י״ז בסיון ה׳תשע״ב (June 7, 2012)

Nidda 17a-b: Activities in the House of King Monbaz

After we learned about the discussion regarding the propriety of engaging in sexual relations during the day, the topic continues on today’s daf , where the Gemara relates the following baraita:

And the people of the house of Monbazdid three things, and on account of these they were honorably mentioned by : They performed their marital duties in the day-time, they examined their beds with cotton,and they observed the rules of ritual uncleanness and cleanness in the case of snow.

Since this testimony about the house of Monbaz contradicts the simple teaching of Rabbi Yohanan and the other Sages who forbade sexual relations during the day, the initial approach of the Gemara is to change the text of the baraita to read that the house of Monbaz was praised for “examining their beds” during the day, rather than “performing their marital duties” during the day. The Gemara concludes, however, that in the case of a ruling family, the husband may be too tired to engage in relations at night, and if his wife insists he may be repulsed by her. For this reason it was considered better for the couple to engage in relations during the day.

Monbaz was the king of Adiabene at the end of the Second Temple period. Adiabene was a small kingdom in the north of Syria on the banks of the Euphrates. In the generation prior to the destruction of the second Temple, Queen Heleni, together with her sons Monbaz and Izates, began to study Torah with Jews who traveled through their kingdom, and eventually converted to Judaism. It appears that other members of the ruling elite did so, as well. Heleni visited Jerusalem a number of times and made donations both to the Temple and to the destitute people living there. Her children followed in her footsteps, and even sent troops to support the Jewish uprising during the Great Revolt. Upon his mother’s death, Monbaz declined the position of monarch, allowing his brother to become king, but he took the throne upon his brother’s death. Stories about this family, including detailed accounts of their conversion, appear in Josephus. It appears that after his death, Monbaz was buried in the Graves of the Kings in Jerusalem together with other members of his family.