The Mishnah (8:2) taught that if one found a ketem they can tole (literally “hang it”) on another possible cause. In other words, if possible, one could attribute another reason for the dam other than it being as a result of nida. The Mishnayot then address which cases do and do not qualify for this consideration.
The Mishnah (8:3) recounted a case of a ketem that was brought before R’ Akiva. He asked her whether she had any cuts. She responded that she had, but it had healed. He asked whether it was possible that the wound could open and blood come out. After she responded yes, he ruled that she was tahor.
The Mishnah continues that he noticed that his students were surprised. R’ Akiva responded:
Why is this matter difficult in your eyes? For the Chachamim did not mention [the law of ketamim] to be strict, but rather lenient. As its say, ‘And if a woman has an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood’ – not a [blood] stain but rather blood.
We shall try and understand this leniency.
The Gemara (59a) cites a Beraita that states the complete opposite of what R’ Akiva said. “The [Chachamim] did not state the laws of ketamim to be lenient, but rather stringent.” The Gemara resolves the two statements by explaining that ketamim are indeed a stringency. According to Torah law, a woman is only tameh nidah if the sighting of blood was accompanied with a hargasha (sensation of blood leaving her body). The law of tumah based on a ketem without a hargasha is rabbinic. Due to that fact, they afforded the leniency that wherever possible, the cause of a ketem may be attributed to something else.
The Tosfot Yom Tov asks, irrespective of the gezeira, why do we not treat a ketem like any other doubt. Considering that nidah is a Torah law, it should be treated stringently in case of a doubt. He explains that since the Torah is only metameh when the dam is accompanied with a hargasha is not like a regular safek de’oraitah. The Mishnah Achrona asks that there is still a doubt the perhaps she had a hargasha but was not conscious of it.
The explanation brought in the Yalkut Bi’urim is that as a result of the additional requirement of hargasha we have a double-doubt. The first is whether the dam originated from her body and second is whether there was a hargasha. In the case of a double-doubt we are generally lenient.
The Mishnah Achrona however explains that the concern that there might have been a hargasha is raised by Rashi. He uses it to explain why a woman who sees dam without a hargasha is tameh. The Tosfot however argue that in that case, even if she is certain that she did not have a hargasha she would still be tameh “because she saw dam nidot”. The Mishnah Achrona explains that according to the Tosfot, if the sole concern was whether she had a hargasha then it would be a safek de’oraita and she would be tameh de’oraita.1 To explain Rashi, the Mishnah Achrona suggests that since most who have a hargasha are aware when it happens, we have a majority overriding the doubt; in other words, it is no longer a safek de’oraita. (The difficulty would then be that the concern then is for the minority and even on a rabbinic level, we are not concerned for the minority.)
Returning to the Tosfot, recall that they explain that if she sees dam without a hargasha she is tameh because she saw dam nidot. It is in essence a gezeira and not stemming from a safek. The Mishnah Achrona notes that this is only if she actually saw dam. In the case of a ketem however since it could have originated from elsewhere, the gezeira of “she saw dam nidot” does not apply in full force. As with other rabbinic decrees we could then attributed it to something else – “she’anim omer…”. He continues that this would only be the case if she was certain that she did not have a hargasha. Otherwise it would be a safek de’oraita and she would be tameh for we could no longer raise “she’ani omer”. The case in our Mishnah must therefore be where the woman was certain that she had no hargasha.
1 This is according to the Tosfot who understand that a safek de’oraita is metame de’oraita.
Receive our publication with an in depth article and revision questions.
Listen to the new Mishnah Shiurim by Yisrael Bankier