Monday, March 31, 2008

Tazria: Dam Tohar

Important Note: If you are looking for practical halachic advice, to not base yourself on this post. Move on to other results on Google. Or better yet, consult your local Orthodox rabbi.

Something which annoys me, in this week's parsha, but is perhaps a good paradigm for how halacha sometimes develops. From Vayikra 12:
א וַיְדַבֵּר ה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר. 1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
ב דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר, אִשָּׁה כִּי תַזְרִיעַ, וְיָלְדָה זָכָר--וְטָמְאָה שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, כִּימֵי נִדַּת דְּו‍ֹתָהּ תִּטְמָא. 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: If a woman be delivered, and bear a man-child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of the impurity of her sickness shall she be unclean.
ג וּבַיּוֹם, הַשְּׁמִינִי, יִמּוֹל, בְּשַׂר עָרְלָתוֹ. 3 And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
ד וּשְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם וּשְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים, תֵּשֵׁב בִּדְמֵי טָהֳרָה; בְּכָל-קֹדֶשׁ לֹא-תִגָּע, וְאֶל-הַמִּקְדָּשׁ לֹא תָבֹא, עַד-מְלֹאת, יְמֵי טָהֳרָהּ. 4 And she shall continue in the blood of purification three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purification be fulfilled.

Thus, there is a concept of dam tohar, blood of purification. Is this blood that she must endure before she becomes pure to her husband, or is it blood which is not dam niddah and thus she is pure to her husband. The Tzidukkim / Karaites I believe said the former, and Chazal said the latter. Thus, dam tohar is permitted.

Indeed, this features into a famous statement of Yalta that for every forbidden thing, there is a parallel permitted thing. And the parallel to dam niddah is dam tohar.

We read in Chullin 109b:
אמרה ליה ילתא לרב נחמן מכדי כל דאסר לן רחמנא שרא לן כוותיה אסר לן דמא שרא לן כבדא נדה דם טוהר חלב בהמה חלב חיה חזיר מוחא דשיבוטא גירותא לישנא דכוורא אשת איש גרושה בחיי בעלה אשת אח יבמה כותית יפת תאר

Yet there are, of course, "difficulties." Here is a good writeup, much better than I am offering here, at Virtual Beis Medrash. First, despite the fact that this was a Karaitic practice, some Jews in some communities decided to adopt this stringency. Rambam attacks this, correctly. But this is one trend in which stringencies over and above -- and contradictory to -- Rabbinic law arise. Yet Rivash, cited by Rema, defends the practice, as they know it is a stringency rather than halacha. This is the second trend, in which any mistaken stringency can be defended as a chumra. And then a minhag in those communities which one cannot overturn it. Yet there is something I find troubling, about how Yalta's statement reflecting Talmudic halachic practice was overturned by post-Talmudic chumra or Karaitic reading. Nor am I convinced that they meant it only as a "stringency."

Aside from this, there is the fact that practically, a woman who gives birth to a male will likely have almost no yemei tohar, and quite possibly a yoledet nekeiva would have none either. This is due to a third trend, in which principles are overextended and then overlap one another.

I don't see this particular one (about petichat hakever not possible without a drop of blood) in the summary, and I guess I could have invented all this in my mind, but anyway, I will lead with it:

That is, Rabbi Zera records that women took upon themselves to sit seven clean days for even a drop of blood the size of a mustard seed (which would not require it). Add to this the statement that the womb does not open without there being a tipat dam kechardal. Then every woman gives birth from this state of niddah. (Or, as will follow, the period of niddah immediately after pregnancy will assume the status of zivah.) But the Talmud distinguishes between a woman who gives birth from a state of niddah and one who gave birth from a state of zavah. {See for example Niddah 8b, 30a, 35b, etc, with no hint that now that Rabbi Zera made his statement, the practical difference has been removed.} And since women accepted to be so stringent, we then treat all such women as if they entered from a state of zavah.

(I am very unconvinced this is the correct reading and overlap. Namely, it is hard to understand practical differences between Rav and Levi on 35b (as the question is "mai beinayhu"), though Rav preceded Rabbi Zera and thus perhaps this situation. But I also don't think this was the intent of women who adopted the stringency of waiting like a zavah, that it should have all the stringencies of a zava, even by pregnancy, with all the differing situations and halachot, where the time is more fixed and less susceptible to confusion, and with all these unanticipated repercussions. And further, women treating something like dam ziva does not mean that it must assume the halachic status of such, complicating other situations.)

There is another issue yielding the same result, noted in the article -- the pesukim call these first days the days of her niddah, such that with or without blood, she would be considered a niddah. And if so, and we treat niddah as zavah (despite this clear fixed end) based on Rabbi Zera, she needs seven clean days. And perhaps, dam tohar is not considered a clean day. (Or perhaps since it is dam, though dam tohar, they would even treat it as dam niddah - though I think that it is very problematic to assert this (as Taz does), since Yalta, the wife of Rav Nachman, was later -- after Rabbi Zera made his statement, and she made a statement about how dam tohar was permitted.) And women after childbirth often continuously bleed, it is often unlikely that anytime during this time span of demei tohar will the "niddah" {/"zava"} status be lifted. And add on top of that harchakot.

Read the linked-to article for more specific details on positions.

Do not act on this. I am not treating this in all its detail, and I likely missed out on some all-important points. This is rather off the cuff from a read-up of some of the sugya and development a few months back. But it annoys me how one chumra (in this case, promoted to halacha) overlaps and interacts with other halachot and still other halachot, to end up with us painted into a corner that was never intended, and which seems to go against the spirit of both the Torah text and the Talmudic text. And if it were just this one law, hecherashti, because the tzaar would not be shoveh benezek hamelech. But this same pattern repeats, over and over, in many other contexts.

Again, I stress: not halacha lemaaseh. Just a rant.

1 comment:

Eliyahu said...

Who's the Melech in this Mashal? :)


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