Niddah 17b – So, What’s the Nimshal?

With lot’s of help, siyata di’shemaya, many years ago, when I was learning for semicha (rabbinical ordination), while learning the halachos of niddah (the menstruating woman) I was introduced to the very basic question of how Torah and halacha, on the one side, interact with reality and medicine on the other side.

The big problem in understanding this topic is that when our sages, ob”m, decided to teach this topic they did it using a mashal, (a parable). The parable, in the times of the Mishna, was well understood, and the sages of the time didn’t need any real explanation to know what the nimshal (the reality, that the parable was portraying) was. However, over the generations things got confused. Today, practically no-one knows how to translate the words of our sages into practice, and this bothered me greatly. With lots of hard work, (many hundreds of hours of study and thought), comparing, contrasting, and searching, I believe that I have found the most straightforward explanation possible. One caveat, however.

What I am going to present in the article, which is available for download after signing up to my site here, (it is, however, in Hebrew, with some Aramaic, as it is a Talmudic topic), is not the accepted halachic practice. In fact, it is extremely meikel (lenient) in some ways, compared to today’s halachic practice. Yet, despite this, I am presenting it for I believe with all of my heart that it is the pshat (the simple understanding) of the sugiya in the Gemara, and it alleviates all of the issues that are connected to this.

It is also a classic case of the science of the day causing confusion in the interpretation of the Gemara and the halacha.

Over the past 20 years, since I first wrote the article, I have found more evidence to back up my reading of the Mishna, I have shown it to many great Rabbonim, most recently HaRav Osher Weiss, shlit”a, whose weekly shiur I have been attending for many years now, and he was impressed by it. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to run after rabbonim to get haskomot on the matter. However, as this is not only a halacha l’ma’aseh issue but also a pshat Gemara issue, I, therefore, give it over to the tzibbur to learn it and either agree or disagree. If so, please explain to me why I am wrong. Thanks. B’ezrat HaShem, we should all be zocheh lilmod (to learn) u’le’lamed (and to teach) lishmor (to guard HaShem’s mitzvos) u’la’asos (and to do them).

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