Keritot, Chapter One, Mishnah Six

 

Introduction

According to Leviticus 12:5-6, on the eighty-first day after giving birth to a girl a woman brings a sacrifice. Our mishnah discusses a case where on the eve of the eighty-first day the woman has a miscarriage. Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel debate whether she must bring a sacrifice.

Note that the debate is specifically concerning this night. All agree that if she miscarried earlier she is not liable. It seems that the sacrifice brought for the previous birth will cover the subsequent miscarriage as well. And all hold that if she miscarries on the eighty-first day, she is liable for a sacrifice, because the first sacrifice cannot cover the miscarriage. The debate is only over a woman who miscarries the night before. 

 

Mishnah Six

1)      If a woman miscarries on the eve of the eighty-first day:

a)      Bet Shammai say: she is exempted from an offering.

b)      But Bet Hillel say: she is liable.

2)      Bet Hillel said to Bet Shammai: what is the difference between the eve of the eighty-first day and the eighty-first day itself? Since these are considered equal with regard to [blood] uncleanness, why should they not be considered equal also with reference to the offerings?

3)      Bet Shammai said to them: No; if you said this in the case where she miscarries on the eighty-first day where it occurred at a time when she was fit to bring an offering, can you say this where she miscarries on the eve of the eighty-first day, where it did not occur at a time when she was fit to bring an offering?   

4)      Bet Hillel said to them: the case of a woman who miscarries on the eighty-first day which fell on a Shabbat shall prove it, where it did not take place at a time when she was fit to bring an offering and yet she is liable to bring a [new] offering.

5)      Bet Shammai said to them: No; if you says this of the eighty-first day which fell on a Shabbat for although it is not fit for offerings of an individual, it is at least fit for communal offerings, would you maintain this concerning a woman who miscarries on the eve of the eighty-first day, seeing that the night is fit neither for offerings of the individual nor for communal offerings?

6)      As to [your argument of the uncleanness of] the blood, it proves nothing, for if she aborted within the period of cleanness the blood is unclean, and yet she is exempted from an offering.

 

Explanation

Section one: These are the positions of the two houses; they will be explained below.

Section two:  If a woman has a bloody discharge for the first 80 days after giving birth to a girl, the blood is pure. However, if she discharges blood on the 81st day, even at night, the blood is impure. Since the night of the 81st day is reckoned with the next day in terms of blood impurity, Bet Hillel reasons that the same must be true with regard to a sacrifice. If she miscarries on the night of the 81st day, she must bring a sacrifice, just as she would if she miscarried the next morning.

Section three: Bet Shammai responds that there is a difference between a woman who miscarries on the 81st day and one who miscarries the night before. On the morning of the 81st day she can bring a sacrifice for the previous child. Therefore, when she miscarries she must bring a new sacrifice for the miscarriage. The first sacrifice cannot cover the miscarriage. However, if she miscarries at night, she had not yet arrived at a time when she could bring the sacrifice for the first child, because sacrifices cannot be offered at night. Therefore, she does not bring a sacrifice for the miscarriage.

Section four: Bet Hillel responds that in certain cases a woman might miscarry on the 81st day, but not be able to bring her sacrifice for the previous child. This would happen if the 81st day fell on Shabbat. Nevertheless, despite the fact that she cannot yet bring her previous sacrifice, all agree that she is liable for another sacrifice for the miscarriage. The same is true, according to Bet Hillel, if she miscarries on the night of the 81st.

Section five: Bet Shammai says that night and Shabbat are not comparable. At night, no sacrifices may be offered, whereas on Shabbat, although individual sacrifices, such as those brought by the childbearing woman, cannot be offered, communal sacrifices such as the tamid and musaf can be. This rejects Bet Hillel’s proof in section four.

Section six: The sensitive reader will note that Bet Shammai has still not answered Bet Hillel’s proof found in section two: the comparison between blood impurity and the sacrifice. Bet Shammai says that the two issues are different, as can be seen by the case of a woman who aborts during the first 80 days of blood purity after having given birth to a girl. While bloody discharge that comes as a result of the first birth is pure during this period, blood that is a result of a new miscarriage during this period is impure. Nevertheless, all agree that if she miscarries during this time, she is not liable for a sacrifice. Bet Shammai argue that the same is true of a woman who miscarries on the night of the 81st—at this point any blood is impure because the 80 days of purity are up, but if she miscarries she is still exempt.

 

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