Considering the Manuscripts on Rabbi Meir’s Statement on bNiddah 31b [Talmud Tuesday]
One of the most fascinating Talmudic texts concerning menstruation is that of Rabbi Meir’s statement, recorded on bNiddah 31b. However, something I noticed (years ago, but I’m just getting around to writing about it now, although I have referenced this text before) was the differing versions amongst the manuscripts [and the printed versions(!)]. So, let’s take this text one piece at a time:
1) תניא היה רבי מאיר אומר מפני מה אמרה תורה נידה שבעה – “It was taught: Rabbi Meir used to say: ‘On account of what did Torah say a woman is considered a menstruant for seven days?'”
While one manuscript has “אמר רבי מאיר” (Munich 95), the others have it the other way, which seems to be correct.
2) The next piece of this has a different version for each manuscript:
מפני שרגיל קץ בה – “Because he is accustomed, he will loathe her” (Vatican 113)
מפני שרגיל בה קץ בה – “Because he is accustomed to her, he will loathe her” (Cambridge – T-S F2 (2) 64)
מפני שאם היה רגיל בה קוץ בעיניו – “Because, if he becomes accustomed to her, she will become loatheful in his eyes” (Vatican 111)
שמתוך שרגיל בה קץ בה – “That, through being accustomed to her, he will loathe her” (Munich 95)
While all of these have the same impression, it is nevertheless interesting that they are not precisely identical.
3) The following piece also is similar in that the manuscripts have slightly different variations, yet the same idea:
אמרה תורה נידה שבעה – “Torah said ‘a menstruant is seven'” (Vatican 111)
אמרה תורה תהא נידה שבעה – “Torah said ‘a menstruant should be seven'” (Munich 95 & Cambridge – T-S F2 (2) 64)
אמרה תורה תהא שב’ טמאה – “Torah said ‘she should be impure is seven'” (Vatican 113)
I don’t think this last version is correct, since it does not precisely answer the question; moreover, the question was not “Why is a menstruant impure for seven days?”
4) The next segment is where the manuscripts differ in a significant way:
Two of them offer כדי שתהא חביבה על בעלה ביום טהרתה כיום כניסתה לחופה – “In order that she be beloved unto her husband on the day of her purification like the day of her entering into the marital canopy” (Vatican 111 & Munich 95).
The other two: כדי שתהא חביבה עליו ביום טבילתה כיום כניסתה לחופה – “In order that she be beloved unto him on the day of her immersion like the day of her entering into the marital canopy” (Vatican 113 & Cambridge – T-S F2 (2) 64).
The primary difference between these two is that the first set indicates the “day of her purification”, while the latter set focusses on the “day of her immersion”. In the latter, it already reflects a necessity that she dunk in the mikveh for purification, while the former text does not necessarily do so. For the former text, it may be that it reflects an earlier era before Rabbi Akiva came along and necessitated menstruants to immerse in the mikveh in order to be purified (bShabbat 64b); on the other hand, it could, however, mean that their purification is when they immerse (after all, Rabbi Meir was a student of Rabbi Akiva’s).
Interestingly, the printed editions’ version of these latter two segments have אמרה תורה תהא טמאה שבעה ימים כדי שתהא חביבה על בעלה כשעת כניסתה לחופה – “Torah says she should be impure seven days, in order that she be beloved unto her husband like the moment of her entering into the marital canopy” (Soncino (1489) & 19th century Romm (Vilna) edition), which includes both the “impure seven days” phrasing (which is a bit out of place), omits the timing aspect (either “on the day of her immersion” or “on the day of her purification”), and it makes it into a particular moment rather than the day of entering into the marital canopy.
I hope to discuss this text in a forthcoming post….