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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Niddah
Amemar and Mar Zutra and R. Ashi once sat before a cupper,5 and when the first cupping-horn was taken off Amemar he saw it and said to the others, 'The red6 of which we have learnt7 is a shade like this'. When the second one was taken off from him, he said to them, 'This has a different shade'. 'One like myself', observed R. Ashi, 'Who does not know the difference between the one and the other must not act as an examiner of blood'.
'BLACK? LIKE THE SEDIMENT [OF INK]. Rabbah son of R. Huna stated: The HERETH8 of which the Rabbis spoke7 is ink. So it was also taught: Black9 is a colour like hereth and the 'black' of which the Rabbis spoke9 is the colour of ink. Then why was it not directly stated, 'Ink'? — If 'ink' had been stated, it might have been presumed to refer to the watery part of the ink,10 hence we were informed that the colour is like that of the sediment of the ink. The question was raised: Is the reference to liquid, or to dry ink? — Come and hear of [the practice of] R. Ammi who used to split a grain of dry ink and with its aid performed the necessary examination.
Rab Judah citing Samuel ruled: [If a woman's discharge has a colour] like that of black wax, black ink or a black grape she is unclean; and it is this that was meant by what we learnt: IF IT IS DARKER IT IS UNCLEAN.
R. Eleazar ruled: [A discharge that has a colour] like that of a black olive, pitch or a raven is clean; and it is this that was alluded to in what we have learnt: IF LIGHTER IT IS CLEAN.
'Ulla explained:11 One like a Siwa12 cloak. 'Ulla once visited Pumbeditha when he noticed an Arab merchant who was wearing a black cloak. 'The black of which we have learnt',13 he told them, 'is a colour like this'. They pulled it off him in bits14 and paid him for it four hundred zuz.
R. Johanan explained:11 [One of the colour of] those court15 clothes that are imported from courtiers beyond the sea. This then implies that such clothes are black, but did not R. Jannai address the following request to his sons: 'My children, do not bury me either in black shrouds or white shrouds; "either in black", peradventure I may be worthy [of a place in paradise] and I would be like a mourner among bridegrooms;16 "or in white", peradventure I might not be worthy and would be like a bridegroom among mourners;17 but [bury me] only in court15 clothes that are imported from countries beyond the sea', which clearly proves, does it not, that these are not black?18 — This is no difficulty, the latter19 referring to wrappers,20 while the former21 refers to clothes worn22 at table.23
Rab Judah citing Samuel ruled: And all these24 must be tested only on a white strip of cloth. R. Isaac b. Abudemi ruled: But black blood may be tested on a red strip of cloth. R. Jeremiah of Difti observed: There is really no difference of opinion between them,25 since the latter speaks only of black blood while the former refers to the other kinds of blood. R. Ashi demurred: If so, why did not Samuel say, 'With the exception of black'? Rather, said R. Ashi, they26 differ on the very question of black itself.
'Ulla ruled: In the case of all these27 if the discharge is darker28 It is unclean and if it is lighter28 it is clean, as is the case with black.29 Then why did it mention only black? — As it might have been presumed that, since R. Hanina stated, 'Black [blood] is really red blood that had deteriorated', it should, therefore, be unclean even if it is lighter, hence we were informed [that IF LIGHTER IT IS CLEAN].
R. Ammi b. Abba ruled: In the case of all these27 if the discharge is darker28 it is unclean and if it is lighter it is also unclean, the only exception being black.30 What then31 was the use of the standard shade laid down by the Rabbis? — To exclude32 one that was extremely faint.33 There are others who read: Rami b. Abba ruled: In the case of all these34 if the discharge is darker35 it is clean and if it is lighter it is also clean, the only exception being black;30 and it is in this case that the Rabbinical standard is of use.
Bar Kappara ruled: In the case of all these34 if the discharge is darker it is unclean and if lighter it is clean, the exception being [the colour of] diluted wine in which a darker shade is clean and a lighter one is also clean. Bar Kappara was shown a lighter shade36 and he declared it clean, and when he was shown a darker shade36 he also declared it clean. 'How great is the man', exclaimed R. Hanina, 'who in practice acts37 in agreement with his view.
A COLOUR LIKE BRIGHT CROCUS. A Tanna taught: Fresh crocus and not dry one. One [Baraitha] taught: Like the lower leaf38 but not like the upper one, and another [Baraitha] taught: Like the upper leaf but not like the lower one, while a third [Baraitha] taught: Like the upper leaf and much more so like the lower one, and a fourth [Baraitha] taught: Like the lower leaf and much more so like the upper one!39 — Abaye replied: The crocus has three rows of leaves40 and there are three leaves in each row; keep41 to the middle row42 and the middle leaf of that row.43 When they came before R. Abbahu he told them: What we learnt [about the colour of the crocus refers to such as are still] attached to their clods.44
OR LIKE EARTHY WATER. Our Rabbis taught: Like earthy water — one brings fertile soil from the valley of Beth Kerem over which he causes water to float; so R. Meir. R. Judah45 said: From the valley of Jotapata.46 R. Jose said: From the valley of Sikni.47 R. Simeon said: Also from the valley of Gennesaret48 and similar soil. Another [Baraitha] taught: And like earthy water — one brings fertile soil from the valley of Beth Kerem and over it he causes water to float until it forms a layer as thin as the husk of garlic; and no quantity has been prescribed for the water since none has been prescribed for the earth.49 The water, furthermore, is not to be examined when it is clean but when turbid. If they become clear they must be stirred up again;50 and when they are stirred one must not do it with the hand but with a vessel. The question was raised: [Does the expression,] 'One must not do it with the hand but with a vessel' mean that a man must not put it in his hand and stir it in it but that where it is in a vessel it is quite proper for him to stir it with his hand, or is it possible that the meaning is that one must not stir it with his hand51 but with an instrument?52 — Come and hear: When he examines it53 he must do it in a cup only.54 But does not the question yet remain: If the examination must be in a cup, wherewith must the stirring be done? — This is undecided.55
When they came before Rabba b. Abbuha he told them: What we learnt [about the earth refers to such as is] in its own place.56
R. Hanina used to break up a piece of potter's clay and thereby performed the examination. R. Ishmael son of R. Jose cursed with croup any other person who adopts such a method
Niddah 20bfor R. Hanina was wise enough;1 all others are not so wise. R. Johanan remarked: The wisdom of R. Hanina caused me not to examine any blood, for when I declared any unclean he declared it clean and when I declared it clean he declared it unclean. R. Eleazar remarked: R. Hanina's modesty is the cause of my examining blood. [For I felt] if R. Hanina who was modest allowed himself to be involved in doubt and examined blood, should not I examine it? R. Zera remarked: The Babylonian coinage was the cause of my refusing to examine blood; for I thought: If I do not understand the coinage system would I understand the nature of blood? This then implies that capability to examine blood depends on an understanding of the coinage; but did not Rabbah in fact understand the coinage system and yet did not understand the qualities of blood? — He was really drawing an inference a minori ad majus: If Rabbah who understood the coinage system refused to examine blood, should I2 examine it?
'Ulla once visited Pumbeditha3 and when some blood was brought to him for examination he refused to see it. If, he said, R. Eleazar who was the supreme authority in the Land of Israel4 refused to see blood whenever he visited the place of R. Judah, should I see it?5 And why was he described as the supreme authority in the Land of Israel? — Because a woman once brought some blood before R. Eleazar when R. Ammi sat in his presence. Having smelt it he6 told her, 'This is blood of lust'.7 After she went out R. Ammi joined her and she told him, 'My husband was away on a journey but I felt an intense longing for him'. Thereupon he8 applied to him6 the text, The counsel of the Lord is with them that fear Him.9
Ifra Hormiz,10 the mother of King Shapur, once sent some blood to Raba when R. Obadiah was sitting in his presence. Having smelt it he said to him, 'This is blood of lust'.7 'Come and see', she remarked to her11 son, 'how wise the Jews are'. 'It is quite possible', he replied, 'that he12 hit upon it like a blind man on a window'. Thereupon she sent to him12 sixty different kinds of blood and he identified them all but the last one which was lice blood with which he was not acquainted. Luckily,13 however, he sent her14 a comb that exterminates lice. 'O, you Jews', she exclaimed, you seem to live in the inner chamber of one's heart'.15
Rab Judah stated: 'At first I used to examine blood, but since the mother of my son Isaac told me, "We do not bring the first drop to the Rabbis because it is dirty", I refuse to see it.16 [An examination, however, for the purpose of distinguishing] between the blood of uncleanness and cleanness17 I certainly do perform'.18
Yaltha19 once brought some blood to Rabbah b. Bar Hana who informed her that it was unclean. She then took it to R. Isaac the son of Rab Judah who told her that it was clean. But how could he act in this manner, seeing that is was taught: If a Sage declared [aught] unclean another Sage20 may not declare it clean; if he forbade anything his colleague may not permit it?21 — At first he22 informed her indeed that it was unclean,23 but when she told him that on every other occasion he24 declared such blood as clean, but that on the last occasion he had a pain in his eye, he gave her his ruling that it was clean. But are women believed in such circumstances? — Yes, and so it was also taught: A woman25 is believed when she says, 'I saw a kind of blood like this one26 but I have lost it.'27
The question was raised: What is the law [where a woman says], A kind of blood like this28 has been declared clean by such and such a Sage?29 — Come and hear: A woman25 is believed when she says, 'I saw a kind of blood like this one26 but I have lost it.'30 But is not that case31 different, since the blood is not available?32 — Come and hear the case of Yaltha: She once brought some blood to Rabbah b. Bar Hana who informed her that it was unclean. She then took it33 to R. Isaac the son of Rab Judah who told her that it was clean. But how could he act in this manner, seeing that it was taught: If a Sage declared [a person or an article] unclean no other Sage34 may declare it clean etc. And we explained that at first he22 informed her indeed that it was unclean, but when she told him that on every other occasion he24 declared such blood as clean but that on that day he had a pain in his eye, he changed his view and gave her his ruling that it was clean.35 Now this proves quite clearly, does it not, that a woman is believed? — R. Isaac b. Judah may have relied on his own traditions and experience.36
Rabbi once examined some blood at night and declared it unclean but when he examined it in the day time he declared it clean. Then he waited a while and again declared it unclean. 'Woe to me', he said, 'I may have made a mistake'.37 'I may have made a mistake'! Has he not in fact made a mistake, seeing that it was taught: A Sage must not say,38 'If it had been moist it would undoubtedly have been unclean'; he must rather say, 'The judge must be guided only by what his eyes see'? — At first39 he presumed it to be definitely unclean, but when he observed in the morning that its colour had changed40 he said41 that it was undoubtedly clean but that at night it could not be seen properly. When, however, he observed that the colour had changed again42 he said, 'It must be unclean blood but the colour is steadily fading away.
Rabbi examined blood in the light of a lamp. R. Ishmael son of R. Joseph43 examined it even on a cloudy day between the pillars.44 R. Ammi b. Samuel ruled: All kinds of blood must be examined only between the sunlight and the shade. R. Nahman citing Rabbah b. Abbuha ruled: The examination may be performed in the sunlight under the shadow of one's hand.45
'ONE LIKE DILUTED WINE'? TWO PARTS etc. A Tanna taught:
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