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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Niddah
The following was said by the Rabbis before R. Papa: But are all these answers14 tenable? Was it not in fact taught, 'When they15 issue they do so only while clinging to one another'?16 — R. Papa replied: From this17 it may be inferred that the embryo clings to the sandal at the middle of the latter18 which lies across the head of the former.19 Consequently, as regards the law of the firstborn, [the reference is to a case], for instance, where the embryo20 issued with its head first21 so that the sandal22 issued first.23 As regards the law concerning those punishable by kareth it is a case where they24 issued with their feet first so that the embryo was born first.25 R. Huna b. Tahlifa citing Raba explained: It may even be said that they26 cling together side by side, but reverse the previous statement:27 As regards the law of the firstborn [the reference is to a case] where they26 issued with their feet first; so that the embryo, being animated hangs on and does not easily come out; while the sandal, not being animated, glides and comes speedily out. As regards the law concerning those subject to the penalty of kareth [the reference is to a case] where they issued with their heads first, so that the embryo, being animated is deemed to have consummated its birth as soon as its head came out; while the sandal [being inanimated cannot be deemed to have been born] until its greater part came out.
MISHNAH. IF A PLACENTA IS WITHIN A HOUSE, THE HOUSE IS UNCLEAN;28 NOT BECAUSE A PLACENTA IS A CHILD BUT BECAUSE GENERALLY THERE CAN BE NO PLACENTA WITHOUT A CHILD. R. SIMEON SAID, THE CHILD MIGHT HAVE BEEN MASHED29 BEFORE IT CAME FORTH.30
GEMARA. Our Rabbis taught: The placenta in its first stage resembles a thread of the woof and in its final stage it resembles a lupine. It is hollow like a trumpet; and no placenta is smaller than a handbreadth. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel stated: The placenta resembles the craw of a hen31 out of which the small bowels issue.32
R. Oshaia, the youngest of the fellowship,33 taught:34 Five things have a prescribed minimum of a handbreadth, and they are the following. A placenta, a shofar, a spine, a sukkah wall and a bundle of hyssop. As to the placenta there is the ruling just mentioned.35 'Shofar'?36 For it was taught: What must be the size of a shofar?37 R. Simeon b. Gamaliel explained: It must be of such a size as can be held in one's hand and be seen at either end, viz.,38 a handbreadth.39 What is meant by 'spine'? The ruling which R. Parnak laid down in the name of R. Johanan: The spine of the lulab must be long enough to project a handbreadth above the myrtle.40 'The Sukkah41 wall'? As it was taught: Two walls42 must be proper ones but the third is valid even if it is only one handbreadth wide. 'Hyssop'? As R. Hiyya taught: The bundle of hyssop43 must be a handbreadth long.
R. Hanina b. Papa stated: Shila of the village of Tamartha discoursed on three Baraithas and two reported traditions dealing with the prescribed size of a handbreadth. 'Two'44 [you say]; is it not only one?45 — Abaye replied, read:46 R. Hiyya stated,47 'The bundle of hyssop must be a handbreadth long'. But are there no others?48 Is there not in fact [the law that an enclosed space of] one handbreadth square and one handbreadth in height, forming a cube49 conveys uncleanness50 and constitutes a screen51 against uncleanness?52 — We spoke of the size of 'a handbreadth'; we did not speak of 'a handbreadth square'. But is there not the law concerning a stone that projected one handbreadth from an oven53 or three fingerbreadths from a double stove54 in which case it serves as a connecting link?55 We spoke only of cases where the size of less than a handbreadth is invalid, but here the law would apply all the more to such a case where the size is of less than a handbreadth and it is a handle of the oven. But is there not
Niddah 26bthe law of ovens of the size of one handbreadth?1 For we learnt:2 — An oven [if it is to be susceptible to uncleanness must] ab initio3 be no less than four handbreadths high, and what remains of it4 must5 be no less than four handbreadths high; so R. Meir. But the Sages ruled: This applies only to a big oven but if it is a small one [it is susceptible to uncleanness] ab initio, after its manufacture is completed, whatever its size, and what is left of it [remains unclean] if it was the greater part of it.6 And [to the question] what is meant by 'whatever its size', R. Jannai replied: One handbreadth, since ovens of the height of one handbreadth are made!7 — He8 did not speak of laws about which a divergence of view exists.9 Now that you have arrived at this argument that law10 [it may be explained]11 is also one in dispute, for in the final clause it was stated: R. Judah said, They spoke of the length of a handbreadth only between the oven and the wall.12 But is there not also a border of a handbreadth?13 — He does not deal with sizes that are prescribed in Scripture. But is there not the ark-cover that was one handbreadth thick?14 — He8 does not discuss holy things. But is there not [the following law]: It suffices for a cross-beam15 to be one handbreadth wide?16 — He17 does not discuss Rabbinical laws.18 [He was concerned only] with such as are prescribed in Scripture and in connection with which no sizes19 have been specified.
R. Isaac b. Samuel b. Martha once sat at his studies before R. Kahana and in the course of the session he observed: Rab Judah citing Rab laid down that throughout the first three days20 the placenta21 is attributed to the child,22 but henceforth the possibility of the birth of a second child23 must be considered.24 Said the other to him: But could Rab have said such a thing? Did not Rab in fact state, 'One child is not detained at all after the other [had been born]'?25 The first remained silent. Said the other to him: Is it not possible that one statement26 referred to an abortion, while the other27 referred to a child that was viable? — You, the first28 answered, have indeed stated Rab's actual rulings, for Rab has explicitly made the following statement: If a woman aborted an embryo and after that she aborted a placenta, if this occurred within three days29 the placenta is attributed to the embryo, but if it occurred at any subsequent time the possibility of the abortion of a second embryo must be taken into consideration. If, however, she gave birth to a normal child and subsequently aborted a placenta, even if that occurred between that moment and ten days later,30 the possibility of the abortion of a second child31 need not be considered at all.
Samuel and the disciples of Rab and Rab Judah32 were once sitting at their studies when R. Joseph the son of R. Menashya of Dewil passed along in great haste. 'There comes towards us', he exclaimed, 'a man whom we can throw down with a piece of straw33 and he would allow himself to be thrown down and pushed out'.34 In the meanwhile he approached them. What, said Samuel to him, did Rab rule in regard to a placenta? — Thus, the other replied, said Rab: The placenta may be attributed only to a child that is viable.35 Samuel then put the question to all the disciples of Rab and they told him the same thing. Thereupon he turned round and looked at Rab Judah with displeasure.36
R. Jose b. Saul enquired of Rabbi: What is the law where there was an abortion in the shape of a raven and [this was followed by] a placenta?37 — The other replied: We can attribute a placenta only to an embryo in whose species38 the placenta is [one of their organs].39 What is the law where the placenta is tied to it?40 — You, the other replied, have asked a question about that which does not exist. He raised an objection against him: If a woman aborted something in the shape of a beast, a wild animal or a bird, and a placenta with them, whenever the placenta is attached to it there is no need to take into consideration the possibility of the existence of a second embryo, but if no placenta is attached to it the possibility of the existence of a second embryo41 must be considered, and one42 must [impose on the woman] on account of them43
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