Talmudic Descriptions of Menstruation

Yonah Lavery-Yisraeli


Texts in the Talmud concerning the concept of וסת על ידי אונס , menstruation “forced” by an artificial trigger as opposed to biological rhythm, contain many puzzling statements – puzzling because they seem so easily falsifiable, such as the idea that menstruation might be caused by eating spicy food. The most obvious explanation, that the Talmud is indulging in male flights of imagination regarding the mysterious processes of women, does not stand up to scrutiny, as internal textual evidence points to an open social discourse around menstruation which remains unusual in its frankness by current Western standards. Rather, the puzzling texts can be clarified through two means: through contextualisation among folk medicine, especially abortifacients, and through an understanding of niddah (menstruation) as a social rather than a biological status. When

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