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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Niddah

Folio 13a



GEMARA. Wherein [in this respect]3  do women differ from men?4  — Women [in this matter] are not sensitive,5  hence they are praiseworthy,1  but in the case of men who are highly sensitive [their hands] ought to be cut off.2  But, if so,2  what was the point in saying 'MAKES FREQUENT' [seeing that the same reason2  applies] also where [the examinations are] infrequent? — When 'MAKES FREQUENT' was mentioned it was intended to refer to women only.6

One taught: This7  applies only to the emission of semen but as regards flux8  a man also is as praiseworthy as the women;9  and even in regard to the emission of semen, if he desires to make the examination with a splinter or with a potsherd10  he may do so. May he not, however, do it with a rag, seeing that it was taught: A man may examine himself with a rag or with any other thing he wishes? — As Abaye stated elsewhere: 'With a thick rag'.10  So also here11  it may be explained: With a thick rag.10  And in what connection was Abaye's statement made? In connection with the following: If a priest, while eating terumah, felt a shiver run through his body12  he takes hold of his membrum13  and swallows the terumah.14  'Takes hold'! But has it not been taught: R. Eliezer said, 'Whoever holds his membrum when he makes water is as though he had brought a flood on the world'?15  To this Abaye replied. 'With a thick rag'.16  Raba replied: It17  may even be said to apply to a soft rag for once the semen has been detached the subsequent touch does no longer matter.18  And Abaye?19  — He made provision against the possibility of an additional discharge.20  And Raba? — He does not consider the possibility of any additional discharges. But does he not, seeing that it was taught, 'To what may this21  be compared? To the putting of a finger upon the eye where, as long as the finger remains on it, the eye continues to tear'?22  Now Raba?23  — It is quite uncommon for one to get heated twice in immediate succession.24

[Reverting to] the main text: 'R. Eliezer said, Whoever holds his membrum when he makes water is as though he had brought a flood on the world'. But, they said to R. Eliezer, would not the spray bespatter his feet and he would appear to be maimed in his privy parts so that he25  would be the cause of casting upon his children the reflection of being illegitimate? — It is preferable, he answered them, that a man should be the cause of casting upon his children the reflection of being illegitimate than that he should make himself a wicked man, even for a while, before the Omnipresent. Another [Baraitha] taught: R. Eliezer replied to the Sages. It is possible for a man to stand on a raised spot and to make water or to make water in loose earth and thus to avoid making himself wicked, even for a while, before the Omnipresent. Which26  did he27  tell them28  first? If it be suggested that it was the first mentioned statement that he gave them first [is it likely, it may be objected], that after he spoke to them of a prohibition29  he would merely offer a remedy?30  — The fact is that it was the last mentioned statement31  that he gave them first, and when they asked him, 'What is he to do when he can find no raised spot or loose earth', he answered them, 'It is preferable that a man should be the cause of casting upon his children the reflection of being illegitimate than that he should make himself a wicked man, even for a while, before the Omnipresent'.

But why all these precautions?32  — Because otherwise one might emit semen in vain, and R. Johanan stated: Whosoever emits semen in vain deserves death, for it is said in Scripture. And the thing33  which he did33  was evil in the sight of the Lord, and He slew him also.34  R. Isaac and R. Ammi said. He35  is as though he shed blood, for it is said in Scripture. Ye that inflame yourselves among the terebinths, under every leafy tree, that slay the children in the valleys under the clefts of the rocks;36  read not 'that slay'37  but 'that press out'.38  R. Assi said: He39  is like one who worships idols; for here36  it is written, 'Under every leafy tree' and elsewhere40  it is written, upon the high mountains … and under every leafy tree.41

Rab Judah and Samuel once stood upon the roof of the Synagogue of Shaf-weyathib42  in Nehardea. Said Rab Judah to Samuel 'I must make water'. 'Shinena',43  the other replied, 'take hold of your membrum44  and make the water outside [the roof]'. But how could he45  do so, seeing that it was taught: R. Eliezer said, Whoever holds his membrum when he makes water is as though he brought a flood on the world? — Abaye replied: He treated this case as that of a reconnoitering troop, concerning which we learnt, 'If a reconnoitering troop has entered a town in time of peace the open wine jars are forbidden46  and the closed ones are permitted,47  but in times of war the former as well as the latter are permitted because the troops have no time to offer libations'.48  Thus it clearly follows that owing to their being in a state of fear they do not think49  of offering libations, and so also in this case, since he45  was in a state of fear he would not think of lustful matters. But what fear could there be here? — If you wish I might reply: The fear of the night and of the roof.50  If you prefer I might reply: The fear of his Master.51  If you prefer I might say: The fear of the Shechinah.52  If you prefer I might say: The fear of the Lord that was53  upon him,54  for Samuel once remarked of him55  'This man is no mortal being'.55  If you prefer I might say: He was a married man, and concerning such R. Nahman ruled, 'If a man was married, this is permitted'. If you prefer I might say: It was this that he taught him, vis., that which R. Abba the son of R. Benjamin b. Hiyya learnt: But he may support the testicles from below. And if you prefer I might say: It was this that he taught them, viz., that which R. Abbahu stated in the name of R. Johanan: It has a limit; from the corona downward [touch] is permitted

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Since both husband and wife are thereby saved either from doubtful uncleanness or from certain transgression.
  2. Because of masturbation.
  4. Sc. why is the hand of the former PRAISEWORTHY while that of the latter OUGHT TO BE CUT OFF?
  5. I.e., the examination does not unduly excite their passions.
  6. Cf. n. 1.
  7. The culpability of men who make such examinations.
  8. I.e., when a man is suffering from gonorrhoea and is desirous of ascertaining the number of attacks he had (v. next n.).
  9. Since it is necessary to ascertain whether the attack occurred only twice or three times. In the former case the man is only unclean while in the latter he must also bring a sacrifice.
  10. Avoiding masturbation.
  11. In the Baraitha just cited.
  12. Lit., 'that his limbs trembled', an indication of the imminent emission of semen.
  13. To restrain the emission. Uncleanness does not set in until the semen has actually left the body.
  14. Infra 40a.
  15. Shab. 41a, infra 43a. The generation of the flood were guilty of such offences (cf. R.H. 12a). Now how, in view of R. Eliezer's statement, could one be allowed to commit an offence even for the sake of terumah?
  16. Avoiding masturbation.
  17. In the Baraitha just cited.
  18. Lit., 'since it was uprooted it was uprooted', no more semen would be emitted despite the heat engendered.
  19. Why, in view of Raba's explanation, does he restrict the application to a thick rag only?
  20. Of semen.
  21. The touching of the membrum after an emission.
  22. Infra 43a. Lit. 'tears and tears again'.
  23. How could he differ from this Baraitha?
  24. Lit., 'any being heated and being heated again in its time'. Hence the ruling in the Mishnah infra 40a. The Baraitha infra 43a, on the other hand, refers to one who practised self-abuse.
  25. Being assumed to be incapable of procreation.
  26. Of the two statements cited.
  27. R. Eliezer.
  28. The Sages.
  29. Which applies in all cases.
  30. Implying that where the remedy is inapplicable the prohibition may be disregarded.
  31. Lit., 'that'.
  32. Lit., 'and all such, why'.
  33. 'He spilled it on the ground' (Gen. XXXVIII, 9).
  34. Gen. XXXVIII, 10.
  35. Who emits semen in vain.
  36. Isa. LVII, 5.
  37. [H].
  38. [H] interchange of the sibilants shin and sin.
  39. Who emits semen in vain.
  40. In reference to idolatry.
  41. Deut. XII, 2; an inference by analogy.
  42. The name of a man or place. v. Meg. (Sonc. ed.) p. 175, n. 5.
  43. 'Keen-witted', 'long-toothed' (denoting some facial characteristic) or 'man of iron endurance', cf. B.B. (Sonc. ed.) p. 561, n. 14.
  44. To prevent the water from falling on the roof.
  45. Rab Judah.
  46. Because the troops may have offered them as libation to their idols.
  47. It being assumed that the troops who have at their disposal the open jars would not meddle with the closed ones.
  48. Keth. 27a, A.Z., 70b.
  49. Lit., 'come'.
  50. Standing on its edge in the darkness of the night he is afraid of falling off.
  51. Samuel.
  52. Which abides in the Synagogue.
  53. Always, even when not on a roof or in the darkness of night.
  54. So that no impure thoughts would occur to him even at any other time or place.
  55. Lit., 'born of woman'.

Niddah 13b

but from the corona upwards1  it is forbidden.

Rab stated: 'A man who wilfully causes erection should be placed2  under the ban'. But why did he3  not say, 'This is forbidden'? Because the man4  merely incites his evil inclination against himself.5  R. Ammi, however, stated: He4  is called a renegade, because such is the art of the evil inclination: To-day it incites man to do one wrong thing,6  and to-morrow7  it incites him to worship idols and he proceeds to worship them.

There are others who read: R. Ammi8  stated, He who excites himself by lustful thoughts will not be allowed to enter the division of the Holy One, blessed be He. For here it is written, Was evil in the sight of the Lord,9  and elsewhere it is written, For Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness; evil shall not sojourn with Thee.10

R.11  Eleazar stated: Who are referred to12  in the Scriptural text, Your hands are full of blood?13  Those that commit masturbation with their hands.

It was taught at the school of R. Ishmael, Thou shalt not commit adultery14  implies, Thou shalt not practise masturbation either with hand or with foot.

Our Rabbis taught: 'proselytes and those that play with children delay the advent of the Messiah'. The statement about proselytes may be understood on the lines of the view of R. Helbo, for R. Helbo said, 'proselytes are as hard for Israel to endure as a sore',15  what, however, could be meant by 'those that play with children'?16  If it be suggested: Those that practise pederasty [it could well be objected]: Are not such people subject to stoning?17  If, however, it be suggested: Those that practise onanism through external contact18  [it could be objected]: Are not such deserving destruction by flood?17  — The meaning rather is: Those that marry minors who are not capable of bearing children, for R. Jose19  stated: The Son of David20  will not come before all the souls in Guf21  will have been disposed of, since it is said, For the spirit that enwrappeth itself is from Me, and the souls which I have made.22

BUT IN THE CASE OF MEN IT OUGHT TO BE CUT OFF. The question was raised: Have we here23  learnt a law or merely an execration? 'Have we here learnt a law' as in the case where R. Huna cut off one's hand;24  'or merely an execration'? — Come and hear what was taught: R. Tarfon said, 'If his hand touched the membrum let his hand be cut off upon his belly'. 'But', they said to him,25  'would not his belly be split'? 'It is preferable', he replied, 'that his belly shall be split rather than that he should go down into the pit of destruction'.26  Now if you concede that we have here27  learnt a law28  one can well understand why they said, 'Would not his belly be split'; but if you maintain that we have only learnt of an execration,29  what could be meant by [the question] 'His belly be split'? — What then would you suggest, that we have learnt here a law, would it not suffice, [it may be objected, that the cutting off shall] not be done on his belly? — The fact, however, is that it was this that R. Tarfon meant: Whosoever puts his hand below his belly that hand shall be cut off. They said to R. Tarfon, 'If a thorn stuck in his belly, should he not remove it'? 'No', he replied. 'But [they said] would not his belly be split'?30  'It is preferable', he replied, 'that his belly shall be split rather than that he should go down to the pit of destruction'.26


GEMARA. Why should not a DEAF woman make her own examination, seeing that it was taught: Rabbi stated, A deaf woman was living in our neighbourhood and not only35  did she examine herself but her friends also on observing a discharge would show it to her?36  — There it was a woman who could speak but not hear while here the reference is to one who can neither speak nor hear; as we have learnt: The deaf person of whom the Sages spoke is always37  one who can neither hear nor speak.38

A BLIND. Why should she not make her own examination and show the testing-rag to her friend? — R. Jose son of R. Hanina replied: The 'blind' is no part of the Mishnah.39

OR AN INSANE WOMAN. Is not this exactly the same as IMBECILE?40  This refers to one whose mind was deranged owing to a disease.

Our Rabbis taught: A priest who is an imbecile may be ritually immersed and then fed with terumah41  in the evening.42  He must also be watched that he does not fall asleep.43  If he falls asleep he is deemed unclean44  and if he does not fall asleep he remains clean. R. Eliezer son of R. Zadok ruled: He should be provided with a leather bag.45  The Rabbis said to him: 'Would not this cause heat all the more'? 'According to your view', he replied, 'should an imbecile have no remedy'? 'According to our view', they retorted, 'only if he falls asleep46  is he deemed unclean but if he does not fall asleep he remains clean, while according to your view there is the possibility that he might discharge a drop of blood of the size of a mustard seed and this would be absorbed in the bag'.47

A Tanna taught: It was stated in the name of R. Eleazar, The imbecile is to be provided with a metal bag. Abaye explained: It must be one of copper, as we have learnt:48  R. Judah ruled, Those buds of hyssop49  are regarded50  as if they had been made of copper.51

R. Papa remarked: From this52  it may be inferred that breeches53  are forbidden. But is it not written in Scripture, And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover the flesh of their nakedness?54  — That may be explained as it was taught: To what were the breeches of the priests like? They were like the knee breeches of horsemen, reaching upwards to the loins and downwards to the thighs. They also had laces but had no padding either back or front.55

Abaye stated:

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. In the direction of the body.
  2. Cf. Tosaf.
  3. Rab.
  4. Who indulges in the reprehensible practice.
  5. The practice, therefore, could only be condemned but not forbidden.
  6. Lit.,'tells him: Do so'.
  7. Lit., 'and on the morrow'.
  8. MS.M., 'Assi'.
  9. Gen. XXXVIII, 10.
  10. Ps. V, 5. analogy between the two expressions of 'evil'. Alfasi (Shab. XIV) inserts, 'R. Eleazar said, What is meant by evil shall not sojourn with thee? The evil (minded) man shall not sojourn in Thy dwelling'.
  11. So MS.M. and BaH. Cur. edd. and Alfasi, 'and R.'
  12. Lit., 'what'.
  13. Isa. I, 15.
  14. Ex. XX, 13.
  15. V. Yeb. 47b.
  16. Who apparently commit no crime at all.
  17. They are; while here they are merely described as delaying the advent of the Messiah.
  18. Lit., 'by way of limbs'.
  19. Var. lec. 'Assi' (Yeb. 62a) 'Joseph' (MS.M.).
  20. The Messiah.
  21. Lit., 'Body', the region inhabited by the souls of the unborn.
  22. Isa. LVII, 16.
  23. In the expression of 'OUGHT TO BE CUT OFF'.
  24. Though the same expression (cf. prev. n.) was used. Sanh. 58b.
  25. Cur. edd. in parenthesis, 'If a thorn stuck in his belly should he not remove it? He said to them: No'.
  26. Gehenna.
  27. In the expression of 'OUGHT TO BE CUT OFF.
  28. So that R. Tarfon's statement is to be taken literally.
  29. The 'cutting off' being a mere figure of speech.
  30. By the thorn.
  31. I.e., deaf-mute (v. Gemara infra).
  32. Lit., 'whose mind was deranged'.
  33. Lit., 'they have'.
  34. Lit., 'they prepare them', i.e., make the necessary examination and supervise the prescribed ritual immersion.
  35. Lit., 'it was not enough'.
  36. Who was an authority on the subject, in order to obtain her opinion on the colour whether it was that of clean or of unclean blood.
  37. Lit., 'in every place'.
  38. Hag. 2b.
  39. It is a spurious addition.
  40. Apparently it is; why then the repetition?
  41. Which is forbidden to an unclean priest.
  42. Since after due immersion one attains to cleanness at nightfall.
  43. In his sleep under his bedclothes heat might be engendered and this would cause him to emit semen which would render him unclean and, therefore, unfit to eat terumah.
  44. Cf. prev. n.
  45. Which can be examined for traces of semen before any terumah is given to him.
  46. After immersion and after nightfall.
  47. Tosef. Nid. II. As it would thus be lost to sight the priest would be regarded as clean and terumah would, as a result, be eaten by one who is in fact unclean; and consequently an offence that is punishable by death (at the hand of God) would unconsciously be committed.
  48. MS.M. and marg. n. Cur. edd., 'as it was taught'.
  49. Used in connection with the water of purification.
  50. When the water is measured to ascertain whether it contained sufficient for a sprinkling (cf. supra 9a).
  51. Parah Xli, 5. Sc. as if they did not absorb any water at all; from which it follows, in support of Abaye's explanation, that copper is a non-absorbent.
  52. The prohibition of a bag supra on account of the heat it engenders.
  53. Such as engender heat, v. infra.
  54. Ex. XXVIII, 42.
  55. Hanging loosely round the organ the breeches could engender no heat.