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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Niddah

Folio 31a

observed: What is the Scriptural proof?1  From my mother's womb Thou art gozi.2  What is the proof that 'gozi' implies 'swearing'? — Because it is written, Swear [gozi] concerning thy naziriteship and cast away.3

R. Eleazar further stated: What does an embryo resemble when it is in its mother's bowels? A nut floating in a bowl of water. Should someone put his finger upon it, it would sink on the one side or on the other.

Our Rabbis taught: During the first three months4  the embryo occupies the lowest chamber, during the middle ones it occupies the middle chamber and during the last months it occupies the uppermost chamber; and when its time to emerge arrives it turns over and then emerges, and this is the cause of the woman's pains.5  This also agrees with what was taught:6  The pains of a female birth are more intense than those of a male birth. R. Eleazar further observed, 'What is the Scriptural proof for this?7  When I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth;8  it does not say 'dwelt' but 'curiously wrought'.9  Why are the pains of a female birth greater than those of a male birth? — The female emerges in the position she assumes during intercourse and the male emerges in the position he assumes during intercourse. The former, therefore, turns her face upwards10  while the latter11  need not turn his face.

Our Rabbis taught: During the first three months4  marital intercourse is injurious to the woman and it is also injurious to the child. During the middle ones it is injurious to the woman but beneficial for the child. During the last months it is beneficial for both the woman and the child, since on account of it the child becomes well-formed and of strong vitality.

One taught: He who indulges in marital intercourse on the ninetieth day4  is as though he had shed blood. But whence could one know this?12  — Rather, said Abaye, one carries on marital intercourse in the usual manner and the Lord preserveth the simple.13

Our Rabbis taught: There are three partners in man, the Holy One, blessed be He, his father and his mother. His father supplies the semen of the white substance out of which are formed the child's bones, sinews, nails, the brain in his head and the white in his eye; his mother supplies the semen of the red substance out of which is formed his skin, flesh, hair, blood14  and the black of his eye; and the Holy One, blessed be He, gives him the spirit and the breath,15  beauty of features, eyesight, the power of hearing16  and the ability to speak17  and to walk,18  understanding and discernment. When his time to depart from the world approaches the Holy One, blessed be He, takes away his share and leaves the shares of his father and his mother with them. R. Papa observed: It is this that people have in mind when they say, 'Shake off the salt19  and cast the flesh to the dog'.20

R. Hinena b. Papa gave the following exposition: What is the purport of the Scriptural text, Who doeth great things past finding out,' yea, marvellous things without number?21  Come and see the contrast between the potency of the Holy One, blessed be He, and that of mortal man.22  A man might put his things23  in a skin bottle24  [whose holes25  are] tied up and whose orifice is turned upwards and yet it is doubtful whether [the things] would be preserved or not, whereas the Holy One, blessed be He, fashions the embryo in a woman's internal organ that is open and whose orifice is turned downwards and yet it is preserved. Another exposition: If a man puts his things on the scale of a balance, the heavier they are the lower the scale descends, whereas the Holy One, blessed be He, [fashioned the woman in such a manner that] the heavier the embryo the higher it rises.26

R. Jose the Galilean gave the following exposition: What is the purport of the Scriptural text, I will give thanks unto Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well?27  Come and see the contrast between the potency of the Holy One, blessed be He, and that of mortal man.28  If a man29  puts different seeds in a bed each grows in the manner of its own particular species, whereas the Holy One, blessed be He, fashions the embryo in the woman's bowels in such a manner that all30  grow into one and the same kind. Another exposition: If a dyer puts different ingredients into a boiler they all unite into one colour, whereas the Holy One, blessed be He, fashions the embryo in a woman's bowels in a manner that each element develops in its own natural way.31

R. Joseph gave the following exposition: What is the purport of the Scriptural text, I will give thanks unto Thee, O Lord; for though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortest me.32  The text alludes to33  two men who set out on a trading expedition when a thorn got into [the foot of] one of them who34  began to blaspheme and to revile. After a time, however, when he heard that his friend's ship had sunk into the sea he35  began to laud and praise. Hence it is written, 'Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortest me'. This is indeed in line with what R. Eleazar stated: What is implied by the Scriptural text, Who doeth wondrous things alone;36  and blessed be His glorious name for ever?37  Even the person for whom a miracle is performed38  is unaware of the miracle.39

R. Hanina b. Papa made the following exposition: What is the implication of the Scriptural text, Thou measurest my going about and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways?40  It41  teaches that man is not fashioned from all the drop but only from its purest part. The school of R. Ishmael taught: This is analogous to the action of one who, winnowing42  in threshing floors, takes up the edible part and leaves the refuse. This is in agreement with an exposition of R. Abbahu. For R. Abbahu pointed out an incongruity: It is written, For Thou hast winnowed me from43  strength44  and it is also written,45  The God that girdeth me with strength!46  David in effect said to the Holy One, blessed be He, 'Sovereign of the world, Thou hast winnowed me47  and Thou hast girded me with strength'.

R. Abbahu also gave this exposition: What is the implication of the Scriptural text, Who hath counted the dust of Jacob, or numbered the stock of Israel?48  It teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and counts the stock of Israel. 'When [He wonders] will appear the drop from which a righteous man could be fashioned'? Moreover, it is for this reason that the eye of the wicked Balaam was blinded. He said, 'Would He who is pure and holy and whose ministers are pure and holy look upon such a thing?' His eye was forthwith blinded, for it is written, And the saying of the man whose eye is closed.49  This is in line with what R. Johanan stated: What is the implication of the Scriptural text, And he lay with her in that night?50  It teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, assisted in that matter. For it is said, Issachar is a large-boned ass;51  it is the ass52  that has caused53  the birth of Issachar.

R. Isaac citing R. Ammi54  stated: If the woman emits her semen first she bears a male child; if the man emits his semen first she bears a female child; for it is said, If a woman emits semen55  and bear a man-child.56

Our Rabbis taught: At first it used to be said that 'if the woman emits her semen first she will bear a male, and if the man emits his semen first she will bear a female', but the Sages did not explain the reason, until R. Zadok came and explained it: These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore unto Jacob in Paddan-aram, with his daughter Dinah,57  Scripture thus ascribes the males to the females58  and the females to the males.59

And the sons of Ulam were mighty men of valour, archers; and had many sons, and sons' sons.60  Now is it within the power of man to increase61  the number of 'sons and sons' sons'? But the fact is that because

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. That an oath is taken on the day of one's birth.
  2. Ps. LXXI, 6; E.V., Thou art He that took me out of my mother's womb.
  3. Jer. VII, 29; E.V., Cut off thy hair, and cast it away.
  4. Of pregnancy.
  5. At a childbirth.
  6. So Bomb. ed. Cur. edd. 'we learnt'.
  7. That the embryo first occupies the lowest chamber.
  8. Ps. CXXXIX, 15.
  9. Implying the inception of the embryo; and this is stated to be 'in the lowest parts'.
  10. The turning intensifying the pains.
  11. Since the embryo is all the time lying face downwards.
  12. When the ninetieth day is.
  13. Ps. CXVI, 6; those who are unable to protect themselves.
  14. So MS.M. and Elijah Wilna. Cur. edd. omit.
  15. Or 'soul'.
  16. Lit., 'of the ear'.
  17. Lit., 'of the mouth'.
  18. Lit., 'walking of the feet'.
  19. Metaph. for the soul, 'the preserver of the human body'.
  20. Proverb. The lifeless body is of little more value.
  21. Job IX, 10.
  22. Lit., 'that not like the measure of … is the measure of flesh and blood'.
  23. Cf. MS.M. Cur. edd., 'the measure of flesh and blood he puts a thing'.
  24. Hemeth, a skin drawn off the body of the animal in such a manner as not to damage it except for the cuts at the tail and legs.
  25. Cf. prev. n.
  26. Beginning in the lowest chamber at conception it rises steadily to the highest, as stated supra.
  27. Ps. CXXXIX, 14.
  28. V. p. 214, n. 10.
  29. Cf. MS.M. Cur. edd. add, 'the measure of flesh and blood'.
  30. The semen of both parents.
  31. The one develops into bones, sinews, nails etc. while the other develops into skin, flesh etc., as stated supra.
  32. Isa. XII, 1.
  33. Lit., 'of what does Scripture speak? Of'.
  34. Having been compelled by the accident to interrupt his journey.
  35. Being gratified at the turn of events which prevented him from embarking on the disastrous expedition.
  36. Emphasis on 'alone'. E.V., Who only … things.
  37. Ps. LXXII, 18f.
  38. Lit., 'master of the miracle'.
  39. Only God alone knows it. Cf. prev. n. but two.
  40. Ps. CXXXIX, 3.
  41. The expression of zeritha ('Thou measureth') which coming from the root [H], may be rendered, 'thou winnowest'.
  42. Cf. prev. n.
  43. E.V, 'girded me with'.
  44. II Sam. XXII, 40.
  45. In the corresponding passage.
  46. Ps. XVIII, 33.
  47. Cf. supra n. 2.
  48. Num. XXIII, 10.
  49. Ibid. XXIV, 3. E.V., 'is opened'.
  50. Gen. XXX, 16; emphasis on [H].
  51. Ibid. XLIX, 14.
  52. On which Jacob rode and which stopped at Leah's tent.
  53. Garem ('large-boned') is derived from a root which in Aramaic signifies also 'to cause'. The consonants may be vocalized as garam. Hamor garam, 'the ass was the cause'.
  54. Var. lec. Assi ('En Jacob).
  55. E.V., 'be delivered'.
  56. Lev. XII, 2.
  57. Gen. XLVI, 15.
  58. 'Sons of Leah'.
  59. 'His daughter Dinah'.
  60. I Chron. VIII, 40.
  61. The Heb. for 'had many' is the Hif. of [H] which may be rendered 'cause to increase'.

Niddah 31b

they contained themselves during intercourse1  in order that their wives should emit their semen first so that their children shall be males, Scripture attributes to them the same merit as if they had themselves caused the increase of the number of their sons and sons' sons. This explains what R. Kattina said, 'I could make all my children to be males'. Raba stated: One who desires all his children to be males should cohabit twice in succession.

R. Isaac citing R. Ammi2  further stated: A woman conceives only immediately before her menstrual period, for it is said, Behold I was brought forth in iniquity;3  but R. Johanan stated: A woman conceives only immediately after her ritual immersion, for it is said, And in cleansing4  did my mother conceive me.5  What is the proof that 'het'6  bears the meaning of cleansing? — Since it is written 'we-hitte7  the house'8  and this is translated,9  'And so shall he cleanse the house'. And if you prefer I might reply: The proof is derived from the following: Purge10  me with hyssop and I shall be clean.11

R. Isaac citing R. Ammi further stated: As soon as a male comes into the world peace comes into the world, for it is said, Send ye a gift12  for the ruler of the land13  [and the Hebrew for] male14  [is composed of the consonants of the 'words for] 'this is a gift'.15

R. Isaac citing16  R. Ammi further stated: When a male comes into the world his provision comes with him, [the Hebrew for] male [zakar, being composed of the consonants of the words for] 'this is provision [zeh kar]', for it is written, And he prepared a great provision [kera] for them.17  A female has nothing with her, [the Hebrew for] female [nekebah] implying 'she comes with nothing' [nekiyyah ba'ah]. Unless she demands her food nothing is given to her, for it is written, Demand [nakebah]18  from19  me thy wages and I will give it.20

R. Simeon b. Yohai was asked by his disciples: Why did the Torah ordain that a woman after childbirth should bring a sacrifice? He replied: When she kneels in bearing she swears impetuously that she will have no intercourse with her husband. The Torah, therefore, ordained that she should bring a sacrifice. (R. Joseph demurred: Does she not21  act presumptuously22  in which case the absolution of the oath23  depends on her regretting it?24  Furthermore, she should25  have brought a sacrifice prescribed for an oath!)26  And why did the Torah ordain that in the case of a male [the woman is clean] after seven days and in that of a female after fourteen days? [On the birth of a] male with whom all rejoice she regrets her oath after seven days, [but on the birth of a female] about whom everybody is upset she regrets her oath after fourteen days. And why did the Torah ordain circumcision on the eighth day?27  In order that the guests28  shall not enjoy themselves29  while his father and mother are not in the mood for it.30

It was taught: R. Meir used to say, Why did the Torah ordain that the uncleanness of menstruation should continue for seven days? Because being in constant contact with his wife31  [a husband might] develop a loathing towards her. The Torah, therefore, ordained: Let her32  be unclean for seven days33  in order that34  she shall be beloved by her husband as at the time of her first entry into the bridal chamber.

R. Dostai son of R. Jannai was asked by his disciples: Why35  does a man go in search of a woman and no woman goes in search of a man? This is analogous to the case of a man who lost something. Who goes in search of what? He who lost the thing goes in search of what he lost.36  And why does the man lie face downwards and the woman face upwards towards the man? He [faces the elements] from which he was created37  and she [faces the man] from whom she was created.38  And why is a man easily pacified and a woman is not easily pacified? He [derives his nature] from the place from which he was created39  and she [derives hers] from the place from which she was created.40  Why is a woman's voice sweet and a man's voice is not sweet? He [derives his] from the place from which he was created41  and she [derives hers] from the place from which she was created.42  Thus it is said, For sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.43



GEMARA. How is this52  to be imagined? If they53  observed a discharge, then54  even our daughters also [should in such circumstances be regarded as unclean]; and if they55  have not observed any discharge, their daughters also should not be regarded as unclean, should they? — Raba son of R. Aha son of R. Huna citing R. Shesheth replied: Here we are dealing with cases of which nothing definite is known, but since a minority exists that experience discharges, the possibility of such a discharge is taken into consideration. And who is the Tanna that56  takes a minority into consideration?

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Lit., in the belly'.
  2. Var. lec. Assi ('En Jacob).
  3. Ps. LI, 7. The last word is taken as an allusion to the menstruation period when intercourse is an iniquity' and the prefixed beth ('in') is rendered 'near'.
  4. E.V., 'sin'.
  5. Ps. LI, 7.
  6. The Heb. word here rendered 'cleansing' (E.V., 'sin').
  7. Of the same rt. as het.
  8. Lev. XIV, 52.
  9. I.e., by the Targum Onkelos.
  10. Tehate'eni (cf. prev. n. but one).
  11. Ps. LI, 9.
  12. Kar; E.V. 'lambs'.
  13. Isa. XVI, 1.
  14. Zakar.
  15. Zeh kar. Gifts foster peace.
  16. V. marg. gl. Cur. edd., 'the school of'.
  17. II Kings VI, 23.
  18. The same consonants as those for female (nekebah).
  19. E.V., 'appoint'.
  20. Gen. XXX, 28.
  21. When swearing.
  22. Of course she does.
  23. Lit., 'the thing'.
  24. It does. Now in such a case it is only a Sage who, after satisfying himself of the sincerity of her plea, may absolve her. A sacrifice, however, has no place here at all.
  25. Instead of the sacrifice of a bird prescribed for a woman after a confinement.
  26. A lamb or a goat.
  27. After birth, and not on the seventh which is the last day of uncleanness
  28. Lit., 'all.'
  29. At the festive meal given in honour of the circumcision.
  30. Lit., 'sad', on account of the prohibition of intercourse which remains in force until the conclusion of the seventh day.
  31. Lit., 'with her'.
  32. Even after the least discharge of blood.
  33. When intimate intercourse is forbidden.
  34. By being deprived of her intimacy for certain recurrent periods.
  35. In matrimony.
  36. The rib from which Eve was built was taken from Adam.
  37. The earth.
  38. Cf. prev. n. but one.
  39. Earth, which yields.
  40. The unyielding bone of a rib.
  41. A beat upon the earth produces no note.
  42. A bone can be made to produce certain notes.
  43. Cant. II, 14.
  44. Kuthim, the people of Cutha and other places of Assyria who were transported to Samaria after the destruction of the northern kingdom and who combined their former idol-worship with a belief in the God of Israel (II Kings XVII, 24ff). Their descendants were for a time regarded as suspected Israelites and finally were entirely excluded from the community.
  45. This is explained in the Gemara infra.
  46. Even blood that is clean. Should a discharge of clean blood on one day be followed by one of unclean on the following day, the Samaritan woman would count the seven days of uncleanness from the first day, regarding the second discharge as having occurred within the seven days of menstruation, so that on the eighth day she regards herself as clean, while as a matter of fact her uncleanness began on the second day and continues for seven days, the last of which is the eighth from the first discharge on which she is still menstrually unclean.
  47. If a person, for instance, covered himself with the unclean articles mentioned.
  48. Of a sacrifice.
  49. That came in contact with these articles (cf. prev. n. but one).
  50. Though Rabbinically valid as a preventive measure.
  51. While a sacrifice and terumah are Pentateuchal. A Rabbinical rule can have no force where its observance involves interference with a Pentateuchal ordinance.
  52. The first clause of our Mishnah.
  54. Since menstruation may begin at the earliest stage of life (v. infra 32a).
  56. In respect of restriction.