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NIDDAH ("Menstruous Woman"):

State of Uncleanness.

A treatise in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and both Talmuds. In the Mishnah it stands seventh in the order Ṭohorot, but in the editions of the Talmud first, and is divided into ten chapters, containing seventy-nine paragraphs in all. The Pentateuchal code (Lev. xv. 19 et seq.) ordains that a menstruous woman shall be unclean for seven days from the beginning of the period, whether it lasts only one day or all seven. In either case she is unclean for seven days only, but during this time her defilement is communicated to every object with which she comes in contact. These laws, however, have been extended in many ways and made more onerous, both by rabbinical traditions and interpretations and by customs which have been adopted by Jewish women themselves. According to these more rigid requirements, the woman must reckon seven days after the termination of the period. If, then, this lasts seven days, she can not become pure until the fifteenth day. Purification, furthermore, can be gained only by a ritual bath ("miḳweh"); and until the woman has taken this she remains unclean according to the interpretation of R. Akiba (Shab. 64b), which was accepted by the Rabbis generally. In addition to all this, a woman who does not menstruate regularly is unclean for a certain time before she becomes aware that the period has begun, and objects which she touches are defiled, since there is danger that the menses may have begun a short time before and that she may not have perceived the fact. The treatise Niddah is devoted chiefly to a more accurate determination of these regulations and to the rules concerning a woman in childbirth (Lev. xii.).

  • Ch. i.: Women whose uncleanness is reckoned only from the time of the first appearance of the menses, and the period of retroaction in ritual impurity of this beginning in the case of other women.
  • Ch. ii.: The examination to determine whether the period has begun, and the different colors of the discharge which are considered unclean.
Influence of Child-birth.
  • Ch. iii.: Concerning a woman in childbirth. The Pentateuchal code contains different regulations according to whether the woman bears a male child or a female child (Lev. xii.). In this chapter rules are given for various cases in which the sex of the child can not be determined, as in the birth of a hermaphrodite or in miscarriages and premature deliveries generally; the view of the ancients is also given regarding the time at which the sex of the embryo can be distinguished.
  • Ch. iv.: Rules concerning the daughters of the Cutheans, the Sadducees, and the Gentiles in regard to menstrual uncleanness; further details regarding a woman in childbirth.
  • Ch. v.: Concerning a child delivered by the Cæsarean section; the several periods of life, and the regulations which govern them; the signs of puberty in both sexes, and the time of their appearance.
  • Ch. vi.: Further details on the signs of puberty in the female; in the discussion of this subject a sentence of which the converse is not true suggests a number of other statements on the most diverse topics which are not true conversely, such as "He who can be a judge can be a witness; but many a man who is accepted as a witness is not empowered to be a judge."
  • Ch. vii.: Regulations concerning the impurity of menstrual blood and other impurities; matters in which the Cutheans are believed.
  • Ch. viii.-x.: Of spots of blood, and the method of determining whether spots are caused by blood or by other coloring matter; the symptoms of the appearance of the menses; concerning the corpse of a menstruous woman.
The Tosefta.

The Tosefta to this treatise, which is divided into nine chapters, contains much which serves to explain the Mishnah as well as many other important and interesting passages. Especially noteworthy are the sections which treat of the formation of the embryo (iv.), and those which discuss changes in manners and customs.

The Gemara to the Babylonian Talmud discusses and explains the individual sentences of the Mishnah, and also contains a mass of legends, aphorisms, and other haggadic interpretations and maxims, of which the following may serve as illustrations: "An angel appointed for the purpose takes the germ from which a human being is to be born, presents it to God, and asks: 'Lord of the world, what manner of man shall be born of this germ, strong or weak, wise or foolish, rich or poor?' but he does not ask whether he shall be righteous or unrighteous, for that depends wholly on the will of the man" (16b). "The happiest time for man is while he is in the womb, for he is instructed in the entire Torah; but when he is about to go forth into the world, the angel smites him on the mouth and causes him to forget all he has learned. He is then adjured: 'Be thou holy in thy life and not unholy; for know that God is pure, His ministers are pure, and the soul which is breathed into thee is pure. If thou keepest it in purity, it is well; but otherwise it shall be taken from thee' "(30b).

Particularly noteworthy are the ingenious explanations by R. Simeon b. Yoḥai of several laws of the Torah (31b). Only the first three chapters of the Palestinian Gemara are now extant, although the tosafists possessed it for the entire treatise.

Bibliography:
  • Moses b. Nahman, Hilkot Niddah, ch. iii.;
  • Z. Frankel, Hodegetica in Mischnam, p. 263, Leipsic, 1859;
  • idem, Mebo, pp. 18b, 45a, Breslau, 1870.
W. B. J. Z. L.
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