Bein Ha’Shmashot and Zavim

Zavim (1:6) | Yisrael Bankier | 11 years ago

A zav refers to a man who has had an unusual emission. Such an emission on one occasion would not make him a zav (instead he would be considered a ba’al keri). Having seen two sightings he would be considered a zav and three would make him a zav gamur. Unlike a zava these sightings may all be on the same day. However, as learnt in the first Mishnah a day’s break in between sightings prevents them from combining to make one a zav or zav gamur. Both a zav and zav gamur are sources of tumah (for seven days) and can transmit tumah in more ways than other forms of tumah (maga, heiset, mishkav u’merkav, even mesama). The difference between a zav and zav gamur is that a zav gamur is required to bring a korban at the end of the purification process.

The Mishnah (1:6) discusses various cases involving sightings during bein ha’shmashot – “twilight”98. One case for example is where a zav had two sightings in consecutive bein ha’shmashot. The Mishnah rules that in such a case there is a doubt whether the person is obligated to bring a korban and whether he is tameh. In other words there is a doubt whether he is a zav gamur or not tameh mishkav like a zav.

To explain, bein ha’shmashot is a period of time where it is doubtful whether it is day or night (i.e. halachically the next day). The entire period could be day or night, or the transition some time during it. Another important law to consider is that if an emission bridges two days, no matter how small the duration, it is considered like two sightings. If we assume that the sightings were Monday evening bein ha’shmashot and the following Tuesday then there are number of possibilities. There were three sightings making him a zav gamur: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. There were only two sightings making him a regular zav: Monday and Tuesday or Tuesday and Wednesday. Finally there may have been two sightings with a day’s break in between which would mean he is not a zav at all – Monday and Wednesday.

The following question is asked. If the person saw at the same time during bein ha’shmashot both evening then he would certainly be tameh. The status of bein ha’shmashot would not change from day to day.99 Consequently it is impossible to say that there was a day’s break in between because that time is either day both times or night. Using the above example, the sightings were at least Monday and Tuesday or Tuesday and Wednesday. He should therefore certainly be considered tameh zav.

The Rash and Bartenura explain that the Mishnah’s case is where the person saw earlier in the first bein ha’shmashot than the second. Consequently it could have been day on the first sighting (Monday) but night on the second (Wednesday). The Ritva explaining Rashi holds a similar position that in our case the person did not know when exactly during bein ha’shmashot the emissions occurred. Consequently it is possible that the second sighting was later in bein ha’shmashot than the first.

The Tosfot (Shabbat 34b s.v. safek) brings another solution in the name of the Rashbam. The case of the Mishnah is where the person saw during bein ha’shmashot at the same time on Monday evening and Wednesday evening. Consequently there are only really two outcomes. Either it was day both times or night both times. If that were the case then there would be a day in between and the person would not be a zav. Alternatively, the emission occurred during the transition between day and night both times and he would have had four consecutive sightings making him a zav gamur. According the doubt regarding the tumah and korban is whether he is a zav gamur or not a zav at all. In this explanation however it is not possible that he is only a regular zav.


98 The exact parameters of bein ha’shmashot are the subject of debate and beyond the scope of this article.

99 Even though the Tosfot understands that Rashi held this position, other commentaries explained Rashi’s position in different ways. E.g. see Sfat Emet, Pnei Yehoshua (and the Ritva discussed further in the article.)

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