Colours of Blood

Nidah (2:6) | Yisrael Bankier | a year ago

The Mishnah (2:6-7) teaches that there are five colours (of blood) that would render a woman a niddah. We shall try to understand the basis of this definitive list.

The Sefer HaChinnuch (207) explains that the Chachamim understood that any other colours would not originate from the mekor (uterus) and therefore would not be a source of tumah.1

The Minchat Chinnuch (207:4) however finds the Sefer Hachinnuch's explanation difficult. The Minchat Chinnuch cites the Gemara (Nidah 19a) that probes that source that there is tahor and tameh blood. R' Chama bar Yosef quoted R' Oshaya who cites the following pasuk "If a matter of judgement is hidden from you, between blood and blood" (Devarim 17:8). The implication is that there is decerning between different bloods, blood that is tahor and that which is tameh. The Minchat Chinnuch explains that R' Oshaya understands that that this mean even if that tahor blood originated from the mekor she would still be tahor. The Minchat Chinnuch understands that this is also the Rambam's position.

The above cited pasuk applies relates the zeken mamre -- the Chacham that continues to rule in conflict with the ruling of the Sanhedrin despite being warned against doing so. His behaviour would constitute a capital offence. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 87a) cites the debate regarding the scope of his ruling that would define him as a zaken mamre. R' Meir understands that it is only laws that would be punishable with karet if violated. R' Yehuda maintains that it would be any biblical law, while R' Shimon extends it to include those biblical laws derived through one of the thirteen methods.

The Gemara continues by explaining the above cited pasuk according to R' Meir, namely that the pasuk must be referring to prohibitions punishable with karet. "Between blood and blood" is therefore understood to related to laws of nidah, zavah and yoledet. Regarding nidah, the Gemara explains that this would relate to the debate between the Chachamim and R' Akavya ben Mehalalel where the later understands that blood that is yarok (yellow) is tameh. If the Chacham persisted to teach in accordance with Akavya ben Mahelalel it could result in violating the prohibition of having relations with a nidah. Consider the example if a women sees dam that is yarok and a day or two later sees dam. Since, on biblical level a nidah is tahor seven days after the first citing, ruling that dam yarok is tameh would result in the women thinking she can go to mikveh earlier than the Chachamim understand. She would immerse seven days after seeing the dam tahor, understanding that she is then tahor, when really, she is a nidah. That is why a Chacham the continues to teach this position could be defined as a zaken mamre.

One might be tempted to explained that the pasuk cited in our Gemara is only according to R' Meir since it is according to his position that "between blood and blood" must related to the different colours of blood. According to the other opinions, since "between blood and blood" can refer to other prohibition related to blood, then there is no verse the renders shades of blood as being completely tahor if they originate from the mekor. One would then fall back on the logic of the Sefer Hachinnuch or Tosfot Rid that the reason why the five colours are listed is because the Chachamim understood that they do not originate from the mekor. The difficulty with that suggestion is the Sefer Hachinnuch rules like R' Meir in relation to the zaken mamre. That being the cases, it would appear the pasuk itself differentiates between completely tahor blood and tameh blood as the Michnat Chinnuch argues.

1 The Tosfot Rid (22a s.v. Mekor) also uses this explanation to solve a problem. The Gemara (22a) raises the position that the mekor itself is a makom tameh. The Tosfot Rid then asks, if that is the case, why is the tahor dam that originates from the location also not tameh. He answers that those tahor colours do not originate from the mekor.


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