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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Niddah
R. Joshua b. Levi cursed the man who sleeps on his back.9 But this, surely, is not correct,10 for did not R. Joseph rule that one lying on his back should not read the shema',11 from which it follows, does it not, that it is only the shema' that he must' not read but that he may well sleep in this manner? — As regards sleeping on one's back this is quite proper if one slightly inclines sideways, but as regards the reading of the shema' even if one inclines sideways this is forbidden.12 But did not R. Johanan turn slightly on his side and read the shema'? — R. Johanan was different [from other people] because he was corpulent.13
MISHNAH. IT IS THE CUSTOM OF THE DAUGHTERS OF ISRAEL WHEN HAVING MARITAL INTERCOURSE TO USE TWO TESTING-RAGS, ONE FOR THE MAN AND THE OTHER FOR HERSELF,14 AND VIRTUOUS WOMEN PREPARE ALSO A THIRD RAG WHEREBY TO MAKE THEMSELVES FIT FOR MARITAL DUTY.15 IF A VESTIGE OF BLOOD IS FOUND ON HIS RAG16 THEY ARE BOTH UNCLEAN17 AND ARE ALSO UNDER THE OBLIGATION OF BRINGING A SACRIFICE.18 IF ANY BLOOD IS FOUND ON HER RAG IMMEDIATELY AFTER THEIR INTERCOURSE THEY ARE BOTH UNCLEAN AND ARE ALSO UNDER THE OBLIGATION OF BRINGING A SACRIFICE. IF, HOWEVER, ANY BLOOD IS FOUND ON HER RAG AFTER A TIME THEY ARE UNCLEAN19 BY REASON OF DOUBT20 BUT EXEMPT FROM THE SACRIFICE. WHAT IS MEANT BY 'AFTER A TIME'? WITHIN AN INTERVAL IN WHICH SHE CAN DESCEND FROM THE BED AND WASH HER FACE.21 BUT [IF BLOOD WAS FOUND SOME TIME] AFTER SUCH AN INTERVAL SHE CAUSES UNCLEANNESS RETROSPECTIVELY22 FOR A PERIOD OF TWENTY-FOUR HOURS23 BUT SHE DOES NOT CAUSE THE MAN WHO HAD INTERCOURSE WITH HER TO BE UNCLEAN.24 R. AKIBA RULED: SHE25 ALSO CAUSES THE MAN WHO HAD INTERCOURSE WITH HER TO BE UNCLEAN.26 THE SAGES, HOWEVER, AGREE WITH R. AKIBA THAT ONE WHO OBSERVED A BLOODSTAIN CONVEYS UNCLEANNESS TO THE MAN WHO HAD INTERCOURSE WITH HER.
GEMARA. But27 why should not the possibility be considered that the blood might be that of a louse?28 — R. Zera replied that place is presumed to be tested as far as a louse is concerned. There are others, however, who reply: It is too narrow for a louse. What is the practical difference between them?29 — The practical difference between them is the case where a crushed louse was found.30 According to the reply31 that the place is presumed to be tested, this must have come from somewhere else,32 but according to the reply31 that the place is too narrow it might be presumed that the attendant33 has crushed it.34
It was stated: If a woman examined herself with a rag that she had previously examined,35 and then she pressed it against her thigh on which she found blood on the following day, Rab ruled: She36 is subject to the uncleanness of a menstruant.37 Said R. Shimi b. Hiyya to him: But, surely, you told us, 'She has only to take the possibility38 into consideration'. It was also stated: Samuel ruled: She is subject to the uncleanness of a menstruant.37 And so they also ruled at the schoolhouse: She is subject to the uncleanness of a menstruant.
It was stated: If a woman examined herself with a rag which she had not previously examined and having put it into a box she found upon it, on the following day, some blood,39 R. Joseph stated: Throughout all his lifetime R. Hiyya regarded [her] as unclean but in his old age he ruled that [she] was clean. The question was raised: What40 does he41 mean: That throughout all his42 lifetime he regarded [her] as menstrually unclean43 and in his old age he ruled that [she] was clean as far as menstruation is concerned but unclean on account of the bloodstain,44 or it is possible that throughout his lifetime he regarded [her] as unclean on account of the stain44 and in his old age he ruled that [she] was absolutely45 clean? — Come and hear what was taught: If a woman examined herself with a rag which she had not previously examined and having put it into a box she found upon it, on the following day, some blood, Rabbi ruled: She is regarded as menstrually unclean,46 and R. Hiyya ruled: She is regarded as unclean on account of the bloodstain.47
Niddah 14bSaid R. Hiyya to him: 'Do you not agree that it1 must be slightly bigger than the size of a bean?'2 'Indeed', the other replied. 'If so',3 the first retorted, 'you also regard it as a stain'.4 Rabbi, however, holds the opinion that it is necessary for the stain to be slightly bigger than the size of a bean in order to exclude the possibility of its being the blood of a louse, but as soon as this possibility is ruled out the blood must undoubtedly have come from her body. Now did not this occur5 when he was in his old age but when he was young he regarded it6 as menstrually unclean?7 This is conclusive.
Rabbi was commending R. Hama b. Bisa to R. Ishmael son of R. Jose as a great man, when the latter said to him, 'If you come across him8 bring him to me'. When he9 came he10 said to him, 'Ask me something'. 'What is the ruling', the other asked, 'if a woman examined herself with a rag which she had not previously examined and having put it into a box she found some blood upon it on the following day?' 'Shall I give you,' the first answered, 'the ruling according to the views of my father11 or shall I rather give it to you according to the views of Rabbi?'12 'Tell me,' the other said, 'the ruling according to Rabbi'. 'Is this the person', R. Ishmael exclaimed, 'of whom it is said that he is a great man! How could one ignore13 the views of the Master14 and listen to those of the disciple?15 R. Hama b. Bisa, however, was of the opinion that since Rabbi was the head of the college and the Rabbis were frequently in his company his traditions were more reliable.16 What is the view of Rabbi [that has just been referred to] and what is that of R. Jose? — R. Adda b. Mattena replied: —
A Tanna taught, Rabbi declares her17 unclean and R. Jose declares her clean. In connection with this R. Zera stated: When Rabbi declared her unclean he did so in agreement with the ruling of R. Meir, but when R. Jose declared her clean he did so in accordance with his own view. For we learnt:18 If a woman when attending to her needs19 observed a discharge of blood, R. Meir ruled: If she was standing at the time she is unclean but if she was sitting she is clean. R. Jose ruled: In either case she is regarded as clean.20 Said R. Aha son of Raba to R. Ashi: But did not R. Jose the son of R. Hanina state that when R. Meir ruled that the woman was unclean he did so only on account of the bloodstain,21 whereas Rabbi regarded her as unclean by reason of menstruation?22 — The other replied, What we maintain is this: When that ruling23 was stated it was that the uncleanness was due to menstruation.24
IF ANY BLOOD IS FOUND ON HER RAG IMMEDIATELY AFTER HER INTERCOURSE THEY ARE BOTH UNCLEAN etc. Our Rabbis taught:25 What is meant by 'immediately'? This may be illustrated by the parable of the attendant and the witness who stood at the side of the lintel where the witness enters immediately after the attendant goes out, this being the interval which the Rabbis allowed as regards wiping off,26 but not as regards an examination.27
IF, HOWEVER, ANY BLOOD IS FOUND ON HER RAG AFTER A TIME etc. A Tanna taught: They28 do incur the obligation of bringing a suspensive guilt-offering. But what is the reason of our Tanna?29 — It is essential30 [that the doubt shall be of the same nature as in the case of the consumption of] one piece of two pieces.31
WHAT IS MEANT BY 'AFTER A TIME'? etc. Is not, however, this32 incongruous with the following: What is meant by 'after a time'? R. Eleazar33 son of R. Zadok explained: Within an interval in which34 she can stretch out her hand, put it under the cushion or bolster, take out a testing-rag and make examination with it?35 — R. Hisda replied: By AFTER is meant the interval following this interval.36 But was it not stated in connection with this,37 IF, HOWEVER, ANY BLOOD IS FOUND ON HER RAG AFTER A TIME THEY ARE UNCLEAN, BY REASON OF THE DOUBT BUT EXEMPT FROM THE SACRIFICE. WHAT IS MEANT BY 'AFTER A TIME'? WITHIN AN INTERVAL IN WHICH SHE CAN DESCEND FROM THE BED AND WASH HER FACE?38 — It is this that was implied:39 WHAT IS MEANT BY 'AFTER A TIME'? Within an interval in which she can stretch out her hand, put it under the cushion or bolster, take out a testing-rag and make examination with it; and WITHIN AN INTERVAL IN WHICH SHE CAN DESCEND FROM THE BED AND WASH HER FACE [the question of uncleanness is subject to] a divergence of view between R. Akiba and the Sages. But was it not stated,40 AFTER SUCH AN INTERVAL?41 — It is this that was meant: And this is the interval concerning which R. Akiba and the Sages are at variance.
R. Ashi replied: The former and the latter42 represent the same length of time; when she has the testing-rag in her hand the time IS WITHIN AN INTERVAL IN WHICH SHE CAN DESCEND FROM THE BED AND WASH HER FACE, but if she has not the rag in her hand the time is limited to 'within an interval in which she can stretch out her hand, put it under the cushion or bolster, take out a testing-rag and make examination with it'.
An objection was raised: What is meant by 'after a time'? This question was submitted by R. Eleazar son of R. Zadok to the Sages at Usha when he asked them,
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