joshua was quite certain [of the nature of the sac],36  but the fact is that R. Joshua was rather doubtful on the matter and, therefore, he followed a restrictive course in both cases.37  [Only the question of the firstborn son] of38  a woman, which is a mere monetary matter,39  [did he rule that the abortion of a sac constitutes a valid birth,40  because] in a case of doubt in monetary matters a lenient course41  is followed.42  On the question of the firstling of cattle, however, which involves a ritual prohibition of shearing43  and of work44  [he ruled the abortion of a sac to be an invalid birth,45  because] in case of doubt in a ritual prohibition a restrictive course must be followed; and so also [on the question of the uncleanness] of a woman [the abortion of a sac is deemed to be a valid birth,46  because] in a case of doubtful uncleanness47  a restrictive course must be followed. But was he48  in doubt?49  Did he not, in fact, quote a Scriptural text?50  — The ruling is only Rabbinical51  and the Scriptural text is a mere prop.52

Said R. Hanina b. Shelemya to Rab: We have53  the statements of54  Rabbi,55  of54  R. Ishmael son of R. Jose,56  of R. Oshaia57  and of R. Joshua b. Levi;58  with whose view does the Master agree? — I maintain, the other replied, that in neither case59  need she take into consideration the possibility of a valid birth. Samuel, however, ruled: In either case60  must she consider the possibility of a valid birth.61  Samuel in this ruling follows his previously expressed view. For R. Dimi when he came62  stated: Never at Nehardea63  did they declare [one who aborted] a sac64  to be clean65  except in the case of a certain sac that was submitted to Samuel on which a hair that lay on one side could be seen through the other side when he said: If it were in fact an embryo it would not have been so transparent.

BUT IF ITS LIMBS WERE FASHIONED etc. Our Rabbis taught: What is meant by a sac the limbs of which are fashioned? Abba Saul explained: A foetus which in its primary stage resembles a locust,66  and its two eyes are like two drippings67  of a fly. R. Hiyya taught: They are far removed from one another. Its two nostrils are like two drippings of a fly. R. Hiyya taught: They are near one to another. Its mouth is as narrow as a stretched hair,68  its membrum69  is of the size of a lentil70  and in the case of a female [the organ] has the appearance of the longitudinal [slit]71  of a barley grain; but it has no shaped hands or feet.72  Of such a foetus there is this description in the post-Pentateuchal Scriptures:73  Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese? Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews. Thou hast granted me life and favor, and Thy providence hath preserved my spirit.74  It75  must not be examined in water because water is hard76

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Or (with Aruk) Pashtikna. Cur. edd., Parshtabina. One of the tallest men.
  2. Lit., 'stood to him'.
  3. A sac filled with blood.
  4. Supra 21b.
  5. On a sac filled with flesh.
  6. Also an individual.
  7. Even if it was filled with flesh only.
  8. And the woman is unclean by reason of childbirth.
  9. Cf. prev. two notes. Since the Sages who are the majority differ from R. Joshua the halachah cannot be in agreement with his view.
  10. Between R. Joshua and the Sages.
  11. In which case it may well be assumed that the foetus in it had been crushed.
  12. Filled with clear water.
  13. On R. Joshua b. Levi's statement.
  14. Teku.
  15. Gen. III, 21.
  16. Lit., 'but if so', 'unless'.
  17. Lit., 'thing'.
  18. As R. Joshua b. Levi submitted.
  19. Between R. Joshua and the Sages.
  20. R. Joshua's.
  21. Since by showing that skin alone proves the existence of an embryo he can support his view against that of the Sages.
  22. As Resh Lakish does.
  23. The reason for his view being not the presence of skin but the possibility that the embryo had been crushed.
  24. For being regarded as a valid birth.
  25. An objection thus remains against Resh Lakish.
  26. Like R. Oshaia.
  27. R. Joshua and the Rabbis.
  28. In respect of exempting the one born after it from the obligations of 'firstling' or 'first-born son'.
  29. After a conception.
  30. The young born after such a birth is not regarded as a firstling
  31. Bek. 19a. A son born after such an abortion is no 'first-born son.
  32. Of the next born young from the restrictions of a firstling.
  33. As deduced supra by R. Joshua b. Hananiah.
  34. And not on a Scriptural text which specially refers to the human species.
  35. If the foetus may be assumed to have been crushed in the one case why may it not be so assumed in the other?
  36. That its abortion constitutes a valid birth.
  37. In that of a firstling of cattle and in that of a woman's uncleanness (as will be explained presently).
  38. Lit., 'at'.
  39. A first-born son must be redeemed by the payment of five shekels to the priest.
  40. And the son born subsequently is no firstborn, and no redemption money on his behalf need be paid to the priest.
  41. In favour of the possessor of the money.
  42. The priest, therefore, cannot claim the redemption money (cf. prev. n. but one).
  43. Its wool.
  44. With the animal. It is forbidden to do any work with a firstling or to shear its wool (cf. Deut. XV, 19).
  45. Thus imposing the restrictions of a firstling on the next born young.
  46. Which imposes uncleanness upon the woman.
  47. Also a ritual matter.
  48. R. Joshua.
  49. Whether the abortion of a sac is a valid birth.
  50. Gen. III, 21, supra, in support of his view, which proves that his ruling is Pentateuchal and definite.
  51. Based, on account of the doubt, on the principle quoted supra.
  52. In support of the Rabbinical ruling.
  53. Supra.
  54. Lit., 'that'.
  55. Who said (supra) 'I did not hear of such a law'.
  56. Who said, 'If it was full of flesh she is unclean'.
  57. Who said, 'The dispute refers only to a sac that was turbid'.
  58. Who said, 'The dispute refers to the case of a clear sac'.
  59. Neither in that of a turbid sac nor in that of a clear one.
  60. Cf. prev. n. mut. mut.
  61. Sc. she must remain unclean for the prescribed period of childbirth uncleanness, but is not entitled to the privilege of the subsequent period of clean days.
  62. From Palestine to Babylon.
  63. The principal town under Samuel's jurisdiction.
  64. Even if there was no bleeding with the abortion.
  65. I.e., to be exempt from the period of uncleanness prescribed for a woman after childbirth.
  66. Reading (with R. Han. and R. Tam) kerashom (cf. Aruk.) Cur. edd. 'from its head'.
  67. Cf. Jast. 'Eyes' (Rashi).
  68. Lit., 'stretched as a hair thread'.
  69. When sex is distinguishable.
  70. The case spoken of in our Mishnah (q.v.) is one of doubtful sex.
  71. Cf. the reading of 'En Jacob and infra 25b.
  72. Sc. fingers and toes are not yet articulated.
  73. Lit., 'acceptance', 'tradition'.
  74. Job X, 10-12.
  75. A foetus in the conditions described.
  76. Lit., 'strong'.
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Niddah 25b

and disturbs its shape. It must rather be examined in oil because oil is mild and makes it clear. Furthermore, it must be examined in sunlight only. How is it to be examined? 'How is it to be examined' [you ask]! Of course as has just been described. — Rather, wherewith is it to be examined in order to ascertain whether it was male or female? — Abba Saul b. Nashor, as others say, Abba Saul b. Ramash replied: One brings a splinter with a smooth top and moves it [in an upward direction] in that place.1  If it is caught it will be known that the foetus is a male,2  and if not it will be known to be a female. R. Nahman citing Rabbah b. Abbuha stated: This3  was learnt only of a movement in an upward direction,2  but if sideways [it is no reliable test, since] it may be assumed [that the obstruction] was caused by the sides of the womb. R. Adda b. Ahaba stated: A Tanna taught, If the foetus was a female the organ has the appearance of the [longitudinal] slit of a barley grain.4  R. Nahman demurred: Is it not possible that it5  is merely the depression between6  the testes? — Abaye replied: Since the testes themselves are indistinguishable, would the depression between them be distinguishable?7

R. Amram stated: A Tanna taught, 'Its8  two thighs are like two silk threads', and in connection with this R. Amram explained: Like those of the woof;9  'and its two arms are like two threads of silk', in connection with which R. Amram explained: Like those of the warp.9

Samuel said to Rab Judah: Shinena,10  give no practical decision [on the validity of a birth] unless the embryo has hair [on its head]. But could Samuel have said such a thing, seeing that he ruled, 'In either case must she consider the possibility of a valid birth'? — R. Ammi b. Samuel replied: This was explained to me by the Master Samuel: She must indeed take into consideration the possibility of a valid birth;11  but she is not allowed the privilege of the clean days12  unless the embryo had hair [on its head]. This then implies that Samuel was doubtful on the point.13  But is it not a fact that when a certain sac was submitted to the Master Samuel he said, 'This is forty-one days old', but on calculating the time since the woman had gone to perform her ritual immersion14  until that day and finding that there were no more than forty days he declared, 'This man15  must have had marital intercourse during her menstrual period' and having been arrested16  he confessed?17  — Samuel was different from other people because his knowledge was exceptional.18

IF SHE ABORTED A SANDAL etc. Our Rabbis taught: A sandal is like a sea-fish [of the same name].19  At first it is a normal foetus but later it is crushed. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel said: A sandal resembles the tongue of a big ox. In the name of our Masters it was testified: A sandal20  must have the facial features.21  Rab Judah citing Samuel stated: The halachah is that a sandal20  must have the facial features. R. Adda citing R. Joseph who had it from R. Isaac ruled: A sandal20  must have the facial features even if only at the back, this being a case similar to that of a man who slapped his fellow and caused his face to turn backwards.

In the days of R. Jannai it was desired to declare [the mother of] a sandal that had no facial features as clean.22  Said R. Jannai to them: You would declare [the mother of newly born] children23  as clean!24  — But was it not taught, 'In the name of our Masters it was testified: A sandal25  must have the facial features'?26  — R. Bibi b. Abaye citing R. Johanan replied: It was on the evidence of R. Nehunya27  that this ruling28  was learnt.29  R. Ze'ira observed: R. Bibi was lucky [to be the first] with his reported traditions, for both I and he were sitting in the presence of R. Johanan when he discoursed upon this tradition, but he30  forestalled me and, reporting it first, gained the advantage.

Why was a sandal31  at all mentioned, seeing that there can be no birth of a sandal without that of an embryo with it?32  — If a female child were to be born with it this would be so indeed,33  but here we are dealing with one with which a male was born.34  As it might have been presumed that, since R. Isaac b. Ammi stated, 'If the woman is first to emit the semen she bears a male child and if the male is first to do it she bears a female child', the one35  is a male as well as the other is a male,36  hence we were informed [that no such assumption is made, for] it might equally be assumed that both emitted their semen simultaneously so that one might be a male while the other35  is a female.37  Another explanation:38  [Sandal39  was mentioned] in order that if a woman bore a female child before sunset and a sandal after sunset40  she must count the beginning of her period of menstruation in accordance with the first birth and in accordance with the second birth.41

As regards the sandal that we learnt

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Euphemism.
  2. The obstruction being attributed to the membrum.
  3. The splinter test.
  4. Cf. the reading supra 25a, ad fin. The latter reading adds 'slit' which is wanting in the original of the former.
  5. The presumed female organ.
  6. Lit., 'thread of'.
  7. Obviously not.
  8. Referring to the foetus in its early stages.
  9. The threads of the woof are thicker than those of the warp.
  10. Keen witted (rt. [H] 'to sharpen'); long-toothed ([H], 'tooth'): or man of iron.
  11. Sc. to remain unclean for fourteen days.
  12. After the conclusion of the unclean ones.
  13. The stages in the development of a foetus.
  14. Following the conclusion of her menstrual period.
  15. The husband of the woman.
  16. Lit., 'he bound him'.
  17. An incident which shows Samuel's remarkable and accurate knowledge of the nature of a foetus.
  18. Lit., 'because his strength is great'. Other people, however, whose physiological knowledge is not so great must adopt a cautious course and take into consideration the possibility suggested.
  19. Cf. Rashi.
  20. If it is to be deemed a valid birth.
  21. Tosef. Nid. IV.
  22. Regarding it as no valid birth.
  23. A sandal being regarded as a valid birth.
  24. Contrary to Pentateuchal law.
  25. If it is to be deemed a valid birth.
  26. Tosef. Nid. IV.
  27. An individual authority.
  28. Lit., 'teaching', the ruling that a sandal that is to be deemed a valid birth must have the facial features.
  29. Hence (cf. prev. n. but one) it may well be disregarded.
  30. R. Bebai.
  31. The law that it causes a woman's uncleanness (cf. our Mishnah).
  32. So that the woman would be unclean even in the absence of a sandal.
  33. There would have been no necessity at all to mention the sandal (cf. prev. n. but one), since it could add no uncleanness, whatever its sex: If it is a female it would subject the woman to the very same uncleanness as the female that was born with it, and if it is a male, the period of uncleanness it causes is a lesser one than that of the female.
  34. So that if the sandal were a female the period of the woman's uncleanness would extend over a longer period.
  35. The sandal.
  36. In consequence of which the woman's uncleanness would be that of a male birth only.
  37. Hence the law of the sandal which imposes the restrictions of a female birth (fourteen unclean days instead of seven) as well as those of a male birth (thirty-three days of cleanness instead of sixty-six).
  38. Which justifies the necessity for the law of sandal even where a female was born.
  39. The law that it causes a woman's uncleanness (cf. our Mishnah).
  40. The day concluding at sunset, when another day begins, and the sandal being thus born a day later than the female child.
  41. I.e., the restrictions of both are imposed upon her: As the sandal might be a male the eighty-first day from the female birth (if there was a discharge) is regarded as the first day of menstruation though that day is still the eightieth from the sandal's birth which in the case of a female is one (the last) of the clean days. The seventh day after the eightieth again is not regarded as the termination of the seven days of menstruation (which began on the eightieth day) since it is possible that the sandal was a female whose eightieth day coincided with the eighty-first of the female child and in accordance with which the woman's seven days of menstruation began a day later (the eighty-second day after the first birth) and consequently terminated a day later.
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