On yesterday’s daf we were introduced to the concept of a saris – a male eunuch who cannot have children. The Gemara on our daf defines this status as a man who reaches 20 years old and does not show indications of physical maturity. The Gemara lists a number of symptoms of this condition, among them a lack of pubic hair or body hair, a high pitched voice and unusual urine.
In truth, modern medicine recognizes that for both men and women physical maturity takes place later in some people than in others. These conditions are usually caused by a low level of male or female hormones, which will keep secondary sex characteristics from developing normally. Oftentimes, this condition is a temporary one, and after a time the hormonal level rises so that the boy or girl will reach full physical maturity. If this does not take place by a certain age – which doctors estimate as 19, the beginning of the 20th year – normal sexual development will not take place, and the young person will become a saris permanently.
As we have seen when the condition that causes a person to be a saris is natural, the Gemara refers to him as a saris hamah. This is apparently a general term for a number of different conditions, and the various symptoms described in the Gemara likely will not all occur in a single person, rather different people will experience different symptoms, depending on the underlying condition from which they suffer. One example would be hypogonadotropic eunuchoidism, where the glands that secrete male hormones do not develop, leading to saris. In such cases, the body and voice of the boy will appear to be feminine in form and sound. This condition can be caused by a number of different things, including problems during pregnancy. A different example would be Klinefelter’s syndrome, which is a situation where the child is born with an extra female gene (XXY). In such a case, aside from being a saris, the individual with this condition would likely also suffer from a number of other symptoms, including obesity, diabetes and other illnesses.