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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Niddah

Folio 26a

in the laws of the firstborn,1  what practical law2  is thereby taught?3  — That the son who follows it4  is regarded as a firstborn son in respect of inheritance5  but not [in regard to his redemption] from the priest.6  What practical law is taught by that of the sandal of which we learnt in the case of those who incur the penalty of kareth?7  — That if the embryo8  is born from her side,9  and the sandal from her womb she10  must bring a sacrifice on account of the sandal. But according to R. Simeon who ruled that 'a foetus born from the side constitutes a valid birth',11  what can be said?12  — R. Jeremiah replied: That if a woman bears the child while she is an idolatress and the sandal after she has been converted [to Judaism] she13  must bring a sacrifice on account of the sandal.

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.


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

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Bek. 46a.
  2. In respect of the child born after it.
  3. Sc. since the birth of a sandal is always accompanied by the birth of an embryo how could the former's presence any more than its absence affect the birthright of a subsequently born son whose status would in any case be determined by that of the embryo.
  4. Sc. the embryo accompanying it if it was a male and was born after it.
  5. He is entitled to a double portion in his deceased father's estate (cf. Deut. XXI, 17).
  6. Cf. Num. XVIII, 15-16.
  7. Supra 7b in respect of the duty of bringing a sacrifice. Cf. supra n. 6 mut. mut.
  8. That accompanied the sandal.
  9. Extracted by means of the Caesarean cut.
  10. Though on account of the embryo, since it was not born from the normal place, she incurs no sacrifice of childbirth.
  11. Infra 40a; so that a sacrifice is incurred in any case.
  12. In reply to the objection: 'What practical law is taught by that of the sandal?'
  13. Who incurs no obligation of a sacrifice on account of the child, since she was still an idolatress when it was born.
  14. Just given, in reply to the objections as to what practical purpose was served by the law of the sandal.
  15. Sandal and embryo.
  16. How then is it possible, for instance, that a woman should be converted between the birth of the child and the birth of the sandal which are simultaneous processes or for one to be born by Caesarean section and the other by natural birth?
  17. From (a) the law relating to those incurring the penalty of kareth which presumes the embryo to precede the sandal and (b) the law of the firstborn which presumes the sandal to precede the embryo and (c) the statement that embryo and sandal issue while clinging to one another.
  18. Sc. the head of the embryo is in contact with the centre part of the sandal.
  19. But does not come in contact with the lower part of its body.
  20. The sandal and embryo clinging to one another in the manner described.
  21. Lit., 'by way of their heads'.
  22. Lying across the embryo's head.
  23. Sc. before the birth of the embryo was consummated. As the sandal was the first to issue the embryo cannot be regarded as a firstborn son to be subject to the obligation of redemption from the priest.
  24. Clinging to one another in the manner described.
  25. Hence the obligation to bring the sacrifice prescribed for a woman in childbirth.
  26. Sandal and embryo.
  27. The one made by R. Papa.
  28. As if overshadowed by an actual corpse.
  29. And having been mixed up with the blood of childbearing which was the greater quantity became neutralized in it.
  30. Hence it can no longer convey any uncleanness.
  31. Lit., 'hens'.
  32. Tosef. Nid. IV.
  33. [Aliter: Oshaia Zeira of Haberya a village in the Hawram district; v. Horowitz, Palestine p. 263].
  34. Cf. Bomb. ed. and MS.M. Cur. edd., 'it was taught'.
  35. In the citation from Tosef. Nid. IV
  36. Cf. MS.M.
  37. Ram's horn used on the two days of the New Year festival (cf. Lev. XXIII, 24, Num. XXIX, 1).
  38. Cf. Tosaf. Asheri.
  39. A handbreadth is equal to the size of four thumbs which equals that of four fingers plus. Hence the prescription that when 'held in one's hand', sc. with the four fingers, it must 'be seen at either end', i.e., it must slightly project to make up the required size.
  40. With which it is bound to form with the willows the Tabernacles festive wreath (cf. Lev. XXIII, 40).
  41. V. Glos.
  42. Of a sukkah (cf. Lev. XXIII, 42).
  43. Cf. Lev. XIV, 4.
  44. 'Two reported traditions'.
  45. That on the spine of the lulab cited in the name of R. Johanan. All the others are Baraithas.
  46. Instead of 'R. Hiyya taught'.
  47. As an Amora. R. Hiyya lived at the end of the period of the Tannas and the beginning of that of the Amoras. When he 'taught' he was citing a Baraitha but when he 'stated' or 'said' he was speaking only as an Amora.
  48. Whose prescribed size is a handbreadth.
  49. Thus constituting a 'tent' of minimum size.
  50. By overshadowing. If an unclean object and a clean one were overshadowed by it the latter becomes unclean even though it had not come in direct contact with the former.
  51. Where the clean object was above, and the unclean one under such a 'tent'.
  52. Oh. III, 7.
  53. So that it can be used as its handle.
  54. Cf. prev. n. On the rendering of 'double stove' cf. Tosaf. 26b, s.v. [H], contra Rashi.
  55. Kel. V, 2. Between an object on the stone and the oven or stove. If the object was unclean its uncleanness is conveyed to the oven or stove and if one of the latter was unclean its uncleanness is conveyed to the object.
Tractate List

Niddah 26b

the 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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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Used as toys (cf. Rashi and Gold.)
  2. Cf. MS.M. Cur. edd., 'for it was taught'.
  3. When its manufacture is completed.
  4. Sc. of a big oven that contracted uncleanness and was then broken.
  5. If its uncleanness is to be retained.
  6. Kel. V, 1. For a fuller explanation cf. Hul. 124a.
  7. Now why was not this law included among the five enumerated by R. Oshaia supra?
  8. R. Oshaia.
  9. The size of the handbreadth in this case being disputed by R. Meir.
  10. About the stone that projected from an oven cited supra from Kel. V, 2.
  11. As a reason why it was not mentioned by R. Oshaia.
  12. Near which the oven is placed. Where a stone is of greater length it prevents the oven from being brought up to the wall and is removed in consequence. Only in such a case is the size restricted to a handbreadth. Where, however, the stone projects on another side, since it would not be removed, it is regarded as a handle.
  13. Ex. XXV, 25.
  14. Cf. Ex. XXV, 17, as explained in Suk. 4b.
  15. Placed above the entrance to a blind alley in connection with the permissibility of the movement of objects on the Sabbath.
  16. 'Er. 13b.
  17. R. Oshaia.
  18. Ali the Sabbath laws in connection with an alley are merely Rabbinical.
  19. Lit., 'their sizes'.
  20. After the birth of a child.
  21. That issued after the childbirth.
  22. That was born. The days of the woman's uncleanness and cleanness are consequently reckoned from the day of the child's birth and not from the latter day on which the placenta issued.
  23. Who was crushed within the placenta and who might have been a female.
  24. And the restrictions of a female birth (fourteen unclean days instead of seven, for instance,) are imposed.
  25. How then could he have ruled that after three days had passed the placenta might still be attributed to a second child?
  26. According to which a second child might be born three or more days after the birth of the first one.
  27. 'One child is not detained at all after the other'.
  28. Who, thanks to R. Kahana's suggestion, recollected Rab's actual words and as a result was grateful and complimentary (cf. R. Gershom, contra Rashi).
  29. After the abortion of the embryo.
  30. Lit., 'from here and onwards'.
  31. That may have been crushed in the placenta.
  32. Who was a former disciple of Rab and joined Samuel's academy for some time after Rab's death.
  33. Lit., 'straw of the wheat'. Metaphor: The man could be upset by the simplest of arguments. Aliter: On whom we may throw wheat-chaff, i.e., embarrass with petty questions (Jast.).
  34. Cf. prev. n. He would not be able to open his mouth in defence of his views.
  35. As suggested supra by R. Kahana and confirmed by R. Isaac.
  36. 'He considered it a discourtesy on the part of Rab Judah (cf. supra n. 3) not to have informed him earlier of such an important ruling of Rab.
  37. Is the placenta, it is asked, attributed to the raven-shaped embryo or is it attributed to a human embryo that may have been crushed in it?
  38. Man and beast.
  39. Birds are, therefore, excluded.
  40. The raven-shaped object.
  41. That may have been crushed within the placenta.
  42. Lit., 'behold I'.
  43. The two embryos.
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