By Chaya T. Halberstam
"Adds a tremendous element to our realizing of rabbinic criminal pondering particularly, in addition to to our knowing of rabbinic sensibilities and rabbinic piety in general." -- Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert, Stanford college
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Extra info for Law and Truth in Biblical and Rabbinic Literature
R. Aqiba’s, or the mishnah’s, deductive leaps (a stain of blood is not “actual blood”) and daring exegetical moves are presented as transparent, objective reasoning. ” The story of R. Aqiba is seen by Fonrobert as reinforcing “the Mishnah’s focus on the types of women’s genital blood and the bloodstain as external evidence of a woman’s menstruation,”31 because he is seen as introducing a further rabbinical enactment for the objective determination of impurity. I would suggest instead that he is undercutting the very relationship between external evidence of the bloodstain and a woman’s menstruation by declaring that bloodstains may be explained away through the power of an artificial, legal—and indeed linguistic—distinction.
In other words, ritually impure blood has many different looks, but there are also some kinds of blood which are ritually pure. By naming the colors of ritually impure blood, the midrash limits the possibilities for ritual impurity, but it hardly imparts “practicality” to the act of distinguishing ritual purity from impurity, or even “freedom from fear”; according to the midrash, one need not determine only whether one’s discharge is blood, but also whether it is ritually pure blood or one of the many kinds of ritually impure blood.
This innovation subsequently becomes law (at least according to textual logic, if not historically), and its definitions lay the groundwork for all ensuing rabbinic ritual purity law, enticing us to read the story within the familiar framework which it itself constructed. Because Fonrobert accepts R. Aqiba’s claim that the impurity of bloodstains is merely a rabbinic stringency appended to the “core” biblical law, she can state that R. Aqiba’s ruling is “not an unusual phenomenon”—which is just the effect R.
Law and Truth in Biblical and Rabbinic Literature by Chaya T. Halberstam