By Chaya T. Halberstam
"Adds an enormous element to our realizing of rabbinic felony pondering in particular, in addition to to our figuring out of rabbinic sensibilities and rabbinic piety in general." -- Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert, Stanford college
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Additional resources for Law and Truth in Biblical and Rabbinic Literature
In the Bible, genital-flux impurity is effectively placed outside of any system of human governance. ”23 Though the Bible is concerned with the creation of a human legal system to ensure that the divine laws are kept, ultimately it is God himself who will guarantee and enforce God’s own law. Rabbinic literature, however, is oriented toward a human legal system in which the divine is not directly invoked, and thus entire areas of law, such as genital-flux impurity, if left in their biblical form, would be unenforceable and untouched by judicial processes.
Aqiba’s interpretation, in which the word “dam” in the Bible excludes the “ketem,” or the bloodstain, is not a simple definitional observation but a midrash that radically drives a wedge between two nearly synonymous terms: blood and bloodstain. Conceptually, R. Aqiba’s reading of “dam” is also counterintuitive. What does it mean to see “actual blood” as opposed to a bloodstain? Even within the rabbinic framework of “seeing the blood” and its system of regular examinations, this conceptual distinction is difficult to grasp.
At first, Mishnah Niddah appears to set up a standard of “reasonable doubt” to determine the ritual status of the stain and the woman herself. If it is reasonable to assume that the blood came from a source other than menstrual flux, the rabbis permit such an attribution to be made. The mishnah states: A. She may assign [the cause of the bloodstain] to anything she can possibly assign it to. B. And she may assign it to her son or to her husband. C. If she had a wound that could open up and let out blood, she may assign it to that.