ט״ז במרחשון ה׳תש״פ (November 14, 2019)

Nidda 22a-b: When Rabbis Consult With Doctors

As we learned on yesterday’s daf , the Mishna teaches:

If a woman discharges an item similar to a shell, or similar to a hair, or similar to soil, or similar to mosquitoes, if such items are red she should cast them into water to ascertain their nature: If they dissolve, it is blood and the woman is impure, but if not she is pure.

On today’s the Gemara tells stories about how such cases were dealt with.

On today’s daf the Gemara tells stories about how such cases were dealt with.

Rabbi Elazar the son of Rabbi Tzadok stated: My father raised two incidents from Tivin to in Yavne for discussion.
The first was an incident involving a woman who would repeatedly discharge items similar to red shells, and the local residents came and asked my father whether this rendered the woman impure. And my father asked the other Sages, and the Sages asked the doctors who explained to them that the woman had a wound in her womb from which she discharges red items similar to shells. The Sages therefore ruled that the woman should cast them into water to ascertain their nature. If they dissolved it is blood and the woman is impure. And yet another incident occurred involving a woman who would discharge items similar to red hairs, and she came and asked my father whether she was impure. And my father asked the other Sages, and the Sages asked the doctors who explained to them that the woman had a mole in her womb from which she discharges items similar to red hairs.

The fact that the Sages turned to physicians for advice shows that experts can be relied upon for information when deciding matters of Jewish law, even when there is a Torah prohibition under discussion. The Maharik adds that this is true even when the prohibition carries with it the severe punishment of karet. Some attribute significance to the fact that the Sages did not turn to an individual physician, but asked for the opinion of a group of doctors; others argue that the Sages would only turn to Jewish doctors and would not rely on non-Jews for information that has impact on ruling Jewish law.