י׳ במרחשון ה׳תש״פ (November 8, 2019)

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

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:

The household of King Munbaz would perform three matters, and on account of these they were mentioned favorably by : They engaged in intercourse by day, they examined before and after intercourse with wool of Parhava [which was white and showed stains] with cotton, and they observed the rules of ritual purity and impurity with regard to snow.

Since this testimony about the house of Munbaz contradicts the simple teaching of Rabbi Yoḥanan 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 Munbaz 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.

Munbaz 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 Helene, together with her sons Munbaz and Izitus, 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. Helene 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, Munbaz 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, Munbaz was buried in the Graves of the Kings in Jerusalem together with other members of his family.