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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Niddah
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.
MISHNAH. BETH SHAMMAI RULED: A WOMAN NEEDS TWO58 TESTING-RAGS FOR EVERY INTERCOURSE,59 OR SHE MUST PERFORM IT IN THE LIGHT OF A LAMP.60 BETH HILLEL RULED: TWO TESTING-RAGS61 SUFFICE HER FOR THE WHOLE NIGHT.62
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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