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The Event of Tumat Nidda

Rav Moshe Taragin


            The tuma (ritual impurity) of niddut is conferred by the issuance of menstrual blood (dam nidda).  A woman experiencing this sort of tuma is forbidden to have marital relations with her husband or to enter the precincts of the Beit Hamikdash.  The Gemara (Nidda 57b) further defines this tuma by stating that for a woman to become a nidda, she must sense the issue of blood from her body.  If blood emerges without some sensation (known as hargasha), even if it meets the typical qualifications of dam nidda, it does not create tuma.  The Gemara derives this precondition from the verse in Metzora (Vayikra 15:19) which introduces tumat nidda with the term "bi-vsarah," "in her flesh," which implies a discernible sensation.  In the absence of hargasha, no Biblical tuma exists.  The Rabbis expand the halakha to create the status of nidda even in the event of finding a ketem, a bloodstain, signaling an issue of blood without hargasha. 


            Is the precondition of hargasha an essential element of tumat nidda?  Does the Torah effectively demand two independent conditions to activate this tuma: dam as well as hargasha?  Or is the hargasha element merely a qualification of the type of blood which confers tuma?  If the latter is true, only blood which is accompanied by hargasha - what we may call "discernible blood" — confers tuma; however, once we identify blood as having emerged with a hargasha, the dam ALONE conveys tuma. 


            Perhaps the most fundamental question we must ask is the one which pertains to the type of hargasha which is required.  The Gemara does not immediately specify the exact experience of hargasha necessary to confer tuma.  Most opinions suggest it refers to sensing the actual internal issue of blood at the beginning of each cycle.  The Rambam (Hilkhot Issurei Bia 5:17) adds that any abnormal physical sensation or spasm is sufficient (a shudder or slight paroxysm).  Perhaps this question surrounds our earlier issue.  If the hargasha ITSELF constitutes one of the triggers of tuma, we may require a sensation of the actual issue of blood from its source.  Only that sensation can be defined as "sensing the onset of niddut," and only that sensation can confer tuma.  If, on the other hand, the sensation is necessary merely to create a state of discernible blood, any simultaneous sensation would be sufficient.


            Similarly, we find the following dispute between the Noda Bi-Yhuda (Mahadura Kamma, YD 55) and the Chatam Sofer (Vol. 2, YD 171): if a woman senses the blood only as it leaves her body, but does not sense the issue from its source, would she experience tuma de-oraita?  The Noda Bi-Yhuda believes that this sensation does constitute hargasha and tuma de-oraita would obtain, while the Chatam Sofer disagrees and discounts this sensation as irrelevant.  Even if we accept the Rambam's form of hargasha, we may still view hargasha as an independent element of tuma.  Even though it may not be the actual sensation of issue, it is still a physiological event or spasm which, though affecting an unrelated part of the body, typically accompanies the issue of menstrual blood; as such it may be considered a sensation of nidda, even though it is sensed elsewhere.  However, the chumra of the Noda Bi-Yhuda assumes that ANY sensation – even occurring AFTER the actual issue — is sufficient.  Presumably, he views hargasha as a "qualifier" of the type of blood which conveys tuma.  ANY physiologically related event which alerts us to the issue of blood constitutes hargasha and defines the blood as discernible and as INDEPENDENTLY AND EXCLUSIVELY conferring tuma. 


            The Rambam (Hilkhot Issurei Bia 9:1) introduces yet another scenario which may help us better understand the role of hargasha.  He claims that if blood is detected during events which may mask hargasha (such as sexual intercourse or a personal inspection), tuma de-oraita is created even though no hargasha is actually detected: we may ASSUME hargasha and recognize tuma de-oraita.  Most Acharonim concur with the Rambam's position.  Logically, if hargasha entails a discrete and independent agent of tuma, it would be difficult to 'assume' its occurrence; this would contradict the basic principle of "achzukei issura lo machzekinan" — we do not presume the presence of issur without basis or foundation.  True, in this scenario, the presence of blood may hint at the possibility of hargasha and allow such an assumption.  Still, if we define hargasha as an independent and integral element of creating tuma, the Rambam's position may still be questionable.  Furthermore, if hargasha is an independent and equally necessary element to establish tuma, we may require actual 'sensation' and not merely the certainty of its occurrence.  Even if we determine that the typical spasm has definitely occurred (but was masked by a parallel activity), we may not consider it a sufficient hargasha, since the woman did not ACTUALLY sense it, in this case.


            By contrast, if we view hargasha as merely qualifying which type of blood creates tuma, we may confirm tuma in these situations where the hargasha may have been masked by some other event.  As long as we may assume that some bodily event has occurred, even if it has not clearly detected, we may still consider the dam 'discernible blood' and recognize tuma. 


            A reverse situation pertains to the reverse case: the occurrence of specific and unambiguous hargasha without any noticeable blood.  The Terumat Ha-deshen (Responsum 246) addresses this situation and claims that the woman becomes a nidda, since we assume that blood did emerge, but went discarded or unnoticed.  Many claim that this position applies even if the woman actually examines herself and does not uncover any blood.  Certainly this position attributes greater weight to the hargasha as an independent agent of tuma; in the certifiable presence of hargasha, we may presume the presence of blood.  Were blood the primary agent of tuma and hargasha merely defining the type of blood with that property, this position would be less tenable: since no blood has actually been detected and an immediate examination was fruitless, it would be considerably more difficult to declare a state of niddut. 


            A final question pertains to the nature of the rabbinical prohibition concerning the discovery of blood without a hargasha in the case of a ketem, a bloodstain discovered spontaneously.  Tosafot (Nidda 58a s.v. Modeh) claim that the rabbis suspend the requirement of hargasha, allowing any blood to convey tuma.  Rashi (Ibid. s.v. Mi-derabbanan), however, claims that any ketem would impart rabbinical tuma because we fear that the requisite hargasha went unnoticed.  Conceivably, Rashi may attribute independent and equal weight to hargasha in conferring tuma de-oraita.  According to his view, the rabbis could not ignore the absence of hargasha and simply create a new form of tuma; instead, they demand stringency even in the situation of ketamim by worrying about unnoticed hargashot.  By contrast, Tosafot may believe that even at a de-oraita level, hargasha merely qualifies the blood as discernible; therefore, the rabbis may, in theory, legislate that any type of blood – both discernible and indiscernible - confers tuma, as this would not be an excessive shift from the Torah's original intention. 

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