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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Niddah

Niddah 3a

And both1  deduced it2  from no other law than that of sotah.3  The Rabbis4  hold [that the law of the ritual bath is the same] as that of sotah; as [the offence of] the sotah is a matter of doubt and is regarded as a certainty5  so here also6  [where the uncleanness is] a matter of doubt it is regarded as a certainty. If [the inference, however, is made] from the sotah might it not be argued: It is like the sotah in this respect, viz., that as the sotah is clean [if she is suspected of an offence] in a public domain7  so should [all the purifications effected in] this case also6  be regarded as clean [if the bath was] in a public domain? — What a comparison!8  There9  the cause10  is seclusion11  but seclusion in a public domain is impossible,12  but here,6  the cause13  being the deficiency,14  what matters it whether the deficiency takes place in a public, or in a private domain?15  And should you argue: Is not every doubtful case of ritual uncleanness in a public domain regarded as clean [it could be retorted:] Since [in the case of the bath] there are two unfavourable factors16  it is regarded as certain uncleanness. R. Simeon, however, holds [that the law of the ritual bath is the same as that of sotah [in this respect]: As the sotah is regarded as clean [where she is suspected of an offence] in a public domain so also here17  [are all the purifications effected regarded as] clean [if the bath was] In a public domain. If [the inference, however, is made] from the sotah, might it not be argued: It is like the sotah in this respect viz., that as the sotah [if suspected of the offence] in a private domain is regarded as definitely unclean so should also [all purifications effected in this case] be deemed to be definitely unclean [where the bath was] in a private domain? — What a comparison!18  In that case19  there is some basis for the suspicion,20  seeing that he21  had warned her and she had secluded herself with the stranger; what basis for uncleanness,20  however, is there here?22

And if you prefer I might say that this is R. Simeon's reason:23  He infers the law of the termination of uncleanness24  from that of the inception of uncleanness;25  as with the inception of uncleanness if it is doubtful whether an object has or has not touched an uncleanness in a public domain it is deemed to be clean, so also with the termination of uncleanness, if it is doubtful whether an object had been duly immersed or not, in a public domain it is deemed to be clean. And the Rabbis?26  — What an inference!27  There,28  since the man is in the presumptive status of ritual cleanness, we cannot on account of a doubt transfer him to a state of uncleanness, but here,29  seeing that the man is in the presumptive status of uncleanness, we cannot on account of a doubt release him from his uncleanness.

Wherein, however, does this30  essentially differ31  from the case of an alley of which we learnt: If a dead creeping thing was found in an alley it causes ritual uncleanness retrospectively32  to such time as one can testify, 'I examined this alley and there was no creeping thing in it',33  or to such time as it was last swept?34  — There35  also, since there are creeping things from the alley itself and also creeping things that make their way into it from the outside world, the case is the same as one that has two unfavourable factors. And if you prefer I might reply,36  This is Shammai's reason:37  Because a woman is herself conscious [when she suffers a flow].38  And Hillel?39  — She might have thought that the sensation40  was that of urine. As to Shammai, is there not [the possibility of suffering a flow while] asleep?41  — A woman asleep too would42  awake on account of the pain,43  as is the case where one feels a discharge of urine.44  But is there not the case of an imbecile?45  — Shammai agrees46  in the case of an imbecile. But did he not state, ALL WOMEN?47  — [He meant:] All sensible women. Then why did he not merely state WOMEN?48  — He intended to indicate that the law is not in agreement with R. Eliezer; for R. Eliezer mentioned 'Four classes of women'49  and no more, hence he50  informed us [that the law applies to] ALL WOMEN. But is there not the case of stains?51  Must we then52  assume that we learnt the Mishnah about stains53  in disagreement with Shammai? — Abaye replied: Shammai agrees54  in the case of stains. What is the reason? — Since she was neither handling a slaughtered bird nor was she passing through the butchers' market, whence could that blood have come?55  And56  if you prefer I might reply, This is Shammai's reason: If in fact any blood were there57  it would have flowed out earlier.58  And Hillel?59  — The walls of the womb may have held it back.60  And Shammai?61  — The walls of the womb do not hold blood back. But what can be said for a woman62  who63  uses an absorbent in her marital intercourse?64  — Abaye replied: Shammai agrees65  in the case of one who uses an absorbent,66  Raba replied: An absorbent too [does not affect Shammai's ruling, since] perspiration causes it to shrink.67  Raba, however, agrees68  in the case of a tightly packed absorbent.69

What, however, is the practical difference between the latter explanations70  and the former explanation?71

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. R. Simeon and the first Tanna.
  2. Each his respective rulings in the Baraitha just cited.
  3. V. Glos., in connection with whom Scripture speaks of uncleanness or defilement (cf. Num. V, 13).
  4. Sc. the first Tanna (cf. supra n. 7).
  5. A sotah, until her innocence is proved by the test (cf. Num. V, 15-28), being definitely forbidden to her husband.
  6. The case of the ritual bath under discussion.
  7. Where no privacy is possible.
  8. Lit., 'thus, now'.
  9. Sotah.
  10. Of the woman's uncleanness or prohibition to her husband.
  11. Of the woman with the suspected stranger.
  12. Hence the ruling that in such a case the woman is deemed clean.
  13. Of uncleanness.
  14. Of the water in the bath.
  15. Nothing. Hence the Rabbis' ruling that all purifications effected, irrespective of domain, are deemed to be unclean.
  16. As pointed out supra 2b.
  17. The case of the ritual bath under discussion.
  18. Lit., 'thus, now'.
  19. Sotah.
  20. Lit., 'there are feet for the thing'
  21. Her husband.
  22. In the case of the bath. As there is no basis whatever for the assumption that this deficiency occurred before the purifications had been effected it may well be assumed that it occurred afterwards immediately before the bath was measured. It has thus been shown, as R. Hanina replied supra, that according to R. Simeon all cases of doubtful uncleanness in a private domain where there is no basis for the affirmation of the uncleanness, are regarded as being in suspense.
  23. For holding doubtful cases of uncleanness in a public domain to be clean.
  24. Sc. ritual immersion which takes place when the period of uncleanness is concluded.
  25. I.e., uncleanness contracted from coming in contact with an unclean object.
  26. How, in view of R. Simeon's inference, could they maintain (v. supra 2b ad fin.) that 'all purifications … whether it was in a public or in a private domain, are unclean'?
  27. Lit., 'thus, now'.
  28. The case of the inception of uncleanness.
  29. In a case of termination of uncleanness.
  30. The case of the menstruant in our Mishnah.
  31. According to Shammai.
  32. To all clean objects that were in the alley prior to its discovery.
  33. Sc. only clean objects that were in the alley prior to that examination are ritually clean since the examination has established that during that time there was no creeping thing in the alley.
  34. Infra 56a; and no creeping thing was found. The sweeping, which is presumably accompanied by a search for any unclean things, has the same force as a direct examination. Hence (cf. prev. n.) only objects that were in the alley prior to the sweeping are clean while those that were there after the sweeping, since a creeping thing may have fallen into the alley immediately after the sweeping was over, are regarded as unclean. Now seeing that here uncleanness in a doubtful case is caused retrospectively, why does Shammai in our Mishnah restrict the period of uncleanness to the time of THEIR DISCOVERING only?
  35. The case of the alley in the Mishnah just cited.
  36. To the objection raised against Shammai.
  37. For his ruling that menstruants begin their period of uncleanness from the time OF THEIR DISCOVERING OF THE FLOW only and not, as in the case of the alley, retrospectively.
  38. As she did not feel any prior to her present discovery it may be safely assumed that previously there had not been any.
  39. How, in view of this argument, can he maintain that a menstruant's uncleanness is RECKONED RETROSPECTIVELY?
  40. Of the menstrual flow.
  41. When the woman is unconscious of it. As this is quite possible, why does not Shammai extend the period of uncleanness retrospectively?
  42. In Shammai's opinion.
  43. Of the flow.
  44. As she did not awake, it may well be presumed that the flow began just before its discovery.
  45. Who is incapable of distinguishing the first appearance of a flow.
  46. That the period of uncleanness extends retrospectively.
  47. Which presumably includes the imbecile also.
  48. Omitting 'ALL'.
  49. Infra 7a.
  50. Shammai.
  51. Of menstrual blood, which (v. infra 56a) cause uncleanness retrospectively, though prior to the moment of its discharge the woman was unaware of any flow.
  52. Since Shammai does not extend the unclean period retrospectively, maintaining that a woman is invariably aware when her flow first appears.
  53. Where it was ruled that a stain causes uncleanness even where the woman had felt no flow whatever.
  54. That the menstruant's uncleanness is extended retrospectively.
  55. Hence it must be assumed to have come from the woman's menstrual flow.
  56. So BaH. Cur. edd. omit 'and'.
  57. Sc. prior to its discovery.
  58. As none flowed out it may well be assumed that the flow began only just before it had been discovered.
  59. Sc. how can he maintain his ruling in view of the argument here advanced for Shammai?
  60. As, however, it might have made its way to the ante-chamber the period of uncleanness must extend from that time onwards.
  61. Cf. prev. n. but one mut. mut.
  62. Of the three classes enumerated infra 45a.
  63. To prevent conception.
  64. As the material used would also absorb any menstrual blood, there could be no proof that the discharge did not begin prior to the discovery. How then could Shammai rule that the menstrual uncleanness begins only at 'THE TIME OF THEIR DISCOVERING THE FLOW'?
  65. That menstrual uncleanness is reckoned retrospectively.
  66. Cf. prev. n. but one.
  67. Lit., 'on account of perspiration it inevitably shrinks' and consequently, enables the blood to pass out. As no blood appeared prior to the discovery Shammai may well maintain that the uncleanness does not begin prior to the DISCOVERING OF THE FLOW.
  68. With Abaye.
  69. Since the blood cannot pass through it.
  70. That (a) 'a woman feels' and (b) 'it would have flowed out earlier' (supra).
  71. Supra 2a, 'a woman should be presumed to enjoy her usual status'.
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Niddah 3b

— The practical difference between them is the possibility of pointing out an incongruity [between the ruling in our Mishnah and the rulings concerning] the jug, the ritual bath and the alley:1  According to the former explanation such an incongruity may justifiably be pointed out1  while according to the latter explanations such an incongruity does not exist. But what practical difference is there [in the case of the latter] between the one and the other explanation? — According to Abaye2  there is the case of the absorbent,3  and according to Raba2  there is the case of the absorbent tightly packed.4  It was taught in agreement with that explanation that 'if in fact any blood were there it would have flowed out earlier': Hillel said to Shammai, 'Do you not agree that in the case of a basket one corner of which was used for levitically clean objects while in another corner was found5  a dead creeping thing, the objects that were formerly clean are regarded as unclean retrospectively?'6  — 'Indeed', the other replied. 'Then [Hillel rejoined] what is the difference between the one case and the other?'7  — 'The one8  [Shammai replied] has a bottom,9  the other10  has none.'11  Raba stated: Shammai's reason12  is to avoid13  neglect of marital life.14  So it was also taught: Shammai said to Hillel, 'If so,15  you cause the daughters of Israel the neglect of marital life'.16  Now according to him17  who taught this explanation18  [it may be objected:] Was it not taught,19  in agreement with the former explanation,18  that 'if in fact any blood were there it would have flowed out earlier'? — There19  it was Hillel who erred. He thought that Shammai's reason was that if any blood had been there it would have flowed out earlier and, therefore, he raised an objection against him from the case of the basket,20  but Shammai answered him, 'My reason is the avoidance of the neglect of marital life; and as regards your erroneous assumption too, in consequence of which you raised an objection from the case of the basket, the latter has a bottom while the former has none.21

But according to him who taught22  the first explanation23  [it may be objected:] Was it not in fact taught, in agreement with the latter version, that the reason is to avoid the neglect of propagation? It is this that Hillel in fact said to Shammai, 'Even if you give as your reason that "if in fact any blood were there it would have flowed out earlier," you must nevertheless make a fence24  for your ruling, for why should this law be different from all the Torah for which a fence is made?' To this the other replied, 'If so,25  you would cause the daughters of Israel to neglect marital life'.26  And Hillel?27  — 'Do I [he can reply] speak of marital life?28  I only speak of levitical cleanness'. And Shammai?29  — [Restrictions, he holds, must] not [be imposed] even as regards levitical cleanness, since otherwise30  the man might have scruples31  and keep away altogether.32

(Mnemonic:33  Bottom examined covered in a corner.)

It was stated: If one corner of a basket was used for levitically clean objects and a dead creeping thing was found in another corner, Hezekiah ruled that the objects that were formerly34  clean remain clean. R. Johanan ruled: The objects that were formerly35  clean are now regarded as retrospectively unclean. But do not Shammai36  and Hillel in fact agree37  in the case of a basket that the objects that were formerly clean are deemed to be retrospectively unclean?38  — Shammai and Hillel agree39  only in the case of a basket that had a bottom,40  while Hezekiah and R. Johanan differ in that of a basket that had no bottom.41  But if the basket had no bottom what could be R. Johanan's reason?42  — It had no bottom, but it had43  a rim.44  But surely, it was taught:45  'If a man drew46  ten buckets of water one after the other47  and a creeping thing was found in one of them, this one48  is unclean and all the others49  remain clean';50  and in connection with this Resh Lakish citing R. Jannai stated, 'This51  was taught only in a case where the bucket had no rim52  but if it had a rim53  all the buckets of water are deemed to be unclean.' Now must it be assumed that Hezekiah54  does not adopt the view of R. Jannai?55  — [No, since] water56  glides57  while fruits58  do not glide;59  or else [it may be replied] one is not particular with water60  but with fruit one is particular.61  And if you prefer I might reply: Shammai and Hillel agree62  only in respect of a basket that was not [previously]63  examined64

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Supra 2b and 3a.
  2. Supra 3a ad fin.
  3. If the explanation is that 'a woman feels' the period of menstrual uncleanness would begin at the time of the discovery of the blood even where a woman used an absorbent, while if the explanation is that 'it would have flowed out earlier' uncleanness would begin retrospectively since the discharge might have begun earlier but was soaked up by the absorbent.
  4. Cf. prev. note.
  5. After the clean objects had been removed from the basket.
  6. Lit., 'the former clean are unclean', because it is possible that the creeping thing was in the basket before the objects had been removed and that it consequently imparted uncleanness to the basket from which it was conveyed to the objects. If the creeping thing, it may be added, had been found in the same corner in which the objects were previously kept there could be no question that the latter remain clean, since it may be regarded as certain that they had been removed before the creeping thing had fallen into the basket. For if it had been there earlier it would have been discovered at the time the objects were being removed.
  7. Sc. why is the uncleanness deemed to be retrospective in the case of the basket and not in that of the menstruant?
  8. The basket.
  9. Where the creeping thing may well have rested quite unobserved by the person who removed the objects.
  10. The menstruant.
  11. Sc. had any blood found its way to the ante-chamber it would inevitably have flowed out.
  12. For his ruling in the first clause of our Mishnah that the uncleanness is not retrospective.
  13. Lit., 'on account of'.
  14. Lit., propagation'. Were it to be assumed that blood can make its way to the vagina even when the woman is unconscious of it, men would abstain from all marital intercourse in order to avoid possible complications of uncleanness.
  15. That menstrual uncleanness is to be retrospective (v. our Mishnah).
  16. Cf. note 10.
  17. Raba.
  18. Of Shammai's reason.
  19. Supra.
  20. Where it is not assumed (on the analogy of the blood of the menstruant) that if a creeping thing had been there it would have come out together with the objects when the basket had been cleared.
  21. Cf. notes supra.
  22. Supra.
  23. That Shammai's reason is that if any blood had been in the vagina it would have flowed out earlier.
  24. I.e., add some restriction (retrospective uncleanness) in order to avoid possible transgression of the law itself.
  25. That menstrual uncleanness is to be retrospective (v. our Mishnah).
  26. V. supra p. 11 n. 10.
  27. How, in view of this reply, could he maintain his ruling.
  28. No. He did not say that any marital relations were to be affected.
  29. Cf. note 8 mut. mut.
  30. Lit., 'for if so', were retrospective uncleanness to be imposed.
  31. Owing to the possibility of some flow of blood in the vagina.
  32. Lit., 'his heart beats him and he separates (from his wife)'.
  33. Containing striking words or phrases from each of the four following explanations of the points on which Shammai and Hillel on the one hand and Hezekiah and R. Johanan on the other differ.
  34. Lit., 'the first'.
  35. Lit., 'the first'.
  36. So BaH. and MS.M. Cur. edd. in parenthesis insert 'Beth'.
  37. Supra. — MS.M. reads, 'Does not Shammai agree with Hillel'.
  38. How then can Hezekiah differ from the unanimous ruling of both?
  39. Var. lec. 'Shammai agrees with Hillel' (MS.M.).
  40. And the objects were removed through the open top, so that it was quite possible for the creeping thing to be at the time of the removal at the bottom of the basket and thus to have escaped observation.
  41. And that was used while it was lying on its side. In such circumstances the objects would be removed by inverting the basket in which case all its contents, including any creeping thing that might have been there, would fall out.
  42. For treating the objects as unclean.
  43. Near the position of the bottom.
  44. Turning inwards, so that the creeping thing might have been caught by it and there remained unobserved.
  45. Var. lec., 'we learnt' (BaH. citing Toh. IV, 4, which, however, differs slightly from the version here cited).
  46. With the same bucket.
  47. All of which were poured into one large tank.
  48. In which the creeping thing was found.
  49. Since no creeping thing was observed to be in them when they were being emptied into the tank.
  50. It being assumed that the creeping thing had not fallen into the bucket until it was filled for the last time.
  51. That all the others remain clean.
  52. Turning inwards so that the creeping thing could not possibly have remained in the bucket when it was tipped over the tank.
  53. On which the creeping thing might have been caught and remained unobserved at the time.
  54. Who, as explained supra in the case of the basket, holds the objects to be clean even where the basket had a rim.
  55. Is it likely, however, that Hezekiah would differ from such an authority?
  56. When the bucket is tipped.
  57. Hence it is not necessary to incline the bucket at too great an angle when it is being emptied. The creeping thing might, therefore, well have remained within the bucket, held by the rim and unobserved.
  58. From a basket.
  59. If the basket is only slightly inclined. As it must consequently be turned upside down before all the fruit it contains can be emptied it is quite impossible for the creeping thing to have remained within. If, therefore, one was subsequently found in the basket it may be safely assumed that it fell in after the clean objects had been removed.
  60. And does not mind if some of it remains in the bucket. Hence one does not tip the bucket very much, and the creeping thing might consequently have remained within the bucket behind the rim.
  61. And turns the bucket upside down in order to get out even the last fruit (cf. prev. n. but one mut. mut.).
  62. Var. lec. 'Shammai agrees with Hillel' (MS.M.).
  63. Before the clean objects were put into it.
  64. Hence it cannot be regarded as having a presumptive state of cleanness.
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